I knew there was a reason I signed up to America’s equivalent to the RACV, the AAA. It’s not an alcoholics anonymous for automobiles, but more a towing service. And a tow Esmeralda did need after she almost overheated on the way to the cinema at Alhambra (about 11 miles away) to see No Strings Attached.
It wasn’t until I was less than a mile from my destination that I noticed the oil pressure light coming on when I was idling at traffic lights. It then mysteriously disappeared when I accelerated to a travelling speed. Given that Esmeralda had an oil change on Friday last week, there should be nothing wrong with that department.
I then finally noticed that the temperature gauge needle was in the red zone. The red dead zone. So, in a little bit of a worry, I got to my destination and parked in a well-lit place. As soon as I opened my door I saw bad signs. Steam was coming out from underneath the bonnet and snaking over the windscreen. The whole bonnet felt hot to the touch, and I wasn’t game enough to pop the bonnet lest I get steam burns all over me. So I left her in the parking lot to cool down while I watched a movie.
On my way back to the car, I asked some guys where the nearest gas station was (I have to speak their lingo because they have no idea what a servo is). I learnt that you don’t ask three geeks on bicycles where a gas station is. They spent about 3 minutes talking and debating amongst themselves before finally giving me some directions. I chose to ignore their suggestion and went with the Points of Interest feature on my GPS instead and drove half a mile to a 76 gas station.
As Esmeralda was still feeling a bit of a temperature, I popped the bonnet at the servo and checked the coolant levels. It looked empty. So I bought a 1.5L bottle of water which didn’t even touch the thirsty sides of her coolant container. Disturbingly, water started to flow out from under the engine and across the apron of the service station. I commented to some guys in front of me that it wasn’t a good sign.
Holding out on the tow because I know I have a 7 mile free tow and I was at least 11 miles from home, I went back and bought an even bigger bottle of water, something like a 3L bottle. Esmeralda guzzled that too, and then I peered underneath to see a waterfall gushing out. The first thing that entered my brain was “uh oh”.
So I drove her to a parking space and dialed the number for AAA and requested a tow. Each extra mile over 7 miles was going to cost $10 (even steeper than a U-Haul mile fee), but the good news was that I would be able to ride with the tow-truck driver.
Within 15 minutes Hayden the tow driver had come to the rescue and he started prepping Esmeralda for the tow. Once her front boots were on the lift, she then had chains wrapped around her front axles, ratchet straps tied around her front wheels and two brake lights magnetised to her boot lid. She was ready to roll on the freeway.
I chatted to Hayden about how I had actually considered calling my dad to ask him for Mechanics Advice 101 via the phone, but that I already knew his response would be “You are on the other side of the world, I can’t help you from here, I’m sorry.” And then he’d probably follow that up with something like “You have to learn how to fend for yourself.” Even though I wouldn’t have expected any diagnostics via mobile phone, this daddy’s-little-girl would have just been seeking some sympathy and reassurance from a man whose opinion she values highly.
LA is very tow-happy. They don’t send out someone to see if they can fix it, like the RACV did for me when the Mighty Meteor busted a hose on the Hume Freeway once, they just send a tow-truck. I asked Hayden if he spends his whole 7pm to 7am shifts towing cars, but he says that around 11pm it usually slows down and that he might only get a couple more calls for the night. I also found out that it is polite to tip your tow-driver, it’s not expected, but is an appreciated gesture.
So Hayden got Esmeralda and I home. She’s parked out the back now and fingers crossed she gets to the mechanic without doing any more damage and is easily repairable. Please, oh please, let it just be a burst hose.