Car troubles? Send an S.O.S.
Highlands TodayIf there's one thing I really can't handle, it's car trouble. I'm no good with mechanical things anyway, but I draw a total blank when my car quits.
Published: August 2, 2009
Published: August 2, 2009
It used to be that if your car wouldn't start, the problem was likely one of a few simple things - the battery, the starter, maybe the alternator. But these days, cars have an internal computer that controls the whole electrical system. Consequently, if my car won't start, I don't even hope to guess what's wrong.
Recently I stopped at a fast food place and when I returned to my car it was totally dead. I turned the key and absolutely nothing happened. I knew it couldn't be the battery because we'd just had a new one installed.
Of course, the first thing I did was grab my cell phone and call my husband. He was at work so I had to leave a message and hope it would not be too long before he'd call me back. The second thing I did (which probably should have been the first) was pray.
After trying the starter several more times to no avail, I decided to get out and lift the hood. Maybe I could spot some obvious problem - not that I would know what to do about it. But perhaps some sympathetic passer by, who was more car savvy, would take pity on me and offer to help.
I hit the lock button and pushed on the door. That's when I discovered that the car not starting was the least of my problems; I was also locked inside it! The electronic door lock would not work. I tried popping it manually, but it wouldn't budge. I tried using the remote on my key ring; it laughed at me. I tried the electronic window button - nothing.
John had not called, but that was forgivable; I knew he was busy. I dialed him again and got voice mail again. I tried the starter one more time - and, again, got nothing.
It had only been about 20 minutes, but my black car was rapidly heating up in the Florida sun. At that point, I was having visions of the car bursting into flame with me trapped inside it. I tried not to panic, but I was beginning to consider calling 911.
A man walked by and I hollered but he couldn't hear me. Another man pulled up on a bike and I hit the horn. Did you know that even your horn won't work if the car's electrical system is down? How stupid is that?!!
Finally John called me back, and he came to help right away. When he arrived it really had only been about 40 minutes, but it felt like hours. I was never so glad to see him - my knight in shining armor.
He opened the door with his duplicate key. He knew immediately that the trouble was a loose battery cable, and he was right. He fixed it and I was on my way in no time.
I breathed a huge sigh and thanked God for my wonderful husband ... and for cell phones. What would I have done without them?
In retrospect, I realize I could have called a relative or friend and had them send help. Or I could probably have managed to break a window if I had to. But I can't stop thinking that all of this never would have been such a fiasco if today's cars were not completely controlled by computer chips.
Yes, electronic ignition is wonderful ... when it works. Yes, electric locks and windows are great ... when they work. But when they don't, it's a disaster waiting to happen. I hate to think that my life is at the mercy of electronic gizmos that can just arbitrarily not work.
What if I had forgotten my cell phone or it had lost its charge? What if the ignition had sparked a fire? What if I had been a hundred miles from home?
The fact is, all these concerns are superfluous. Because there's one answering service that never sends me to voice mail, or loses its charge, or disconnects. When I call, I never get a busy signal and I'm never out of range to send an S.O.S.
My car and my phone may be limited by electronics, but my God is not.