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Road Trips and Mechanical Problems

I finally took MoCa (my 1999 Chevy Express van) out for her maiden voyage.  The hubby, my daughter and I took a 1,800 mile round trip to Georgia to see family.  MoCa behaved beautifully. It was great getting on the open road to see what she could do.

MoCa – My 1999 Chevy Express

There Were, however, A Few Quirks

Before hitting the road, we had the tires rotated and balanced because we felt a bit of a wobble on a shorter, local highway trip.  According to the mechanic, the tires are good, but he too noticed a bit of a vibration so he put the offending tires in the back and balanced everything.  We left on the trip and all was smooth until the van got up to about 60 MPH. At that point, we felt the vibration in the rear tires. It wasn’t overwhelming, but enough to know that I’ll be purchasing new tires in the near future.

In addition to the vibration, the steering wheel felt a bit looser than what I’m accustomed to in my minivan. The loose steering became more noticeable about the same time I felt the vibration in the tires (hmmm, cause and effect?).  As the trip wore on, however, the steering didn’t seem so loose. Maybe I just got used to it. I made a mental note, however, to have my mechanic check it out when I got back.

Cars, Cars Everywhere!

After arriving in Georgia (north of Atlanta), we used MoCa to get around. She performed well and we were happy with her performance.  Although, a Chevy Express van is not the ideal vehicle to drive when dealing with the busy streets in Atlanta (boy was there ever a lot of traffic). Fortunately, my nephew volunteered to show us around and his car was much more practical than my van.

The purpose of the trip was to visit with family that I haven’t seen in years. While there, we ate (and ate some more). I also had the pleasure of experiencing a cup of siphoned Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee at a Starbucks Reserve coffee shop. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ve got to experience it at least once!

We also saw a few interesting sites. This one, however, still has me stumped.

What is this?
I don’t get it.

Getting Back on the Road

Once the trip was over, we got back on the road and began our journey home.  We noticed there was a lot of road construction and lane pattern deviations, but the van handled everything like a champ. When the gas needle told us we needed gas, we pulled into a rest stop to fill her up.

My hubby filled the tank while my daughter and I used the restroom and got coffee.  All was good until hubby came in and said, “We have a bit of a problem.”

“Uh oh.  What’s the problem?” I asked.

“The gas is leaking out of the truck and it won’t start.”

There goes $53 worth of gas!

Huh?  How could that be?  I went outside, took a look at the dripping gas and realized we needed help (talk about mechanical problems). I stepped away from the leak, picked up the phone and called AAA. Within an hour the tow truck showed up. The tow truck operator (who was just fabulous) loaded the van and towed us 17 miles to an AAA Car Care Center in Huntersville, NC.  

MoCa on a Flatbed
MoCa on a Flatbed

The shop charged $109.95 to diagnose the problem and $149.37 to fix it.  Apparently, the clip that connects the fuel line to the fuel filter broke thus causing the gas to leak.  I wonder if all of the road construction we drove through had anything to do with it. Anyway, $259 and an hour and a half later we were on our way.

A little digression:

A few months ago my hubby’s car ran into trouble and it was towed by AAA to a Triple A approved shop in New York.  That shop fixed the problem for a total cost of $59!  There was no $109.95 diagnostic fee.  Hmmm.

A Mechanical Annoyance

We were happy to be on the road and were also happy the auto shop replaced the $53 worth of gas we leaked all over the ground (we notified the gas station attendant and she put the necessary chemicals on it to soak up the hazardous waste). All was going well until about 100 miles after getting back on the road. The dashboard gauge started displaying low oil levels.  

We pulled off the road to see what was going on. We quickly found out that the AAA Car Care Center shop did not properly fill the van with oil after the repair.  In addition to that, they did not fill the coolant reservoir either. To add insult to injury, the shop did not put the reservoir cap back on the coolant reservoir nor did they replace the bolt that holds the coolant reservoir in place. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy when I saw that.

Missing Parts
Missing Parts

We added coolant and had to create a makeshift coolant cap using aluminum foil and rubber bands.  We added a quart of oil and hoped we would be okay for the remaining 600 or so miles of our trip. Fortunately, we made it home safely with no further issues.

My Home Mechanic

When we got home, I ordered the ACDelco coolant reservoir cap from Amazon to replace the aluminum foil. Unfortunately,  I didn’t have as much luck finding the bolt to hold down the coolant reservoir. I left that task up to my mechanic.  I explained my tale of woe to my mechanic and he gave the van a thorough going over.

Fortunately, all is good.  He changed the oil, replaced the bolt and gave it a clean bill of health.  As far as the looseness with the steering, being that it is a 1999 Chevy Van, the steering is what it is.  I could live with that.

What this trip has taught me is to expect anything and when it happens, remain calm and deal with it one moment at a time.  All in all, it was a good trip and I can’t wait to go on my next excursion.

About the author: Felicia likes to traipse around and write about her traipsings. In her mind, she lives in an RV and gets to travel to beautiful places far and near. However, in reality, she traipses around in her mobile cabin, Faith. With Faith she’s slowly (and I mean slowly) transitioning her mind to leave the ‘safe world’ of bricks and sticks in favor of the unpredictable world of van travel.