Monday, November 4, 2013

Getting Rattled

I've been a “car guy” ever since I was a little kid.  Not a car guy in the sense that I could tear down and rebuild an engine, but a car guy in the sense that I have always enjoyed driving and admiring them.  When taking a trip in my car, half the fun for me is the journey to and from the destination.  An antique auto or any kind of unique vehicle on the road will almost always turn my head, and I find it impossible to just drive past any kind of car show or display.  One of the highlights of my summer excursions around Maine this year was a day spent at the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum in the town of Owl’s Head, just outside of Rockland.  I could have made it several days, actually.

Because I place such a premium on the car experience, it makes me kind of edgy when something interferes with that pleasure.  You may recall that I addressed this here in this blog a few months ago when my Hyundai Santa Fe developed a mysterious knock which seemed to be coming from the undercarriage that I could not track down no matter how hard I tried.  It turned out to be some manner of rod near one of the wheels, according to my mechanic, who is also likely certified to fly space shuttles.  I think this “rod” was actually part of the flux capacitor or something, and I never would have ferreted it out by myself in a million years.

Because my Santa Fe is nearing seven years old, I know that it, like me, is not getting any younger and is bound to develop more frequent health quirks.  Much as I do with my own health, I sometimes get concerned that the other shoe could drop on my car’s well-being at any time.  Also much like my own health, I am not so much worried about some major crisis as much as a series of irritating little ones. 

Take, for instance, the plastic covering for the fuse panel, on the side of the dashboard.  It has a loose fit nowadays, and occasionally falls out onto the ground when the door opens.  If it ever gets lost, I would probably also lose at least a piece of my mind.  On the other hand, there is no good way to secure it in place short of duct tape, the sight of which would bother me just as much as having to constantly watch to make sure the covering doesn't get lost.

And then there are the various and sundry pieces and parts that are rolling around inside the back door.  When installing a new license plate a few years ago, some washers and little plasticky things fell inside it, and now rattle around in there whenever I lift open the door or take a sharp corner.  Taking the door apart myself to retrieve the errant pieces would just be a recipe for complete and total disaster, and taking it to a mechanic for something so foolish to someone else would likely be both embarrassing and expensive.  So, I just put on my big boy pants and deal with it.  Not happily, mind you.  Not. At. All.

About a year ago, I got a pen wedged inside the ashtray, preventing it from opening.  I don’t smoke unless someone sets me on fire, so it seemed at first like a good place to keep a pen.  I often have need of one while on the road and can rarely locate one quickly.  And a good place for a pen it was, for quite some time actually, until one day I went to open up the ashtray/pen receptacle while at a drive-through ATM with a line of cars behind me.  It was well and truly jammed.  No amount of jiggling, finagling or cajoling could get it to open, and the line behind me was growing longer and more impatient.   I left without completing any of my banking tasks and immediately pulled into a nearby parking spot.  I spent nearly an hour on every strategy short of explosives to get it open.  At long last it did pop free, with no damage to the ashtray/now-former pen receptacle.  It’s a good thing too, because if I had to look at a broken ashtray every time I got in the car, I’d probably have to sell it immediately, probably at a loss, just to get it out of my sight.

My latest potential vehicle crisis emerged a few days ago.  There was a tiny but highly irritating rattling sound coming from somewhere inside the cabin whenever I drove over rough roads, which are not unusual things to encounter in northern Maine. 

Rattles belong in playpens, not in Hyundais.

First, I checked the storage compartments, of which my Santa Fe has more than a herd of kangaroos. I store plenty of stuff in most of them, like CDs, charging units, my GPS, manuals, a small rubber lizard that came with a great drink I had in the Old Port in 1996, as well as the typical flotsam and jetsam that accumulate in a vehicle like paper clips, receipts, gum and the like.  I secured anything and everything that looked like it might be loose and headed back out on a bumpy street.

The rattle was still there!  Drat.

(Yes, I really did say "drat".)

Perhaps some part of the vehicle itself was loose, I thought. Since I could only hear it when I was driving, which is a less-than-ideal time to be crawling around looking, I recruited a friend to drive while I attempted to pinpoint the problem.  The thing was, when I was in the back seat, it sounded like the rattle was coming from the front, and when I was in the front, it sounded like it was coming from the back.  We switched places, and I had my friend try to find the source of the rattle.  Nothing.  After exhausting my friend’s patience as well as half a tank of gas, I concluded that it wasn’t a loose part either.

By this point, I had endured the phantom rattle for three days and seemed no closer to locating the source.  I was within inches of deciding to sell the car for scrap when fate, as it so often does, led me to Dunkin Donuts. Treating my friend to coffee was on my agenda, and as I got to the drive-through window, I went for my wallet in the glove compartment. 

You see, once in a while I keep my wallet in there, along with the vehicle manual and other car-related papers.  Nothing loose though.  It’s a pain to fish anything out of there when driving, so the glove compartment doesn't accumulate nearly the amount of stuff that the other ones do.  I was so sure that there was nothing rattle worthy in there that I hadn't even bothered to check it thoroughly. 

As I shut the glove compartment, I heard it.  The rattle.  Thankfully, no one was in line behind us, so I asked the coffee guy to wait for just a second, as I unbuckled my seat belt and reached over to pull everything out onto my friend’s lap.  Under the manuals and paperwork, I found a quarter, which had likely slipped out of my wallet.  It had to be the culprit!

I gave a fist-pump of victory accompanied by a loud “Yussss!”

The coffee guy looked at me as though I had lost my sanity.  My friend knew that particular train had left the station a long time ago and just rolled her eyes, a reaction I tend to get a lot, especially from women.  Regardless, the latest rattle crisis was resolved.  I have driven in rattle-free bliss ever since.

Winter’s coming, and no doubt new rattles and knocks will be popping up in my car.  Cold weather seems to foster them.  So if you see me pulled over on the side of the road frantically fishing around the vehicle, don’t worry.  Probably something has come loose.  Whether it’s in the vehicle cabin or in my head is a matter of debate, I guess.  

No comments:

Post a Comment