>For my work I occasionally travel to the Chicago area (which has become a nightmare with the ongoing highway construction on I-80/94), and my minivan spent May 3 in a repair shop in Indiana. The computer diagnostic indicated two problems: the EGR valve and a TCC (transmission) code. The EGR valve was replaced for $367 and the TCC code disappeared. I drove it home without incident. On my way to town the next week, the “Service Engine Soon” light came on again. Sure enough, another computer diagnosis revealed the Torque Converter Clutch (a transmission thing) was still a problem.
I was reluctant to travel alone anywhere with a van on the verge of a transmission problem, and my husband and I checked into repairing the transmission. The cost of nearly $2,000 seemed a bit prohibitive for a 1995 minivan with 162k miles.
So we searched for a replacement and, the last week in May, we purchased a 2000 minivan with 82k miles. We figured we were gaining five years and cutting the mileage about in half.
On June 12, I took the “new” van to the Chicago area. The next morning, the “Service Engine Soon” light came on. It spent the day in the same repair shop where my previous van had been one month and ten days earlier. The EGR valve was replaced for $215.
That day I had to leave my meeting early to pick up the van before the repair shop closed. I waited for it at the shop, dropped off the person who had given me a ride, was stopped by one of Indiana’s finest (he thought my plates were expired because apparently the Iowa 2007 sticker is the same color as the Indiana 2006 sticker), waited 10 minutes to get back on busy Hwy 30, drove north on Torrence and waited 20 minutes for a train, and arrived back at the meeting just after its conclusion.
The next morning my van wouldn’t start. It was a minor problem and the same dealership graciously repaired it at no charge, even though it was not related to the previous day’s work.
Although I was much later than I’d hoped, I was still able to do the interviews scheduled for that day and headed for home about noon.
Waking about 4:00 for several days and the stress of the last few days had exhausted me. On the drive home, I listened to the soundtrack from “Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” at full blast, pounding my steering wheel and weaving my shoulders in time with the music to keep myself awake.
But once I got into Iowa on I-80, the other music I had along wasn’t moving me. The twenty miles before my exit were killers. I was watching for each mile marker and singing to the tune of “Twenty More Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” a progessive song of: “Twenty more miles to my exit to go, twenty more miles to go.”
As I drew near my exit, I noticed a helicopter hovering over the area. I slowed down and pulled into the right lane. When I crested the last hill, I saw a huge pileup of several cars and a truck in the eastbound lane. The straight truck had been carrying corn that had spilled across both lanes. Eastbound traffic was being diverted north at my exit. I debated whether to take the exit or continue to the next, but my psychological state couldn’t face one more mile of interstate driving. I pulled off.
At the ramp’s stop sign, a trucker in the diverted traffic stopped far enough back to let me through the long line. When I crossed the overpass, a sheriff directing traffic waved me through. I headed south toward home.
Listening to news report on the way home and the next morning, I heard that 13 people had been injured and taken by helicopters to hospitals in Iowa City and Des Moines. Eastbound traffic had crawled north to Hwy. 6 and through Grinnell before returning to I-80. It was several hours before the eastbound lane was reopened.
Witnessing the magnitude of what could happen on a trip to Chicago put my two recent trips into perspective. What’s a few hundred dollars of repairs and some wasted time compared to injury and hospitalization?