I took my mom Christmas shopping today. Our little, Mercury Topaz was sitting in the driveway in pieces because of an annoying, screechy pulley, so I decided that it would be a good day to take my baby out. She’s a Chevy, S10 pickup with 4-wheel drive, great gas mileage, and a cap to keep the groceries dry. Though she’s not a young girl any more, she drives like a dream, clings to the road, and will haul just about anything. It’s probably the country hick in me that makes me love a pickup. True, she is a little difficult for Mom to get into, but being an independent woman, Mom shunned the idea of help, climbed into the cab of her own accord, and we were off on our Christmas shopping adventure.
The weather was unseasonably warm and inviting and the traffic was light. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day… until…
I slowed the truck to a stop at a red light, and the 4-wheel drive indicator light flashed on. We came to a grinding stop as the transmission screamed in agony. Trying to appear nonchalant, so as not to upset my mother, I pulled to the side of the highway and worked with the gear shift until I was sure the truck was out of 4 wheel drive, then pulled back onto the road. The grinding had stopped, but by the time I got my mom home, the truck had consumed an incredible amount of gasoline, and she wasn’t leaking. I had checked the fluids earlier in the day. They were fine. I checked them again. There was no change. Suspecting that she was still locked in 4 wheel drive or that my transmission was headed south, I decided to call my husband before I left for the evening and alert him to the possibility that he would have to come out to rescue me. My truck went as far as my driveway, and that is where she will sit until we can find out why she goes in and out of 4 wheel drive on her own. So, I have been scanning the repair sites.
The first thing I learned was that I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. (Or used to know. Were vehicles actually simpler when I was young or am I remembering the past incorrectly?) The second thing I learned was that people who work on cars and trucks speak a different language.
What I know about my truck’s engine.
What the sites told me was that the problem could be the electric, shift solenoid that engages the transfer case and sends the power through the auxiliary drive shaft to the front differential. It could be something as simple as a loose hose or wire. (Which hose? Which wire? There must be a hundred of them.) It could be a bad actuator, or the transfer case, control module, or it just might be a vacuum switch that sends power to a cable that pulls the tail of a monkey, who pushes a button, that sounds an alarm, that wakes up the gerbils, who make the wheels go round. (Just kidding. Gerbils could never turn the wheels. It would have to at least be guinea pigs.) There are more possibilities than my confused mind can understand, but I found one thing through my research, and that was a new respect for the grease covered person that crawls under an ailing vehicle and actually manages to diagnose the problem.