Don’t Always Depend on the Kindness of Strangers

It didn’t really work out so well for Blanche, anyway.

On my way home from work the other day, my radiator and upper radiator hose had a terrible spat and decided to part ways. So I pulled into a parking lot to wait for cooler heads to prevail*. After sharing it what smelled like a fabulous pancake feast, hose and radiator were ready to be reunited. Their reconciliation will be a short one, alas. A younger, less cracked, suitor is waiting in the wings (also known as the kitchen because where else would you keep a replacement radiator).

But as the making up commenced, things started getting rather hot as making up can sometimes do, so I made my way to the store where sweet, cooling liquids are sold.

Now understand, I’ve just gotten off work. I’m wearing a wool skirt, cute top, and 4-inch heels. I did not take the time to freshen up my lipstick and adjust the girls. The dashing young man behind the counter sold me some pre-mixed anti-freeze, and I headed out to the parking lot to cool the make-up session down. The young man did not follow.

And that’s fine. Sure, I could have batted my eyelashes and feigned helplessness, but I’m not helpless. And even in my business attire, I can pull the cap off of a (now sufficiently cool) radiator and pour in a gallon of pre-mixed anti-freeze.

Can you? There’s no magic to it, but do you know enough about what is going on under the hood of your vehicle that you can solve the problem rather than find yourself stranded, dependent on the kindness of passing strangers? Everything breaks at some point. Sometimes all at the same time. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will find yourself stranded. But being prepared means more than carrying your gun. It’s knowing what you depend on and having a plan. I don’t expect you to run out and become a master mechanic, but you should know which fluids go where and what the lights/gauges on your dash mean.  We spend a lot of time talking about self defense, but you are honestly far more likely to need to deal with a bit of automotive trouble. Just a little bit of knowledge saved me from a blown engine and a long walk home. No kind strangers needed.

*I crack myself up sometimes. Which is good, since I may be the only one that thinks that is funny.

24 thoughts on “Don’t Always Depend on the Kindness of Strangers”

  1. Recently had radiator issues. Thought the flush worked, but no the truck started overheating about 30 minutes from home on the highway. I limped it in to a gas station, parked near the water hose. Said station did not have much in the way of supplies, so I bought a newspaper and we both chilled for a while. As I’m sitting with my hood up to facilitate the cooling, a car with a couple of young soldiers pulls up to put air in their tires. One young man came over and asked if I needed any help. I explained about the radiator and I was letting it cool for a while. He laughed and said he didn’t know anything about radiators, his skill set only extended to air in tires and battery jumping! I thanked him and off he went. I had to laugh a little when he looked relieved that everything was under control.

  2. “*I crack myself up sometimes. Which is good, since I may be the only one that thinks that is funny.”

    Fear not, I LOL’d! Keep it up please.

  3. I tried to teach the 20 year old about all her fluids and stuff when she was younger but met nothing but resistance UNTIL something happened and she realised her boyfriend (now hubby) knew less than she did/does. The 18 year old has picked it up pretty good.
    It amazes me how little most of todays youth, male and female, know about taking care of a vehicle. My son in law had a blowout a couple months ago and couldn’t figure out how to get the tire off. That blew my mind.

  4. I just realized,how I came to pick the blogs I read.It occured to me while I read your post,and I thought to myself-Well of course she knows how to add coolant-that a lot of women might not.Then I thought’Well,Tam would know,and Brigid,and Bobbi,and maybe AGirl,of course Jay and Joel and Ian’.I have been a mechanic and engineer for over 40 years,and I can’t believe how many people don’t understand enough basic electricity and fluids and tires to get themselves home (or at least to safety)
    But I would have put your coolant in for you,if I’d a been that clerk!

  5. Skirt…
    .45 the size of a small kitchen appliance….

    Should we all go over to hubby’s blog and remind him how lucky of a bastard he is?


        1. :hoists glass:
          No worries Mimi.

          And RA…..
          Yup. If you wanna sit here and help me kill this bottle of Black Seal Rum and be jealous of His Robotness I wouldn’t object to the company.

  6. Not sure “helpless” would be a word anyone would use for you. Everybody needs to be able to do the minor things to get the vehicle home and not be stranded on the side of the road. My late wife was pretty good about those things so I didn’t have to worry about her since her job had her traveling around the state. I’ve already had a conversation with my future bride about this subject and feel comfortable she can handle the minor emergencies. (I’ve also introduced her to the fun of shooting guns and watching Duck Dynasty on Wednesday nights. Going to make a good Redneck out of this little “yuppie girl” yet.)

  7. You make very good points. Everyone in my family will know how to handle the basics when it’s time to drive a car. It’s part of the territory. Relying on some random person to come and help isn’t the safest of strategies.

    Yes, I chuckled too.

  8. After I bought it, I had to take the bat truck in for an issue with the door look that hopefully was under warranty. They said I could drop it off in the morning and someone would give me a ride home. I’d pulled a 20 hour day prior, all outdoors in the elements, got about two hours sleep, threw on some sweats and my glasses (no getting the contacts in when one’s eyes look like Chinese lags) and took in the truck. I went home and slept like the dead for about 7 hours, showered, did my hair, makeup, contacts, something cute to wear , and went and picked up my truck.

    Problem fixed, warranty good. I was feeling pretty spiffy until the service rep, who had been there in the morning said “wasn’t it nice of your Mom to bring the truck in for you!.. ., . “

  9. Another thing that is useful to have when a hose splits is duct tape to seal the tear. No, it won’t hold under pressure, so put your radiator cap on loosely, then tape it down so you won’t lose it. You won’t build pressure in the hose, and as long as things stay cool, you can limp it to where it can be fixed because the water pump will still run and the radiator will still cool. If it does start to warm up, you’ll boil over from the cap rather than gush from the cut.

    And JB Weld works wonders on cracked radiators for temporary repairs, if you remove the paint surrounding the crack. Of course this fix requires that the compound has time to cure.

  10. Everyday preparedness is about more than packing heat. It’s about knowing what to do when things over-heat. Still laughing at “the girls.” Not literally “at” them, since I have never seen them…oh, Lord that makes it worse…nevermind. You know what I mean. Great post.

  11. Nowadays it’s even more interesting: you’ve got some radiators that do NOT have a filler cap. As I found out when changing the coolant in son’s truck before driving to El Paso. On his at least, assuming any leaks are fixed, you fill the ‘overflow’ tank and start the engine, and it starts sucking coolant in. You stand there and keep it topped-off until it stops sucking, then put the cap on it.

  12. Shane, several years ago a guy I knew(speech teacher) was taking two carloads of teenagers to a competition. The car following disappeared, and he stopped at a station on the highway to wait. Was more than an hour before they appeared.
    They’d had a flat. He asked why it took them that long to change it, and was informed that it took that long for someone to stop and help because- out of three boys and two girls- none of them had any idea how to change it.

    Just amazing, isn’t it?

    1. It is. Its friggin crazy! I could change a tire, change the oil, and knew how to check all fluids before I ever turned 13.

      And Jennifer you’re right, it doesn’t bother em one bit that they can’t do it. I’ll help my son in law with things but I make him do the bulk of the work so he’ll be forced to learn a little.

  13. Yeah, what caliber you carry isn’t going to help a bit if what you need is a pair of jumper cables. I try not to tease anyone too hard about that, though, for fear that they won’t learn their lesson. But I did giggle a bit at your post!

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