Su Lum: Strange noises
August 14, 2002
I made an appointment for my Beetle with Elk Mountain Motors, because one of my “Call your dealer immediately” warning lights went on a couple of weeks ago. The appointment isn’t until August 29, but they said not to worry unless the light began to blink. If that happened, I should stop the car immediately and call the 800 number affixed to my back window, the assumption probably being that I have entered the 21st century and have a cell phone.
A few days ago as I was pulling away from the Times, there was a loud noise that sounded as if someone had fired up a power mower next to me, but it was the Beetle! Gads! I turned off the motor, waited a few seconds, and it purred quietly home. The light did not blink.
The Beetle made this noise a couple of times again, and on Saturday afternoon when I was running errands it did it every time I accelerated after being stopped in traffic, meaning many times, and I was honking like mad at people backing out of parking spaces and getting in my way as I tried to get the car back to its spot in the alley.
Home in a sweat, I called the 800 number to see what they would advise, and was surprised when, after pushing only two buttons, I immediately got a human voice saying, “VW Roadside Assistance, are you safe?”
“ARE YOU SAFE?!” What a great line!
She asked for my Beetle’s serial number, which probably told her the history of my purchase, the extent of my warranty, my blood type, police records, movie rentals and the details of my last purchase of a honey-baked ham.
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I told her the problem and said I didn’t know if I should drive it, to which she replied, “If you are uncomfortable driving your car, we will tow it to the Volkswagen dealer of your choice,” so I said OK and to hold on a sec while I looked up Elk Mountain’s address, but she said, “We have that in our records.”
She told me the tow truck should arrive within 90 minutes, and I hung up wondering if I had been talking to someone in Kansas or Kuwait, and thinking that things had certainly changed a lot in the car service department.
Except that the tow truck did not arrive.
This turned out to be a good thing, because I woke up the next day remembering that the car always did that Thing late in the afternoon, and here it was a crisp cool morning and I was totally out of everything and maybe I could sneak a quick trip to City Market for provisions, which I did. The light did not blink, nor did the motor roar.
Talking later with Pete of Ajax Towing, we agreed that I should confer with Elk Mountain on Monday morning, who again said that if the light didn’t blink it was probably OK so, what the hell, I drove to work without incident.
However, the Beetle began making a much worse noise when I was driving back from the morning’s exercise class, sounding as if the muffler or the axle or something had fallen off and was dragging on the road, and this time, though the light did not blink, the noise did not stop when I turned off the key.
I managed to clank to the gas station where Pete was just getting out of the tow truck. By this time I was, as my co-workers call it, “flapping,” as in, “Su, what are you flapping about NOW?” but Pete calmly said, “Well, let’s have a look,” bent down and pulled a crushed plastic gallon container out from under the front of the Beetle. I remember seeing it on Main Street, just before the new noise started. Where’s that cyanide pill when you really need it?
Back to square one, hoping the light doesn’t blink before the 29th.
[ Su Lum is a longtime local who hates car problems. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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