Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

No atheists in foxholes, right?

Posted by Lissa on August 27, 2010

So we’re driving back from a lovely visit to Shoothouse Barbie’s Cape retreat . . .  quiet drive, not much traffic, smooth sailing really . . . and suddenly the headlights and the dashboard lights start flickering.  Not going completely dark, mind you.  Just dimming and flickering, like a flashlight with a dying battery.

It’s a little scary, but I did have this happen once before.  I take a deep breath and switch on the brights. The dashboard lights flicker flicker flicker and then go completely dark before blasting back on at full power.  I’ve lost my radio station presets but everything is now glowing steadily; I turn off my brights and unclench my shoulders.

Flicker flicker flicker. “Oh sh*t.”

I do the brights trick again.

And again.

And then once more.

Only this time, instead of resetting the car’s electrical system it just turns everything off.  My headlights die — with me traveling at 60 mph, mind you — the car goes into neutral, and every interior light goes dark.

I have about two seconds worth of panic.  Thank god it’s a moonlit night. And just as I’m hitting the brakes to coast to the side of the road and call AAA — all the lights come back on.

Flicker flicker flicker.

“Well, the hell with that.”  I can live with flickering.  There’s enough light to see by, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do the fun oh-my-god-my-car-just-died trick while driving full speed.  Uh-uh.

I drive the next hour and a half with slightly shaking hands and the occasional prayer.  A little help here, God.  Please? Just please have the car keep going for another hour.  Please and thank you.

The mile markers have never ticked by so slowly.

Please, God.  Just another forty-five.  Okay?  Please and thank you.

I stay behind other cars when I can so that my flickering headlights aren’t solely responsible for lighting up the road.  I’d follow a car all the way home if it would just go less than ten miles over the speed limit, but no one’s quite that obliging.

Please, God.  Just keep it going another half hour, okay?  Please, and thank you.

By the time we make it home the power locks are ignoring me along with the interior lights.  I don’t care.  My hands are trembling and I’m not one tiny bit sleepy despite the late hour.

Thank you.  Miserere nobis and all that.  Thanks, God, for getting us home safely.

And now I’m running off to the car dealership.

Hope you all had a lovely week!  Happy Friday!!

P.S. I’ve been blog-neglecting and now I’m comment-starved.  Tell you what – if I get more than five comments on this post I’ll post some pics from my very first oyster shot 🙂

14 Responses to “No atheists in foxholes, right?”

  1. alan said

    I don’t even know what an oyster shot is. Sounds kinky.

  2. ZerCool said

    Ooh, ooh, let’s take bets on what the problem is!

    My money is on either a shot alternator, or a loose connection on/to/from said alternator.

    And oyster shots are nasty-ass stuff.

    BTW, I’ve seen this movie you were describing. You DID look in your back seat for the guy in the hockey mask holding the ax, right?

  3. Jennifer said

    Yikes! I hate night time car trouble. Very frightening when you aren’t sure you will make it home.
    You’ve got a short somewhere. Hopefully the dealership will be able to find it quickly. Could be a bad alternator, but that doesn’t really explain why the bright trick would work.

  4. Dave said

    oyster shot definitely sounds scary

  5. Brad K. said

    Would an oyster shot work like an order of oysters before . . evening?

    Luck with the car – I hope it is just the battery going dead.

  6. Lissa said

    Alan, an oyster shot is a raw oyster, a bit of tomato/cocktail sauce, some lemon juice and vodka. It’s a little frightening.

    Zercool and Jennifer, the dealer’s first guess was an electrical fuse box going wonky — loose wires or blown fuse or something. And I’m *so* glad I didn’t think of the horror movie reference while I was driving!!

    Dave, does my description above make it sound more, or less, scary?

    Brad, I won’t even dare to speculate. Not going there!

    • ZerCool said

      And I’m *so* glad I didn’t think of the horror movie reference while I was driving!!

      I’ve got visions now of Tactical Rainbow Bright drawing down on and clearing her own back seat out in the boonies…

  7. Borepatch said

    Looks like pictures are in order.

    Strangely, this is precisely the sort of thing that software could do. Race conditions, oscillating states, probably hard to diagnose.

  8. Wally said

    ChryCos were notorious for the electrical system dump. Aside from that, an oyster shot sounds particularly nasty, so don’t count this as a comment 🙂

  9. wolfwalker said

    An hour and a half with a seriously malf’ed electrical system? On the highway, no less?

    Next time, call Triple A. That’s what they’re there for: to save your sanity, your bank account, and very possibly your life.

    (Yeah, I know that sounds harsh and judgemental. Sorry about that, but I don’t know any way to soft-pedal this. A car with a malf’ing electrical system is not safe to drive. Not safe for you, not safe for those around you. It may also be illegal in your state — like, “the fine costs more than the repairs” illegal. Don’t do it.)

  10. Lissa said

    Borepatch, we hit the requested comment number, so yeah, pix tomorrow!

    Wally, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. They’re so much better sauteed with a little white wine and garlic.

    Wolfwalker, I respect your opinion. I made a judgment call and understand that you would have chosen differently. Thanks for your concern, and I’m glad this one ended well.

  11. Motor-T said

    Make sure that the battery cables are tightened, and corosion free. Loose or coroded battery terminals can cause flickering and all other sorts of malfunctions.

  12. wrm said

    Heh. On occasion, I drive a Land-Rover. According to many authorities, that thing came from the factory with a malfunctioning electrical system.

    Thing is, in my mind the electrics is separate from the engine is separate from the drive train. The one should not affect the other. If an electrical failure puts your gearbox [1] into neutral, get a car with less interdependency [2].

    Lissa, glad you made it, and yes, I agree with you.

    [1] Guess which side of the world I’m on.

    [2] Said Land-Rover came from the factory with two fuses. The one powered the interior light. The other powered the brake lights and the wiper. Nothing else was fused, and presumably a failure would result in a localised emission of Magic Smoke (TM) — but the engine would still go.

    Of course it has a few more fuses and a number of relays now — it was either that or stuff some marshmallows in the glove compartment for the inevitable fire — and the Land-Rover doesn’t have a glove compartment…

  13. Tracy said

    Really sounds like a loose or corroded electrical connection. When you switch the high beams on, it draws more current which causes the bad connection to arc over, depositing a small trace of metal and thus improving the connection, for awhile.
    Douse the wire connections on the back of the alternator with WD-40, then grab those wires and move them around a bit. If that makes everything work better, you have found the culprit. If not, do the same thing with the big bundle of wires that enters the fuse box. Maybe open the fuse box and douse everything in there, too. If you find the connection that is causing the problem, unplug it (disconnect the battery first) and clean it with WD-40 and a brush, then reconnect it.

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