Last Friday we drove up to Montana for a quick family reunion. On Sunday we started driving back, and we stopped for lunch in Butte. But as soon as we left Butte, the van started overheating. I quickly pulled over at a Flying J and popped the hood, and I found that a little t-shaped coolant hose connector had broken. The hose was hanging loose, and it had obviously been gushing coolant all over the back side of the engine.
I ran in to the Flying J and bought some silicone repair tape, and I tried to tape the thing together the best I could. It wasn’t very good, though, because I could barely reach the hose, and there just wasn’t much left to tape together. I tried driving it, but it started overheating again after just a few minutes. It looked like we were stuck there.
Luckily Ruth’s parents were a few hours behind us, and they were planning on staying in Butte anyway. They got us a motel room for the night, and we decided to take the van in to the only GM dealer in town the next morning. I’d called my dad (who’s the parts manager at a Chevy dealer in Arizona) and described the problem, and he said that he had the part in stock and that he thought there was a good chance this place would have it too.
We dropped the van off at 9:00 a.m., and they said that it was a nine-dollar part and that the repair should only take an hour. I was thrilled. We headed back to the motel and waited to get back on the road.
At 10:30 they called to tell us they didn’t have the part in stock, and they’d have to order it from Denver. (Why the hell did they not check to see if it was in stock before we even left? Why did it take them an hour and a half to find that out?) They said it would be there by the end of the day on Tuesday. I asked if there was a part anywhere closer, and they said no, but they did say they could overnight it and have it there by noon on Tuesday. I don’t know why they didn’t offer to overnight it the first time. Maybe I hadn’t explained clearly enough that we were stranded 400 miles from home and were pretty anxious to get back.
I talked to my dad again, and he seemed surprised that there were no closer dealerships with the part in stock. He asked if they used part locator to find out who had it in stock, and I told him that they just said there weren’t any closer. He sighed, and I knew what that meant—he suspected that the parts guy at the dealer wasn’t doing his job very well.
He called me back later to say that he found a dealer with the part in Helena, just one hour away. By that point, though, it was already past noon. Ruth’s parents were leaving, so we had no way to get to Helena ourselves short of renting a car. The dealer didn’t offer to send someone to get it or have someone from Helena deliver it either, so I decided to stick with overnighting it from Denver. We got a motel room for another night and hoped that the van would be ready relatively quickly the next day.
The part finally came in at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, and our van was fixed by 3:30. It was longer than the hour they’d promised, but by that point I was just happy to have our van back and be on the road. The repair bill came to just under two hundred bucks, which is not too terrible, all things considered. Of course, the motel room and two extra days of eating out added up quite a bit too, and we lost two days in which we should have been packing and trying to find a new house (more on that in the next post).
And even though it sucked to be stuck in Butte for a few days, at least we broke down right in town and not somewhere a lot worse, like halfway between Butte and Idaho Falls in the middle of absolute nowhere. We could’ve blow a head gasket or something else that would have been much worse than a nine-dollar part and an hour of labor. I could have missed two extra days of work, but luckily I already had the whole week off.
I’m grateful that my in-laws were there to help us out, even though it meant delaying their trip back to Denver by several hours. And if I had to be stuck somewhere, at least I was stuck there with my family. It’s still nice to be home, though.