November 7th, 2005



I've been having trouble starting my car on and off for a while. The starter engages and turns over, but the motor doesn't catch. A jump to the battery alleviates this problem, yet according to Sears, my one-year-old battery is fine. The problem was getting worse, so last Tuesday I went to AAA to try to get it diagnosed. The next available appointment was a week from that day (aka "tomorrow"), so I made it.

Saturday I was driving from Job #2 in Emeryville across to San Francisco to do standup comedy. The traffic getting over the Bay Bridge was very heavy stop-and-go; there was no avoiding it.

In the midst of this traffic I found my car being less and less willing to shift out of first or second gear. I made it over the bridge and onto 5th Street in San Francisco, at which point my car was being temperamental about engaging in first gear. A cop in an SUV suggested I pull over, so I found a parking space on 6th Street near Howard Street and did so. This is not a "nice" neighborhood; when I called AAA and they asked for "anything distinctive," I mentioned the wino throwing up on the sidewalk. I was told a tow was en route "on priority," but I waited for 45 minutes and watched three tow trucks pass me by.

Eventually I tried restarting the car and was able to get it into first gear. I called AAA and cancelled the tow, instead hoping to make it home. Instead, the car stopped accelerating on southbound 101 just before the Sierra Point Parkway exit. I called AAA; they said the CHP would also come to help, but no CHP ever arrived. The tow truck did, and I got towed home. After he dropped off my car, the driver pointed out the car had recharged.

Yesterday I was eventually able to start the car; once I did I got to comedy class with no problems until I was parking. First gear started giving out in the parking lot, but I was able to deposit the car into a space. After class I started the car and began driving home. The car didn't want to shift out of first gear. This time it stopped running on northbound 280 just before the on-ramp to northbound 880. Those of you who are familiar with that interchange know it's one of the most dangerous and poorly designed ones in the area. There's no shoulder where I got stuck. This time I called 911 from my cell phone. As I waited one car rear-ended another immediately behind me. Eeep. About 15 minutes later the CHP and tow truck showed up at the same time. The CHP car pushed me to the shoulder, where the tow truck could hook me up and get me home.

I now have to hope the car will make it to AAA tomorrow. After that I get to hope it'll make it to wherever AAA recommends I get it fixed.

Warren thinks my recently rebuilt transmission is burnt out. The AAA tow guys think the problem is a bad alternator. dimakoi says the regulator could also be bad. I'm hoping the AAA tow guys or dimakoi are right and not Warren. If I had a paid account and a poll feature I'd take that as a poll to see what the rest of you think.
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