Mysterious Ways: A Not-So-False Alarm

He'd had the truck checked, but 100 miles from home, the engine over-revved and the warning light came on.

By Dennis O’Keefe, San Diego, California

As appeared in

"A misfire of the number two cylinder,” the mechanic at the auto shop off California’s Highway 15 read from my truck’s diagnostic computer. So that’s what the “check engine” light meant. “You just had this vehicle serviced at our shop in San Diego?” he asked.

I nodded toward the camper trailer hitched to the back. “I always do before one of these excursions,” I told him. I was on my way to the northern Sierras for a solo camping trip far off the beaten path.

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I’d loved the great outdoors since my childhood in Ottawa, when I explored the gorgeous Gatineau Hills. But it was only after I retired that I was able to spend serious time getting back to nature. My wife wasn’t the outdoorsy type, and hated long road trips.

So we compromised. She would fly to a city near where I was camping, and we’d spend time sightseeing before I headed off on my own. I was fine with that, but my wife was always concerned. “What if something happens to you when you’re all alone? What if you get stranded?”

We both prayed about that.

I took every precaution. Had the truck checked over. Packed extra supplies. Kept a first-aid kit and other emergency gear. Most important, I had a 30-gallon water tank that hung underneath the trailer. That was a must in dry conditions.

But today, 100 miles from home, the engine over-revved and the warning light came on. At least the auto shop would honor its affiliate’s work and fix the problem for free.

“I’ll rev the engine and see if the cylinder misfires again,” the mechanic said. He started it up and hit the gas. The engine’s roar made the truck tremble.

Boom! What was that? Not the truck. It came from the camper trailer. The 200-pound water tank had broken free and crashed to the ground!

The mechanic shook his head. “If that fell off on the highway, it could’ve gotten you or others killed. It’s lucky you came in. Your engine’s just fine. A false alarm.”

Luck? False alarm? My wife and I know the real explanation.

 

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