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My Car Died. . .And I’m Grateful

December 12, 2019

It was a private number. I was on another call, so I ignored it. Immediately I got another call, presumably from the same private number.

Is this Mr Bliss?


This is Officer Johnson from the Orem police department.

Do you own a tan colored Chevy Suburban?


We have reports that it was abandoned on 600 W, 400 N. A woman was driving and left it there.

Yeah. It died on her.

It’s currently blocking traffic. You have ten minutes to move it or we will need to have it towed.

That was not a call I was expecting. My lovely wife had called me an hour earlier and told me that the car made a grinding noise as she attempted to make a U-turn on 600 W. She then couldn’t get the car out of PARK.

The road was blocked off. (Hence the need to make a U-turn.) She was a block away from her appointment, so she walked. . .and called me.

When an all wheel drive vehicle “makes a grinding noise” while turning and can’t get shifted out of PARK, the list of possible causes is pretty short. . .and fairly expensive.

It could be a tranmission. Rebuilding a transmission is $4000-$5000. (I bought the Suburban for less than that.)

It could be a transfer case. Rebuilding or replacing that is $2500-$3000.

There are other things that can cause a car to make a grinding noise. Differential going bad. Drive train linkage locking up. I’ve even seen a couple of missing bolts on the transmission case causing a grinding noise.

When I got the call, I was on my way to pick up my lovely wife from her appointment. The closed off road was no longer closed off. We arrived at the broken down car before the tow truck did. We endured a perhaps justified lecture from the Orem police officer about the dangers of leaving your car blocking a street (it was only blocking a little) without at least turning on your hazards.

I parked my car and went to try starting my Suburban. It started right up. Much to the frustration of my lovely wife from her location on the sidewalk listening to the police officer. I held my breath as I moved the shift selector out of PARK. I slowly pulled the car out of traffic and parked at the curb.

Oh, my car was broken. But, not with any of those big pricey causes. It had a problem with it’s electrical system. That’s why it kept stalling. An electrical issue is typically one of two things, or two of two.

  • Bad battery
  • Bad alternator
  • Both

Replacing a battery is about $150 and you can do the work in the parking lot of the auto parts store. An alternator is slightly more expensive, but is still something that a backyard mechanic can do himself. A bad alternator can make your battery go bad. Generally a bad battery doesn’t screw up your alternator.

My lovely wife drove the Suburban to the auto parts store while I followed in my car. The Suburban died in parking lot again. The helpful guys at O’Reilly’s checked the battery and the alternator. Just the battery was bad. We switched cars and she headed off to more errands.

It’s $150 and more time away from making Christmas presents. As I was driving home with my Suburban, I thought about how it had already been a frustrating day. I’d spent hours working on an issue for work. I hadn’t gotten a single Christmas present made. I’d gotten a call from the cops. I now had to add “repair car” to my already too long list of todo items.

And yet, I realized that I should be grateful. And I even managed to convince myself to be grateful. I was grateful for the broken car. Why? Because it was $150 instead of $5000. And it was something I could reapir myself.

Yep, despite everything, it was my lucky day. (Of course, I believe it!)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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