Matt replacing alternator

The Little Van That Couldn’t

Friday October 2, 2015

Matt replacing alternator

Our group scene here around the marina has been pretty bland lately.  They say it should be getting busier any time now, but we’re still in that slow spot where you won’t see a new face for a week or more at a time.  While we kind of like how we mostly have the place to ourselves right now it also doesn’t help our social calendar that the only people we have to talk to are those who work at the marina and sometimes our friend Ellen when we can wrangle her off her boat.

That is why I was so incredibly excited when our friends Bo and Allison wrote stating they were coming to check on their boat in Stuart for a few days and would love to get together.  Even better…it would be on their boat.  Which is in the water with nice breezes rolling through and not a dusty work yard which we’re always reminded is 10° hotter than all of the surrounding towns. There was pizza and beer promised and even a pretty sunset over the water.  Yes, I was looking forward to this night.

Since we were going to be out and about anyway we left a few hours early to be able to fit a few errands into the day.  Things like stopping at Merritt Marine Supply for a crap ton of epoxy resin and hardener (we go through that stuff like water if you can’t tell); Harbor Freight (we also go through gloves like water); and an intended stop at Home Depot just before the marina to pick up another sheet of foam insulation for our fridge.  We were sure our trusty Kia Sedona would get us safely to all of our locations.  She’s been doing a good job of it since we picked her up for the low low price if $1,000 back in May.

So I like to blame what happened next on Matt.  Whenever we tell people about our sweet ride with dents in it’s side, no AC, and about three door handles missing (including mine from the inside) he always just laughs and says “Sure we could have gone with a slightly more expensive and more reliable van, but the great thing about this one is it was so cheap that if it ever breaks down on the side of the road we can just sign the title and leave it there. It probably wouldn’t even be worth the money to fix it.”  Well, our van felt like testing him out on that day.

As we were heading north on I-95, going from West Palm Beach to Stuart, a light that I hadn’t remembered seeing before went off on my dash.  It’s not unusual for lights to be showing there.  For some reason my Kia feels the need to remind me any time I have the auto-cruise button on.  There’s also been a check engine light on since we bought the vehicle, but the previous owner assured us to ‘Not worry, it’s not for anything big’. There had been plans to get it to an Auto Zone once upon a time to have that light diagnosed, but we’d always been to ashamed of the messy state of our van to let anyone see it.  However…the light that came on this afternoon was new.  Something red and having to do with our battery and leaving me questioning if I should pull over on the side of the expressway right then and there.

As Matt frantically leafed through our manual and I kept us going at extremely slow speeds in the right hand lane, we realized that the next exit happened to be the one we needed but it was still five miles away.  I just kept slowly plugging along until we departed the expressway for familiar grounds and I convinced Matt we should pull off into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot to further diagnose the problem.  By the time we pulled up, a dark cloud that had literally been looming over us for the past 20 minutes finally opened up and sent a torrential downpour our way. I still wasn’t too worried about the van at that point so I saw it as a perfect excuse to run inside and enjoy a pumpkin spice iced coffee while we Googled the light further on our tablet.

My fall flavored bliss was quickly cut short when we found out that the light meant there was an issue with the charging system, most likely our alternator.  This also meant that we were still 20 miles from home and with no means to charge our battery along the way.  Not only was my perfect night of pizza, beer, and sunsets thrown out the window (and run over by my crappy Kia about 30 times), but it meant that we may not even be able to make it back to the marina under our own juice and could possibly have to call a tow truck to get us the rest of the way.

Once the rain eased up we jumped back in the van (since using windshield wipers was now a luxury that I didn’t have the battery power for), and Matt gave me instructions on what to do if the engine cut out on me along the way.  How it would switch to power steering and breaks and I might have to manhandle it to the side of the road.  I looked at my little noodle arms and then back at him as if to question ‘Then why the hell did you put me behind the wheel?”, but we were already on our way and there was no stopping now.  Not if we wanted to get the van started again.  Luckily it never came down to it and we pulled in next to our boat before I had to test my upper body strength.

The next morning we went back to look at our problem, and with the help of our volt meter did realize that there was in fact no power coming in and we would need to replace the alternator.  4 days later we had a brand new one shipped to us at the marina (for only $60) and Matt was able to spend hours and hours under the hot sun, taking apart the van and putting it back together.  If he could say one thing to Kia I’m sure it would be that they suck at putting their vehicles together.  It’s like the built everything around the engine because it’s almost impossible to be able to find room to remove any screws and bolts.  Even I had a hard time getting in there with my tiny hands.

Eventually we did get the new alternator in and while we were at it, also installed the AC compressor which we’ve been carrying around since May.  Yes, air conditioning!  Just in time for fall!

Matt replacing alternator

taking apart Kia

fixing our Kia

* Also, a big thank you to Bo and Allison who decided to come to us while we were stranded and even brought pizza and beer with them!  As well as a few other essentials like milk, cat litter, and pumpkin spice coffee creamer.


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