February 15, 2015

Our first weekend with the new car

Alan driving

So, now that Alan and I have a car, we have driven in a total of three times. Alan successfully drove a group of guys downtown to the Turkish bath on Friday, but the other two times, yesterday and today, haven't been so great. 

Both times, our engine overheated within 30 minutes of starting. We weren't doing anything crazy in our driving (even during my manual driving practice session). Yesterday, steam was escaping from our hood as we stalled. After a push start, we stalled again. We coasted down the hill, wondering whether our gas gauge was off. We filled up the tank, but experienced the same problem again, this time on going up a hill. The check engine light came on as did the engine temperature light. Alan skillfully rolled us into a driveway were we waited for the engine to cool off.

At home, we checked the antifreeze: full. We checked for a leak: none to be found.

We took a three hour nap before driving it to the grocery store.

I'm learning
Today, we tried to take a 45-drive to a nearby reservoir. We made it about 3/4 of the way, just outside of town, before our car stalled.  We sat, hood open, for 10 minutes. We pushed a little farther before we stalled in an intersection (luckily not a crowded one). 

We smartly decided to turn back and headed toward the industrial part of Kayseri where all the mechanic shops are. Meanwhile, I recruited help from several colleagues to get numbers of other colleagues who could come out and help us decide what to do next. 

The final stall happened on a busy street near a busy intersection. We were stuck in a dangerous place for a few minutes as we waited for the engine to cool off. Just as I was getting ready to get out and push, a huge Turkish bus pulled up behind us, honking. That's pretty normal, but then a Turk jumped out and gave our car a hefty push so we could make the turn and get off of the main drag.

We rolled to a stop near a gas station, where we sat as I called the colleague from whom we bought the car and the colleague who loves cars.

At some point, the colleague who was trying to come to our rescue couldn't find us and asked us to find a Turkish person to give him directions to find us. Here is the magic of Turkey.

I walked up to the first person I saw standing outside a gas station and in my best Turkish said, "Can you help me?" as I handed him the phone. Before he had finished the conversation, a group of Turks had amassed. I understood my directions: "stay put."

I was thirsty, though, so I headed to our car to grab my water bottle. The crowd of Turks nearly had a fit. "Don't leave! Stay here, he said" They shouted. Alan stayed to ease their minds that we had understood our directions.

They must have been so relieved when I came back, water bottle in hand. We were offered a seat and hot tea by the gas station workers--because this is Turkey. They patiently talked to us in Turkish and kept us company until our colleague arrived. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality to complete strangers. As Alan pointed out later, even though we sometimes feel unwanted here, in general, when we need help, Turks are generally more than willing to help and make our experience more comfortable. 

After giving our engine a once-over, our colleague took us to his friend's repair shop nearby. Ironically, after stalling on the busy street, we had coasted to a stop remarkably close to the repair shop without knowing where we were going.

It must have been our lucky day because the mechanic was open and willing to drop everything he was doing to help us out. It's all about who you know in Turkey. Going to a random shop with no recommendation from a friend is no good here.

Not exactly what I had in mind for our
first weekend with the Burrito Mobile
After an hour of touching, smelling, and revving our engine, the mechanic assessed that we hadn't caused major damage to the gaskets, but that our cooling system wasn't working properly because there was apparently no water in the radiator and our car had really cheap anti-freeze. He flushed the cooling system It sounded like we had run a pretty big risk by continuing to drive the car, as the gasket repair would run at least $1000. We never really got an answer about what caused the problem, though maybe a harsh stop or start had shaken things just too far out of place and caused a brief leak. Anyway, we hope that the problem is largely fixed now.

Seven liters of "organik" antifreeze later, we successfully drove home. It was the cheapest trip to a mechanic I've ever seen: $40 or so.

So, while I can say that we had two "adventures" with our car this weekend, they weren't quite the kind I had in mind.