Friday, October 11, 2013

Out of Gas!

So there we were on the outskirts of the urban jungle and its maze of freeways and road construction, heading home after a social event for my wife, when out of the blue a large objects comes streaking out from underneath the van in the slow lane that we were on the verge of overtaking.


I had seen the thing come flying so it wasn't totally a surprise for me but it scared the bejeebers out of my wife. I thought it had been a large chunk of concrete since we were on the edge of a major construction zone but it was also pitch black and happened in less than a second. There was room for error in my judgement.

I felt the impact vibration and could tell that it hit rear of the drivers seat somewhere so I told my wife that everything was probably okay. All that is back there is the plastic gas tank. Oh the irony I would soon discover. I monitored the gas gauge for a few minutes and it was holding steady so I set the cruise and kept on going. There wasn't much I could do all dressed up and in the dark so as long as the vehicle was running... make hay.

About 15 minutes later I glanced down at the gas gauge and saw that it was a quarter of a tank lower than I remembered. Had I really had slightly over half a tank the first time I checked it? My mind was playing tricks on me perhaps? I stared at the gas gauge and thought I could see it moving now and it was going down fast. I went through my mental list of places and the nearest place to get off with any hope of service was 20 miles away down a long and mostly deserted highway. Long story short, we made it to a gas station in that town with the needle well below one eighth of a tank on the gauge. I pulled up to a gas pump thinking if it was a sI might be able to get some tape or something that could stop the flow long enough to limp the rest of the way home. But when I shut the engine off, I could hear the sound of gas hitting the pavement at a good clip and a quick inspection confirmed it. There would be no fixing that in MacGuyver fashion.

Not wanting to pollute the who pump island with a pond of gas, I pulled off to the downhill side of the parking lot and shut the vehicle off and listened to the sound and smell the smell of the last of our gas running out into a little pond by the curb to evaporate off.

I kept toying with the thought of filling up again and racing home since I had already come about halfway home from the urban jungle since the object had hit our car. But I didn't know exactly what had broke and worried that it might break further leaving us stranded out in the middle of nowhere. I also figured having flammable liquid pouring out of your vehicle near hot exhaust was probably not a wise thing either. So I moved my mind into figuring out how we were going to get home. We quickly ran through the list of friends and family but it was late on a weeknight and they were all gone, too far or probably already in bed. I was also thinking about getting my car towed home the next day when it hit me. Why not call an emergency tow service to tow my car home that night and just ride with them? That sounded like a good plan.

I pulled out my smart phone, thank god for them, and located a towing service web page with a 24 hour number in the town we lived in and hit dial. After two hours of waiting in the car watching people fill up their cars without holes in the gas tanks, the tow truck showed up and we were headed home. Although it normally takes me 45 minutes to drive home from that point, I can see why it took him nearly 2 hours to reach us. His tow truck was so ancient that it struggled to reach 45 miles per hour, the minimum speed on much of the road we were heading home on. But as far as tows go, it was a pleasant experience and in the wee hours of morning, he dropped us off at home, parted us from $200 of our money and headed downtown to drop off our car at the repair shop.

I called the repair shop first thing in the morning to let them know whose car was out in their parking lot and later dropped off my key. It was then in the morning daylight that I laid down by the van to see exactly what was wrong and took the picture at the top of the post. Instead of the ruptured fuel line I thought had happened, I saw a large rod with an end on one end the size of a large fist piercing through my gas tank and into the right rear suspension system. As it turned out, it came within 1/2" of piercing my tire rim on the inside! Since you can't just patch a plastic tank like a metal one, it was a very expensive fix of buying a whole new tank but fortunately, this vehicle is the only one I have collision insurance on so I was just out my deductible. The positive thing is that I didn't have to juggle a job without a car or getting everything taken care of without missing a lot of work. Also, I had just taken two of our guests off to the airport two days earlier for their trip home. I wouldn't have been able to fit them and all their luggage into our remaining vehicle.


Ron said...

Whoa! I've seen stuff like that in tires, but never a gas tank.

Ed said...

Ron - It certainly is a first for me. I've seen a couple ruptured/damaged fuel lines and I've heard some good stories of people puncturing their steel fuel tank but I've never heard of a pierced fuel tank. The rod had a point on it so it was like an arrow and unfortunately in my case, the gas tank was the target. It truly was a one in a million shot.

roaring40 said...

That looks like something you'd see on stone buildings with shallow foundations to keep the wall from billowing. Or a railway.
But oh boy were you lucky. You should give thanks it was only the petrol tank.

Ed said...

Vince - I'm not entirely convinced I know what it is but after getting it out of the tank, the rod has been ground into a point on one end and it the 'handle' was welded onto it. It looks like someone made a homemade heavy duty stake like one that might hold a rope to a large canvas tent.

I consider myself very lucky that the darn thing didn't come through a windshield or decide to poke up through the floor or do more damage.

warren said...

Oh crap! Luckily it wasn't any worse than that...something that big through your floorboard, etc...yikes!

Ed said...

Warren - I consider myself lucky with how it turned out.

Bone said...

Wow! I've never seen anything like that. Good call on not trying to drive it home. Seems like that could have been very dangerous.