Friday, January 21, 2011

Hitchhiker and the Saga of the Astro Van Fan

In 2010 I was having considerable problems with the fan in my 1998 Astro mini-van (I hope to get a new car this year).  It worked sporadically. I stopped by my mechanics  (Kal-Tire)  in early summer and he said that the fan was getting stuck and he showed me where to thump it on the dashboard to get it going.  Certainly this was a quick fix - he also showed me where to thump it when I opened the hood - in case I couldn't get it working with simply slapping my dashboard.  Anyway, this thumping the dashboard worked until December.

I had this rubber mallet in the car and while driving I would reach over and bang the dashboard (above the passenger seat) and get the fan working to deliver the much needed heat.  Well, while parked one very cold December morning (-20 C)  it finally stopped and no amount of pounding the dashboard with the mallet would get the fan started.  So - I popped the hood and took my trusty mallet in hopes of banging on the actually fan unit. 
Upon lifting the hood, there sitting on the engine block staring back at me, was this little field mouse.  I am not afraid of mice, but it did startle me only because I was not expecting two little black eyes to stare back at me from under the hood.  Before I could react and grab it, it scuttled deep into the engine.  I noticed it had made a little nest in air intake - so, I took out all that stuffing from the part.  I thumped the fan component with my rubber mallet and voila!, the fan started working.

When I gpt back into the car, I happened to glance into the back of the van where the dog crates are set up and noticed that one of the dog blankets had been ransacked by Ms. Mouse and another little nest had been made.  I inspected said nest but could not find any babies. I threw out the nest.

Despite the cold temperatures that day, I ran the van through a car wash.  Yes, it kind of froze up, but I was able to tug the doors opened.

The following day, I again made my way to town for work and once again the fan stopped working.  No amount of banging on the dashboard would get the fan working. I attempted to pop the hood and give the fan component a good smashing, but the hood would not pop.  Oh great - either hood mechanism was frozen or it was broken.  I decided it was time to go to the mechanic.  I stopped by and told them either my hood was frozen or the popper was broken - the mechanic came out and I tugged on the "popper" - nothing happened. He tugged - nothing happened.  I suggested it was frozen and he would put the van into one of the bays for a good hour, let it thaw and then pop the hood and get the fan going so I could at least have a warm drive home.  I made an appointment to have the fan replaced - and then went to a restaurant to eat some lunch and kill time while the van was thawing.

After an hour I returned to the garage where the mechanic came out and he was laughing.  He says to me that after 30 years of being a mechanic you'd think he would know how to pop a hood of car.  All this time, we had been trying to pop the hood by using the emergency brake release.  The reason he tried to use it was because he saw me  reach for it to try and pop the hood, and he just assumed that was the hood release.  I've popped the hood on that van numerous times, and why I had the "brain fart" that day (and him too) was just hilarious.  So - it was not frozen or broken.  Anyway - turns out he had time and replaced the faulty fan (the bushings were wore out) and I no longer have to smash the dashboard to get heat.

The mechanic did not see any signs of Ms. Mouse - but he did remember working on my old Econoline van back in the 90s and taking apart the air filter and finding it stuffed full of dog kibble.  The mice are very industrious at our house and they sure love our vehicles.

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