while we did arrive in albany last night without any significant problems, i did notice that the galaxie was losing power as we climbed the last few hills that surround the city. while it seemed noteworthy, it didn’t strike me to be an emergency since i could still make it up the steep inclines at a good speed as long as i downshifted into low gear. but it was noticeable enough that i opened the hood of the car in the dark after we arrived at the hotel to see if i could see anything out of the ordinary, even without a flashlight.
indeed, something was out of the ordinary! the batttery had slipped out of place and fallen into the alternator, mere inches from the radiator fan blades. there isn’t a shroud protecting the radiator fan and if the battery had hit the blades the results would have been disasterous. in the dark, i couldn’t tell if any serious damage had been done and as i moved the battery back into it’s proper position, i could feel a liquid substance on my fingers which i immediately assumed was battery acid. but luckily for me the liquid didn’t burn by fingers which is what you’d expect from battery acid and the car was starting fine which is not something you’d expect if the battery had been drained of acid. without any engine lights indicating a major problem, i decided to take a closer look in the bright light of the morning.
shedding a little light on the situation in the morning didn’t really add any clarity though. beyond a little bit of fluid on the bottom of the battery and a chunk missing removed from the whirring alternor blades, everything as it should. the car started without any hesitation and the alternator light didn’t come on which meant that, amazingly, it hadn’t been damaged.
it seemed logical that the battery landing on the alternator must be in some way related to the loss of power when climbing steep hills, but i wasn’t smart enough to put all the pieces together to form a coherent theory.
of course, some might wonder why the battery was not secured in place. some things seem so obvious with the benefit of hindsight 🙂
after hopping on the toll road, it became clear that what had been a minor loss of power the night before had rapidly turned into a major loss of pulling power as i could barely get the galaxie up and over even relatively small hills! we limped along for perhaps 20 miles and pulled into a toll road rest area and pondered what appeared to be an increasingly dire situation.
a helpful man who seemed to know about cars could tell by listening to engine that it seemed like one of the pistons wasn’t “hitting” right, which could certainly go a long way towards explaining the loss of power. but we couldn’t trouble shoot that kind of problem standing in the parking lot of the rest area so we decided to slowly continue driving to amsterdam, new york ( about 40 miles from albany ) where we could hopefully find a mechanic to quickly diagnose the problem.
thankfully the attendent at the toll road booth at the highway exit directed us to a service garage that was only a mile down the road.
the fine folks at altieri’s auto immediately set to troubleshooting the problem ( astounding since the garage was busy ). after about 45 minutes of ruling out their first theories that the fuel filter was clogged or the timing belt had slipped, we were standing around the car scratching our heads we all heard it at once when the car was running. a zap! zap! zap! sound, which was followed by an acrid electrical smell. and as we peered into into the engine compartment we could see what was obviously an spark arcing from a faulty spark plug wire to the engine, which – of course – would mean that the spark plug wasn’t firing properly which explain why the piston wasn’t “hitting”.
after all the drama it was a relief to find that all the problems could be solved relatively cheaply with a new set of spark plug wires. just to be safe, i decided to throw in new plugs and a Distributor cap and rotor.
i guess the most plausible theory might be that the battery acid/liquid that sprayed through the engine compartment the night before had corroded an already failing sparc plug wire and created a conductive grime that enabled the spark to jump onto the engine block instead of the spark plug.
the people at altieri’s auto were so fast, courteous and friendly that i actually had a good time hanging out in the garage with mauja during the 3 hour process ( kris and odin were off getting food for much of that time ). they even humored me by feigning interest in all my stories 🙂
after the brief delay it was time to get back on the road and we made great progress with the galaxie humming along, smoother than ever after what as effectively an unplanned tune-up.
despite the occasional issues that will inevitably crop up when you’re driving long distances in a forty year old car hauling over two thousand pounds, it’s still a load of fun to see the sun set over erie pennsylvania with all the windows rolled down, driving a little faster than you might normally to make up for the delays.
this is the first time we’ve travelled such long distances with a 120 pound malamute, which we thought can make finding hotel accomodations a little tricky. it’s not like you can just sneak a talkative malamute into a room and after calling a few of the places we found in directories such as “pets allowed hotels” we were a little discouraged to find that many places either didn’t even allow pets anymore or had a 20 pound weight limit in their pet policy. or, perhaps worse of all, we found on our trip maine that some places will charge you 20 dollars to bring in a pet and then stick you in their smelliest, nastiest room that’s obviously reserved for travellers with pets and is now impossible to clean after years of of use and abuse.
fortunately we quickly learned that the red roof inn is pet friendly and doesn’t discriminate against large traveling canine companions. as an added bonus they don’t add a pet surcharge on their already affordable room rates and you don’t get a special, smelly “pet room”!
we’d never stayed at a red rood inn before and some people have crinkled their noses when we told them where we were staying, which might explain why every room we stayed in had brochures extolling the virtues of the merits of of their “redesigned, rededicated” campaign which includes wireless internet access along with clean rooms and all the amenities you’d come to expect with a budget hotel.
while i’m doing unpaid product pitches, i should probably mention that although it’s a little hard to tell from the photo, odin is playing with a motorola two way radio that we found indispensible while traveling with two cars, especially when one of them is hauling a trailer and lacking a mirror on the passenger side of the car, making it difficult to switch lanes without a “spotter”.
my only complaint would be that even thought the radios are supposed to have a 3 mile range, we didn’t find that we couldn’t stay in contact if we were separated by more than 300 hundred feet even on the open freeway with nothing but a few cars to obstruct the signal.