Car Noises You Don’t Want to Hear

My mother’s sister claimed that if everything goes as planned on a trip, it’s an excursion. If things don’t go as planned, it’s an adventure. And oh, am I having an adventure!

First, I got the stuttering starter fixed yesterday, and when I started the engine again a little later, the starter made a harsh grinding sound. So I went back to the mechanic. Apparently, he put in a heavy duty starter, one that’s wound differently than the old one, so it makes that harsh noise.

So, I packed the car and headed out. Everything went smoothly for the first hundred miles, then there was an odd rattling noise on the front passenger side. I stopped on the side of the highway, looked under the car, didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Got back in, same noise. Stopped again and rearranged things in the car in case something was rattling inside. Started up again. Same noise. I thought maybe a stone was rattling in the wheel well, so I sped up to as fast as the car could go, hoping to pulverize the rock. That worked. Whew! I certainly didn’t want to turn back after going all that way!

Everything was fine for about fifty miles, and then there was a horrible high pitched screech. I pulled off to the side of the highway, but couldn’t think of anything to do, so I started up again. No noise. Then about twenty miles later, the same screech. This time I was able to isolate the noise — my speedometer. It’s been acting up a long time — lubricant isn’t supposed to last 46 years, I guess — but generally on the highway in warm weather there was no problem, so I didn’t worry about getting it fixed. The thing kept screeching for about an hour, then it clunked and died. It feels odd driving without a speedometer, but since I generally drive in the slow lane, there shouldn’t be a problem. And after all this time, I certainly should be able to shift by the feel of the engine.

No more problems after that. I drove until sunset, then pulled into the first motel I found. I didn’t even know what town it was until a young woman at the gas station told me it was Chowchilla, famous for a horrible event — apparently on the 1970s some fellows kidnapped a school bus load of kids in Chowchilla and buried them in the quarry at Livermore.

I should be safe since it happened so long ago, but just in case you don’t hear from me again, suggest to someone that they should look for me in the Livermore quarry.

See you on down the road. I hope.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)