Hey, fun story time! Well, fun story if you enjoy car stuff and other people’s misery- otherwise, move along.
Me and the family took off from our place to go to my brother’s and see his firstborn last night. We left at 6 PM, ready for the eight-hour drive, expecting the kids to sleep for at least half the drive. Then we ran out of gas a mile away from the Interior, South Dakota exit, at 9:30 PM.
The fuel gauge had been acting strangely on our 2004 Chrysler Pacifica for a few months. It will go from a half-tank to the low fuel alarm at about 220 miles, though it’s a 22 gallon tank and we should be able to go well over 400 miles per tank. It’s done this before, and I “fixed” it before by putting a jumper wire between the wires from each sending unit to average out the signal. This should make the fuel gauge read only from full down to half, and keep the low-fuel alarm from tripping and shutting down the engine (thanks, computer controls!). We planned on bringing a small gas can with just in case, but we forgot to get it in the car, of course. We hit 280 miles on the tank, the car shut off, and we barely managed to coast onto the off ramp. No low fuel alarm, just no gas getting to the engine.
There is a gas station, the Trading Post, about a mile from where our car rolled to a stop. After fiddling with the sending units for a while, unsuccessfully of course, I decided to walk to the gas station, get a gas can and bring back enough gas to get us that whole mile to the pumps. Of course, that only works if the convenience store is open, or if there are any other businesses within ten miles of the exit. Instead, I ended up digging through the trash cans for pop and water bottles so I could fill them at the 24-hours pumps. Thinking I just needed to get a little bit of gas to get back on the road, I filled four bottles, about .85 gallons’ worth, and found a bag to put them in and carry them back to the car.
Yup, that wasn’t enough gas. Grabbing a couple of liter water bottles we had in the car, now that I knew the store was closed, I walked the mile back to the gas station. There I went through a few more trash cans, found a few more bottles, and filled them all back up (1.5 gallons, wow!) and walked back. I was getting a blister on my heel by now, so I was getting more cranky as the night wore on. Poured that gas in, and gave it another try. The engine fired, loping and sputtering, but died after a couple minutes. I swore for a while, and walked back to the gas station.
Now the damn pay-at-the-pump didn’t want to take my card. I guess two transactions in an hour for less than ten dollars’ worth of gas locks down your credit card or something. Luckily, I have others, and they still worked. I also found three more twenty-ounce pop bottles, so I got nearly two gallons of gas this time! And I walked back to the car.
A little over four gallons of gas was enough to get the car started and to the pumps, which hadn’t decided to not take my checkcard yet (though I got a call from my bank about those charges the next morning), so I was able to fill up. Final tally-
Number of trips- 3
Number of hours- about three and a half
Number of cars that drove by me without stopping- 6 (yup, six cars in three and a half hours.)
Hearing your daughter was scared of the zombie coming to the car (me returning with the gas the first time)- priceless