"Fuel's Out for Summer" by Troy H. Cheek on Aug 18, 2008
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The flowers were blooming. The 20 year old pickup truck was humming along nicely. All was right with the world.
Until I turned that first curve.
"Sputter," said the truck. "Cough. Stutter."
"Damn!" said the driver.
I considered turning around and heading back home, but the engine smoothed right out. Obviously, just one of those things. Nothing to worry about.
Three hills later, it was sputter, cough, stutter, damn all over again.
I started nursing the truck, patting the gas slowly. The truck was running very roughly. Perhaps I had gotten some bad gas? No problem. There was a gas station just over the next hill. I stopped and filled up with clear, pure, super hi-test fuel. A few laps around the parking lot showed that the truck was running just fine. I stopped at Bubba's "Family" Style Restaurant and Drive-thru "Taxidermy" Service next door for a sausage sandwich and diet drink.
While I was sitting in the drive-thru, the truck died.
It started right up and seemed to run fine. I decided to head back home. If the truck made it up the first hill just fine, I'd make my standard u-turn and drive on in to work. Otherwise, I'd be pointing in the right direction to head back home.
The truck sputtered to a stop halfway up the hill. With considerable patting of the gas and prayer, I made it to the top and pulled over. I had to pull to the top. Otherwise, my cellular phone wouldn't have gotten a signal.
Dial. Dial. Dial.
"This is Troy. Hey, nephew. Let me talk to Papaw. Well, when will be be back? No, I'm not at work. The truck broke down. I'm stuck here where the highway goes to four lanes. I'm at that church. I need someone to come pick me up. No, I can't give you a ride to school. Hello? Hello?"
Dial. Dial. Dial. Nothing. Dead battery. I broke out the charger. While waiting for the phone to charge, I decided to see how my sausage sandwich tasted.
It tasted a lot like a bacon burger. My diet drink tasted a lot like a non-diet drink.
About that time, I heard a distinctive sound. It was sound of the truck my younger brother drives. T2 (my mother gave us all names starting with the letter "T" to make us easier to remember) was heading down the road towards me. T2 was staying with us while we did some work on his house. Ah, my genius of a nephew, not being able to find his grandfather, had instead notified his uncle that his other uncle was in trouble.
T2 drove right past me and on to work. My genius nephew strikes again.
Luckily, the next vehicle was driven by my Dad. He checked the truck and declared that he had no idea what the problem was, either. But by then, my phone had a bit of a charge and Dad remember my youngest brother's phone number. T3 told me he would be right there.
We pooled our collective brain cells and decided the problem was probably a clogged fuel filter. The problem was getting the truck home to work on it. T3 puttered around the parking lot and decided it was running well enough that he could nurse it home. Dad followed in his own truck. I followed in T3's truck with the 4-way flashers a-flashing.
T3 nursed my truck up three hills before he gave up and pulled over. "Man, it's just not wanting to pull these hills at all. Hand me that chain."
A few minutes later, Dad's truck was towing mine, with me bringing up the rear, flashers just flashing away, trying in vain to keep people from trying to pass us.
"Don't worry," T3 told me. "I don't have to work today. Once I get back from my doctor appointment, I've got all day to work on this. I'll have it done by the time you get home from work."
I thanked him and borrowed Dad's truck to get to work. It was one of those days when everyone keeps asking how you're doing. I called home before I left work, just to check to see if T3 needed me to pick up any parts or supplies on my way home.
"Was he supposed to be here today?" my mother asked. "I haven't seen him."
Sigh. I drove home. Two miles from the house, T3 called my cellular phone. "Hey, man! I need you to pick up a few parts and supplies on your way home."
"Perfect timing, bro. I'm about to pull into the driveway."
"Oh." It turned out that after his appointment, he'd laid down for "just a minute" and slept the whole day. But he was ready to get started now.
It didn't take too long to determine that the truck would run fine if we dribbled gasoline directly into the carburetor, definitely indicating a fuel flow problem. The fuel filter was the easiest thing to check, and this one was definitely all clogged up. A quick trip to town and back got us a new one. This would definitely fix the problem. Definitely.
With the new fuel filter, the truck ran a good twelve seconds before stalling out again. A little creative electrical work showed that the fuel pump wasn't pumping.
"We probably burned it out trying to limp home with that clogged filter," T3 opined. "No problem. Just run to town and pick up a new one. I'll work on taking the old one out."
I had to go to three parts stores, as most of them close at 9PM, having no concept of how much money they're losing by not being open when my brother makes most of his repairs.
Q: Where is the fuel pump on my truck?
A: On top of the fuel tank.
Q: Where is the fuel tank?
A: Under the bed of the truck.
Q: How many fully grown Cheek men does it take to lift a truck bed?
As my mother is fond of saying, when all her men get together, there's nothing we can't break.
Long story slightly less long, we got the new pump installed, the bed back on the truck, and the truck back on the road. I'll let you know how that turns out.