We were driving home from a family trip to the mall. There was a MAJOR accident on the bridge blocking the bridge we need to take to get home. Traffic was backed up for miles and miles. We’re sitting in our vintage ’94 Chevy Astro mini-van when my wife and I discover an unusual scent…
Now there are several potential causes for powerful odiferous emanations in our car. Three of the usual suspects for said smells are strapped into their car seats in the back. . .but it wasn’t that kind of smell. Honestly, we weren’t sure what it smelled like.
It took a minute or two for my wife and I to finally decide what it smelled like: caramelized sugar. Being an expert. . .ahem. . .mechanic I quickly deduced that it was not likely to be sugar cooking on our engine block that was causing the strange smell. (That is unless someone had spilled a soda on the hood of our mini-van in the mall parking lot, although I thought that the chances of this being the cause of the smell to be pretty slim.)
We had recently had some work done on the mini-van, which included work on the cooling system. The water pump had cracked and was leaking and had been replaced. With this in mind the logical conclusion to make was that the new water pump had been poorly installed and was causing the smell. Since we were stopped in traffic. . .it was easy (a little too easy I admit) to have my wife get out and look under the engine for signs of a leak. (Dripping coolant, steam, etc…) Noting (ahem. . .that is my wife noting) no obvious leaks I checked the thermostat on the dashboard which showed a perfectly normal temperature.
Now keep in mind that although we had eliminated a couple of possibilities, we were still unsure of the cause of the strange smell. However, since my worst fear (the water pump) was relieved, I called upon my expert. . .ahem. . .mechanical intuition once more to determine that not only could we make it home safely, but that my wife could take our son to his doctor’s appointment in the morning. No problem.
One facet of being a father is an absolute self assurance in your mastery of a subject that YOU KNO REALLY LITTLE about. My wife certainly seems to agree. She agreed to postpone taking the mini-van back to the mechanic (showing great faith in my mechanical. . .ahem. . .expertise.) Just so long as I take our son to the doctor in the morning.
By the way, my new theory about the origin of the smell is now the new alternator belt that was put on. Either that or someone left a caramel apple on the engine block.