illustrates exactly why you shouldn't
mess with your car before a long trip,
IF it's running fine. This is Humphrey,
Rob's 1969 Beetle, dead along Interstate
80 about 40 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming.
Notice the huge storm looming in the
background. My brother and his wife
took me into Laramie, where I bought
the hideously overpriced fuel pump for
Humphrey, from a "helpful"
local VW dealer and Rob installed it
in the storm. Hump was not too happy
with this long trip from California
to Nebraska and back, and behaved badly
for the entire 3,200 miles.
IT AIN'T BROKE.........
and Photography by
it ain't broke, don't fix it. This has
got to be one of my favorite sayings.
In fact, it's become my own personal
motto. I have fixed and improved things
that were perfectly fine, rendering
them nearly non-functional in the process.
And all because of good intentions.
How many times has this happened to
pretty hard to render a VW Beetle non-functional.
It takes a lot of effort, but it can
be done. A perfect example: The year
after Rob and I got married, most of
my family decided to caravan to Nebraska,
to visit my grandmother. My mom and
dad carried my older sister and her
9-month-old daughter in Dad's '78 Peugeot
wagon. My older brother and his wife
drove Bruce's '65 Chevy pickup. Rob
and I foolishly departed in Rob's 1969
Beetle, Humphrey. I have written about
Humphrey before; he was the "Oscar
Madison" Bug to my own Bug's "Felix
Unger". Full of dents, dings and
bondo, we chose to drive this car 1600
miles east instead of the favored Bogie
(my car). Why we did it this way is
still a mystery to me. Maybe I just
didn't want the wear and tear on my
car and figured Humphrey would be good
for It. Well, he probably would have
been fine for the trip if we hadn't
tried to help him. The week before we
left, Rob tuned him up. He seemed to
run fine, and I couldn't find anything
else wrong with him, so on the evening
before we left (BIG mistake) I decided
to clean up the filthy engine compartment.
This car leaked oil (don't all VW's
mark their spot now and then?) and most
of it was blown around inside the engine
bay. I got to work, liberally applying
Gunk Engine Brite to the warm engine.
I let it sit for a few minutes, as directed,
and then went at it with the hose to
wash the nasty scum off. Apparently
Humphrey didn't think too much of this
idea, and had become quite fond of his
oily coating. In fact, I think it might
have been what held most of his parts
in place. After he was nice and clean,
I turned the key and found that he was
also........nice and dead. The car REFUSED
to start. Here it was, less than 12
hours till we were going to (supposedly)
be cruising East on Interstate 80, and
I had killed the car we would be taking.
That should have been a clue but Rob
got busy then, fixing my handiwork and
for some reason Hump forgave us and
turned over. Rob forbid me to go anywhere
near the car until the next morning.
departed on schedule the next day, on
what would later come to be known as
The Vacation From Hell. Humphrey proceeded
to show his disdain by just shutting
down every 100 miles or so, all the
way to Omaha. My dad's Peugeot wagon
was also not trouble-free, requiring
many stops to let the overheated diesel
engine cool off before proceeding. My
brother and his old Chevy pickup were
the only ones to arrive at Grandma's
calm, cool and collected. I swear, if
we'd had the pink slip for the Beetle
along with us I would have happily put
it in the glove box and left the car
at the curb in some out of the way spot.
I hear Amtrak has a nice route through
the Feather River, and I would have
been on the next train west.
problem returned, over and over again,
all the way home even after installation
of a very overpriced but brand new fuel
pump from some VW dealer in Wyoming.
This was when you could still buy Beetle
parts at VW dealers. The problem was
solved when we got home and realized
the gas tank had corroded so badly the
rust and sediment was fouling everything
when the car was running. So, it wasn't
my fault after all. But I still couldn't
help thinking back and shuddering when
I thought of that cold water running
all over that black engine tin.
June, Rob and I were preparing to attend
a press premiere for the new Herbie
movie, "Herbie: Fully Loaded".
Part of the deal was driving a Bug to
the event in San Francisco, so for the
better part of one afternoon I spent
time getting Bogie, my '69 Sedan, ready
to go. It occurred to me that I hadn't
changed the oil for quite a while, and
a quick check of the record book confirmed
that. I had the time, I might as well
just get it done. Or should I??? Bogie's
got a full-flow oil filter system, and
a deep sump. With his 7-quart capacity,
I only have to change the oil about
every 7500 miles. It was an hour's drive
to San Francisco for the movie premiere,
and wouldn't it be nice to get his oil
changed for the trip?? It'd be all done
and I wouldn't have to think about it
again for a while. All this and more
went through my mind, and then the "what
ifs" started crowding the more
reasonable thoughts out. What if I stripped
something, putting on his new oil filter??
What if the filter leaked and I lost
all 7 quarts midway along the route???
I began thinking like this because I've
done all sorts of things in the past
that caused me to hesitate now. Remembering
the clean engine debacle, I thought
maybe I should just leave well enough
alone. There would always be time to
change the oil after we got home. So,
I resisted the oily urge, turned the
light out in the garage and went inside.
After all, Bogie really needed to be
with his friends on that cruise.
advice?? If it absolutely, positively
HAS to get there, then don't mess with
it. At least till you get it home.