Grand Caravan: our personal odyssey, part 3

A comedy of errors in which we learn the hard way to never, ever, ever take a used vehicle on a cross country road trip within 48 hours of purchase.  Please, learn from our mistakes.

part 1

part 2

We had 6 or 7 hours to go until we reached Dallas.  Since it was Saturday, traffic was light.  We decided to continue driving.  We really couldn’t afford another repair, and even if money wasn’t an issue we didn’t trust a roadside mechanic to do the job right.  We would drive to our relatives’ home and Perry could borrow the tools to do the job himself.

The rest of that drive was nerve-wracking but uneventful.  We drove carefully, leaving plenty of space between us and the vehicle ahead, using the parking brake to augment the regular brakes. We prayed that we were making the right decision.  We prayed again to thank God for our safe arrival at our relatives’ house.

It had been a very long day, and we were badly in need of sleep. We put the kids to bed and went straight to bed ourselves.  The van could wait until morning.  Bleeding the brakes would be quick and easy.  All he had to do was loosen the fitting, then have somebody work the brake pedal until there was no air mixed with the brake fluid that squirted out.

The next morning he got to work.  Did I say he needed to loosen the fitting?  The fitting was not on a part of the brakes that had been replaced recently.  It was heavily rusted.  He worked long and hard with all the tools at his disposal, but the fitting was not going to break loose.  No wonder the roadside mechanic had skipped this part of the job.

Finally, he resigned himself.  We would have to replace the brake calipers as well.  This was not going to be the cheap and easy fix we had hoped.  Oh, well. This was an older vehicle and we should have expected some repairs.

He was going to have to take things apart and do a real brake job.  That would take at least a day and a broader assortment of tools than his relatives owned.   We knew that my Dad had the tools we needed in San Antonio, a few more hours away.  Money really was a concern for us, so we made the difficult decision to push on to my parents’ house, trusting that our brakes were sufficient to make the drive.  You could make the case that it was a bad decision – financial and otherwise – to take risks like this, but we were young.  Again, God blessed us with an uneventful drive and a safe arrival.

We breathed another sigh of relief when we pulled into my parents’ house.  There were happy greetings all around.  My 4 youngest siblings are almost exactly the ages of our 4 oldest children, so aunts and uncles played happily with nieces.

The next day was Monday.  Perry was up bright and early again to work on the van.  Dad was able to supply all the tools he needed, and Perry knew what he needed to do.

Once he started, Perry decided he should do the rear brakes as well.  He spent the remainder of the day rounding up the parts he needed to tackle the brake job, and on Tuesday he replaced both front calipers, all the remaining lines, the rear drums and shoes.  He was taking no chances this time.  Since everything on that van was rusted in place, this was more easily said than done.  A job that should have take just a few hours turned into an all-day affair, but by now he knew better than to be surprised.  He took his time, carefully bleeding all the air out of the brake lines after the brakes were reassembled.

At the end of the day, it was done.  He washed up, changed clothes, and invited me to come with him on a test drive.  I smiled and joined him for an impromptu date.

The van wouldn’t start.


  1. Really?! I think this is one of those moments you could either laugh or cry, maybe both. Of course, when it was me doing a 30 minute job that lasted over 3 hours and still wasn’t fixed I wasn’t laughing at the end.

    I’m hoping there is a part 4 – where you sell the van. At this point, I think it deserves it. It gets no loyalty from me.

  2. Aww 🙁

    Jamie, love your comment. Reminds me of how DH used to say he wanted to just drive the minivan he used to drive while we were engaged (hand me down from his parents) into the river. 🙂

    I’m hoping for your sakes that this story ends at part 4? 🙂

  3. At this point I’d grab a shovel and dig a VERY large hole, push the carcass in, throw dirt on top, and plant daffodils. Ice cream anyone?

Don't just think it: say it!

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