I Sing of Olaf

April 13th, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

In my cult — New England UUs — we’re supposed to drive Volvos. I do. I’m well into my second 100,000 miles on the 12 year old 850.

When it bleeds, even water, I fret.

That can largely explain the potential joy at the possibility of a sink hole in front of my house in JP. This is mild version of sacrificing the populace to save your child.

Volvo logoOver the wet, wet winter, my silvery steed began to leak. We call it by a good, Swedish name, Olaf, and I felt protective when I got in the driver’s seat on November day and noticed a pool on the passenger’s floor mat. It was a cup or two of water in the rubber mat.

It was easy enough to toss out. There was no harm. However, I wondered which of my boys had dumped his water bottle there. They both denied any culpability, but that is often the starting point for an investigation.

It happened again and then again. A few days after a steady rain, but not during the rain, water appears in the mat. I moved a towel to the interior for mop up. I popped the hood and wedged myself under the dash in unsuccessful efforts to find a source for the leak.

I tracked down the Hayes repair manual for the 850, only to find zero mention of the venting system or any procedures for safely opening up the air works. It had a detailed and in this case utterly useless procedure, with drawing, of how to replace an interior fan, but no diagrams of the air flow system.

An unsuccessful Goggle and Yahoo inquiry indicated that this is in no one’s FAQ and is not a common problem. Olaf had a special disease or deformity.

Then as suddenly as the pooling started, it stopped. The rain continued, as did snow and sleet, both of which insisted on melting.

Finally, two weeks ago, the end seemed at hand. I would have to deliver Olaf to Volvo Village. Unlike WE FIX ALL MAKES OF FOREIGN CARS, they really do fix Volvos. Trying to save the five-mile trip never pays off. If the panacean auto shops can figure out the problem (rare), they can’t get the parts for an extra day or two or four.

One morning, I came out to find a big water mark under Olaf, under the hood, under both wheels and into the gutter. It had to be a pint or more. It was none of the fluids that might have spread from a dying component. There was no color, no smell, no oily or greasy consistency. It couldn’t be from the radiator, transmission, steering, oil pan or the like. Olaf’s engine was crying huge tears of some sort.

This continued during the week. I had an evening meeting in Burlington. In some sort of talismanic ritual, I put a gallon of water in the back, in case…in case of something. Well, it made me feel better.

Then after a week of anxiety and mechanical impotence, Olaf took a back seat. Rather, my wife returned with her van before I did from a trip and took the front space. I don’t mind backing into a space, but for her convenience, whoever gets home to two empty spaces pulls into the front one.

Mirabile dictu! The next morning, her van had the weeping pavement!

Sure enough, when I jumped up and down on the street, water oozed up from a crack, exactly where our vehcicles’ drivers front wheel would sit. Isn’t it wonderful that the city plumbing and not Olaf is collapsing?

A couple of messages to Boston Sewer and Water brought a crew of five, plus the backhoe guy and later the two with the asphalt truck. It turns out that the feeder pipe to the house across the street off the water main was split and gushing.

Later in the day, the belching spigots spewing gray water and air brought us back to liquid normalcy.

Now, if I can only find out what make an 850 leak into the interior…

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