The Frozen Car Repair Adventure / Debacle

Hello and welcome! It got down to -17 once again in Iowa last night. The low temperature has been below zero for quite a stretch of days. Despite the fact I’ve had to hibernate this week it’s been an interesting stretch of days.

Earlier in the week the stomach flu hit with a fury I’ve not seen before and I was very dehydrated and weak. Thankfully during the worst of it, I’d had Monday and Tuesday off but rest was not an option. The cars were sick, too. That proved to be a real challenge for this optimist.

We got out cold and snow…

On Sunday night we hit 24 degrees below zero and the car battery crapped out. That’s not surprising. Despite the frigid weather, I enjoyed the challenge of changing it out on Monday… but only to find that the car would not start. The gas line was frozen. But it gets worse. 🙂

On Tuesday I returned from the farm store and put some gas line antifreeze into the fuel tank. The new car battery was low from trying (unsuccessfully) to start the car so I figured it was a good idea to attach the charger.  If discharged, even a new battery could freeze in the bitter cold.

While strolling through the yard to the shed to retrieve the charger, my key ring broke and all the keys fell into 3-4 inches inches of newly fallen, powdery snow.   Had it been the wet, goopy kind of snow the keys would have probably stuck on top.  Instead they all fell to the bottom. Worse yet, the house was locked since I’d just arrived home. If that wasn’t enough, I looked at the van and saw anti-freeze starting to run out — continuously.

She was watching me work from her bedroom… just inside the window from were Daddy was freezing his butt and fingers off.

At this point the temperature was around 5 degrees above zero and a breeze was blowing. There were no spare keys outside to get into the house and the stomach was rumbling really bad again. The van was breaking down so I couldn’t drive it anywhere… if I even could find the keys! I was so sick it was difficult to even function and at one point was reduced to tears, crying out “God, I am so sick. PLEASE help me!”

But then this little gardening implement (which was inadvertently left out on the patio) saved the day. Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say.


I raked the snow over and over, deeper and deeper until I would hear a “tink” sound as the metal forks struck keys. Thank the Good Lord, the house key was the first one found… Then the shed key was next, followed by the gas cap key, etc. I never did find the mailbox key but had a spare in the house.

By this time the fingers were frozen pretty good.  I was trying to hold my insides inside with approximately the same force needed to turn a piece of coal into a diamond. I made it inside at least. Thank goodness for one victory! Exhausted from the cold I thawed out and rested, grateful just to be warm and dry. To the devil with the cars!

She’s by my side, usually with her paw around me. Jenny is a little angel.

About 1:00 in the afternoon Jenny and I were sleeping in bed when I heard or felt – I’m not sure exactly – something gently say “Go try it now.” I didn’t want to go back out but decided to heed the words.  It might have been a dream or even the Holy Spirit but I’ve learned to listen.  The car cranked, sputtered, died… After a couple of attempts the little Cobalt roared to life and has been running great every since. I gave thanks!

Lessons were learned this week… Never work on the car with the house locked. I’ve hidden a key (which is safe to do in this area). I’m not going to use the cheap gas in the winter or let it run too low. But all that is easy to say in hindsight.

As for the van, I fixed it this afternoon.  It was a loose lower radiator hose.  But I made darned sure the house was unlocked this time and that the key ring was firmly threaded together.  It’s good to have the van running right again.  During the test drive, I even kissed the steering wheel.

The stomach flu has now passed. It’s getting warmer in Iowa and the energy level is returning. I’m feeling a lot better and am thinking about going fishing on Monday when the high is around 30 degrees. Life is good again…

One nice thing — the rest of 2018 should should go smoother!  It started off (or did not start off) with a bang.

Take care and thanks for visiting. Safe, happy, and warm days ahead!

Brad and Jenny
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

6 Responses to The Frozen Car Repair Adventure / Debacle

  1. Pam in Louisiana says:

    As Scarlet O’Hara would say ‘tomorrow is another day’. Great to hear that you are feeling better. Being trapped outside with a rumbling belly is the worst, but someone was watching over you. Your little guardian angel was watching you from inside the house and she had connections!! Stay warm, and spoil that Jenny even more!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Pam and good morning. She was by my side this morning… every day! She takes her job seriously and gets spoiled a lot. 🙂 This last flu bug was really strong and I can see why the elderly die sometimes. I’m grateful to have another chance and the “bird like” eating over the last week has help started healthier habits. I’m hoping to feature colorful salads more often and less of the super rich food. 🙂 Take care and stay warm. I’ve heard it’s even been cold out your way! — Brad

  2. Jo says:

    My goodness Brad what a bit of trouble. So happy your feeling better and your car and van too. That’s some mighty cold weather I’ve seen some people cover their engines with a blanket I have no idea if that works.
    You take care eat lots of home made soups. Being a mom right now haha.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo. It was trying to say the least! Sometimes these things seem overwhelming. But all is good. The weather will be warm tomorrow and I’m getting ready to go north tomorrow. I made some homemade pork and mushroom soup the other day and oh, it hit the spot! (and lots of Powerade, too!)

  3. my_vantasy says:

    Glad to hear that you are feeling better. We didn’t have school on Friday due to the subzero temperatures and no school today due to freezing rain and snow. Hope you are safe and warm!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! I have good news for you! Warmth is coming your way. We hit 40 and the snow is melting away. Your will be warm again very soon. Once the snow is gone it will be harder for the mercury to plunge so fast. Take care! 🙂 — VT