Girlfriend stranded...
October 22, 2013 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Ok, so my SO has the 2003 Jeep Renegade, and evidently this afternoon it started "spewing water and then quit working" To me this says water pump...and I am inclined to have it towed to a place (about 8 miles) that has done car work for us in the past.

Where this happened, however, is right across from a W*lMa*t, so , in spite of the politics, she thinks it would be worth a trip "across the street".
I'm four hours away, so the soonest I can get there (and make a difference in re car repair) is the morning. She is a grad student in the throes of multiple projects / papers / deadlines.
Please give me any and all of your suggestions as to what this might be, and how to fix it asap...
posted by PlantGoddess to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
Just have the damn thing towed- to Walmart or your preferred place or wherever. Don't leave it there!
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:00 PM on October 22, 2013

most likely is probably 'radiator hose failure' ($) then 'radiator failure' ($$) then maybe water pump ($$$)...did she continue driving until it made 'tapping' noises right before 'quit working'? if so, then you're looking at 'overheated until engine heads ruined' ($$$$$)
posted by sexyrobot at 2:02 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Tow it to the mechanic you trust. The difference in cost to tow it 8 miles versus across the street is going to be a matter of $20 or so. If she can somehow get it to the Walmart without a tow, then perhaps that is worth a shot, but otherwise, don't sweat $20 in the context of a tow and repair that will likely cost significantly more.

Spewing water and then quit working is not enough of a description for anyone here to give you much help with. If you would like more speculation, more details would help.
posted by ssg at 2:06 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tow it to someone you trust. It's only gonna be a little bit more upfront and it'll need to go there ANYWAY if it's not an insta-fix (which these things so rarely are).
posted by julthumbscrew at 2:08 PM on October 22, 2013

Another possibility would be that the thermostat has failed. It's a part, often at the bottom or back of the radiator, that opens and closes according to temperature. Mine stuck in one position years ago, causing my radiator to boil over -- spewing radiator fluid everywhere.

The part itself is rather cheap if this is the issue (think under $50), but replacement can cost considerably more due to the time involved. If you have a mechanic you trust, get it towed there.
posted by mikeh at 2:19 PM on October 22, 2013

Walmart is just going to be able to replace a radiator hose, and they might not even be able to do that. They do just barely above Jiffy Lube level stuff (oil changes, batteries, tires).
posted by zsazsa at 2:21 PM on October 22, 2013

Response by poster: I sincerely hope it is not a radiator thing...I had a new rad., plus all hoses and thermostat, etcetc put in a couple years ago.
I did just talk to her again, and told her to call the place I've been cultivating a relationship with, and have it towed in the morning. To me, taking it to W*lM**t is tantamount to a death knell for the car.

She, at least , is calmer now...has found a ride home, and knows I'll be there asap if necessary...I appreciate all the quick answers, and welcome any more words of wisdom!
posted by PlantGoddess at 2:26 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where this happened, however, is right across from a W*lMa*t, so , in spite of the politics, she thinks it would be worth a trip "across the street". (emphasis mine)

If Walmart absolutely can't do anything about the problem that's one thing, otherwise I think in this one-time, specific instance I think you should put your SO's needs over your feelings about Walmart.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:33 PM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's often possible to tell if it is just a hose issue by looking under the hood and trying to see where the water appears to have come from and/or a visible split.
posted by uncaken at 2:33 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Walmart does not seem to offer full-service auto repair, just a Tire & Lube Express service center with a few other things like battery installation and fuel system flushes.

In any case, I would consider them at best the Geek Squad of auto repair. Independent repair shops are where Consumer Reports readers prefer to go.
posted by dhartung at 2:39 PM on October 22, 2013

Spewing water and then quit working is not enough of a description for anyone here to give you much help with. If you would like more speculation, more details would help.

True, but nothing about that sounds good or cheap. If it was "Spewed water and I shut it off"? Maybe it's not terminal, but if the engine stopped on its own I'd be very surprised if it isn't an overheat related (and hence Very Bad) problem now, and the initial water spewing could potentially be irrelevant in cause....
posted by Brockles at 2:40 PM on October 22, 2013

I recently had car trouble, opted to get it towed to the closest place for convenience reasons, and then it turned out that was a TERRIBLE idea and I had to get it towed to my preferred shop later on. Which was a whole separate headache which could have been avoided by having it towed to the right place from the beginning.

If you and your girlfriend agree that the WalMart shop can probably do whatever it is, cheaply, correctly, and in a timely manner, by all means go to WalMart. If there are questions about any of those three variables, I would just have it towed to the place that is ultimately going to end up doing the work.
posted by Sara C. at 2:44 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have always regretted having cars towed to the closest place. Always. I have rarely regretted having cars towed to a recommended mechanic or a mechanic I trusted. Rarely. Either way, the car is busted and needs repair, and 8 miles isn't that much.
posted by davejay at 3:17 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

"spewing water and then quit working"

It's significant where the water was spewing. If it came out the exhaust, then you've blown a head gasket. If it came out from the front, then you've got a problem in the radiator/plumbing/water pump circuit.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:04 PM on October 22, 2013

Ask the driver for more details. Did the engine quit on its own, or did they shut it down. Did any warning lights come on? Is there fluid in the radiator fill/overflow tank? When they open the hood, does it look like the water came out from the overflow reservoir cap or elsewhere?

What you're describing could be a ton of things, including:

- broken radiator fan
- loose radiator cap (or wrong pressure cap)
- loose clamp
- split hose
- leak in radiator
- low coolant
- broken pump

Absent more evidence, either get more evidence or tow to a trusted garage.

And pick up some radiator fluid at Walmart.
posted by zippy at 7:30 PM on October 22, 2013

Also, have them check if their insurance covers towing. Mine pays for up to 12 miles. That tow to a proper garage could be free (and personally. I would not take a car to a department store or tire store shop for engine diagnosis, I'd go to an independent who knows their stuff).
posted by zippy at 11:21 PM on October 22, 2013

It seems like you are very against getting the car repaired at walmart, but I've never seen a walmart that actually does repairs, they just do things like tires and oil changes. If they don't do repairs at all, it seems like that would be a good reason to give your partner as to why not to take it to walmart, even if you also have other reasons not to take it there.

Perhaps your partner just means the car might be safer in their parking lot when they talk about "a trip across the street"?

It's not clear if you are against having it repaired at walmart (maybe some of them do repairs?), or against having the car in their parking lot temporarily. If the second, consider that it's entirely possible that you have driven on walmart property without being aware of it at some point in time, they own land that they don't have stores on. Sometimes they lease buildings to other businesses.
posted by yohko at 12:25 AM on October 23, 2013

Response by poster: Hi folks!
Thanks for all your answers. The car is being towed as we speak to the little shop I mentioned in my OP.
Also, zippy, I appreciate the suggestion about the insurance - I'm gonna give a quick call and see if we're covered on the tow.
I'll check in later after talking to the mechanic and reveal what the problem turns out to be.
Thanks again!
posted by PlantGoddess at 6:12 AM on October 23, 2013

Response by poster: Whew. Just got off the phone with mechanic, and it was the water pump. They'll have to replace the serpentine belt as well, since the 'spewing' was a mix of water and antifreeze and compromised the integrity of the belt, but really is about the best outcome, considering the other possibilities.

Thanks again to all who offered advice and suggestions!
posted by PlantGoddess at 12:34 PM on October 23, 2013

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