... by failing and momentarily locking up right before a corner. Ok, click-bait title aside (another option was “How to get amazing biceps by driving just 30 minutes a day”). This actually happened to me a couple of days ago.

I’m currently working in the Baltic states and one of my colleagues invited me and a couple of friends on a short roadtrip to a town on the border with Russia. We would drive down in his Mercedes Benz C220 Diesel Wagon (‘96-’98 era, not brown, except in the places where rust had taken a firm hold) and on the way back hit some interesting stuff like waterfalls and abandoned Soviet submarine bases. So, hell yeah I was up for that.

He would drive us down there, but one of us would have to drive back since he wanted to drink a couple of beers. I personally enjoy driving more than drinking, so I happily volunteered. So after the two and a half hour trip down with five grown men in the car, and having all kinds of dumb roadtrip fun, it was time to head back.

The first thing I noticed after getting behind the wheel was the fuel indicator needle pointing nowhere close to the Empty <-> Full scale... It was in fact pointing towards the Oil Temperature. Oh well, the “Dude, you’re running low on fuel”-light was still working, so we would survive. Then there was the “LAMP DEFECTIVE” warning though all lamps worked... Still no cause for alarm, all basic necessities were working. So off we went.

After about 40 minutes we turned off the main road to head towards the waterfalls. Turning off the main road in this country means punishing your suspension, especially with a full car. About 10 kilometers (6 miles) before the falls, another warning started flashing on the dash...

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“HYDRAULIC OIL LVL MINIMUM”...

No worries said the owner, he had a bottle of the stuff in the trunk so we could refill it when we stopped at the waterfall. Two minutes later, heading towards a turn at about 60 kilometers an hour (35 mph)... turning in and suddenly the steering wheel just won’t budge, meaning I’m going straight towards a bunch of trees instead of easily following the road... Quickly stomp on the brake, and a moment later the steering comes back, but lacking any power steering. Luckily, I have experience with non power-steering cars and posess the necessary upper body strength ;-). So I wrestle the car around the bend, check to see if no one hit their head because of the sudden braking or something, and then notice we are now heading towards a twelve percent slope downwards... Quickly check if we didn’t lose anything else besides the power steering, like I don’t know... brakes... Again, luckily everthing else seems fine, so disaster averted.

I have to say that was easily the most unexpected 15 seconds of driving I have experienced in the 5-6 years I have my license. After triple checking that the car was good to go except for the steering, we continued on to the waterfall and refilled the hydraulic oil. Unfortunately, a line must have blown somewhere along in the system, because the new oil just improved handling for a little bit before the warning came on again. So I got a decent workout for the next hour and a half or so.

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Anyway... I guess the moral of the story is, always stay sharp while driving. Especially when you’re driving a friends dodgy second or third hand car that has multiple things wrong at first look already.

Here’s a brown Audi wagon for making it to the end of my not all that exciting for anyone but me story: