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Illustration for article titled I SPOKE TOO SOON

Literally yesterday I said I had nothing to report on my car because something like “I sold the old BMW and daily drive a Volvo wagon so... booorrriiinnggngngng” well GUESS WHAT.


The Volvo has had a slight grinding noise from the engine, it sounds like a failing idler pulley or something, but could be the bearings in the alternator or a/c compressor, or... lots of other things I guess. But it’s related to engine speed, and doesn’t seem to come/go with temperature, nor does it get better as the engine warms up, nor does it change when you turn the wheel or turn on/off the a/c... who knows? I don’t have the time or space to diagnose it, so I made an appointment at my local trusted indy shop, for Monday. I made this appointment 3 weeks ago.

Yesterday, my wife drove the car and thought she smelled a slight burning smell from time to time. “Noted” I said, as she is never wrong about something being off about one of our cars. It’s quite cold today, about 8F and the car started normally and sounded no different from how it’s been, which is to say there is only a slight extra noise from the engine. Well 3-4 minutes later it gets quite a bit louder, but there is no additional reason to be alarmed. The noise actually goes away after a few more minutes of normal driving. 15 minutes later I’m waiting in line to drop off my daughter at preschool and I hear a very loud screeching noise, and start to smell a burning smell. “This is it,” I thought, something finally seized and I have about 10 seconds before a belt shreds.


Well, no, the noise gets better but there’s a terrible burning smell but hard to know if it’s residual or still being produced. I got my daughter out of the car and got out of there, heading about 1/4 mile to a nearby gas station. When I stopped the car, I could actually see smoke inside (!!), presumably coming in through the vents. But when I hopped out and opened the hood, there was no smoke at all and honestly, I couldn’t really smell it either. Now I waited a minute to ponder my options, and when I started the car again, there was a different kind of terrible squeaking noise - not constant, but rhythmic - from the engine bay. No more smoke though. I needed gas anyway, so I filled up and when I went to start the car this time, it was normal, other than the slight noise it’s had for weeks. I let it idle for a few uneventful minutes, and decided, what the hell, I’ll drive it straight to the shop where it’s going Monday anyway, and of course, the smell dissipated and it was a totally uneventful 10 minute drive.

No way I’m driving it more at this point, I’ll have to leave it at the shop for the weekend. I’m especially missing having an extra car now, but I can beg/borrow/steal one for the weekend; I had already planned to borrow a friend’s car Monday - Wednesday of next week in case the Volvo needed a couple days at the shop. Well, it definitely does now.


Although to me it feels like a new car because it’s only 8 years old with only 120,000 miles, it’s an 8 year old car with 120,000 miles, so this is not a huge surprise. I just hate being totally unable to do anything about it myself, and that it happened at all. I used to be so vigilant about preventative maintenance and never had surprises like this. However, I guess this didn’t come out of nowhere, but what more could I have done besides make an appointment as soon as I could?

Oh well, it could have been so much worse, like, being stranded without cell service with my whole family in the car on our way to the ski area (like we were going to do tomorrow afternoon... ) - on a cold day like today, no less. So there we are.


Please send a blue 2020 Volvo V90 as pictured above, kthxbye. 

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