We started driving a little earlier than usual today, up and out of the campsite by 7:30. It helped that Risa ate breakfast while we were on the road. We drove past the Fitzgerald River National Park, which is supposed to have beautiful wild flowers. We also drove through Ravensthorpe, which has some famous wild flower display … next week. We kept on driving the 250km to Esperance.
I made an unexpected toilet stop on the side of the road about 40km from town. When I got out of the car I noticed that it was puffing quite a bit of white smoke from the exhaust, so I turned the car off. I opened the bonnet and noticed that the catch can was leaking a reasonable amount of oil. (The catch can is old and rusty and has a hole in the bottom of it, so it doesn’t actually catch much of anything, but it’s been low on my list of priorities so I keep forgetting to get it replaced). I checked the oil and it looked OK, so we kept going.
I kept checking my rear view mirror for smoke, but I couldn’t see anything while we were driving. But, I happened to notice that the engine temperature (we have an Engine Watchdog temperature sensor mounted to the thermostat housing on the side of the engine) was a few degrees higher than usual (usual highway driving in this temperature has been 65-70˚C, it was sitting at 72˚C, rising to 75˚C under load). I backed the speed off, and the temperature came back down below 70˚C. It started creeping back towards 75˚C on the next hill, so I pulled over and noticed that the coolant expansion tank was actually low (the stain made it look like it was full when I quickly checked last stope), so I poured some water in to top it up. This time, when we started back driving on the highway, the temperatures were back down where they usually were. We still kept the speed down, and took it very easy on the hills.
We finally got to the outskirts of Esperance and the car started to run a little rough. Rather than drive in circles trying to find a mechanic that was open at 11:30AM on a Saturday, we called RACQ who put us in touch with their local operator. As fate would have it, they were actually only 100m from where we’d stopped the car. As fate would also have it, the car wouldn’t turn over any more. I tried three times, when I turned the key, there was a click for the starter solenoid, then nothing – no movement. We officially were broken down. We called RACQ back, who put us through to RAC who organised for a mobile mechanic to inspect the car. He tried starting the car, but it still wouldn’t turn. He popped the bonnet, sniffed the oil cap, the water bottle, checked the dipstick and didn’t give us much advice about what it was likely to be, only that he couldn’t fix it today…
So, they organised for a flatbed trailer to come pick us up. Interestingly, the tow truck then drove us to a nearby caravan park, where he was going to leave our car until Monday morning. He’ll then come and pick it up again and take it to the mechanic to find out just how bad it is. I’m really, really hoping for something minor like a head gasket, but there is that part in me that is prepared for a replacement engine…
With the bad luck we had this morning, at least there were some silver linings with the caravan park that we are stranded at – it’s 20m from a beautiful beach (but, shame it’s too cold/windy to go swimming).
We went for a walk around town, only to find that they are currently renovating the main beach area… so not much for us to look at on this walk. The recent winds have also caused severe erosion to the beach, too.