Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter in Swedish-America

It wouldn’t be winter if I wasn’t having car trouble. You know, because when the temperatures fall below freezing, I want to be spending my time trying to get a car to work.

It started a couple of weeks ago around 11:30. At night. The temperatures had decided to fall below zero. That’s zero Fahrenheit. At this point I had managed to clothe myself in some glorious bright orange sweat pants as I was brushing my teeth. For about 15 minutes, an alarm had been going off outside. Somewhere. I think we all know where this is going. It’s going to be my car. And so, after 15 minutes of a screaming car alarm, I decided to throw some clothes on and investigate. It was my car. Of course.

Everything I know about cars, I have learned because I buy old cars and at some point, something goes wrong. And a screaming car alarm at midnight at zero degrees is something going wrong. While in Sweden, I owned a Saab. A Saab that had been imported from France. With a manual written in French. I do not speak French. I tell you this because despite the hour and the temperature, I was surprisingly excited to be able to read the manual. It was in English. It’s the little things really.

The manual told me to hold a button for a few second and the alarm would shut off. I did. It did. I went inside and commenced in brushing my teeth. Only to hear my alarm scream again. Awesome.

Because I am an impatient person, I decided the best course of action would be to remove the battery. Completely. Without a battery, there would be no power source. Without a power source, the alarm could not scream. It was perfect logic really. Except Saab is smarter than me. Not much to brag about really, but a fact nonetheless. Having removed the battery I was somewhat surprised to hear the alarm still yelling.

There is no way I could sleep with that noise. Not to mention that I have neighbors. Granted, I have delved into my Swedishness and not actually talked to them, but still, there is really no need for others to have to suffer through a night of car alarms. So back to the manual. The English manual.

I needed to find the fuse. Because the fuse for the alarm was not in the main fuse box. Because that would just be silly. Instead, it was the fuse the size of a ladybug hidden in the dark recesses of the engine compartment. I have fat fumbly fingers. They are of no use. When the temperature is zero, they are essentially frozen sausages. The whole opposable thumb thing? Worthless at those temperatures. Trying to pull a ladybug from an engine with frozen sausages is not easy. Finally, after a string of words that my mother would be ashamed of, I removed the fuse. And the alarm stopped. Sweet release.

A part of me was pleased that the alarm is so extensive that my battery could be stolen, and still the alarm would work. That part of me was yelled down by the fact that my alarm was angrily reminding me of its ability that late at night.

Since then, I have been driving around with no working alarm. I’m not worried. Pretty sure not too many people are interested in stealing a Saab station wagon with 170,000 miles on it. And a spare tire.

Welcome to Swedish-America. And my annual car trouble.

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  1. Well, it's nice to have something to rely on.

    (Also, typo, 3rd paragraph, 2nd sentence)

  2. I learned to drive my Grandfather's 1959 Volvo. Made in Sweden, English manual. But after my Father inherited it the car kept breaking down. How? On the throttle linkage there was, how should I describe it, a folded, undulating ribbon connection that linked two different lengths of the throttle linkage just outside the carburetor. Confused? So were Dad and I. We always thought that the design had something to do with the bitter cold winters in Sweden because the ribbon connection looked as if it would expand and contract with heat. The stupid thing broke three times before my Dad "modified" it so that it would never break again. So what is it with Swedish cars anyway?

    Does anyone know anything about old Volvo throttle linkages? I have always wondered why the Swedes would design something that appeared to Americans to be seriously flawed. (Not something that Swedes are known for, if you know what I mean)

    Enjoyed your car story.

  3. Oh the joys of vehicles. More power to you for going out there, though.

  4. Do you have more tips on the weather? I'll be there on 1 February, but I live on tropical weather :S So it will be a shocking experience.It knows will be terrible but you can never be totally ready...

  5. Dress warm. Especially if you have an old car.