Monday, May 21, 2007

Wait ... It Shields What?

For the past week, I had been hearing a rattling sound from the back of my car. It sounded like a loose exhaust pipe. I took a quick look under the car, saw nothing dragging on the ground, and made a note to take the car in and have the noise checked out.

Yesterday, I was up at State Park, where the roads are not the best, and the rattling was pretty noticeable. So when I got home yesterday (ok, ok, after I got home, did a little painting, listened to the radio, drank a couple beers, etc., etc.) I got down on the ground underneath the car and really looked at it. And there was this big piece of aluminum shielding under there that had come completely unbolted and was just kind of ... hanging there, supported by other car parts. Ooops!

I took the Parkway into work this morning, so as not to have this big piece of metal come flying out of the back of my car while going 70 on Route 17, and dropped the car off at the muffler place around the corner.

The guy at the muffler place called about an hour later (Miracle #1. The first rule of mechanics is you never, never call the customer. Let them sweat it out and call you.). He said that the piece of aluminum was the rear heat shield, that it was too deteriorated to re-bolt, and that I really didn't need it anyway, so they had removed it, my car was ready to be picked up, and there would be no charge. (Miracle #2. Hallelujah!)

So as soon as I got off the phone, I started wondering. Because God forbid I ever take somebody's word for something and just let it drop. Oh, no. So I wondered, if I didn't need the heat shield, why was it there in the first place?

Now, I am not totally ignorant when it comes to cars. Just almost totally ignorant. I do know how to check the oil, the radiator fluid, and the windshield wiper fluid, and I do check the air in the tires. I know more about replacement parts than I ever wanted to know (crankshaft positioning sensor, anyone?) I had always assumed that the heat shields were there to protect certain parts of the car from the heat that other parts of the car produced. So, logically, if a certain heat shield was to be, say, removed and not replaced, another part of my car could potentially burst into flames. I know, I KNOW, but that's the way my little hamster wheel of a mind works. Don't trust the guy who does this for a living! Worry yourself endlessly about something that is not going to happen!

So I asked the guys at work, who were kind enough not to laugh out loud (at least to my face), and they explained that this particular heat shield was meant to shield the ground beneath the car from the heat of the exhaust pipe. And that I should probably not park in any fields, so as not to inadvertently start a brush fire, but otherwise I was ok.

So the car is fine, my mind can now rest (mental note: don't park in fields), and best of all, it was free! Yay!

Uh oh. Here goes the hamster wheel. The guys at the muffler place have been known to, let's say, loosen up stuff while they're working. Which means that a week or two after you get your car back, something else goes wrong.

But for now, all is well! Relax.


Anonymous said...

I used to own a Ford Escort. Escorts were famous for dropping the back bolts of their heat shields when the cars got about four years old, leading to what I refer to as the 'Escort noise'. (A scraping rattle that disappears as you hit second gear, as the aluminum piece is lifted by the wind pressure under the car. They all sounded like that.) I finally crawled under mind and just wiggled it back and forth until it fell off.

If the mechanics didn't screw you on the shield, they probably aren't going to monkey with the car. They already had a chance to take you and didn't.

- bridgett

Rockycat said...

I used to have a Ford Escort, too! If you wanted to slow down, you didn't need to hit the brakes -you just had to turn on the air conditioning!