I recently went on a road trip with a friend from high school to visit James Madison University in Virginia. I had made this six-hour drive once before, but never with a road buddy, so I was excited to have some company other than my Harry Potter audiobooks. I was under the impression that this trip would be much better than my previous one. I was so very wrong, and not for the reasons you’d think.
First off, I have to mention that I made a tiny mistake before we even left. While I was filling my tank up at the station, I noticed halfway through a very expensive tank of gas that I had accidentally chosen a higher octane fuel than I normally run. Knowing what I know about cars, I didn’t think this would be a big deal. In fact, it would probably be better for the engine as the trip went on. I came to find out, all that was true. But when my engine began making loud revving noises about three hours in, I began to worry about my error in judgment. The gas choice had nothing to do with the sound, but I wouldn’t figure that out until the next day, but I digress.
We weren’t able to leave until late due to a number of reasons, so by the time the noise really started to kick into gear, we were deep in the middle of West Virginia hill country in complete darkness. As I was going along I mentioned that I put in a different gas, and my friend proceeded to tell me that that must be the issue and that my engine was having a hard time dealing with the higher octane gas. Well it turns out that he knows less about cars than I do because he was completely wrong, and I was right from the start, but when you’ve been driving for a couple hours in a car that sounds like something Vin Diesel would race with in Fast & Furious 26, your mind starts to play tricks on you.
The revving got louder and louder the closer we got, but the closer we got, the less cell phone signal we had, which led to some problems of its own. When I drive alone, I constantly have Google Maps open on my phone and I make sure that I am exactly where I need to be. My co-pilot, on the other hand, had no such reservations as a navigator, and accidentally closed out of the app in the middle of nowhere. With no map and no service, we drove essentially blind for the good part of an hour, just hoping that at some point we would see exit 15. Or maybe it was exit 50. He couldn’t remember. All the while, I was terrified that I destroyed my 2012 Explorer’s engine and would have to tell my parents it was all my fault.
At the end of our long road, we were able to regain service and make it safely to our destination, but the noise never left my mind for the entirety of the night.
The next morning, as soon as I woke up I checked out the car. Luckily, it wasn’t the engine that was making the noise. Upon an inspection of the undercarriage, I was able to figure out that my flex pipe had somehow become completely severed. The flex pipe is the part of the car’s exhaust system that takes the exhaust from the engine and sends it to the catalytic converter to be then sent out the tail pipes. Well instead of doing that, it was being released right under my driver’s seat and rattling everything in its general vicinity. Any attempt on my part to put a Band-Aid on the gunshot wound was to no avail, and again, I drove six hours back home with the droning pipe keeping me company the entire way.
There are a couple things I want you to get from this. First off, this is now a hilarious travel story that I love telling, and I hoped anyone reading it might get a kick out of it.
Secondly, if your car is making a noise, just check it out. Had I done that at a rest stop on the way down, I would have saved myself a lot of grief over the weekend.