But this problem has been persistently elusive.
Nathan would work on it, test some thing, or replace a part, consult with Dad and test/replace something else... and it would run better! For about one trip. And then the same problem would start up again. I also noticed that it ran better after driving on a bumpy dirt road.
Jiggling, either from a bumpy road, or from various tools poking it's innards, seemed to be the key to good behavior.
Being far to proud to call the Car Talk guys (Dad, you can't read this with your eyes rolling back in your head... I said we didn't call them!), we've just lived with it and only used it for short trips and hoped it wouldn't die at an intersection or railroad crossing. Although, we did begin parking it at the end of the driveway, closer to the road, in hopes that some other car (or crazy teenage buggy driver, as the case may be) would just hit it so that we could total it.
Nathan has been tinkering on it whenever he has time (or makes it) and in his last round, while doing compression tests, I believe, but don't quote me on that, he discovered a bad spark plug wire. He replaced that and the thing runs like a dream. AND the van has several other
Then Nathan also found that the something-something-something ends were bad, so he replaced those (I absolutely LOVE being married to a man who can fix my car! Having grown up with Dad fixing cars, I don't know what I would do otherwise. Nathan has handled a lot of repairs and he's gotten quite proficient!)
This last repair necessitated a front end alignment, which I was shocked to learn that Nathan cannot do properly --thousands of dollars of equipment, blah, blah, blah-- although he did manage a good enough job to make it drivable to the shop. So for the first time in my life, I took a vehicle to a shop. I also entertained my 4 year old in the waiting room for a hour-- not all that hard, hello, cars and tools everywhere, nuff said. The mechanic even replaced some safety-recall parts for me while we were there.
To celebrate my van's good-as-new state, I stopped by the carwash for a good vacuuming.
I've always been, um, not very regular about cleaning about the van. I have a place for trash, and I carry in the junk and garbage frequently, but the dirt, sticks, rocks, straw, spilled feed, etc.? Not so great. I mean, it's such a pain to find the shopvac, carry it to the van, find an extension cord, and spend a half an hour fighting the short hose and poor suction to get a reasonable amount of dirt out. (Lazy? Me? Nahhh...)
Then the shopvac gave up the ghost for good.
Oh, how very sad.
I missed it so much.
But the dirt built up. So in desperation one day last year, I scrounged up some quarters, and discovered the Super Suckers at the local carwash. And... I was stunned. How fast and easy it was! How convenient to have a trash can right there so conveniently located! Sure it costs a couple-few bucks in quarters, but it only takes 10 or 15 minutes and it's so satisfying!
Where have you been all my life, you gleaming, powerful hunk of corrugated plastic hose?
So my van has a new lease on life for the spring.
And I feel like a new woman.