If you happened to be near my home or office recently, and if you happened to notice a woman driving a late-model sedan with all the apparent difficulty of parallel parking a loaded log truck, that would have been me.
I only have 10,000 miles on the car, but for the past few weeks, when I first start the engine, the steering is as stiff as George Bush's upper lip has been since Tuesday. It loosens up and becomes nimble and quick again in the space of about half a block, so I, not being particularly nimble and quick myself, haven't rushed to do anything about it.
This week a loud, groaning noise began accompanying the leaden movements of the steering wheel. On Wednesday somebody asked me about the horrible noise coming from my car, and that prompted me to go ahead and make a service appointment.
A nice guy who works next door to my office volunteered to take a look under the hood this morning. He said the power steering fluid level was really low and there might be a leak, then he prepped me on what to say to the service representative. He said it would be best to go in there acting like I knew some stuff so they wouldn't try to take advantage of me. As there's only about a thimbleful of car knowledge mixed in with the comparatively massive amount of trivial stuff I do know, I appreciated the assistance.
I dropped the car off this afternoon, a friendly smile on my lips and my best little "automotive lady" spiel spilling out of them, and left with my daughter to do some other things while they worked on it. A couple of hours later, the service rep called and said all they'd had to do was add power steering fluid. He said they'd checked the pump, which was fine, and they'd looked for leaks without finding any. He said the only thing they could think of to explain the low level of fluid was that it had come from the factory without enough fluid in it. "Maybe there was an air bubble in there preventing it from filling up with the proper amount of fluid."
Maybe so. I drove my last car for ten years before trading it in, and I don't remember having to add power steering fluid to it in all that time. That's ten years for the old car compared to fourteen months for this one. Must have been some air bubble.
I'll keep an eye on the situation, but the car's driving like a dream, and it's nice and quiet again. I suppose it's possible that they checked everything they should have checked and that I won't have to take it back again in two weeks. I'll think positive for now.
In the meantime, I'm ready to move on to my next automotive hassle: getting a new inspection sticker. The not-so-current sticker now on the windshield expired at the end of August. Unfortunately, it's been about that long since I've found a perfectly good day to ruin by waiting in line at the auto inspection place. Maybe tomorrow will be one.