In March I made a deal with a college kid I know who has a lovely trailer but no horses right now — I paid a bit of cash + annual maintenance to use her trailer this year. My thought was that by hauling myself to shows I’d save on hotel (GN trailer makes a great bedroom) and save on gas (would be driving my little car to shows anyway for packing/added mobility, so I’d be paying hauling + gas otherwise). So after topping up my coolant and obsessively checking my truck tires, I hooked up to my magnificent loaner 2+1 early in the morning, popped Speedy in the back (where he happily cromched hay) and made my way to the Columbia River Gorge about ten minutes behind my barnmate who was also hauling her horse + bedroom.
Shortly after we got though some sweet road work in Yakima Nation, I felt something weird go under the truck. I figured that it was something associated with the road work. Going down a hill shortly after that (it was a gently winding grade up and down through Yakima) I felt like my trailer brakes weren’t engaging appropriately and turned them up. Which was weird, since the last trailer I hauled was this one and the brakes were set just fine then. About ten minutes later I felt an ominious *clunk* and suddenly lost power steering. I looked at the dash to see “BATTERY NOT CHARGING” displayed.
At that point, I wanted to panic. But I had no cell reception, so who would I panic to? 911? Umm, hello dispatch? Yes, my emergency is that my truck has no power steering in Yakima Nation and my most prized possession in the world is being towed behind me and WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH MY TRUCK CAN YOU FIX THIS?!?!” I thought about calling my husband or my second husband to get help, and even played through those conversations in my head. What would happen? A big fat nothing. Neither of them could do anything to help me other than tell me to be careful. I slowed to 50 mph to help with the steering situation.
Then the truck brakes seized up.
I didn’t realize until hours later what an absolute pile of shit I could have found myself in. The road was gently curving and gently sloped, so I could manhandle the truck around the easy turns and use the engine compression to slow the truck down. But there are so, so, so many ways that could have gone so much worse. I am incredibly thankful the truck held out for me.
I immediately sent off a text to my barnmate (who had passed me when I pulled into a turnout) and told her my problem and that I would stop at the first gas station I found. Lucky for me, cell service came back and she got the message in time to pull into that first truck stop and tell me where she was. I had to muscle the truck into 1st and absolutely stand on the brake to get stopped, and nearly thought I was going to crash into a semi when I did. But I made it, and gladly threw the truck into park and stomped on the parking brake. I didn’t turn the truck off (no battery = no starting power) and immediately called my in-laws, who used to own said truck. They found me a nearby Chevy dealership and advised that I just get the truck to them and go onward with the horse in the other trailer.
We loaded Speedy into my barnmate’s trailer, arranged for the truck to get to Chevy, unhooked, threw a bunch of my stuff in her trailer, and Hazel and I climbed into the truck to continue our drive to EI. Once we got to EI I got Speedy settled, and yet another friend drove me 90 minutes each way to go rescue my trailer, stuff, and bedroom. All for the low low price of 5 gallons of gas and a bag of cheetos puffs. I have the best friends.
Chevy told me later that the idler pulleys (which the engine drive belt runs on) had seized up and weren’t moving, so the only thing keeping the engine drive belt (and thus the engine) was the momentum of the truck and trailer. The engine drive belt powers all the auxiliary functions (7way plug, battery charging, power steering, power brakes) which is why I lost all of those functions. And, obviously, the truck was not operable. Lol.
I never want to go through truck drama like that again, but I’ve been assured that truck drama is just a part of what comes with having a truck. I’m also so grateful that I’ve had a bunch of experience driving different trucks, trailers, tractors, and various pieces of heavy equipment that my incredibly shallow understanding of engines and equipment was enough to help me get the truck and trailer stopped safely.
I’m definitely not going to stop my neurotic checks of tire pressure, oil, and coolant (especially on an older truck). But I’m definitely investing in some better hauling insurance and will be traveling in a caravan whenever I go longer distances!