Saturday, October 2, 2010

I Can't Drive 55

Today Tony and I headed west on a road trip to Columbia, MO.  We were almost halfway there when I the "D" drive light on the dashboard started blinking.  I hoped the issue was the same one I had several years ago. That time the transmission dipstick had become loose; after I seated it in the hole tightly the blinking went away.  We had already planned to make a pit stop in Warrenton (the next exit), so I spent the next six miles driving and trying not to look at the flashing light.

When we got to the gas station in Warrenton I checked the transmission fluid, which was full and clean.  I made sure the dipstick was in tight, then we used the station's bathroom and got back on the highway.  Within two miles the "D" light was blinking again.  Now I started to worry.  It's no fun to get stuck on the side on a highway in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the next exit was five minutes down the road, and it had a large gas station/convenience store.  Tony called Brian, let him know the situation, and asked him to look up the issue on his computer.  Brian suggested we try to find an Auto Zone, where they could do a computer diagnostic check and get the code.  I asked the convenience store clerk, who told me there was one in back in Warrenton which we could get to without getting back on the highway.  I noticed that on the outer road, driving between 55 and 60 miles per hour, the light did NOT blink.

The salesperson at Auto Zone was very nice.  It only took a few minutes for him to get the error code from the car's computer, and then a couple of minutes in the store to figure out what the code meant.  It was definitely a transmission issue, but probably just a sensor.  With the code number, I called our regular car repair place, explained the situation, and asked for guidance.  A couple of minutes later I had an answer: it was probably a "third gear pressure switch" (whatever that is).

After a bit of debating, Tony and I decided going to Columbia was probably not a good idea. We'd try to get the car home.  Driving at 70 miles per hour the light blinked, but at a lower speed it didn't, so all I'd have to do is drive slower (like a "grandma").  I set the cruise control for 55 miles per hour, well over the minimum of 40 mph, but nowhere close to the speed of the rest of the traffic.  A long series of cars and trucks came up behind me, went around me, and zoomed away.  One driver actually honked as he passed by.  I took the high road and ignored him. Going slow got easier as I got closer to the metropolitan area, because the maximum speed gets lower.  The limit on Interstate 70 drops to 65 mph around Wentzville, and when we got onto Interstate 64 the limit dropped to 60, pretty darn close to my self-imposed speed.

We made it home with no problems, emptied out the car, then dropped it off at the auto repair.  It was too late for them to look at it today, but they promised to take care of it Monday.


  1. I-70 at 55MPH? Uf-da!! I nearly was run over multiple times when i tried my 60 MPH to save gas experiment. Can't imagine going slower! Remember waaaay back when that was the nationwide speed limit?

    Glad you made it home safe!

  2. Our highway speeds in Cali are 65 but one can drive about 6 miles over the speed limit and not worry about a Highway Patrol pulling you over. I usually drive 70-72 on flat land; Terry however is 65 all the way. He can take the mountain roads at 65 too when I drop down to 55 or60. I can make it to SF in just over 3 hours on a good day; Terry takes closer to 4 hours. It's aggravating.

  3. oh what a stressful trip, but it sounds like you had things under control. hope it's not too expensive to fix.