I should have seen this one coming but I wasn't paying attention to the tell-tale signs. There had been traces of rusty colored debris floating on the coolant surface and sticking under the radiator cap. But I thought nothing of it. Then the morning before I reached the office I had beard some tapping noises coming from the engine, which I mistook to be valves getting loose. My thoughts went, 'why hadn't the foreman tighten those things for me?' I had power-steering installed, engine checked, old pipes, belts, drive-shaft boots and bearings replaced, and I thought this 10 year old Iswara should last me a few more years without any trouble. I practice what we call Preventive Maintenance. But knowing nothing's perfect, I drove it around just to double-check its reliability. Good thing, I did. I should have replaced the 3½ year old water-pump. I thought they could last longer than that.
That evening while passing through Seberang Jaya after attending a colleague's wedding dinner, the tapping noise became more intense. My thoughts went again, 'How can this be? This engine's always been purring like a contented cat with all my nursing and regular oil and filter changes!' I glanced at the temperature gauge and I had a shock! At the same time I caught the whiff of burning engine oil. Putting on my left turn signal, I coasted to the emergency lane on an overhead bridge. Emergency lights on, engine off, bonnet up, and a constant flow of common expletives kept coming out from mouth without my bidding. No witnesses to that though.
I looked into the boot for emergency light, spare water and some rags. I clipped the light to the battery terminals, turned it on and looked at my engine. There were traces of oil dripping around the sides. The over-heating and high pressure must have forced some of the oil out through the gaskets. Covering the radiator cap with the rags, I carefully and slowly turned it. There was some hissing and blowing as the hot steam blew out. I got out my 1.5 liter bottle of spare water and slowly, carefully poured in a little at a time. Just then a couple of highway patrolmen showed up. They donated more water when I finished my bottle. But the water simply disappeared as soon as I started the engine. It just flowed out from the water pump.
In my 37 years of driving, this is the first time I had to depend on a tow-truck to get home. Fortunately I had my mechanic's number. He gave me the number to his regular tow trucker. It cost me RM120 which I thought was reasonable. (I was told they'd fleece me if that happened inside the highway itself. It's considered private territory, and the 'highwaymen' have an understanding with those 'pirates' and the cost of towing would have been doubled or even tripled.) I left the car at the mechanic's workshop and made it home around midnight, tired but unable to get to sleep. I decided to call in for the day off to attend to the car. That was yesterday.
And that was how another lesson was added to my cap: If you sense anything wrong with your car; be it an unfamiliar noise, smell or irregular behavior, first check your temperature gauge.