I had a bit of a fright this morning. I was driving from Dublin to Leitrim where I work during the week. While I was on the motorway, I felt something under my feet ‘go’ (as in, ‘ping,’ as in, ‘oh fuck, what was that?’, as in, ‘help, I can’t stop accelerating!’). The accelerator pedal got stuck all the way down to the floor and I couldn’t pop it back up again. The car was just trying to go faster and faster! It was like that movie Speed. Fortunately I was on the motorway and was going about as fast as the car could go anyway. And fortunately the brakes still worked so I could slow up a bit. When I changed down to fourth, however, the engine suddenly jumped about 1000rpm, and didn’t really slow down so I changed back up. I had a bit of time to think because there wasn’t much traffic on the road.
My first thought was ‘I don’t really want to have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Can I get to my destination before stopping at a garage?’ It’s a good road most of the way there, but I would have to go through a couple of small towns where I’d need to slow down for roundabouts and possibly even traffic lights/pedestrian crossings. I called Alice because she had all the details of our AA membership (earlier this year, we noticed a debit on our credit card statement from the AA. Neither one of us could remember authorising it so we rang up about it. Apparently they’d been sending all the policy details to our old address and automatically renewing the policy each year because we’d never made any fuss about it. We got our money’s worth today anyway!).
Alice was alarmed to hear of my predicament and thoughtfully contacted the AA on my behalf. (Meanwhile, picture the countryside flying past as from a bullet train…)
Not long afterwards, a nice woman from the AA called to say they’d send a van out to get me and enquired as to my location (between Mullingar and Ballinalack on the N4, near Lough Owel). That seemed ideal so without further ado, I indicated, switched the engine off, braked and guided the car onto the hard shoulder at the side of the road to wait for the mechanic.
Behold, gentle reader, the cause of my misfortune:
What you see if the cable connecting the accelerator pedal with the motor. The cable assembly consists of a metal cable in a mostly metal casing. The casing, however, has a plastic guide piece at the very top which is held in place by a rubber grommet* and bracket/eyelet on the engine. For some reason, the rubber grommet wasn’t pushed into the bracket/eyelet, as it is now, so that the plastic guide piece and cable casing weren’t lined up truly with the cable mounting. They were at a slight angle and because of this, the steel cable was just ever so slightly brushing against the plastic end of the cable casing. The friction this created caused the plastic to melt and fuse with the steel cable which is why the accelerator became stuck in one position (it might have been stuck in off; it just happened to be stuck in on). When the AA man saw it, he pulled the cable free of the plastic, brushed the singed and blackened plastic off the cable with a wire brush and pushed the grommet into its eyelet/bracket and that was that. I was back on the road in under five minutes! It was the first time he’d ever seen anything like it.
Pretty amazing when you think about it. A stoke of luck, really, but I’ve had flashbacks during the day just thinking about it. At the time, however, everything just happened very matter of factly. In a surreal way, it was not unlike when Hugh was born.
* I realise I’ve been spelling this wrongly as ‘gromit’ for ages. Must be all the cheese!)