Suzi is Dead, Long Live Suzi!
We are afraid our dear little companion might have barreled over her last off-road trail. Lately we have had a number of problems with Suzi as she has been feeling the weight and the difficulty of her years. Especially hard on her tough little chasse has been the last seven years that she has served as a missionary vehicle in Akha villages.
These last few months we have had a number of problems, ranging from intermittent air conditioning, the gearshift getting stuck in third while driving down the highway, the carburetor filling with grease (probably from a bad tank of gas), and a general unwillingness to idle at stoplights. Our wonderful mechanic has been faithfully fighting to keep the old girl alive, but we have begun to ask more and more whether this little Suzuki is a dependable vehicle for our growing family.
Yesterday added much more significant doubts in our minds.
We had gone up to Maesai for a Visa requirement and while driving back heard a distinct "clunk" from the left side of the engine. Having been in two vehicles while they lost their transmissions, my heart sank at the familiarity of the sound. Moments later, I lost all power in fifth gear, then fourth, then she died altogether as we coasted to a stop about 45 kilometers north of our home in Chiang Rai.
We popped the hood and saw that the overflow tank for the radiator had rattled off, disconnecting it from the radiator itself. We checked the oil and found that the levels were ok. A wonderful little Thai man saw our plight and let us use a bucket and water to help cool down the engine. Hoping that the engine had just overheated and no further problems had occurred, we took about a half an hour for the engine to cool and to get some fluids back into the radiator.
Once we had gotten the water in, we tried to start the engine again. After a few attempts it rattled to life, but then the problems got much worse. A "chocolate milk" mixture of oil and water began pouring out of the air filter box and the oil dipstick tube, and engine fluid began spouting from underneath the engine block. Now, I do not know much more than theory about car engines, but I do know that when fluids are pouring out of the air filter that the engine is in really bad shape.
We, of course, only speak the tiniest bit of Thai, so we were severely limited in our conversations. However, by the grace of God, a young Thai mom came driving up on her scooter and asked (in English) what she could do to help. Through her help we were able to procure a "tow truck", which was really an old Land Rover that had a big tow rig welded onto it, to drag our invalid vehicle all the way down to Chiang Rai.
By the time we reached our mechanic, he had long since closed for the day, so we are waiting around this morning to get a ride over there to speak with him.
Please join us in praying for guidance in this situation. That our mechanic can advise us as to whether this problem is going to be worth fixing and that we will be able to find a suitable vehicle in the meantime or a replacement vehicle if Suzi has rolled her last mile.