Our new-to-us vehicle became our emergency when the lug nuts fell out.

  • DH = Dear husband

Emergency & stress

The 2nd most stressful part of our emergency last week was the decision to pull off the highway. 5 hours into our road trip, we were behind schedule, but the noise the car had started to make earlier was just getting louder. We were in the middle of Toronto, the part of our drive we’d hoped to be able to get through without facing too much traffic, and with a heavy sigh (and possibly some expletives), DH pulled off of the highway. He parked on the nearest residential street to see if he could figure out what was wrong – and to call CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) for a free tow if necessary.

The most stressful part of our emergency was learning what had made the noise. DH checked the wheels, and sure enough, the front wheel on the driver’s side was missing 3 of 5 lug nuts. A 4th lug nut was so loose it was doing nothing to hold the wheel in place. DH had a sinking feeling as he realized what could have happened – on the highway, high speeds, the wheel flying off … “I should have pulled off sooner!” he chastised himself. “I should have recognized that sound!”

Why it happened

Just a few days before we set out on our road trip, DH brought our new-to-us Dodge Journey in for some free recall repair work that hadn’t been done by the original owner. DH didn’t like the service place. There was a sort of unfriendlyย  indifference on the part of the people he dealt with, and as he reflected upon it from the side of that unfamiliar road in Toronto, he put 2 and 2 together. They had removed the wheels and hadn’t told him – so he hadn’t checked them. A little more self-chastising: “I should have checked!” he said. “I should always check.” DH thought of taking one lug nut from each of the other wheels to make the front one secure, but when he tried to put one on, he couldn’t. The exposed bolt and been sheered – as had the 2 others. Time to call CAA.

A lot to be grateful for

At this point, it was clear we had a lot to be grateful for.

  • The wheel hadn’t flown off. We were safe and sound.
  • We had a CAA membership, and we got help.
  • Although it was late Sunday afternoon, the very helpful CAA man, Abdul, knew of a 24-hour service station, and he brought us to it.
  • The owner of the service station had a straight-forward competence, and he let us know after a quick assessment that he’d have to order the bolts in the morning. So we knew before it got dark that we’d be staying overnight in Toronto.
  • We had a smartphone, so although the area was completely unfamiliar to us, we could find our way to where we needed to go.

Then it got fun!

I have to admit that when I realized we’d be staying overnight, I felt like a bit of a kid. “We get to stay in a hotel?!” I thought gleefully. “Why would that be so exciting?” you might ask. This blog chronicles our 6+ year journey out of all debt, and there hasn’t been much travel going on since I started it. I hadn’t been in a hotel since 2011 – the year before our intensive debt-reduction started.

We sat in our parked car at the 24-hour service station and did some smartphone research. There was a Howard Johnson’s nearby. There was also a hotel that would cost twice as much. And then there was one that was cheaper – suspiciously absent photo and the word “creepy” in a Google review. Ho Jo’s it was! After booking our room online, a message appeared: “Congratulations! You’ve booked the cheapest room in Howard Johnson’s!”

DH downloaded the Uber app, and we took our first Uber ride ever to our home for the night. I could see why it was the cheapest room! Some brilliant work went into the design of the tiny space! It was complete with everything we needed though: bathroom with shower and tub; closet; drawers; bed; air conditioning. Perfect!

A great night out on the town

Now, where to find vegan food? Again, the smartphone came in handy. A 20 minute walk brought us to a really cool vegan restaurant/bar. And during that walk, we realized we were staying in quite a neighbourhood! “I get so mad,” one pan-handler told me. “The crack-users get $20 or $30 bucks!” Ma and Pa Suburbia no doubt stood out like a sore thumb as we walked hand-in-hand towards the slightly trendier block where our restaurant was located. Always good to see another side of life!

The server was friendly; the food was excellent; and the cast of characters in view was colourful. It was a great night! DH and I took a very bad selfie and sent it to our 3 daughters along with news of the car. They shared our moment with us – concerned about the near-miss and interested in the good food. We decided to play it safe and Uber back to Ho Jo’s after our fantastic meal.

The absence of money stress

If this emergency situation had happened only a few years ago, there would have been money stress to add to the equation. But that concern didn’t enter into our experience at all last week. Why not? We have an emergency fund! The Uber rides, restaurant meal, car repair, and overnight stay all brought on expenses that we hadn’t expected – and they were all easily absorbed. That is such a gift! I remember a time when every unplanned expense brought stress levels to ridiculous heights.

But now, what we’ll remember about our emergency – besides the need to check lug nuts after every visit to a service station and before every road trip – is the adventure we had because of it.

Have you experienced the difference between an emergency without an emergency fund and an emergency with one? Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


    1. It was a darn good feeling for us! Especially since we’re too familiar with the dread that comes on when no emergency fund is in place for these situations.

  1. So glad DH pulled over before nothing serious happened. Amazing what peace of mind a cash saving gives you when life throws you a curveball. We’ve witnessed the before (no saving) and after (savings) effects of an emergency fund. It’s like driving over a sinkhole and a speed bump. There’s no comparison! Hope the repair went smooth and the rest of the trip was great!

    1. I like the sinkhole vs speed bump analogy:) Thanks, Brian. The repair was very smooth, and we finished our driving the next day with no more drama.

    1. I think that even if the lug nuts seem secure at first, they’re supposed to be checked again after 100 km (66 miles) or so. You can bet that we checked after driving the day after our stay in Toronto, and sure enough, one of them needed to be tightened. This is going to be an auto-pilot check for us from now on. And you’re right, it was scary – though only really scary in hindsight for us.

  2. I heard a quote courtesy of David Copperfield (NOT THE MAGICIAN!) recently, I haven’t read the book but after seeing this quote I might try to sit down to read it, anyhoo Charles Dickens wrote/ Micawber said:

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen
    shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

    Such a simple idea that is so easy to mess up! Having an emergency fund is so important. I am glad you were both ok.

    1. Thank you, Tom. That is a fabulous quote from Micawber, and it sums up the simplicity of healthy finances. As Ramsey says though, simple isn’t necessarily easy, and Micawber proves it. Although he has this head knowledge of wise financial management, he doesn’t follow it at all. He’s chronically in debt. He is infuriating but has a certain charm. I hope you read the book!

  3. Just two weeks after purchasing our new to us SUV Joe took it to the dealership for some minor problem. When leaving the dealership, he backed into a light post … thank God we had an emergency fund to cover the $1000 damage. This safety net allowed us to enjoy our “new” vehicle, instead of cursing the day we bought it ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Oooh! That hurts just reading about it. I made a similar mistake backing out way back, and it just wasn’t pretty. Ugh! It’s true that emergency funds give us some slack for being human, and I’m grateful for that because I’m as human as Joe is ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Well, there was that time I forgot to bring our SDCC passes to SDCC with us and didn’t realize it for two days…or the time that our new dog got into a fight with another dog and the other dog needed surgery. Or the time that our car got wrecked on Christmas because the other driver was rolling through a stop sign. Or … ๐Ÿ˜€

    All of it is a continual reminder that I should keep a significant amount of our emergency money in some liquid form! I don’t stress at the time of emergencies, I stress in little bits along the way to ensure that I can handle the big moments with aplomb and not cursing!

    1. If you didn’t curse for any of those emergencies, you are a rare specimen of humanity! Well done. And proactive stressing is where it’s at ๐Ÿ™‚

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