Friday the 13th started like any other Friday for us.

Jodi and I woke up around 0430 to get ready and leave at 0530 to go to a regular small consulting job I have.  I usually need to be there around 0700.  Given traffic patterns in Houston, we always make sure we leave a little early to allow some extra time in case there’s an accident or some unexplainable crazy amount of stop-and-go traffic.

The Mazda and Outback in the parking lot.

We just purchased a used 2003 Subaru Outback H6-3.0.  The car is in excellent physical shape with really low miles for a 15 year old car.  (It is part of Jodi’s new plan . . . I think.)  The Mazda 3 that we are driving needs some new front struts and I just haven’t gotten around to ordering and installing them.  Given this fact of procrastination, we hopped in the Subaru and set off.  Not more than 10 minutes down the road the battery and brake light come on.

“Ah crap!” I say to Jodi.  “The alternator is going out.”

We hustle to turn the car around and head back to the marina.  In short order, the dash lights start dimming and the gauges quit working.

“Come on girl.  Just limp us back home,” I plead with the car.

She begins to protest by misfiring and soon the transmission is either shifting hard or simply not shifting.  I begin rubbing her dashboard in an attempt to help her calm down.  No, not Jodi.  The car!

The stoplights on the highway, as would be expected, aren’t cooperating.  Every . . . single . . . intersection we hit a red light.

“Seriously?!?”  I say out loud.

We finally make it into the parking lot.  We planned on picking up the grandkids on our way home, so we had to move the car seats into the Mazda.

We get back on the road.  Normally, we stop for some type of breakfast on the way.  On the menu this morning was donuts.  As we were turning into the parking lot, we had to yield to someone else.  “Please don’t be headed to the donut store.”  Yep, they were.  And based on the way he was driving and, no surprise here, how he parked in front of the store, Jodi and I both instinctively knew this guy was not going to be quite that efficient about making his purchase.  We were running late already.  We agreed to just head on down the road sans breakfast and get something later.

As I’m heading up the on ramp, approximately 50 feet behind a small pickup, I take 2 seconds to look off to the left at a Mitsubishi car dealership.

One one thousand

“I’ve never really noticed that dealership there,” I think to myself.

Two one thousand

The pickup truck is in my peripheral vision.  No sudden moves or anything out of the ordinary.  I turn my head to look forward.

“What the hell is that in the middle . . .”

There’s a box that is roughly 2 feet high and maybe that wide right there.  BAM!!

The left front of the car shudders violently and heaves upward what feels like a foot as drywall, or something like it, explodes into a massive dust cloud.  Suddenly there’s an enormous racket from the front of the car as if all kinds of parts are dragging and rubbing on each other.

” . . . of the road” My thought finishes.

“Son of a bitch!”  I say as I pull off on the shoulder.  I get out of the car and immediately see that the left front of the bumper is ripped away from the car and hanging there.  The headlight has been pushed out at least 1/2 an inch.  The plastic inside the wheel well is hanging out the side of the car.  All the plastic under-skirting has been ripped away and most of it balled up and also sticking out the side of the car.  The remainder is just hanging by a few inches of impossible to rip plastic.

I rip off as much as I can and toss it all in the trunk.  We turn around again and head back home.  I bolt out of the car, run back to the boat to grab a few tools to make some minor repairs and adjustments to the car.  And the Gorilla tape.  Can’t forget the Gorilla tape.  I grab two bananas and a bottle of water, too.  As I’m heading back up the dock I happen to notice that one of the rear parking lights is out.

“Jodi, press on the brake pedal for me,” I say. Great, one of the brake lights is out as well.

I get the car back in order and we head off to the job.  I had texted my employer that I was going to be a bit late.

As we get back on the freeway, the left blinker, when used, blinks super fast.  Now, from owning a motorcycle, I figure it means that something is wrong with the blinker system:  blown bulb, bad connector, bad blinker relay, being slammed into at around 40 MPH by a box of drywall.  Who knows why blinkers go bad.

We make it to the job and I complete the work for the day.  On leaving, I decide to check on the blinker.  The connector was ripped from the light assembly.  Easy fix, thankfully.  Just plug it back in.  Right after I move . . . *uuggghhh* . . . this big . . . *huff* . . . piece of . . . *gasp*  . . .  stupid . . . *damn* . . . plastic that is pinned up against the back of the light assembly.

“Jodi, turn the left blinker on for me please.”

It works.

We make it to the kiddo’s house around 1415.  I decide to take another look at the parking and brake lights that I need to replace.  I’ll just stop at the parts store on the way out and put some new bulbs in.

I’ll make this a real quick story.   Before, we had two bulbs out: one brake, one parking.  Now nothing works.  I look at the bulbs and two filaments are clearly burned out.  Two other filaments still look like they are continuous.

“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me,” I say.

Bobby, Bethany’s husband, gets home from work just about the time that I’m trying to locate the fuse box in this car.  The only reason we found it was the Internet.  All the fuses are OK.  All the fuses in the main fuse box under the hood are OK.  The front parking/blinker lights work.  The hazards work.  After roughly an hour of tracing wires and looking around, I decide to just go get new bulbs and hope for the best.  Plus Carter was tired of sitting in the car seat after 30 minutes.

New bulbs were the ticket.

I tell Jodi, “I would not at all be surprised if, as we are walking into the grocery store to get snacks for the kiddos, I am struck dead by a lightning bolt out of the clear, blue sky.”  It didn’t happen or I wouldn’t be typing this.  But, our luck was not going well.  “This Friday is still not over.  I just have this suspicion that something else is going to happen.”

We get snacks, go to the boat, and then head to the park on the Clear Lake for the kids to enjoy some time on the playground equipment there.  It was some much needed relaxation for me. They ran around until they were literally red in the face and ready to come back to the boat.

All is good.  Until I do some searching for alternators for the Outback.  I had read that the ones from the “ABC Auto Parts” stores don’t work in the H6 Outback.  Something to do with the voltage regulator being special.  I look at Jodi, “You’re not going to believe this.  That alternator is $600.”

Holy freaking fish balls.  I didn’t see “boat” or “marine” anywhere on that car.  I know that the “marine” alternators on the diesel engines run that much, but for a dang Suby? Yep.

Well, there was the last piece of bad luck.

Until this morning (Saturday, July 14).  Caroline woke up vomiting.  She wanted to go home.

That all went well and later I found an alternator that was actually made by some company other than Mitsubishi and was recommended on an Outback forum as a direct replacement for the OEM alternator.  AND it was only $180.  AND Amazon had it in stock.  Click.  Ordered.

Now, when you look at the picture of the Mazda, you’ll probably think, “It doesn’t look all that bad.”  And you would be right.  It doesn’t.  I’m here to tell you that with the force of the impact and all the debris that was on the road, we were actually extremely lucky.  Most of the damage I was able to remedy.  The headlight assembly was realigned.  The left front fender was pushed back out so that it lined up better with the bumper.  That black honeycomb mesh piece that is directly beneath the headlight was reinstalled (with some Gorilla tape) and seems to be secure.  I was able to push out all the places in the bumper that were pushed in.

If we had only stopped for those donuts after all.

I have no idea what was in that box or where it came from.  It was almost as if it phase shifted out of thin air into the road between us and the pickup.

But, I still do NOT believe in Friday the 13th.

Full moons on the other hand are nothing to be messed around with.




Published On: 2018 July 14


  1. Nathan G. 2018 July 14 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    I’ve had good luck with parts from RockAuto. Prices with shipping are usually better than local parts stores with tax.

    • Clint 2018 July 15 at 7:45 am - Reply

      Yeah, I’ve used them for stuff in the past. I actually was looking at them for this as well. A new alternator is $114.
      I have no idea if it’s the truth, but I saw several reviews on autoparts websites and multiple posts on Suby forums that the alternator for this particular engine is a strange animal and the “normal” alternators (like for the 4 cylinder Suby engines) won’t work. They’ll fit, but either won’t charge at all or not properly. And Subaru has TWO distinctly different part numbers for the manual and auto transmissions on this year model car. And the prices vary wildly. $250 for the manual. $660 for the auto. I was just about to pull the trigger on an OEM alternator (found one online for $528) when I saw a post on an Outback forum about the one that I purchased. Again, it was on a forum and who knows, but it was posted by someone that has been on that forum for a long time based on their profile. It’s a longish shot, but I figured since it was from Amazon, if it doesn’t work, I, theoretically, should have no problems returning it.

      • Nathan G. 2018 July 19 at 12:26 am - Reply

        I scour forums for repair help these days. I had a Chilton for my first car, and maybe my first truck (can’t remember exactly), but these days, it’s just as simple to google *insert year make model* *insert problem I’m experiencing”, and with both our vehicles having the same power train, there are usually multiple threads on multiple sites from people tackling my issues.

        • Clint 2018 July 19 at 6:37 am

          Aaahhh…Chilton’s. I had one of those for my S-10 Blazer back in the day. I haven’t seen one of those in years. Yeah, forums are mostly super helpful and I do use them a lot. Those and blogs. YouTube has now become a fair resource as well, though we don’t have enough data on our hotspot to spend a lot of time watching/filtering YouTube videos to find the right answer. The Internet has been a real positive change in that it allows for almost the free flow of information and education.

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