Gaskets and Axles and Bearings, Oh My!

How I navigated through four states and a ridiculous amount of mechanical issues

Wendy Garrido


It was 11 am. We had set our alarm for 6:30 that morning so we could hit the road earlier in the day than usual. We were sitting in the the parking lot after eating breakfast at IHOP. The kids were in the car. My girlfriend, Annie, and I were sitting in the RV trailer having a rare moment to ourselves. “I can’t handle the stress of another day of breakdowns,” I said, my voice cracking into tears. “We are sitting right next door to a car dealership. I am going to walk over and see what trucks they have in our price range,” I said.

Her much-beloved and sexy, souped-up black Toyota 4Runner, “Black Beauty,” had been giving us trouble for the previous two months. First, we took it in for nearly $2000 of work to get it “road ready. ” Then, a few days later, when we finally got on the road, we blew a head gasket. The car got towed back to the shop and we got dropped off at the campground we’d left earlier that morning. Two and a half weeks and $3500 later, on our second attempt to leave town, we had a check engine light come on again. I’ll spare you the rest of the saga, but suffice it to say that we have not gone more than 3 days of traveling without a mechanical issue — and we will not be returning to that first mechanic again.

All that said, the understated and down-to-earth Toyota expert we finally found our way to in a small, Tennessee town assured us that Black Beauty would make it out to Portland, Oregon without dying on you. He also said we should definitely trade her in once we got there because she’s doomed for another $6000+ worth of work in the not-so-distant future. As you can imagine, that was only slightly reassuring. Especially since we suddenly had to either turn the AC off or rev the engine in order to (hopefully) get it started on the first try. And even then, it was running rough.

So on that morning outside IHOP, Black Beauty was my primary concern. Wildwheels (the name my son gave to our 19' travel trailer) had really only broken down once ’til date, which was, unfortunately, just the week prior. But we’d hired a roadside mechanic to replace the wheel hub for $520 and we’d driven 5 hours on it, so I figured we should be set. Or “golden”…



Wendy Garrido #1 Bestselling Author, Authentic Marketing + Living Advocate, BAs Psych & Econ | U Chicago🏳️‍🌈 She/Her.