While in Manistee during our practice run with our travel trailer/WordCamper, we had our first mishap. As we were gearing up to head out of Manistee and back to home base in southwest Michigan, I backed up the truck to get it close to the trailer and then turned off the vehicle. I just wanted to get everything lined up and then connect the fancy sway control bars onto the hitch. I called Liza out to help direct me, then I got in the truck and … it … wouldn’t … start. So, that happened.

Oh, shit! Why didn’t it start? I just started it less than 10 minutes ago. I kept trying, but the key wouldn’t even turn. The battery wasn’t the issue and the steering column wasn’t locked. We massaged the key in the cylinder trying to hit every angle possible to see if maybe the issue was a worn down section of the key or an offset tumbler. Nothing worked. We continued to try for what seemed like 20 minutes. Whatever we tried, the key would just not turn. Maybe our second key would work, but we didn’t bring it along on this trip. Note to self.

It was Mother’s Day and we needed to get back to Allegan. We had a few options:

  1. Keep trying. Maybe it will start after a little time off? If it did start, can we turn it back off, or on?
  2. Stay another day and call a service company. The GMC dealership nearby was permanently closed, so after that, we just didn’t know.
  3. Have our second key sent Next Day Air for arrival on Tuesday. That would put us at our campsite another two days. Not bad, but we had packing to do back in Allegan and, after all, it is Mother’s Day.
  4. Ask someone to drive our second key up from Allegan. It was only 140 miles from our location, but would have been a huge pain in the ass for someone to deliver our extra set of keys to us. Even then, maybe the second key wouldn’t work. Then what? Go to #2

Before we had to attempt any of the ideas 2 – 4, I called my dad to see of he had any ideas about the situation, because he usually does. I sat in the driver’s seat explaining to him in detail everything that had occurred and everything we had tried. As I was attempting to turn the key again, while simultaneously saying, “The truck just won’t start … ,” and IT STARTED!

Wow, what a feeling that was: there we were, packed and ready to go with no ability to start the truck. Once it had started, I didn’t want to turn it off again. Seriously.

I knew we could get back without stopping to refuel; we had 140 miles to drive, which was about three-quarters of a tank of fuel, so we hustled. We backed up the truck to finish the job of hitching up the rig. Out of habit, I reached for the key to turn it off. No! Keep it running! Just in case I found myself trying to turn off the truck, I strapped Luna’s bright blue sock over the key to remind me NOT to turn it off until we were parked at home and unhitched.

We made it back without issue. The local GMC dealer in Allegan said it was likely security related because of backing up and possibly having the wheels turned in the process, then shutting it off with the door open. Or something like that. Whatever we did tripped the security feature and, by design, we were not allowed to start it. Apparently there is a timeout and the security feature resets after 15 or 30 minutes. Whoa.

After all that, the second key likely would not have gotten us out of this jam, but we always will have a second key with us going forward.

Scot Rumery

Pressing all the words from the WordCamper while traveling around North America with my wife and daughter. Founder of Rumspeed.

5 comments on “Maybe we should have brought a second key?

  1. Nice story…. Thought that you were going to tell us that you left it in drive or something like that. Things I have learned, always have tape and a pocket knife, these will solve 90% of your emergency problems. After reading your story though, I will Add keeping an extra key nearby. Best of luck on your journey and I look forward to more tales from your adventure.

      • My Dad always kept a roll of black, electrical tape in the glove compartment of his truck. It came in handy for many situations like this. Granted, many of those situations involved vehicles that didn’t have security features like the one Scot described. Those were the days when it was possible to pull the key out of the ignition while the engine was still running.

        • Hey Mike,

          It sure threw me for a loop. Having that happen on our first trip was a bit unnerving but it turned out to be alright. It’s all new right now and we have a lot to learn. I’ll get a roll of electrical tape. That’s a good tip. I know I could have used that already.

    • Funny you mention tape. We’ve had this small roll of masking tape that I thought we would never use but it has come in handy for many things inside the trailer. It has really come in handy. We also have a large roll of duct tape that is still in it’s original packaging. I know we’ll use plenty of that along the way.

      I do have a pocket knife that I really like but it needs to be sharpened. I’ll add that to my list to do before we head out again.

      Thank you, Thomas!

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