We were cruising at about 80 mph on our way down-state after having visited the casinos of northern Michigan when we heard the explosive bang outside the passenger window. Panooch instinctively covered his head, wrapping his arms around it and screaming, "Jesus, Snakeface, I think we've been shot!" I laughed uneasily, one of those laughs that is at first hearty and then settles into trepidation with an uneasy sigh at the end. My fingers clutched the steering wheel in the ten and two positions as I braced for the wobble in the front end and the vibration of the steering column from the flat tire. Several moments (and a steadier than usual steering wheel for the Vibe) later, I told Panooch I didn't think it was a flat.
"Then what was it," he asked.
I shook my head.
"Do you hear that?" Panooch lowered his window. Outside the car came a soft 'whup-whup-whup.' "What is that?"
I shrugged. "It's not the tire. So let's get rolling." My foot pressed heavily on the accelorator. "We have a lot of miles to cover and-"
Panooch and I looked at each other cautiously. We were a good fifteen miles from where we had first heard the noise and there was no one else on south bound M27 outside Harrison. I eased the Vibe to the shoulder and we go out.
Some models of the Vibe have a molded plastic trim that is held into place with plastic rivits. Others do not. Those that don't have quarter panels that are molded to look decorative. My Ought-three has the plastic trim. Apparently, as aerodynamics go, the lift of the wind sliding alongside the passenger front quarter panel placed just enough pressure under a hair-width's gap to rip the rivits out of their housings and cause the C-shaped black plastic trim to fold violently back and strike the side of the car with enough force to dent it.
We rolled into Clare and stopped at service center where I picked up a roll of duct tape and we took it out to the car. Luckily, the Ought-three is gray and the duct tape was gray so it kind camoflauged the problem. The gray tape stayed on until fall when I replaced it with invisible duct tape that has lasted through a Michigan winter.