Cars, can’t live with them, can’t blow them up in a public display of anger and frustration.
The scenario is all too familiar. You get a new car, or a new used car and most everything goes well for the honeymoon period. You’re best of buds with your new set of wheels. Then something minor goes wrong and just to be on the safe side, and just because your buddy’s been so good to you and you don’t want to hurt it, you take it to the garage to preserve the status quo of your wonderful relationship. Well, you know what happens next.
It goes into the garage; let’s say to have a routine chiropractic alignment of its tires, and while it’s there sitting around with all those other sick-bay vehicles, a mechanical virus from one of the afflicted autos worms its way into your car’s cooling or exhaust system, and from there on end there’s little that can be done but await the next ailment to appear. And appear it will, and with a frequency that’s appalling. The car that had been so good now turns sour, and the great sucking sound that is heard is the sudden vacuum of a depleted bank account.
I bought my used 2004 car in April of 2007 (the make and model shall remain anonymous to prevent undue buyer’s consternation). The first four weeks were relatively trouble free with only two manufacture recall visits for seat belt ends, body mounts, and catalytic converter replacements. It was on the second visit that I believe the dreaded e-moola virus first invaded my vehicle’s internal system. For what followed that last visit was a six month scourge that included tie rods and alignment, two new tires, outer CV boots, throttle position sensor, cleaning and adjusting throttle plates, flushing the fuel injectors, front brakes with pads and rotors, and rear shoes and drums. The grand total for this health care was a few thousand dollars or a new side by side refrigerator/freezer, a 32 inch HD television, and a state-of-the-art electric range (all of which were to have replaced our art deco artifacts). Buddy, oh, my buddy.
On my last visit to the garage, I had been experiencing a thumping sound whenever the car ventured into a slow left-hand turn. My now estranged friend, was hooked up to the omnipotent diagnostic computer for an hour to determine the mysterious cause of the noise, and to devise the most Rube Goldbergesque solution to assure the loudest sucking sound possible. The computer finally spit out something about the CV shaft. Yeah, I know, how appropriate. It probably stands for Customer’s Vile shaft or something akin to that. Meanwhile, while on safari through car’s under carriage, the cybermechanics discovered that the car possessed a leaky transmission pan, a worn radiator hose, assorted threadbare belts, and that when tickled under the front shocks the radio would suddenly blare on, speaking in tongues.
I told them I would take the pan, hoses, and belts, but hold the CV shaft. I said I would turn at dangerously high speeds to avoid the noise and the cost of that repair. The net result of this last episode was that for a few hundred more I had everything fixed but the problem I brought the car in for originally.
As I was paying, I inquired if I qualified for any frequent driver miles or something like that. I got a dry chuckle and a smug reminder that the CV shaft would still need to be replaced. “The part alone,” the service manager chided, “would cost over four hundred dollars.” The unspoken meaning being that by the time my guys finished tinkering, the four hundred dollars will look like the steal of the deal.
By this time I was numb and carelessly quipped, “Is that the best you can do? Don’t you have anything in a gold or platinum with a laser interfaced doohickey? Wait, I just remembered that I still have equity on my lawn mower, let’s just plate the whole damn shaft with cubic zirconias!” The service manager just smirked with nuance that said, “Be sarcastic all you want, big boy, but we own you now.”
Sometimes I think it would have been best for all parties involved if I had just left my car hooked up to the computer as its own life support system. I would, of course, visit it on occasion just to maintain the semblance of a relationship. When the cost of the hookup exceeded the cost of the repairs, I would instruct my attorney to have the plug pulled. Then, when the car finally collapses in its own oil pan, maybe I could donate the remains to a mechanic training school for diagnosis and dissection.
I would say that the only rationale for keeping the car running would be until needed and suitable recipients could be found for the healthy parts of the car, but based on the shop medical records, that would include only the intermittent windshield wipers and cup holder.
Cars, can’t live with them, can’t push “em off a precipitous cliff with a smirky service manager gagged and duct-taped to a state-of-the-art CV shaft.