I didn’t even know what to categorize this post under. Basically, I flagged it as an “opinion,” but it’s honestly just me ranting about a current, ongoing situation. Maybe I need to create a new category for my posts. Maybe I need to stop digressing so damn much and just get to the point. (Deep, cleansing breath). Focus…. Alright, here we go…
Owning a vehicle is a very particular experience. For most folks, it’s an early sign of freedom. Nothing quite like the feel of getting behind the wheel and driving off to see your friends on a Friday night. Light knows, I certainly couldn’t get enough of driving my car when I was a teenager. granted, my car meant so much to me because I actually purchased my own car when I was sixteen. Not everyone is able to do this and are often relegated to using mom and dad’s car, but it’s fun nonetheless.
As we grow into adulthood, having a vehicle becomes more of a necessity and less of a luxury. And less fun. And costly. Man, is it costly…. I remember that the “fun” aspect started to disappear when I began using my car to drive to college. Then into adulthood, it was about driving to my job or running errands. It became a tool for daily life as opposed to a source of enjoyment (although it still hasn’t stopped me from belting out the tunes and singing along with them as I drive).
Much as it is with many things in modern life, vehicles are no longer made to last for extended periods of time. In fact, many brand new vehicles will be driven off the lot with defects, recalls and faulty parts that will usually need to be serviced within the first little while that one owns the vehicle. But that reality aside, repairs and maintenance can become expensive; sometimes more expensive than the vehicle itself.
You may be asking yourself, why is he bringing this up? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. the easy answer is because it’s my blog and I can write about whatever I want. The more complicated answer is what’s to follow. You see, for the first time in my life I’ve found myself in a position where I’ve been able to completely pay off my vehicle. Maybe not the first time. I purchased my first car for cash. It was a 1986 Toyota Terkel hatchback. horrible fuckin’ car. I loved it. Anyway. Moving on…
Since I recently paid out the loan on my current vehicle, which only happens to be six years old, I was quite happy. In the Maritimes, vehicles tend to die out much sooner than they do out here in the Prairies. This is because the salty sea air tends to play hell on metal. I think the longest I ever recall my parents owning a vehicle was ten years. It was a silver Chevette. My wife and I toyed with the idea of upgrading and purchasing something new. Ultimately, we decided it would be nice to spend the next few years WITHOUT vehicle payments to deal with. But I as I’ve often said, life rarely cares about one’s plans. And things can/will happen to throw a wrench into things (pun fully intended).
Almost to the day that I paid out my vehicle’s loan, I began hearing a strange sound as i drove. If you’ve ever seen Back to the Future, well… start by watching Back to the Future because it’s a great movie. but if you’ve ever seen the movie, you’d remember the familiar whine of the Delorean as it accelerated. That’s kind of what my vehicle sounded like, but off without the cool ability to time travel. It started getting worse as the days followed and it actually started to become difficult to steer. That’s never a god thing, so I brought it in to a local repair shop.
The diagnosis was that the hose leading from the power steering pump was ruptured and I was losing fluid, which is why it was difficult to steer. They replaced the hose, topped up some fluid and I was on my way. I was warned that there may be some residual sound on the days that followed as air bubbles worked their way out of the new hose and out of the pump. Fair enough. I went on my merry way for the next couple of days without a concern. Minus the several hundred dollars in deposits, of course.
A few days later, I started to hear another sound. Although similar to the first one, it had a distinctively different tone. This one was almost metal on metal and there was an odd smell when I’d back into my parking spot. Although a bit difficult to describe, I’d say it was a combination of wet rust and an unclean aquarium. You know the ones, with the overgrowth of algae growing on the glass? Yeah, like that. I contacted the garage and arranged to have my vehicle dropped off for yet another servicing.
This time, it turned out that my break pads and rotors needed to be changed out. The grinding metal sound I was hearing was because one of the rear break pads had worn down enough that it broke up into pieces and were scrambling around in there. No problem, easy fix. At least in theory. Over a thousand dollars later, I’m back on the road and the vehicle sounds fine. Alright. Whew. Expensive and annoying, but it’s done, right? Life laughed at me as it was FAR from done with my vehicle…
My wife had ordered some books from a local bookstore and we decided that she should take a couple of hours for herself and drive out to run a couple of personal errands. I was at home with the two boys, trying to control the torrent of kid-energy flooding my house. I failed, but that isn’t what this post is about. I get a phone call from my wife indicating that she had blown out a tire. On one of the busiest bypass highways in the city. It was basically dinner time, with most auto repair locations closing up shop for the day. My wife and I scrambled and worked together to find her a tow truck to attend her location and a repair shop that wold accept a drop-off. The same location that performed the previous two repairs agreed to have me drop off my vehicle and they would look at it first thing the following morning.
I should likely point out that they had been closed for nearly half an hour when I called. They still answered the phone AND agreed to look at my vehicle despite having their scheduling software shut down and being unable to confirm the following days’ availability. Sometimes, loyalty pays off…. I had to grab a bus to work the following morning but by lunch time, they had replaced the tire and explained that a defect caused a slow leak, which resulted in the sidewall giving out due to the vehicle’s weight and caused the blow out. Alright. I drive off.
A few days later, my car starts making Marty McFly sounds again…. I seriously wish I was kidding, but I can’t make this shit up! I decided to change things up and try a different garage based on a colleague’s recommendation. After explaining what was happening and what the sound was, the thought was that although they had replaced the power steering hose and topped up the fluid, enough air may have gotten into the pump to burn it out. This would be why the issue seems to be resurfacing. As I publish this post, the car is being serviced for that very issue.
Hey, I love my SUV. It’s a great family vehicle and it’s travelled across the country to New Brunswick on two separate trips, carts my boys around and is super handy for errands where I have to pick up large amounts of stuff. Like groceries to feed my two little piggies. But, MAN is vehicle ownership expensive. At some point, you have to wonder if one is better off dealing with the cost of repairs or simply sucking it up and upgrading to a new vehicle. ☯️
2 thoughts on “Get Your Motor Runnin’”
Definitely a rough situation. The consumer reporter I used to listen to religiously on the radio (Clark Howard) always had the following advice here: Replace it when the cost of repairs is regularly equalling your monthly car payment, OR the cost of a repair is more than the value of a vehicle.
Sounds like for THIS month, you’ve hit that mark, BUT brakes and tires are normal wear items anyway, and that part sounds like just bad timing that it all hit at once. You’ll regularly have those two repairs regardless.
Per the mechanic in the family; power steering pumps in newer vehicles often have aluminum internal components, so it’s easier for them to go bad if there’s air stuck in the system. HOWEVER, a quality shop will rotate the wheels back and forth OR use a fluid exchange machine to make sure as much air as humanly possible is out of the system before calling the job done. Did they do that? Who knows?
Anyway, if you have another couple of months like this, I’d consider trading it in. Otherwise just write it off as “one of those days”. That consumer reporter said that if you have a 5 year loan (rare nowadays), and go an additional five years before buying a new vehicle… And make no other changes to your lifestyle beyond taking the car payment and banking it for retirement, you’ll be able to retire 10 years earlier than you would have otherwise.
There’s a reason our truck is a ’94. 😉
So far, I’m going with writing it off as one of those months, haha. But it’s running smoothly right now, so who knows. And I agree, brakes and tires are something every vehicle should be reasonably aware will need replacing at some point.
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