Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Car Curse

by Janis Patterson

It doesn’t matter how good a car you have, or how well you maintain it, you are going to have car trouble, and usually at the worst possible moment. Both The Husband and I are absolute maniacs on keeping our cars in the best possible condition, believing that it is easier and cheaper to do good maintenance than to fix problems caused by neglect. In spite of everything, though, cars will maniacally develop problems, and always when you need it the most.

This week at a simply gosh-awful early hour I drove an elderly friend of mine to have a cataract operation. My pampered and petted car started fine, but immediately showed that I had a low tire - the right rear. As there was no time to look for that fast-becoming-extinct institution the full-serve gas station (and do I miss them!) I simply started driving. Our cars have special run-flat tires and on visual inspection the tire looked just like its fellows, so I picked up my friend and off we went - slowly, as you aren’t supposed to go over 40 on a low run-flat - and got to the surgical center in plenty of time. As soon as she went into surgery - where I knew by experience it would be at least two to three hours before I could take her home - I asked the staff if there were a tire shop around. No one knew of one.

God bless Google! I got on my phone and searched and found three tire companies within two miles of the surgical center. I chose the one with the most good reviews and off I went - slowly. I’m glad the place had so many good reviews, because it certainly was unprepossessing to look at and without the reviews I probably would not have stopped there. I’m glad I did, though, because the man there was so kind - he not only put air in my tire, he checked all four tires and even put the car up a little so he could be sure that no tire had any kind of puncture. And - they even did state inspections, which I had been trying to fit into my schedule for almost a month! Total cost? $25. That unattractive little shop is many miles from my home, but I really intend to go back there next year for the inspection.

There are a couple of neat little wholesome lessons in this rather drab little tale - sometimes unexpected things happen no matter how well you prepare, and sometimes appearances really don’t count. I wish I could remember that.

Addendum :
After I finished this blog post, the Car Gremlins showed that they weren’t finished with us yet. Our house is very unusual; we have a large parking area in the back, but it can be accessed only through a long, narrow drive to the street through which, because we have several vehicles, we must back if we want to get out. The Husband leaves earliest and arrives back latest (I work from home) so his car is almost always on the outside of the queue. He parks in the driveway itself, where there is more cover from the depredations of birds. Yes, he pampers and pets that car even more than our beloved dog. We won’t talk about my place in the pecking order!

The other night we decided that I should run to our local Whataburger (best burgers in the world!) and pick up supper as I was too wiped too cook and The Husband had a headache. I go outside and as I always do when I drive his car move back the seat (he won’t drive unless his knees are halfway under his chin like a cricket’s) put the electronic key in its slot and suddenly the car goes crazy. There is a loud ticking from the trunk, all the running lights and some on the dashboard start to flash and I can neither get the car to start nor remove the key.

Of course, being a rather melodramatically-minded mystery writer, my first thought was ‘someone’s put a bomb in the car!’ The Husband, after I had quit screaming, poo-pooed the idea, but he couldn’t do any more to make the car behave than I could. After a long and hamburger-less night (we ended up eating frozen pizza) we called the service number at our dealership and they immediately sent out a tow truck. I had been fearful about how they would tow it, as our cars tow only from the front and the back was sticking out to the street with less than two feet clearance on either side.

However – the tow truck driver was a kind and knowledgeable man. He didn’t laugh at me and said all we had was a dead battery. I did know, having driven clunkers for many of my poor years, that batteries could fail in a single heartbeat (though usually not so spectacularly), but The Husband was skeptical that such a thing could happen to his pampered baby – until the driver started the car with a single jump and was able to drive it up on the flatbed tow truck with almost insulting ease.

As the tow truck drove away I could swear that our car was sniggering at us. The Car Curse rolls on, but the good news is we only have one vehicle – a close to 25 year old pick-up truck with almost 200,000 miles on it – left to go. However… it will probably outlast all of us.


Maris said...

I'm paranoid about wanting my car to start the moment I turn the key and expecting it to get me to and from my destination without any problems. Any time my car doesn't perform as expected, I get very upset. I think you handled things quite well. I obviously need to take lessons from you.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I suggest joining AAA. They provide roadside service when you need it.

Susan Oleksiw said...

My mechanic told me a few years ago that I had to get rid of my 94 Subaru because there was so much rust underneath that I was in danger of falling through while driving 70 miles an hour on the highway. Alas, I gave in, but I do miss that old car. Now I keep the maintenance up to date on my new car. And yes, Jacquie's right. Get AAA.

Morgan Mandel said...

My 2003 car has about 2000 miles on it, since I rarely drive. The emissions people said it looked so good it would be a great buy. It goes out mainly when the weather is good. We keep the battery charged every once in a while.

Susan said...

Jacquie, Susan - thanks for suggesting AAA. During the days I was so poor I could only drive clunkers I couldn't afford AAA - but I became expert in minor repairs, like changing/charging batteries, changing spark plugs, checking fluids and tires, etc - of course, those were old cars and old days, when cars were simply machinery instead of computers and you could do wonders with a bobby pin! Now The Husband insists we both have BMWs (he a sporty 328i, I an X3, the quintessential soccer mom SUV) and BMW - God bless them - has a 24/7/365 roadside service 1-800 number for their registered owners. This is the first time we've had to use it, but it worked a treat! Janis, aka Susan

Carolyn J. Rose said...

You nailed it on batteries failing in a heartbeat. I've had two fail on the morning after the warranty expired. One is a coincidence. But two? I sense a conspiracy.

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