Car Repairs

Ah, the mental and financial agony of car repairs.

Both our new Sienna van and our 2001 Mercury Mystique (think Ford Contour) needed work done. Yesterday the van and today the Mystique.

The van's electrical system died for some reason. The dealer had it towed, replaced the battery, and now everything's fine. I'm not upset both because I chalk it up as as "stuff" happens and it was covered under the warranty so it didn't cost us any cash. I am a little worried because I checked the battery and it seemed to be charged. I will make sure to keep my receipts in case this becomes a repeat problem.

The Mercury needed some normal maintenance (oil and tuneup) and the front brake pads needed to be replaced. Also understandable and even though it's gonna' cost a bit, it's due.

I remember years ago when car problems were so stressful. In graduate school we had a Toyota Tercel which was a great car. It went from California to Ohio to Missouri. But, we took it in for a tuneup one time and they botched the job. While we did get a free ring job, we were without our car for a total of two weeks while going back-and-forth about it. We had almost no extra money (week-to-week, paycheck-to-paycheck) so we couldn't afford to buy even a "new" used car. They ponied-up for a rental car part of the time and the rest we got rides from friends. I even walked home from Ohio State a few times (took about 3 hours!).

When I was an undergrad I had a longbed Toyota truck. When the engine died I had two choices. One, buy another used car. Two, have a rebuilt engine put in. I was fortunate that I had good credit so I could get a loan through the company I worked for and have the payments automatically deducted. I chose the rebuilt option and what a mistake that was! It's a long story that involved the brother of a woman I was dating and... well... it wasn't a good choice. I ended up selling the truck to pay off the loan and bought my stepfather's car- a Datsun 280ZX.

The Datsun was an awesome car but I just couldn't afford to maintain it once I was a graduate student and we lived in Ohio. I had the alternator replaced one time and I caught the place trying to overcharge me. I had a funny feeling when they quoted me the price and I called a dealer to check the price. When I called the repair shop back and with price I had (about $50 less than what they told me), they did some checking and told me they had misquoted the price. Right. It's the places like that one that make people so mistrusting of repair shops. I ended up selling that one and we just had the Tercel.

We ended up selling the Tercel to a yard a year after buying the Mystique. It was nice having two cars since I taught off-campus part of the time but we couldn't afford the insurance and it wasn't going to pass the safety inspection so it was time to go to that big car lot in the sky.

We are very good now about scheduled maintenance on our cars. And I don't do any work on the cars anymore. Granted, with all the electronics I couldn't do anything now other than oil changes anyway. But, we pay someone else to do it. I don't have to get oil everywhere and I also don't have to dispose of the oil. It's worth my money and time to have someone else do it. I used to do other things like brakes and tuneups but it's worth my time to have a professional do it for us and make sure it's done right.

As an instructor I hear about car problems all the time from my students and I am so glad not to have any!

Ack... quick, where's that wood to knock on?? I don't want to jinx myself!!

Posted: Tue - June 15, 2004 at 01:26 PM