Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Summer of the Car

Years from now, I think I will probably look back on this summer as the one with the most car issues of my lifetime. And yes, something has happened since my last post. Let's review, shall we?

I bought this car from my mother soon after I moved to Texas back in 2006. It had some minor issues, suffering from "benign neglect" as I like to call it, since Mom wasn't the best about regular maintenance, but it wasn't in bad shape either. Until this year, here's a quick summary of most of the work I had done: had all the fluids changed, changed one engine belt, got a new set of tires, a new battery, new starter, got an alignment, and a few oil changes. Pretty typical stuff, you might say. I also bought a used ABS pump on Ebay, as a brand new one was prohibitively expensive, and got that installed. Aside from the tires, that was probably the most expensive thing I had done, since they had to replace a master brake cylinder as well, but nothing I had done cost over $500 at any one time.

For our first incident, let's flash back a few months. This year, I finally had some money in the bank, so I decided to take it back to the place where I'd had the master cylinder replaced, since they had done a decent job before, to get a tune-up and fix the AC, which was not cooling off the car very well. Well, that didn't go nearly as well this time, as I discovered that in addition to the tune-up, I needed new front brakes, a couple new belts, and the AC work to get it fixed was very expensive. I also had to get new outer tire rods (which I was a bit suspicious about) and new bushings for the steering (which it actually did need.) Anyhow, by the time I was done there, the cost was well over $2000, quite a bit more than the $800 or so I was figuring on. The car was running well, but after spending that much cash it SHOULD have been. I got the tires aligned also, and actually discovered I didn't have to pay for that since I'd had it done about six months prior and they were still under warranty. So, I was poorer but satisfied.

Second incident...as recounted here recently, I blew out two tires on the right side of my car while driving to work. They were a total loss, and I also managed to blow out one of the rear struts in this incident. The place I got the tires replaced also found an engine seal that needed changing (I'm surprised the first place I went to hadn't told me about that, but maybe they figured I was getting tired of hearing new stuff that my car needed.) Anyhow after getting new tires, new struts, and the engine seal, I was out several hundred more dollars.

Third incident...driving home from work recently, I hit a large rock in the middle of the road, causing a flat. The tire is a loss as it happened on the sidewall. Hitting the rock also damaged the front suspension and I needed to get a CV joint replaced on the side where I hit it. At least it was not one of the tires I'd just had replaced, I suppose. I opted to get two new tires instead of just one so I'd have a matching set to go along with the other two I'd just bought. So, out a few hundred more dollars. They did throw in another alignment for free though. Shortly after this, I got a fancy detail on the car since I figured I was FINALLY done putting money into it.

Final incident...driving into work about two weeks ago, another car was coming into the garage at the same time that I was. I made a tight turn to avoid him, and it turned out to be TOO tight of a turn, as I scraped a concrete post on the left side of the car. I wasn't very happy. Fortunately, I do still carry full insurance on the car...but unfortunately, I have a $500 collision deductible. At least the rental car was covered by my insurance as well. I went to a body shop I've used previously for some minor things and they did a nice job, but I was glad I had insurance because the total cost was $1100 not including the price of the rental. They wanted initially to get the cash up front and have me wait for the insurance check, but due to all my other fun issues with the car, I didn't have the cash to give them up front, so we worked out a deal where I paid them the deductible and my insurance company will mail them the check directly. So, back in the driver's seat again, wallet somewhat thinner again.

I really do like this car, but I am hoping I have no more incidents with it this year, since I've already put in more money than it's worth just this year in keeping it roadworthy. Time will tell, I suppose. And of course, I'm going on vacation this coming week, so it was a great time for unexpected expenses to crop up. Through creative juggling, I am going to be able to go on my trip...but I did cancel on meeting some relatives in Europe this fall, I didn't think I could swing doing both things.

On the bright side, my cousin is getting married this weekend, and I'm looking forward to that, along with visiting Albuquerque for the first time since we sold my mother's house. I should be able to visit a couple friends while I'm there as well, and make a quick trip up to Santa Fe to visit my father's grave (which isn't really cheery, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to do it.) I'm going to California later in the week to relax for a few days. After all that's gone on with the car this year, I think I've earned a break.

Hope everyone is having a pleasant, maintenance-free summer, and I'll post again after my vacation.