Friday, April 15, 2011

Why Everyone Should Know How To Fix Their Own Car or Do You Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble shoots back. –Unknown

In the last few years, I've considered going back to school to study something fun like graphic design or horticulture. But today I'm seriously considering auto mechanics.

Up to this point our cars, although they are old, have been fairly reliable. We keep them around because it is really nice not to have a car payment. There are a few dings and dents on the exteriors, but they get us where we need to go. And the interiors are still nice.

In January, our ‘good’ car {a 1996 Honda Accord} started to leak some oil. At 186,000 miles, that is to be expected, or so I'm told. When Mr. Bug started his new job, it was obvious that this would be the car he would drive on his 110-mile round-trip commute. But after one week of this {on April Fool's Day no less; it's the joke that keeps on giving} the car started gushing oil. Fortunately for us, the gush didn't start until Mr. Bug was close to home, so there was no damage to the engine. But it was a really inconvenient time for us to be down one car. Mr. Bug was due to fly out the following Monday for training after his shift at work and I was up against a deadline myself at work which made for a very complicated situation. So Mr. Bug scrambled and found someone to fix the car on Saturday. That part was great. The bill was twice what we expected. That part was not so great.

On Monday morning, Mr. Bug took the other car {the gas guzzling 1995 Isuzu Trooper} to work, and from work he drove himself to the airport. I worked from home for the next two days because LadyBug was sick. And although I only had a short distance to drive those two days, taking Grasshopper to school and then picking up the equipment I'd need for telecommuting on the way home, I was a little worried about the fresh oil drips in the driveway. Also, there was this new, squealing noise when I started the car. I checked the oil a couple of times and the levels were good. And I took it to the car wash and sprayed out the engine to get rid of the oil that was all over the place from the huge leak and might be dripping onto the ground. Our supposition was that the drip that continued was a different leak, the first leak, and the gushing of oil had been a second leak which had disguised it, preventing the mechanic from finding it. I think we were being too kind. The car continued to drip oil. Mr. Bug checked the levels when he got home on Thursday and we were still good.

The next Monday morning the Little Bugs and I headed for my Grandpa's funeral in the Honda, which was 170-miles round-trip. We arrived at the mortuary a little early so that we could change into our dress clothes. As we walked back across the parking lot to put our casual clothes back in the car, I noticed a couple of fresh spots of oil on the ground. I had this sinking feeling as I realized that these spots were part of a trail that circled around the lot in exactly the path I had taken to park my car. I was slightly nauseated by the very large puddle of oil I found waiting for me under my car. There was oil everywhere under the hood, a sure sign that it was not safe to even start the car let alone drive it anywhere. We had the mechanic who ‘fixed’ our car drive the 85 miles to tow it from the mortuary parking lot back to his shop near our home, and my parents drove the Little Bugs and me to our house.

We've been on pins and needles this week, waiting to hear how much the repair would cost. In the meantime, Mr. Bug has been driving the gas guzzling demon to work in the mornings, and then when he gets home, I go to work in the evenings. Mr. Bug has called the shop every afternoon this week to check on the progress, and finally they told him yesterday that the car was done. The valve cover was cracked and they were trying to find a used part to save us some money. That was nice of them {but why didn't they notice it the first time we had them tow it in?}. We went to pick it up about 4:30 yesterday afternoon, but when we started it up, there was that awful squealing. When my dad looked under the hood in the mortuary parking lot, he told me that they'd put the serpentine belt {I know :cool:. Lots of big mechanical terms. I'm a natural! I'll be head of the class at auto mechanics school.} back on wrong when they fixed it the first time, and it was all chewed up. And so Mr. Bug pointed it out to one of the mechanics, who most obligingly offered to fix it for free. I was most annoyed. They are, after all, an auto mechanic shop, and you think they would notice when a car they were working on squealed like a banshee every time they started it up.

We came home and I swept up all the kitty litter in the driveway that was soaking up the oil drips in anticipation of a drip free car. When we went to pick the car up for the second time yesterday, I noticed some fresh oil on the ground where our car had been parked the first time we went to pick it up. I pointed it out to Mr. Bug, who suggested that it could have come from anywhere. I took the Trooper to work.

Last night on my way home from work there was an ad on the radio for a 2-year $99/month lease on those cute little Mazda 3's. I stopped for gas {for the second time this week} and there was a little Mazda 3 Sport in the parking lot of the convenience store. I loved the color. And the style. A plan started forming in my head. What if we traded in the Trooper for a Mazda so Mr. Bug could have a good, reliable car to commute with? They get 33 mpg on the highway. $99 a month is do-able. This plan was sounding better and better. When I got home, I checked out the fine print on the web-site of the dealership offering the leases. The lease offer is based on a $2000 trade-in value. The Trooper is worth less than half of that. So much for that great plan.

After Mr. Bug left for work this morning in our thrice repaired car, I went outside in my robe and slippers to see if the driveway was clear of any new oil drips. I was disappointed.


Impera Magna said...


When I was a kid, I hear one of my mother's friends comment that a boat was a hole in the water into which you threw money.... I feel the same way about cars.

Kerri said...

Ug! Car problems are so stressful! Good luck! I hope you find an acceptable solution soon.

Shay said...

Sounds like becoming an auto mechanic could be the way to go. They charge like wounded bulls so you could not only fix your own car you could charge a motza to fix other people's.

Hope it resolves for you quickly (and in a fashion that means you dont have to re - mortgage your house ) Mechanics and denists must be related somewhow...

Anonymous said...

Oh No! not more!

whimsyfox said...


QuiltNut Creations said...

just went through something similar! our van started clunking almost every time it shifted back in October. took it to the mechanics three times(once they said it was the way I drove) and it still clunked. paid a few hundred dollars to have the tranny flushed in hopes that would work and nothing.

we were planning a road trip when hubby decided to take the van back to the dealer(its 8 yrs old). a little switch in the tranny was gone and we were in danger of blowing the transmission. the repair bill was just over $2000. 5 days later, we traded it in on a new car lol.

Wanda said...

So sorry for repairs are so stressful! I hope something good just falls in your lap! :)

Angie said...

Fixing cars stink! It's like laundry, there is always a never ending stream of it!

JJ said...

It is so frustrating when that happens. My husband doesnt trust mechanics and does all of our work. I wont tell you how long it takes him to get it done but it is done right. I have had the same thought a time or two about going back to school, so I could fix it myself.