As a male blogger doing a guest post on a lady’s blog, I’m not about to blog about issues like pregnancy, raising kids, or the other good things that women do so much better than me. And not being the traditional guy’s guy, I can’t come over here and do a “How to” post without making an utter fool of myself. For example, a typical male might come swaggering in and say, “I’m going to teach you all you need to know about automobiles,” but that ain’t me. And I can easily prove that by giving you the Martin simple dos and don’ts of car ownership.
1- NEVER GIVE UP YOUR BEST CAR.
My father bought a new car in 1967. It was an Impala SS, 327 small block. Or to dumb it down, it had the body style and engine to be really fun… or be a family car. At least, back when gas wasn’t an arm.99 per gallon. Drawback- Dad, never good with colors, picked Crème for the color.
It looked like this, until my sister put in a ditch and had to have it towed out by an incompetent friend who left a chain bite in the back quarter. At any rate, I got to drive it briefly when I first started driving. It was great- you hit the gas, the front end rose up, and you hit 60 by the count of 2. The radio only worked about 2 hours out of a year, but what of it? It was an awesome car…
And then, Dad traded it to my older brother for a roof job on the house. Two weeks later, his son wrapped it around a tree. Never did like my nephew.
2- IF THEY TELL YOU TO TAKE CARE OF SOMETHING, DO SO.
Dad next bought us a 1980 Ford Fairmont- a car ugly enough that Dad named it “the Crackerbox”. And, as usual, he picked a simply wonderful deep maroon-purple color. But it was a tough, fuel efficient little car and I drove it for years. Thing was, whenever you took it to Jiffy Lube, they would say “couldn’t check Transmission fluid- sealed, must be taken to dealer”. And who wants to go to the dealer when you can just check the fluid level and add as needed? This was a plan that worked for the better part of 12 years- until one day the transmission didn’t work anymore. Unless you liked second gear.
3- NEVER BUY FROM A FRIEND.
Along about this time I got married (For more on that story, stay tuned) and we needed a second car. Another nephew’s girlfriend sold us a little Plymouth which was okay, but the rusted out back floorboards quickly gave way, which wouldn’t have been terribly problematic except for little KC, who came along shortly after. When the Fairmount died, we packaged the two in a trade we’ll get to in a moment.
Later, I would by a car from a Mexican co-worker for $450, 200 now and 250 when I got the registration from them. I drove it for about a month. Had to adjust the distributor cap every start in hopes of starting it without the loud backfire that became a permanent feature. Needless to say, the car was gone long before the (I assume non-existent) registration came through, the 250 was never spent, and the repair shop that declared it dead got the remains.
4- NEVER LET AN IDIOT USE YOUR CAR.
Even if that idiot is your (now-ex) wife. The first car I got her was not the friend’s Plymouth, but a nice little Mercury Lynx hatchback. I never believed those stories about people not knowing how to check their oil until one day she thought it was a bit low and added SIX QUARTS to it. One draining and a puncturing of the catalytic converter (not legal, but $20 versus $1,000 new) so it could breathe, and it was good as new. Until she partied all afternoon, got sent home from third shift (at Wal-Mart), got lost, and peeled off one side of the poor thing on a dirt road bridge. “You just wrecked the best car you’ll ever have!” I shouted at her once I found her and the wrecked car with a back seat full of baby seat and empty beer cans, and it would prove to be true to this day, some 20 years later.
5- BUY CHEAP, GET CHEAP
The car that the Fairmount and Plymouth got traded for was a little Hyundai. It was almost a small American car, but at the end of the test drive, I smelled hot oil; and when we got out, so did all the oil, out the hole in the pan we weren’t supposed to know about, and onto the lot. Did we tell them? Did they tell us?
The Hyundai was a bit problematic. The windshield developed a slow crack along the bottom; the antenna disconnected from the radio, leaving me a choice of about 2 AM channels to listen to; One winter the defrost fan froze stuck from the opening of cold weather until it broke loose on April Fool’s Day (no lie) , which meant I spent a lot of winter mornings with a crick in my neck trying to see out of about three inches of windshield with a crack down the middle; one night, the flywheel for the oil pump came off, hit the hood, and landed safely on top of the engine; and the oil pan seal blew out as I pulled in the driveway one night. But what finished it off was the week it started requiring me to hold the shift lever in place to keep it in gear. I traded it for a Ford, and it’s been Fords or Chevys ever since.
6- CHECK THE REVIEWS. BELIEVE THE REVIEWS.
The car before our current was a nice Ford that we got from the dealership we’ve used ever since. One thing I noticed post purchase was the comments about it having a problem with the front springs, that they tended to break. Right about the time we had it all but paid off, two things happened within 24 hours. The dealership sent us an e-mail wanting to know if we wanted to trade up; and the next morning, I found a flat drivers-side front tire with a snapped spring solidly imbedded in it.
The current car, like the first one in our story, is an Impala, some 42 model years newer. The one thing I noticed on the reviews was that there are three little plastic parts involved in the HVAC system, any one of which failing causes an annoying clicking noise as it tries to do its job to no avail. Over the last two summers, all three have been replaced. Total cost upwards of $1,300 (One of them required removing the entire dashboard).
And that, dear readers, is what to avoid in buying, driving, and dealing with an automobile. Hopefully I have saved someone from a heartbreak somewhere along the line.
If you enjoyed this post be sure to check out more of CW’s writing over at Tilting at Windmills.