The Car Gods Hate Us
|Check engine light on one, |
bandaid on the other.
The car gods hate us. I'm sure of it now. I'm starting to seriously consider sacrificing a bicycle in their honor or doing an oil dance or praying to the big manufacturer in the sky. Anything. Just, anything, to turn fortune to our side.
Things were going OK until the boys were born — you know, right when we could least afford the time or money to have our only vehicle with car seats in the shop.
The first disaster came last summer when the person behind my husband didn't understand the concept of a crosswalk and ran into the back of our 1995 Toyota Corolla, totaling it in the eyes of the insurance companies. We put a band-aid on it (literally, see above) and have continued to drive it. It's been by far our most reliable car.
Our intrepid hand-me-down minivan, a 1998 Toyota Sienna, was a work horse but over the course of 2011 we had spent about $1,000 on various problems and we were looking at needing more repairs soon. We were hoping it would hold on for another year until I could start working again.
As luck would have it, my husband and I were driving along one Sunday and I pondered aloud what it meant when traffic reporters said there was a "car stall" on the freeway. Why would a car just stop working? Gracious as the car gods are, they decided to show me. No more than 15 minutes later, depressing the gas pedal just led to the engine revving before catching and actually accelerating the car. By the next morning, the minivan would only go in reverse, not forward.
Mechanics said we had a major problem with our transmission that would probably cost $2,000 to diagnose and fix. Considering the vehicle was barely worth that if it was working and we knew there were more unrelated repairs in the offing, we decided to cut our losses. I put it up on Craigslist for $1,000, made it perfectly clear that it didn't run and people flocked to buy it. Good riddance.
Right about that time, a good friend of ours was preparing to go live at a science station in Antarctica for a year. Yes, Antarctica. As in the cold, frozen wasteland at the southern pole. Needless to say, he wasn't taking his car, a 2004 VW Golf TDI.
We thought this was perfect, he would sell us his car for a good deal and we knew its whole history. It's way too small for what we really need with twins, but it gets good gas mileage and is a diesel (which at that time was cheaper than unleaded... no more) and also allows us to burn biodiesel if we want to (read: can afford to) be green. It would tide us over until we could afford a new family car and then would replace the Corolla, which was clearly on its last legs. Clean break, fresh start, brand-new (to us), I'm-not-a-soccer-mom-yet car. Hooray!
I am writing this in the lobby of our mechanic.
We have had to take this freaking car in NINE times since we bought it at the end of September — FIVE for the SAME problem. It's cost us around $1,500, in addition to the car payments we've never had before and can't really afford. I want to be pissed at our mechanic but I really do think they are trying to do right by us and they themselves have, at this point, spent several hundred dollars and many unpaid man hours on trying to get the damn thing working right.
I don't want to bore you with all the exhausting details, but it involves a seemingly endless stream of check engine lights, obnoxious sounds and bad smells.
Oh, and then last week somebody broke the window of our Corolla. In the middle of a Sunday. In plain sight on the street. To steal a backpack full of worthless papers. That would be the fourth time our cars have been broken into since we moved into this charming neighborhood the rest of Portland calls Felony Flats. (I would argue that Felony Flats is east and north of here, but I can see how hipsters from tree-lined streets and remodeled colonials wouldn't be able to tell the difference.)
So that's awesome. At least we have a year or two before we have to figure out how on Earth we're going to afford a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Gosh, I just can't wait to see what fun the car gods will have with us then.
Anybody know an oil dance?