Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

Car Repairs
Matt Seinberg

"Going to the car mechanic is almost as bad as going to the doctor. There's never good news."

Thus began my conversation, with Frank, the mechanic, last week, when he came back into the office where I was waiting for my car inspection to finish.

There was nothing major wrong with the car thank goodness. I knew I needed an oil change. I didn't know that my front tires were almost bald and suffering from "tire rot." Frank told me that Michelin tires had a great name, but didn't particularly make a good tire.

He said they often suffer from "tire rot." I'm not surprised, as I've had the car four years and these were the original tires. Frank then suggested a pair of Uniroyal tires instead of some no name off brand tire. I said fine and faced the situation on the cost. He had to order them and I could go back later in the day to get them done. If not, my car wouldn't pass inspection.

That's sort of like going to the doctor, and not being able to leave unless they ran a catheter to your bladder, or a put a stent in your heart. I hate not having choices, and having them forced upon me.

The amount of money we poured into Marcy's 2001 Altima last year was crazy. The motor in the driver’s side seat died and neither Michelle nor I could drive in that pushed back position. I can't understand how Marcy could drive like that either, as she's only 5-foot 3-inches.

I asked Frank what to do. For $400, he could get a salvaged seat and motor from the junkyard. For $500, he could get a new one from Nissan. I opted for the $400 seat and it came with a 90 warranty. Lucky us, just before the 90 days were up, that motor died and replaced again. At least this time it didn't cost us anything.

Then there was the $400 to buy four new tires and $385 to fix the exhaust system, which had a leak in it. We're lucky we didn't die from carbon monoxide leaking into the cabin. The two other expenses were $350 for a new idler pulley and two belts along with an oil change as well as $450 for new rebuilt right side drive axle, hoses, clamps and transmission fluid.

At what point do you throw your hands up and say enough? That's what we did, with our old 1997 Saturn SW2 wagon. Every time it needed service, it was $400. We sold it for $2600 and bought the Mazda 6 in May 2010.

I can't do that with the Altima, since that's what Michelle is going to use when she attends community college in the fall. We're going to lease Marcy a car, since she doesn't drive a lot in the course of the year. We're certainly not in the position to have two new cars, so the Altima is going to have to survive for at least another 3 years.

Unfortunately, a car isn't like a horse in the Old West; you can't shoot it to put it out of your misery. You either sell it, or junk it. I think we'll try to run it into the ground until it dies a natural death.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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