The horse I ride in on is a 14-year-old Honda Civic with 147,000 miles. It is completely bought and paid for, and completely mine. And it has problems: old mare problems.
I’ve been having issues where my transmission was taking too long to shift between gears when the engine is cold. For a year, I played ostrich and pretended it was an easy fix. But with the cold weather this past month, that was no longer the case; it was just refusing to get in gear. Found myself staying home instead of taking the risk. So I bought the materials to jack up my car and flush the transmission fluid. That effort and expense proved fruitless; performance didn’t improve. So that following Monday I took the car to some shops for quotes.
On the way back home, my transmission practically refused to shift into 3rd gear and threw a code, so my hand was forced: I reached home, moved some of my remaining money around, and went back to the shop. $475 was the quote to pull the transmission and take a look. Two days later, $2260 was the final determined cost to completely rebuild the unit. At that point, I couldn’t say no unless I wanted to tow the car elsewhere.
“You should have your car back on Friday,” they said. So my only transportation for the week was bicycle and foot. Damn, am I out of shape.
Friday came and the shop called. “Well, the rebuilt torque convertor we put on there doesn’t work; we’ll have to source another one and install it. You’ll have your car on Monday.”
“Monday? Can you at least knock a couple hundred off the cost?”
“Uh, we’ll see what we can do,” he covered.
I got a call on Saturday that my car was ready. Good, good. I walked over, paid, and felt like I got punched in the gut. Manager gave me the key and receipt, and mentioned that he was hearing a noise coming out of my front left wheel, asked if I’d heard of it. I didn’t, in fact. So I drove off and took a test drive around town. After exiting the highway back to my neighborhood, I heard the noise: a grinding, scraping noise that happened only when I turned the steering wheel while driving. Something in my brakes was going bad. Dammit, dammit.
I pulled into a parking lot, lifted the car, and removed the tire. What I found was a scored brake rotor and a little stamped metal clip that was getting pinched between the brake caliper frame and the rotor. This is, as you can expect, not supposed to happen. So I limped out of there, picked up a new pair of clips, installed them at home, and took another test drive. It was still grinding, so the new clips got damaged as well. Something was drastically wrong with the wheel.
Sunday, I took it to the brake shop. The mechanics typically remove all four tires to inspect the brakes; this time, they left the bad wheel mounted because they didn’t feel comfortable with removing it. The damn thing was about to fall off. The problem, they said, was that the CV axle was damaged and had to be replaced. This is probably related to the damaged strut that I had to replace back in November. They rocked the wheel back and forth to show me the amount of play in the wheel. So, already hurting from the expense of the transmission, I had no choice but to agree to the repair. $350.
After a few hours, I sulked out with a functioning car. But it’s not over yet. During my test drive, I heard a new noise out of my right rear wheel, a clicking that happened once per revolution. Just great. So I went back to the brake shop to make them fix it. The problem was that the mechanic accidentally moved the adjustment that controls the clearance between the brake shoes and the drum, so everything was too tight and rubbing against the drum. An easy fix, for once.
Now I have a usable car. Damn.
It’s funny to me just how many people have an opinion to voice when I have a train of problems like this. “You should’ve done this.” “You should’ve done that.” “You should get a new car.” “You should’ve done regular maintenance.” “You should sell your car and only ride your bike.” It’s like their own philosophical vanity is at stake, and here I am, the one directly affected by the problem, deciding that paying for repairs as they come is a hell of a lot cheaper than taking on new car payments. I still have plenty of good years left in this horse, and I’m not ready to send it out to pasture just yet. When that time comes, I hope it’s a well-earned life.