Monday, March 10, 2008

Necessary Evils

Cars, while necessary, suck.

It was a lesson I learned when I fell in love and owned my first car, and 1984 Monte Carlo SS. Cars give you freedom, but at a price. If you can afford it, other people can do the work for you, otherwise, you change power steering pumps in dorm parking lot.

The Monte is gone, but new headaches abound. We got lucky though.

Pink and I have fallen in love with Carmax as a place to purchase vehicles. Granted, my Mom works there, but we bought our first two cars there before she even began her career there.

Our Ford Windstar is the culprit this time. Pink and I have been keeping an eye on the mileage on it, and as the warranty kept getting closer and closer to expiring, we've been taking a more scrutinizing look at the van.

Turns out we didn't have too, about a month ago, Pink had to keep it floor to maintain highway speed. We took it in. Carmax techs determined there was an oil leak, power steering leak, and the plugs and wires needed to be changed and they fixed the fan door that determined which vents blew out the air inside the car. I take the blame for the plugs and wires because they were due to be changed, so we bit the bullet and paid for that one. They cleaned up the engine, swapped out the Power Steering pump and hoses, put a dye in the oil so they can troubleshoot the oil leak, and told us to bring it back in after a couple days.

Couple days turned into a week due to the fact we needed a vehicle to haul everyone around in. The Malibu will work, but I end up looking like I'm driving a go cart.

We take it back in after a trip to celebrate March family birthdays, and add on a couple more things to fix. The A/C isn't blowing cold air, the connection on the rear back window and the arm that opens and closes never stays attached (even after I put locktite on it).

That afternoon we get a call back. The A/C hosing has a leak and was shot, so they'll replace it, they replaced the connection bracket for the window...and the van may need a new engine. The oil leak was coming from three or four different spots. Their procedure was to fix the existing leaks, put a dye in it to see for more leaks, have us drive it around for a weekend, and see if that fixed the leak. Even if it fixed it, they'd check to see if the bearings on the engine were good. If so, the engine is fine, if bad, the van gets a new engine. When we asked why we didn't see the leak, the tech said it was pressurized leak, meaning that the oil would shoot out only when running, which is why we never saw spots on the pavement.

Pink picks up the van and drives it home. She said it drove perfectly, shifted through all the gears perfectly. She puts the van in park once she gets it home and, in her words, "the van felt like it dropped and there was a grating noise." She shut it off, poked her nose around the engine compartment, then came inside to get my opinion. I had her start it up and sure enough, the noise came back. To my ears, it sounded like a metal pipe was grinding against a fan blade.

But Daddyman, this isn't an 84 Monte Carlo SS, there is no huge fan blade. It's an electric fan, and there is nothing close to it to grind on.

We call up Carmax, and they send a tow truck to pick it up. Tow truck says it'll be by to pick it up in an hour and a half, and they're here in 40 minutes.

I just got a call. Carmax says the transmission is busted, they can't even get it out of park. Because I've had the fluid flushed on it several times, it'll be covered by the warranty. They're towing it to AAMCO to have it done.

Through the whole experience, Carmax has called and kept us up to date on the repair and costs. So far it's just been $50 for each visit in to have it looked at, about 140 for the plugs, wires, and labor, and $40 bucks for a labor charge.

The lesson Pink and I learned from this is that we need a bigger second vehicle. With the van out of commission, we don't have a vehicle big enough to take everyone out just to do simple things, like heading to the store or doing something like a family.

So using Carmax's website, we've been emailing cars back and forth to each other to see what we like, and Pink see's a minivan she's like to have. All I asked for was automatic doors, extended warranty (since it's about to buy us a transmission and engine), and fold away seating.

Keep track of the documentation and maintenance on your vehicles, you never know when it'll come in handy.

1 highly regarded thoughts:

sheesh. that's an extraordinary amount of car trouble in a short time. I'm glad you have the warranty!

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