Saturday, March 15, 2003

I hate cars. H-A-T-E!

I resent having to have one, having to have insurance on it, having insurance be so damn expensive up here. I hate that cheap gas is almost $2/gallon and that that's still so much cheaper than in the rest of the world. I hate their convenience and how you come to depend on them. Most of all, though, I hate having to fix them.

Since we've been back in NY, we've put over $1000 into our car, a '98 Plymouth Breeze with 52k miles - that we're still paying for - of which we put 22k on in just over a year. Back in December, it overheated - yes, overheated in December! - because oil was somehow getting into the antifreeze, mucking it all up and turning into this capuccino-colored goo. This happened while it was cold as hell outside and we had the kids in the car with us. Not a good thing. Turns out there's a crack in the radiator and it needs to be replaced. Costs $650 to do it. Immediately after, the car's acting weird, not really warming up most days and the temperature gauge hovering right next to the little blue line of death.

A few weeks later, heading to the store, without the kids this time - the brakes go! I end up swerving side to side, shifting to neutral, then reverse, just to get the car to stop. Conveniently - or suspiciously, for my conspiracy theorists out there - we're a block away from the service station that fixed the radiator, so we pull in and have them check it out. The brake fluid is a thick, cold syrup in the master cylinder! "That's unusual," says the attendant. Ya think?!?! So we let the car run for a bit while pumping the brakes, and take it to Expressway Lube to have them check everything out and, by the time we get there, the brake fluid is fine! "You have oil in your antifreeze, though. Might be your head gasket."

Flashback: two weeks after we got to Virginia, we were told the same thing about the head gasket in reference to a steady oil leak. As we'd just bought the car a few weeks before leaving NY, there was no way to take it back to the dealer to get checked. The leak didn't seem too bad and life was getting more complicated by the day so it eventually went to the bottom of the list of things to do.

Flashback II: after the car overheated the first time, I took it to the same Expressway and they told me the exact same thing. When I told this to the mechanic, he said he doubted it, he'd seen this before, and it was definitely the radiator at fault.

Back to the recent present: I take it back to the mechanic, yelling about the head gasket and he says it's probably because there's so much gunk in the engine that it didn't fully come clean. Kind of like when a dirty person washes the dishes and leaves the pots greasy is my analogy for it. Oh yeah, and your master cylinder is shot! Replacing it, draining and cleaning the engine and radiator: cha-ching! Another $400. This was three weeks ago, right before I started the new job.

Last night, as we're parking up the hill from the apartment, we notice a weird bubbling noise and a glance at the dashboard explains, THE CAR IS OVERHEATING AGAIN!!!! There's this totally helpless feeling I get sometimes, when shit is so completely out of my control and the only thing I can do is laugh about it or lose my fucking mind. Last night, I just had to laugh. The alternative was too scary a thought.

Anyway, I take it back to the mechanic and we have a long talk about the situation. He walks me around his garage, shows me a car he's working on to illustrate his point and delivers the bad news: head gasket. At least $600, probably $750 or so.


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