10 May 2010

Ode to Geriatric Cars

I am not sure what it is with me, but I always have car trouble during my finals. Previous semesters have seen me suddenly vehicle-less (Is that a word? I am making it a word if it isn't.) due to everything from flat tires to bad weather.

Don't think that my car is unreliable, for that is not so. My trusty little Honda Accord--which I have named Mr. Moto--has been a faithful friend to me over the past two years. I have commuted to school and work ten hours a week for the past year (and about seven hours a week the year before), so I spend a lot of time in my car. I love my car. We're good friends.

However, my car is fifteen years old and Mr Moto's age is starting to catch up with him. As with any beloved geriatric relative, my car has certain little health problems that must be tolerated. For instance, when I turn the wheel sharply, the car shuts down and must be restarted. When I reverse and turn the wheel too sharply, the car shuts down. When I keep my foot on the brake for longer than about a minute or two, the car shuts down. When I turn the wheel and am going uphill or downhill, the car makes a ghastly knocking sound that I have yet to diagnose. And, for whatever reason, my "Check Engine" light pops up every time I start the car after it has sat for a few hours. As the bookworm in a family of practical, mechanically inclined people, my method of coping with this is to pull over and shut the car off before restarting it and going on my merry way.

No matter what my darling Mr. Moto has pulled on me, he has always started right back up with no problem and transported me safely to my next location. That was not so Tuesday. On that day, which was my last day of regular classes, I stopped by the library I work to ask my boss a question. Afterward, I started my car and backed out into the parking lot. I am not sure if it was the angle or what, but my car shut off and would not start back up. I was stranded in the parking lot with some very angry people glaring at me for blocking the entrance. No matter what I did the car would not stay on for longer than about five seconds. This was a first in our relationship. Moto has always been loyal to me and obeyed my every command.

I finally caved and called my family to come pick me up. Fortunately, my brother and grandpa came to my rescue and my bro--who used to work at an auto parts store--waved at the guy who was parked next to me. Come to find out, said random person was, of all things, a mechanic my brother used to work with. Wonderful saintly mechanic worked on my car for almost an hour, got my car started, and refused payment. (I hereby bestow Walter with a recommendation for canonization.) We were able to get my car home, but Walter warned us not to drive it until we had the problem--some oil filter something or other--taken care of.

That's all fine and good, but I had finals I had to take Thursday and Friday. I had to get to school! My brother, being a relatively good-natured person, offered to let me use his Jeep Cherokee for the time being. Just as every time I loan him my car I explain to him all of Moto's, erm, health problems, I asked for the rundown on his vehicle, which I have never before driven. Our conversation went like this:

Brother: "Well, there's not really anything to tell. Oh, um, well, the air conditioner doesn't work."

Me: "No AC?"

Brother "Roll down the window."

Me: "Okay. That's it, though?"

Brother: "The CD player doesn't work. You just have to use the radio."

Me: "Eeep! But that's it, right?"

Brother: "The 'Low Washer Fluid' stays on, but it's lying. It's full."

Me: "Cool!" I then proceeded to get in the Jeep and start the engine. While doing so, I detected a strange odor. "Um, what is that smell?"

Brother: "Nothing."

Me: "No, seriously, it smells horrible in here. What is that?"

Brother: "You don't want to know. Have a nice day at school." He backed away quickly and waved.

Me: "It smells like . . . like . . . a skunk."

Brother: "Um, yeah, I had an incident a few weeks ago. Do not tell Grandma. Adios."

So . . . I drove to school with my waist length hair billowing above my head like Medusa as I sat through annoying dee jays and even worse commercials in a vehicle that emanated the delightful odor of skunk musk. Whoohoo! I also discovered that driving a Jeep is much different from driving a car--I can whip into small parking spaces and maneuver easily in my nifty Honda. I soon realized driving that Jeep was like trying to steer a dinosaur. A smelly, lumbering dinosaur that lies about the status of its washer fluid and has no AC or CD player.

But you know what? I soon learned that I really like driving that Jeep. Why? I am one of society's shorties, so driving by people and having them look up at me while I passed was a novel experience. It made me feel tall! I saw signs I have never seen before! And driving that Jeep, what with its sturdy design and bulky build, makes me feel like I am riding in a tank. Now I want a helmet, like the one Patton was always photographed in. I think I'd look rather fetching in a helmet. Any of you have a helmet? I'll be leaving for work in about an hour, so just e-send it to me. :D

Have any geriatric car stories to tell? No? How about skunk encounters?


  1. oo, Hondas ARE supposed to be very reliable, but after 15 years...:D Do you do regular maintainence and stuff? The oil filter is probably the most easy (and cheap) thing to replace, they do it for you when you get an oil change. On the other hand, they recommend oil changes as standard maintainence, like every 3000 or 4000 miles or so...when was the last time you changed the oil?

    Or if I may just shoot randomly, it sounds like something is choking the engine or something...maybe the fuel pump? My dad's old car kept dying because of a bad fuel pump...it couldn't get fuel from the tank to the engine, so the engine just died whenever there wasn't enough fuel. (i don't know if gravity would make it worse on a hill or not...lol :P )

    I only started driving less than a year ago...so I have not had the chance to drive a Jeep or big SUV yet...My parents let me drive a nice Civic...let me count...21 one years old now. (older than me!) But still smooth and really good!

  2. I still have not learned to drive...I'm not afraid of learning, just who's going to be teaching me. Dad's lessons are...intense. xD

    My brother looooves his Jeep though, and it is really fun to ride in!!

    Personally, I prefer biking or walking...changing tires and oil not required, and nor is being chaffeured by your mom o.O

    I have figured out: Ford trucks do not die, and when your dad puts a huge lift kit and giant tires on them, YOU CANNOT GET INTO THEM WHILE WEARING A SKIRT!

  3. Nice post Zella, your "geriatric car" sure seems to have a funny personality, doesn't it. :D
    The truck I drive (parents car) is a rather interesting creature. It pretends to run perfectly smoothly, but it often starts shuddering like it's tired or something. It also likes to try and shake me to pieces, let's just say trucks aren't a smooth ride. I like to compare it to a donkey, if normal cars are horses, it's stubborn. Reliable, but weird.
    It also enjoys randomly lighting buttons such as 'check engine', then have them turn off, just to make me panic.
    As for parking the truck- let's just say I've gotten rather good at walking. :D

  4. Sky: I was hoping a mechanical-minded reader would come to my aid! I change the oil regularly. In fact, it will be changed next week. Maybe it was the fuel pump. I am not sure. It's supposed to go to a mechanic tomorrow, so hopefully we'll find something out.

    Rebel: My grandpa taught me how to drive. He was the only one in the family who could sit through my, ahem, lessons. :P

    Feathery: Hehe It sounds like your truck has a personality all its own. I believe they want attention. :D

    Thanks to all of you for commenting! :)

    Great post, Zella. I want a Jeep too! And a helmet! (But I want mine chrome, like the ROTC cadets you see around most high schools.)

  6. @zella: I took an autoshop class last year. ^_^. And after a year, I still don't think I know anything about cars. You will NOT BELIEVE how complicated a car is...:P so trust a real mechanic who knows what they're doing, not me. :D

  7. Scott, Thanks! I believe you'd enjoy driving a Jeep. They are quite fun. *gasp* I want a chrome helmet, too, now. Hmm . . . Maybe I can find one at the local flea market. ^^

    Sky, The description you gave sounds good to me. We had a failure to communicate with the mechanic, so I am not sure when my car is getting fixed. Hopefully sometime this week. I want my Moto back! *wails and gnashes teeth* Until then I will enjoy my tank, erm, my brother's Jeep. :D

    Thanks to both of you for commenting! :)