Remember my post in December about my hyper-sensitive emotions that I was DEFINITELY going to get a handle on? And then the car wouldn't start. In the snow. Five miles from home. At four in the morning.
With me now? Good. Here is the latest installment in the cars-get-me-so-emotional saga.
After several more early morning rescues, we decided that enough was enough. Or at least I did. Plantboy, bless his heart, said he rather liked playing the role of knight in shining armor. It was a very cute thing to say, but as I don't really do damsel in distress too well, I finally called our friend the mechanic, and I stopped taking the car in the wee hours. (It seemed to only have a starting problem when a) the car got warmed up good or b) I started it.)
Our friend the mechanic. I have to admit to having a bit of a love/hate relationship here. Perhaps further reading will demonstrate.
A week and a half ago I called him. He did some work on our heater back in November, to great advantage on both sides. He had just been laid off and we were able to pay him much less than they charge for labor at a shop, while still paying him much more per hour than he actually earned when he was working. We arranged for him to come over last Friday at nine.
I waited until 10:30 and then called his house. "My daughter has been sick, and I haven't been feeling great. I think I've slept it off though. I'll be there in an hour."
At three I finally called. "Oh, yeah, I'm not going to make it today." He wanted to come Saturday, but I had committed to going to the temple with a friend and we were going to take my highly fuel efficient car--the starting problem was not an issue as we wouldn't be stopping and starting the car.
Famous last words.
Saturday morning I was over at my friend's house at about 7:10. We drove across town to the freeway; the heater seemed to be taking forever to work and our breath just kept fogging up the car. About ten miles up the road, there was a terrible knocking sound.
Moments later I smelled burned rubber. Asking my friend if she could smell it, she shook her head and said, "I do hear that knocking though."
I slowed slightly, wondering if the smell was coming from another car, but cars began passing very quickly and the smell stayed, "Oh, yeah, I smell it now!" She exclaimed. Before I could reply, the check engine light flashed, I slowed even more and then the panel lit up like the Fourth of July.
Pulling over, she offered to call her mechanic husband who is off working in the mountains somewhere. We explained the problem to him and he asked us to pop the hood. No can do. The gripper has come off the handle that pops it and all that is left is a sharpish piece of freezing cold, slippery metal sticking out of the dash down by my feet. We both gave it a good yank, nearly freezing our hands to it in the process. He started talking about belts and hoses and whatever and I felt the cold hand of despair creep in and grip my brain.
Did I mention that the heat had never properly come on? And we were in dresses, nylons, nice shoes, cute--not warm--coats. There was not a tool, a bottle of water or a blanket in the car. We called Plantboy who found the number of a towing company for us. My friend called her dad who came and sat with us for half and hour while we waited for the tow truck. We finally made it home at about 9 o'clock. Frozen and, me at least, very grouchy.
Towing bill: $138.
Mike the mechanic didn't return phone calls.
My friend and I decided to venture to the temple anyway. Plantboy is a saint. Saturday was only my friend's second trip to the temple and not going would have been, well, awful. She had been really cheerful and sweet about it all, but I could tell how disappointed she was. So we went.
And ran into Mike the Mechanic at the temple. "You must have missed Plantboy's message this morning?" I said with a bit of a forced smile. "Uh, yeah," he mumbled.
We also saw Mike at church on Sunday. Plantboy spoke with him. "Oh, I'll be over first thing tomorrow. How about eleven?" By what stretch of the imagination is eleven "first thing?" Still, a cheap mechanic is better than taking our chances at the typical rape-pillage-burn autoshop.
Monday comes. I wait until nearly one and then Plantboy calls. "Mike just got hold of me--he is sick." Ah . . .
Finally he comes on Tuesday at about noon. He runs an electrical check on the system. He also notes that a four-inch hose, hooked to the radiator, has come loose and the end of it is burned as if it touched a very hot part of the engine when it came loose. The starter was indeed bad.
New Starter: $140
Labor to Install Starter: $25
Plantboy and Mike jerry-rigged the hose with a bit of bailing twine. Mike's further assessment?
The radiator is old, the unit should probably be replaced.
The muffler is bad.
It's missing a headlight
And about ten other "little" things.
You know you are having a bad day when just repairing the car totals it.
Despite the muffler making it sound like I was trying to pimp out the Civic, I still drove it on the paper route Wednesday morning. About three stops into my route, the noise was so bad I was sure I would wake up all of my customers who love nothing more than to complain about how bad their service is. And then a cloud of smoke began billowing out from under the car.
Coughing and sputtering (me AND the car), I took it home at 4 o'clock and traded it for our more reliable piece of junk. At this point, I'm still thinking it is just a muffler problem.
I am just so stinking naive sometimes.
Plantboy took the car to work, stalling out through three different intersections. He called Midas and got an appointment for three. By four-thirty, I was looking anxiously out the window every few minutes, waiting for hubby's arrival. I had started to have a terrible sinking feeling that something was wrong.
The car arrived, parade style on a glorious yellow tow truck. Plant boy looked at me, shook his head and said, "I didn't have the heart to call you."
Towing bill: $48
Apparently when we drove it again, some water, from the exploded radiator went through the exhaust system and whosy whatsit yada yada there is a problem with the head gasket.
That doesn't sound so bad.
Well, the part itself is not, only the entire engine has to practically be pulled out to fix it. Midas told Plantboy it was 7 hours of labor just to get to the thing and that he was looking at least $1500. Oh, and another $300 for the radiator. Oh, and we won't TOUCH that muffler without the other repairs done first. The muffler is around $160.
Enter Mike again.
He recommended the second towing and then came over yesterday to get the car. I guess he drove it back to his house, though I'm thinking it might have been a better trip for him if he had just pushed the damn thing.
Anyway the car is at his house now, with the engine practically removed.
New head-gasket thingy: Lowballed at $160.
Labor: No idea yet.
Oh, and yeah, the radiator is really going to have to be done now. I'm halfway considering just putting it up on blocks in the front yard and going for the full redneck. Does anybody know how to get your car nice and rusty in a really short amount of time?
To add insult to injury, I don't think I've seen the sun more than a few minutes in the last three weeks. In one of the Harry Potter books they describe wet, foggy, cold, dreary weather as what happens when the Dementors are breeding. I think it is safe to say the Dementors are breeding.
You know, it doesn't feel very funny at all. In fact, I feel slightly nauseous. I think I'll go lie down.