Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Farewell and A Homecoming

Dustin's has an aunt named Gloria. On the 16th of January her kids threw her and her husband a party for their birthdays.  Gloria turned 70 and Gale, her husband, turned 85.  I debated on whether or not to go to the party... it was in Salt Lake... and finally decided not to go.  I told Dustin he should drive our van (which is "my" car since I usually have the kids with me) because his car had been acting terrible.

Terrible is an understatement.  This little Nissan that he drove has always had "issues".  We bought if from my sister and her husband a few years ago... maybe 3 years... and it came with issues.  Hence, the $500 price tag that they sold it to us for.  It was a cute little Nissan Sentra with some electrical problems.  When we bought the car, Josh warned us of a few known "issues":
  • The wiper switch doesn't work.  It's been bypassed and there's a toggle switch that is down below the steering wheel for the wipers. 
  • The wipers only have one speed.  Slow.  Not intermittent, but slow.  
  • The wipers will turn off the moment you turn off the toggle switch, meaning, if the wipers are mid-windshield, they will stop there.  You have to time the "turning off" while the wipers are at the bottom of the windshield.  
  • The blower for the heating/AC system only works on one setting: High.  If you have the AC on, put it on defrost and you won't freeze.  (unless you have backseat passengers... they WILL freeze, but the driver and passenger will be in good shape!)
  • Oh yeah, and the dome light doesn't work.  
  • And, sometimes the dash lights don't work but if you ball up your fist and hit the dash in a certain sweet spot, they will usually come back on. 
  • And lastly we were warned very seriously, "DO NOT ADJUST THE TILT ON THE STEERING WHEEL.  IT WILL ARC."
  • Arc?
  • Awesome.
So, a $500 check was written, warnings were heeded and we were happy customers.  The issues we were warned about became routine.  We got used to the quirks of the car.  When we bought the car it had about 116,000 miles on it.  I think Dustin drove it for about three years.  His trip to Salt Lake would have rolled it over the 180,000 mile mark.  $500 for three years and about 64,000 miles?  Not bad, I say.

But, as the years passed, the list of "issues" grew longer.

  • The first time I drove the little car anywhere (which was when we had it about 2 weeks) the alternator died.  I love being a girl, who knows nothing about cars and getting stranded two hours away from home on a country road.  Thank goodness for cell phones.  This was an easy fix for my husband who DOES know about cars.  And it was nice because it broke down not too far from where my childhood friend, Beth, lived and she came and picked me up and we had a nice visit until Dustin arrived.  Bonus!
  • After a while, the car started to burn more oil.  And we had to check it often. 
  • Last summer the AC stopped working all together.  We never figured out why and my poor hubby just had a nice hot ride to and from work. (which is a 30 mile commute... poor, sweaty Dustin.)
  • Also last summer the fan blower, which only worked on high, stopped working at all.  So, no air would move through the car.  It does have windows that (thankfully) are not electronic... the windows would roll down.  So, that wasn't such a problem until winter came.  As you might guess, heaters are important in a car in Idaho... not just heaters, but blowers for the heaters.  So, Dustin hard-wired the blower so it was on ALL THE TIME.  You couldn't turn it off if you wanted to.  
  • The dash lights that used to work with that magic fist pounding stopped turning on, even when you hit the dash til your fist hurt.
  • The oil, which we thought was burning, was actually coming out of the exhaust somewhere.  The back of his car would get BLACK with oil.  It was gross and made for some very interesting misadventures while trying to get into the trunk.
  • Just recently, the ever-temperamental dash lights started working again... without any fist-intervention.  We don't know why.  But that was a nice feature for a little while.
  • Oil consumption (or leakage, as the case may be) went through the roof during the last year we owned this little car.  I'm embarrassed to say how much oil had to be added on a regular basis.  Like every time you filled up the gas tank!  (it rhymes with "due ports")
We knew that the end was near for Dustin's trusty little car.  That was why I asked him to drive our van, which is much more reliable.  He wouldn't do it and he set out on his adventure to Salt Lake which I had a certain feeling would end with him on the side of the road and me loading up our three kids and driving down to rescue him.

My intuition proved correct.  He had been gone about an hour and a half when I got a call.

"Hi honey.  I don't know if I'm going to make it to Salt Lake... I'm hearing knocking noises from my engine."

Even I, a girl who knows nothing about cars, knows that knocking in your engine is not a good noise.

"Uh oh," I reply.

"Yeah," he continues.  "I think I'm going to turn around and see if I can limp along the old highway going slow and make it back home."

"Ok," I say.  "Do you think you can make it?"

"Maybe.  I'm not sure though.  I pulled over and added another quart of oil when I first heard the knocking.  We'll see if it does any.... OH CRAP!  NOPE!  THERE IT GOES!" he nearly shouted.


"There was a very bad noise.  I just threw a rod or sucked a valve or something bad.  I've got white smoke.  I hope I can make it to the gas station I just passed," he stated.  "I'll call you in a bit and let you know."

"Okay, love."  I reply dubiously.  "Shall I load up the kids in the van?"

"Yep... you better get ready to come and get me."

Sometimes I hate it when I'm right.  I jumped in the shower and got the kids ready.  Meanwhile, Dustin called back and forth to me with various plans.  Our mechanic/lawyer friend (funny combo, I know!) had offered to bring a tow dolly and tow Dustin back home.  That would be nice for me... not having to go down and pick him up or hire a tow truck to tow the car.  Complications arose with that plan and it didn't work out.  Other plans were discussed and discarded.  Finally it was decided. 

The car was not worth putting another engine in or even rebuilding it.  All the other "issues" made the car a headache that we were happy to unload.  Dustin called a wrecker and told him that he'd trade him the title of the car for the cost of towing it.  I drove down to Dustin, title in hand, suitcase packed and picked Dust up.  He signed the title, left it on the seat of the car where it awaited the wrecker.  We all proceeded to go to Salt Lake City and shop for a new-used car in the "big city".

And we found one.

And so I now say farewell to the little Nissan that served us so well for the meager $500 price tag.

And I say hello to an old-but-new-to-us 1996 Volvo 850.  My brother-in-law, Josh, works at a car dealership.  They had just gotten this one in on trade and it was one of those cars you hope you can buy if you're buying used and trying to keep it fairly cheap.  This car was very clean and meticulously maintained by a single owner throughout it's life.  The old man who owned it was obsessive in the care of this car.  Records were kept and kept well.  We had a 10 page printout of service records... oil changes every 2500 miles, new timing belt at 70,000 miles... if this car hiccuped, this old man brought it to the dealership for inspection.  There was only 90,000 miles on this car.  And, because my bro-in-law is the BEST, we got a screamin' deal on it, way under book value.

Thanks also to my in-laws who loaned a portion of the cost of the car so we could avoid financing.  We will pay them back this month when we get our tax refund and we will own this car without having to pay any interest!  :-)  Hooray!

And my favorite part about this car?  Dustin loves it.  He feels good in it.  It's an energy shift for him to drive something he feels good driving.  It's got a stock sound system, but apparently what comes stock in Volvo is pretty good because Dustin has been blown away that a radio can actually sound good!  He's made me laugh countless times with his marveling over the sound of his new car's radio. 

Our trip to Salt Lake ended happily (as happy as you can be spending a few thousand dollars on a car!).  I didn't want to drive home in separate cars, but we didn't have much choice.  But, my ever-loving and ever-adored husband gave his very pregnant wife a special treat... he let me drive the new(ish) Volvo and he took all the kids in the van.  Three hours of quiet, no arguing kids, no requests for water or food, no "Mom I need to pee!"... Just me and the Volvo's booming stereo....  Heaven!!!


    Kristin said...

    Awesome! I loved this post... Congratulations!

    Rachel Chick said...

    So glad that Dustin is still in love with his car! :)

    Connie said...

    New-ish cars can be pretty fun sometimes. Glad it all worked out in the end.

    And will you please tell Beth hi for me next time you see her?

    Emily said...

    You are a good read - as always...Loves

    Ginny said...

    don't know how i missed this one...oh, wait, yes i do. i am a slacker blog-reader. anyway, i am so glad to hear how all of this turned out and that d loves his car. i think it is nice preparation for when our sentra (with its own set of "quirks") decides to give up the ghost.