Guess Who’s Back (It’s Not The Raccoons)

(Well, okay, the raccoons are back again, but that’s not what this story is about.)

Several months ago, my trusty old blue “Mom-mobile” van had a catastrophic failure. With 188,815 miles and desperately needing four new tires to boot, it was on thin ice to begin with. When it went down (coolant temp pegged, lights & bells on the dashboard like a Christmas tree mating with a one-man band) we immediately implemented “Plan B” and bought a new car. This was not a rash decision since I had been researching cars for some time with the expectation that the day would come when we would have to move vast.

For five months the old blue bomber has sat in the driveway. I’ve driven it around the block once or twice just to make sure everything still worked, but in about that much time the temperature gauge starts rising into the red, so it wasn’t like the car repair fairies had appeared to fix it while we were sleeping.

Scrap it or keep it?

It’s still pretty mechanically sound (I think) other than the cooling system problem and needing new tires and it’s really handy to have for hauling crap around. With us working when we can to declutter, store, and get ready to downsize, having a convenient workhorse would be really useful. If I could get it working again for, say, $1,000, and get another couple of years (or more) of use out of it, that would be great!

But I don’t know what kind of damage the cooling system has, and I don’t know if I did any damage to the engine driving it home that overheated. Even if those aren’t huge problems – 188,815 miles. Jeez, just about anything could go next and make any money put into it now a complete waste.

It was a puzzlement.

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When in doubt, avoid burning bridges and see if you can gather more data for a reasonable investment in time and resources.

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Besides, we get like four tows a year with our AAA membership and haven’t used one in ages. And these guys live like a half block away, so why not let them help?

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The deciding factor was that we’ve discovered a really great local car place that does great work at reasonable prices, has always treated us well, and who I can  trust to not screw us over.

Given that it might well need a new radiator, or at least a full set of hoses, and it’s got that 188,815 miles, I’m not going to spend $3K to fix a car that’s only worth $3K to begin with. But if I could get it done for a much smaller fraction of that amount, then we’re going for it.

The first report I got was that the car repair fairies had apparently fixed it while I was sleeping… They couldn’t find a damn thing wrong with it other than the battery being dead, but it was holding a charge so I wouldn’t even need a new one there. But overheating? Not a worry.

I went through the whole story again (with feeling and four-part harmony) and asked them to check harder. I was not imagining all of those alarms and the fact that the engine was so hot I couldn’t even touch the hood to open it to look to see if it were actually glowing in the ultraviolet.

The “good news” is that they found a cause – the thermostat had welded itself stuck. The better news is that this wasn’t too expensive. The bad news is that I needed a oil change, new brakes, rotors…

But I could get all of that done for $500.

Sold!

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Now the Big Blue Max is back on the road. It’s incredibly filthy, but it’s running. I’m just using it from home to work in back, a distance I could literally walk if I needed to. (About six miles each way.) But it’s been near or above 100° every day and I’m running the air conditioning at full blast, doing my best to stress the system. If it’s going to fail, I want it to fail near to home and with as few consequences as possible.

So far, all is well. I still need to get new tires in the worst possible way, but between work and long hours on Monday through Friday, and my CAF gig and long hours on Saturday, and all of the tire places being closed on Sunday, this might be non-trivial. I’ll figure out something.

Yet… There has been a fundamental shift in my relationship with this loyal and hard working machine.

More later.

 

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