Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Car Curse

I have never had luck with cars, and I've never really been interested in driving, which is part of the reason I didn't get my license until it was time to go to college. While I do love the freedom and independence that comes with having a vehicle, there have been many, many times that I feel the cost has outweighed the benefit (usually I think this on sunny, temperate days).

This was my first car--a 1994 Dodge Colt (this is an internet picture, not my actual car).  I loved this car because very few things could go wrong with it.  It had no power steering, no anti-lock breaks, a manual transmission, manual windows, manual locks and wheels so small they looked like golf cart tires.  I could fit that thing into almost any parking space, but often broke a sweat trying to maneuver because it didn't have power steering--yes, that is possible.

In the four years that I drove the car, I had relatively few problems with it.  I had to replace the clutch--expensive; I got broken into and my dashboard was ripped to shreds by thieves after my CD player; and eventually I totaled it.

Enter car #2
1997 Ford Contour.  It certainly looked flashier than my previous car, but it was a bucket of trouble from day one.  Fords are apparently notorious for having electrical problems, and this one had all of them.  The light in the trunk would stay on and drain the battery, and it took about 12 mechanics to figure that problem out.  Eventually I was on a first name basis with the service manager at the dealership (where I eventually started going after no regular mechanics could do anything for me), and I spent more hours waiting around, eating free cookies hoping for good car news but never hearing it.  Finally, they just told me that the amount of money it would take to fix the problem would be more than the value of the car.

Then they unscrewed the light in the trunk and told me to do without.

Car #3
Chevy Malibu--delightful in its generic-ness.  Apparently everyone in the world drives a Malibu because they're all I see on the roads.  I even put a bumper sticker on it just so I could identify it in parking lots.  I did get a very good deal on this car, and for that I am grateful, but it has also been just one problem after another.

1. The theft system, which is a passlock system, kept tripping when I was trying to drive the car.  Passlock is a system where when the car thinks its being stolen, it cuts off the fuel supply and the car just dies.  Then you have to insert the key, turn it halfway, and wait for ten minutes for the system to disengage.  It was going off so frequently, I was scared to drive for fear of being stuck in the middle of the road--which did happen a couple times, but thankfully, it was only on side roads.  Also, one winter, it went off so often that my battery went dead and I needed a jump start.  Finally, the dealership figured out that the key was the problem, and it hasn't been an issue since, but I had to bring it in about five times before they learned this.

2. I had to replace the brake pads and rotors a couple years ago
3. I replaced all four tires after that
4. Last year my power steering went out, which was a $600 repair.
5. The blinker cuts in and out all the time--I usually get about ten minutes of blinkering per car trip, but that's only when it's cold out.
6. Now the emergency brake light has been staying on all the time, even though I haven't used my e-brake in years.

I finally brought the car in, and they told me that two tires need replacing, some calipers (that cost $113) are worn through which is why the e-brake light is staying on; and the whole console that controls the blinker is completely fried and wants replacing.  Grand total: $1000. I realize that in the past two years, I've driven significantly more than most people, but this seems ridiculous. 

How often do other people have major car repairs?  I would accept fixing my car annually if it was a much older car, but it's a 2005!  Is it just that nothing is built to last anymore, or do I just have particularly bad luck?  This is the area of my life where I do not know enough to negotiate and I do not have the time to shop around, but that just makes me feel like a sucker.  After this repair, I am parking the car unless it is pouring out or I need to leave the state.

How does everyone else deal with this?


  1. We haven't really had any major car repairs, but that's mainly because my bf is extremely handy. Thankfully!

  2. I got my 09 Corolla as a graduation gift and love love love it. It has less 50,000 miles on which explains its good condition. But I'm due for new brake pads and for new tires in the next few months. I do so much city driving so naturally the brake pads are going to wear out faster. And technically the tires I'm on are 12,000 mile tires (that came with the car) but they have just now started to wear down.

    Replacing tires and brake pads is pretty common. And if you bought your car used, you really don't know what the other driver(s) did to it, so more repairs are pretty common.

  3. That’s a lot of experience you got there. I’ve had a couple of cars that gave me some troubles, but I made sure that they didn’t happen again. That being said, your next car choice should be based on what you experienced from the previous ones and on what you need. For example, if your present car needed a lot of repairs, then it might be better to buy a newer model. Hang in there; I’m sure you’ll have your perfect car soon. :)

    Leisa Dreps

  4. Sorry that you had to go through all that! Most likely, it’s the car dealership from where you bought your cars that is the problem. The best way to ensure a problem-free purchase and a reliable used car is to research used car dealers’ reputations before making a purchase. The Internet is one of the best tools at one’s disposal. A reputable car dealership usually has its own website with detailed inventory.

    Basil Glenn

  5. Quite an experience you have there. When you look at it on a different perspective, you'll actually learn a lot of things from your previous experience, right? I also have car and I take good care of it all the time. I always see to it that it has a monthly inspection, and do an oil change when needed. To make it short, have some automotive mechanic to look for your car's health. Get a reference from a friend or neighbor, and get a quote on each. Make sure that person is reliable and trustworthy.

    Bryan Meeks