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I hate cars.

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I hate cars. There, I’ve said it.

However, I don’t hate them because of pollution, or because of increased oil dependency. OK, those are factors. But the real reason I hate cars is that they’re a liability (read: expensive).

I am lucky in the situation with my car. I inherited it from my grandfather, which means I own it outright, no payments to make. It also means that this car, while it’s 11 years old, has spent most of its life in garages and being driven very cautiously by an old man. It’s been mine a little under two years now, and while I am also a pretty cautious driver and I don’t drive aggressively, I have caused a lot more wear than my grandfather would have in that time. I don’t have a garage, and I put a lot more miles on it.

Recently, my “service engine soon” light came on. It took me probably a couple of weeks to take it into the shop, whereupon they charged me $90 to inspect it, and another $235 or so to fix the things that caused the light to come on. So I spent $325 on the car yesterday and they recommended another $350 worth of work or so that it needs.

Last night, I picked Sarah up from the Indianapolis bus station, and we got dinner and went to buy a six-pack of beer. When I started the car, my parking brake light was on solid even though the parking brake was not engaged. My brakes still worked, but not as well as they should have, and I had to push pretty hard on the brake pedal to get anything to happen.

Today, I took the car back to the shop and they discovered I blew a wheel cylinder. Apparently this happened and brake fluid leaked all over the brake drum and shoe on that wheel. They estimated another $327 to fix it.

I’m probably going to get a second opinion, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it. If I did everything the car needs at this point I’d be pushing $1200 in repairs this week. All this for a 1996 Ford Taurus. It’s been a good car, and it’s approaching 90,000 miles on it and is bound to need some maintenance. Maybe if I spent all this money it wouldn’t have any problems for a while and would go back to being the reliable car I’ve known it to be. Maybe 10 other things would break and it’d be either spend another $1200 or call it a total loss. There’s no way to know, and I really can’t afford to gamble with those stakes.

So right now, the question is: is it even worth it? If not, that means we’ll be car free and while on some levels that sounds appealing, I’m not sure if winter is the best time to be adjusting to that. And it would severely impact the things Sarah and I can do together. I can go pretty much anywhere on my bike, but I don’t think she wants to be riding a bike around town, especially during the winter. She can take the bus to class and work, so maybe we could take the bus together to get to most places.

What I may do is get a second opinion and just take my sweet time getting the thing fixed as I can afford it. But I’m still trying to figure out if it’s worth it. I sure wouldn’t mind not having to pay for gas, maintenance, insurance, license plates, etc. But I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the car just yet.

5 Responses to “I hate cars.”

  1. Noah-it-all Says:

    I know I come off like a know-it-all sometimes, but I actually know a little bit about a great many things, and a metric-crap-ton about a very few of those. Mid-90s Fords are definitely in that niche of stuff I know a great deal about.

    First, the obvious. The brake light comes on both when your parking brake is on or when the brake fluid sensor is reading low levels of fluid. This can happen just from the fluid displaced by the calipers when your brake pads wear thin. Not surprisingly, blowing a seal on the wheel cylinder and leaking fluid will also cause low fluid levels. The cylinder itself is probably $50 or so. Getting to it is a little tricky but it really is something that the average joe can fix in a driveway or parking lot in a few hours with a floor jack and hand tools.

    You have my email address. If you want to e-mail me what all the shop has said was wrong before, and what other symptoms you’re having, I can guide you through fixing the stuff, or at least tell you how to know if you’re being taken to the cleaners. I can’t find my 1995 Ford repair manual CD-ROM (for my ’95 Escort) but it had the Taurus manual on it as well, and IIRC the taurus didn’t change much or at all from ’95-96.

  2. Revrunner Says:

    Yep, been down that road, so to speak, just recently as a matter of fact. Only this was for a 1999 Toyota Corolla with WAY over 100,000 miles on it. Probably closer to 200,000 miles now. Spent $2000 to get it back on the road. But I figure it was worth it to give my son some transportation at college. He mostly rides his bike on campus. But there’s just some stuff he’s got to do by car.

  3. furiousball Says:

    oh man, my pathfinder is over 120K miles and it needs a tune up which involves taking off the manifold. my father and i are going to attempt to do this ourselves. pray for us, the other option is a about a $500 bill – pray, please

  4. MRMacrum Says:

    Yes, the internal combustion engine does indeed suck. And anyone who actually feels they can get get by without one is my hero. But as much as I find their existence a necessary evil at best, I also have become dependent on them to function in the area which I live. Living in the sticks would be a damn sight tougher without at least one vehicle.

    Anyway, welcome to the world of “real” car ownership. Even when the payments go away, they find a way to pick your pocket.

  5. John Says:

    I am one of those that if it were possible, I would be a full time year round bike rider. Alas, the distance to work is too great and there is no public transportation.

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