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Archive for December, 2007

Car update

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Well, I may have overreacted to the car situation. I got a second opinion and got the brakes fixed for $175. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s a lot cheaper than the $325 estimate I got at the first place. We have some money saved for a rainy day. We figured this qualifies.

Still, I am starting to prepare myself for the fact that sooner or later, this car will die. Whenever that happens, I’ll have to figure out how to handle it. But getting another car is not really financially feasible and I don’t expect it to become feasible anytime in the near future. I hope that this one will hold out for a long time, because I will probably have no choice but to be car free, at least for a while, once it does.

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.

Misty commute — and fire?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

This morning’s commute was very misty. It wasn’t really raining, but there were some rather large drops of water seemingly suspended in the air. Riding through it, the air felt thick and heavy. My glasses became coated with mist and fortunately the terry wiping strips on my gloves worked well to restore my vision. Visibility was poor, with thicker fog than on my ride on Sunday. Fortunately it was warm, in the upper 40s. Campus is getting pretty vacant now as students finish their finals and go home for winter break.

The fire alarms went off at work today and we all went outside for a while. Several fire trucks showed up and firemen entered the building. Either they didn’t find anything at all, or they only found something small. Nobody has said, and I haven’t asked.

That was some kind of excitement.

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