Friday, June 19, 2009

a tale of two three transmissions

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

i believe i last left off a week and a half ago, after my 3 hour commute home, which involved several phone calls, a blinking battery bar on my cell phone, and a tow truck with two guys in of whom declined my offer to answer his phone (as it rang for about the twelfth time) and tell his wife "we'll be done in about ten more minutes".

oh, and my car tried to pick up a smoking habit which, as it turns out, i incorrectly credited to my clutch.

a disclaimer before i continue:

terminology in this post may be a little off at times...especially the technical stuff. while i am admittedly a little bit of a tomboy, my knowledge of car maintenance is limited to knowing where the gas goes, how to check the oil, and firsthand knowledge of what might be wrong if the car won't start. (in my case, it involved a loose wire attached to the battery. however, i didn't figure that out until after employing both a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to scrape the contacts. oh- and i think i might've needed to smack something in that general area with the handle of the screwdriver, too.)

anyway, as i write this, my chariot is still in pieces at the repair shop. yes, still.

monday the 8th: car is jiggled off the tow truck and into the parking lot. (scroll down to the last post for details)

tuesday the 9th: my fears are confirmed. the clutch is toast. replacing it will cost about $1585. while the car is torn apart like a feather pillow left unattended with a new puppy, they'll check my transmission, too.

tuesday the 19th, phone call #2: that smoke and burning smell? that wasn't the clutch. it was the transmission. we're now looking at over $2500 to fix my 7 1/2 year old car. i believe an expletive came out of my mouth at roughly this point, though it was not the big one. (i am still quite proud of my restraint.) i tell them i need to gather my thoughts and call them back later.

tuesday evening: up until after midnight, looking at new cars. after drooling for way too long over a highly impractical car out of my price rance (mazda rx-8), settle on a toyota corolla with the sports package. oh- and since they don't make cars without power windows/door locks any more decide i'll put up with those options and console myself by getting the moonroof i've always wanted.

wednesday the 10th: after spending a couple of midday hours debating whether to buy a new car, or borrow my dad's miata, settle on fixing my chariot. after all, it's only got 146,000 miles on it, and at 7 1/2 years, it's too young to die. besides, i can't afford the payments on anything but a low-end kia or a beat up el camino...and if i'm going to have a car for ten years, it really should be something i can stand.

i'm told the repairs (clutch, transmission, and timing belt*), which now total about $3250, should be done by monday afternoon at the latest.

friday the 12th: learn i can borrow my "adoptive" parents' spare car next week, while they're out of town. debate whether or not to take them up on their offer, since i'd only need the car for a day.

sunday the 14th (technically, monday the 15th): after getting off work at midnight, pick up SO and retrieve borrowed wheels.

monday the 15th: no call telling me my car is done.

tueday the 16th: call to check on car. am told that replacement transmission #1 went in ok...until the mechanic tried to hook up the cv axle. apparently, there wasn't a place to put it. (since i have no clue what a cv axle is, the mental picture that forms is from the old oregon trail computer game- the part where your axle breaks and one screen later, you learn you have dysentary.) am told transmission #2 should be in wednesday and my car should be done on thursday.

thursday the 18th: call to check on car. am told the mechanic has put in the transmission and is about to "burn" the clutch. am a little perplexed. after all, that sounds a lot like what made my car's willingness to shift gears cease in the first place.

today: as i'm picking up the home phone to call and check on my car, i hear my cell phone beep its "hey- you just missed a call" beep. when i call back, the apologies are profuse. am told there's news, but it's not as good as one might hope.

"ok- what's going to go "sproing" next?"

am relieved to learn that there aren't any new surprises. however, car still is not inclined to move. it seems transmission #2 went in, the cv axle went on, the clutch was blown (which sounds better than the "burn" i'd remembered, but not by much), and...... the car won't go into gear. now, as i'd established with xavier in my last post, when one has a manual transmission, being unable to get into gear is kind of problematic.

transmission #3 should be in tomorrow, and hopefully, i will be out of the borrowed suv and back into my little green zx2 by 4pm. in the event that #3 is also a dud, transmission #4 is also en route from a different supplier. with any luck, i will not need it.

i was told today that "this thing happens every now and again". i pointed out that i seem to have the "again" part covered. (apparently, my car is now sitting in its bay, with the three transmissions (the original, plus the two attempted replacements) laying near it, like discarded bones after a barbecue.)

i think the poor guy figured i'd bite his head off for having my car for so long. were i more like my parents, he probably would have a new anal orifice. however, since i'm not having to walk or blow money i don't have on a rental car, i'm still able to laugh about it.....besides, as i told him, "this is simply providing more material for a new post on my blog."

*because, i have recently learned, timing belts are supposed to pack it in waaaaay before 146,000 miles.

Monday, June 08, 2009

what's that smell?

let me start by warning you that this will be the second driving related post in a row on my blog. i promise, however, that this isn't another "now i understand why the south carolina DMV doesn't make transplants take an exam- no matter where we're from, we probably drive better than the natives" post.

however, though i'm tired and had a 3 hour commute home, if i don't pound this out now, the finer details may be lost, and it won't be nearly so amusing.

5:15 pm: leave work. notice cell phone is down to one bar of battery life. guess i'll have to charge it when i get home.

5:25 pm: while coasting down a hill, downshift.

5:25:15pm: make that "try to downshift" i've gone from 5th to 4th to...why is 3rd not happening? wind up in 2nd, then settle back into 4th.

5:25:45 pm: pull up to fairly minor intersection. as usual, pop car into neutral while i wait for the light to turn.

5:27 pm: light's green, car in front of me is moving, and i can't get into first....or second. (yes, daddy, sometimes i start in second.) quickly learn that, while car now seems willing to try third, trying to start moving in third gear does not make the car happy. in fact, the little red "warning" icons on the dash light up rather quickly as the car expresses its indignation by stopping. in the middle of the intersection. with an 18-wheeler two cars back, probably muttering under his breath about female drivers.

5:27:20 pm: restart car and coast across intersection and into shoulder. am thankful i didn't wind up "fred flintstoning" it, especially since i'm in flip flops on a road that seems to be overdue for repaving.

5:28 pm: mama, whom i tried to call about 10 minutes ago, calls back.

"hi, mama. uhm, i think the smoke i'm seeing is from my clutch and i have only a bar left on my battery and i need to call AAA. can i call you back?"

5:30-5:35 pm: on the phone with "xavier" at AAA. after rattling off the basic information and assuring him i am in a safe place, i relate the above to him, capping it off with "can you send a tow truck?"

from his end, there's mostly the sound of typing. it really would have been better if he'd just taken down what i'd said, told me when to expect the truck, and we'd hung up (preferably before my phone died.). however, xavier wants more information:

"now, ma'am, is your car a manual or an automatic transmission?"

you're kidding, right? did i not mention the clutch? all of the gears i'd attempted? clearly things are not going to work out with xavier. i prefer men who actually listen to what i have to say once in a while.

"ma'am, what do you think the problem is?"

too easy. i skip the obvious answer (he needs to take a q-tip to his ears, and i don't mean adding a tribe called quest to his ipod, and mention i think it might have something to do with the clutch.

"ma'am, can you start the car?"

yes, but given that it was just smoking a couple of minutes ago and i'm pretty sure that burning smell isn't just me roasting in the 85 degree heat, i'm not exactly inclined to crank it up again, besides, without a clutch, i'm not going far.

5:37 pm: xavier, either satisfied with my answers, or officially giving up on me, tells me to expect a tow truck in approximately 70 minutes, then hangs up.

5:40 pm: call my dad. very briefly inquire about the life expectancy of a clutch (my last car, the sundance, was still on its original clutch until just past 200,000 miles. apparently, this is not normal.), as well as the price of a replacement (somewhere between what i have in the bank and what would necessitate sprouting bigger boobs and picking up an evening gig that may involve mastering the art of walking in 6" lucite stiletto heels).

5:42-7:20 pm: while waiting for a tow truck:

~read a full issue of "national geographic adventure" magazine. learn about steve fosset's last flight, natural bridges i didn't know existed in arizona and kentucky, and pick out several adventurous future vacation destinations.

~am offered help 4 or 5 times- including once by a guy on a bike (and by "bike", i do not mean "motorcycle" or even "moped". i'm guessing this chivalrous soul would have let me ride on his handlebars, though) who called me "boo".

~field several calls- all of which i keep to under 30 seconds, explaining that now my last little battery bar is blinking and making an unsettling "ping"ing noise.

~swat (unsuccessfully, judging from my itchy ankle) at a mosquito that has decided to keep me company until the tow truck arrives.

7:10 pm: on the other side of the road, a maroon ford explorer has come to rest in the grassy shoulder. i mutter that i have dibs on the first tow truck, and about the time i finish the sentence, the driver tries to restart the car. the sound is not unlike that of evenrude in "the rescuers". about a minute later, my competition for a tow is gone.

7:20 pm: tow truck arrives. not one, but two guys hop out. i suppose this is good. axe murderers usually work alone, right?

7:25 pm: car is on the truck, and we're back on the road. tow truck guys ask if i'm ok. i tell them i'm long as i don't raise my arms and knock them out, as two hours of sweat is not exactly a smell one would want to bottle up.

7:30 pm: head out on the highway...lookin for adventure..... oh, sorry. for some reason, when i hit an on-ramp, that chunk of "born to be wild" generally winds up in my head.

7:35- 7:45 pm: small talk with tow truck guys....mostly with the driver, while the passenger is counseling his daughter, via cell phone, on the importance of not leaving her nintendo DS and DS games where her sister can get to them. it seems i'm not the only one who learns things the hard way.

7:50 pm: subject of my age comes up. have to haul out driver's license. driver nearly runs off the road reading it.

7:52 pm: driver's cell rings for fifth time. he has been ignoring it all this time. i ask if it's a girl calling. inquire as to whether i should moan in the background while he answers. he nearly runs off the clemson road bridge. after regaining control, driver calls his dispatcher and asks her to call his house and let them know he's busy.

reply from dispatcher: "how busy are you?"

snickers from myself and passenger. solemnly promise that if he answers the phone, i will not make any noise. (this, of course, is as the phone is ringing for the eighth time.) unfortunately, snickering while promising to be quiet ruins the effect.

7:55 pm: driver almost blows a turn on the way to AAA. i tell him that if he winds up with extra mileage, it'd better not be deducted from my AAA account. this causes him to blow another turn.

7:57-8:10pm: car is unloaded. since apparently my car is stuck in gear (though my gearshift felt to me like it was in neutral), the unloading involves half a can of pam for cars, as well as a series of manouvers performed by the movable bed of the tow truck that cannot be reenacted without a disclaimer and at least an "R" rating.

8:10-8:15pm: call for rescue, dig out spare key to throw into AAA drop box, and head to front curb to wait for my ride.

8:30pm: arrive home....over three hours after leaving work. guess i won't be getting anything extra done tonight. comtemplate spending time practicing how to walk in heels (sadly, i do not own any of the lucite variety). elect to finally post something new to my blog instead.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

a quick thought.....

...because i've booked my birthday trip and am now working my butt off to pay for it.

i noticed not once, but twice, yesterday that some folks seem lost on the whole purpose of an on-ramp. perhaps i'm the one who's mistaken, but i was under the impression that one should use the on-ramp as an opportunity to accelerate for smoother merging into highway traffic. after the second time i found myself contemplating getting out of the car and offering to give the driver in front of me a push, i really began to wonder if i was the one with it backwards...