Monday, September 18, 2006

Car Wars II: Xteen's Saturn Strikes Back

The year of our Lord 2006 has not been very kind to automobiles in the Dim household.

I should have seen this coming, however, because way back when, when my parents first got cable in the early-to-mid 1980s, one of the movies that ran like twenty times a day (essentially just rotating with The Beastmaster) on HBO was The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. This movie, narrated by fat assed Orson Welles, detailed prognosticator Nostradamus' opium-induced visions of the future, including the rises and falls of Empires, the assassinations of heads of state, and the unfortunate breakup and subsequent triumphant reunion of the Bee Gees. Now, his predictions about the end of the world scared the living shit out of me, but I should have paid more attention to one particular quatrain that, in retrospect, should have clued me in to my unfortunateness of this year:

In the year of six and twenty
in a town far to the west
man-made machines will cost a-plenty
repairs of which shall be the pest
to a lad whose name lacks light
tho' he may largely scoff
but his new financial plight
is really gonna piss him off.

Something like that. Fucking Nostradamus. Anyway, we had this little problem with my piece of shit earlier this year. And now, it's Xteen's turn. (Don't bother clicking on her link...she hasn't updated the blog in like four months, not that I'm one to talk).

Xteen's Saturn (which is appropriately named, since all repairs to it are out-of-this-world expensive) has always had some weird electronic issues. Various dash lights, like "Service Engine Soon", an enigmatic red wrench, and the "Light Speed is too slow, we're gonna have to go to Ludicrous Speed" indicator have all illuminated in a rainbow of colors that mean an ass-load of my green will be spent on figuring out that nothing is really wrong.

That is, until about two months ago. Xteen gets in the car and starts driving (which is what one usually does when they get in a car). The thing stalls out at a light, but she is able to restart it and keep going. This is why I don't fly, by the way. A car engine stalls and you pull over to the side of the road and call AAA. A plane engine stalls and it you have to hope an archaeologist finds you during some expedition a few hundred years from now.

Anyway, Xteen gets the car going, attends a work meeting and comes out to the car. She starts it up and notices that the clock's time had stopped and all of her radio presets are lost. Every single light on the dashboard, including some we didn't even know existed like the "Are you sure you didn't leave the iron on at home?" light are all brightly and majestically heralding their individual, and assuredly expensive, messages of doom and repair.

We look in the car's manual for something that could give us an inkling as to what the fuck is going on with Xteen's car and come across the exact symptoms on page 64 which describes the problem as: "If your automobile is experiencing all of these symptoms collectively, it means your Saturn either has been, or is about to be, abducted by aliens."

Now, that's just fine and dandy with me, the only problem being is that these short, grey, huge-eyed little buggers will get that car up on their spaceship, realize it is a piece of shit, and send it back to earth from the Horsehead Nebula, hurtling through time and space, ultimately landing in a galactic fireball right on top of my Ford Taurus (undoubtedly right after I got the friggin thing washed). So, now I have two headaches.

So, we take the car to the dealer and explain the whole abduction by aliens thing, and since that won't make their repair shop any money, they poo-poo that and tell us that the culprit is some strangely mnemonicked computer chip which is the "brains" of the car. Given this car's performance of late, I would equate this chip's brains a little less Einsten and a little more the banjo player from Deliverence.

They repair this, for roughly the cost of a new Cadillac, and send us on our way.

Two days later, the aliens come back for the car again.

We bring it back to the dealer and I am really imploring them to get Mulder and Scully on the case now, because 1) I really don't want to spend more money on this contraption and 2) I'm starting to actually believe that fucking aliens WANT this car and I'm not about to screw with them and get ray-gunned just so Tony, the Saturn mechanic, can make a couple of extra bucks to go blow at the track.

But now, they convince us that it is the fuel filter. Now, I'm no mechanic, but I pump my own gas, so I'd like to think I know a little about cars (even though when I open my hood and get grease on my fingers, my first thought isn't "oh yeah, I love getting down and dirty with my car!"; it's more like, "eww, where's the Lava soap?"). The fuel filter?! All the dash lights are on and yes, I checked, and I did shut the iron off, thank you very much. It doesn't make sense that this is the problem, but we agree to have them change the filter. I did cover myself, however, and left a trail of Reese's Pieces leading right to the Saturn dealership because if the aliens were going to be rebuffed in taking Xteen's car, maybe I could get on their good side by leading them to a lot-full of crappy Saturns and just maybe, they'll irradiate Tony in the process.

A day after the fuel filter is replaced, the same problem happens AGAIN. But instead of bringing it back to the dealer, I just sat, fully clothed, in the bathtub, rocking and muttering to myself for like 4 hours straight. And, voila!, the car's been OK ever since.

Until last week.

I was moving Xteen's car for some reason and I noticed a sound eminating from the bowels of the engine that sounded suspiciously like Darth Vader's death rattle at the end of Return of the Jedi. Only, I didn't lop off one of the car's CV joints with a light sabre, as much as it would have given me delirious joy to do so.

So, we take it my dealer, which is right up the street, hoping that it is just something that came loose and needs tightening (read: something that doesn't cost my first-born to repair). No luck. It's the water pump.

At least the aliens aren't back. Maybe the Reese's Pieces thing worked.

Gotta replace the water pump. That's almost as important as the Johnson Rod. In researching water pumps and realizing that automobile makers put the things most likely to break in extremely difficult to get-at places, it dawns on me that we should probably replace Xteen's timing belt, since her car has well over 100K miles on it and that belt is something you never want to have break on you. Since it is near the pump, I figured we could save a bunch on the labor, which ended up being true, so we felt pretty good about that.

Then we get a call with the stammering, "Uh, hello, um, good afternoon, Mrs. Dim, uh..." which, if you read my other car repair post, means that good news is not coming. And you don't need to be fucking Nostradamus to figure that out.

They broke "something" in the car. Totally their fault, and they will repair it without cost to us (well, without obvious cost to us), and will need it another day.

Another day, another phone call.

They got sent the wrong part. They need more time with the car.

At this point, I'm expecting to get to this place and have the guys at the repair shop tear off their faces to reveal that they are aliens and they want this Saturn no matter what and Deliverence-brain chips and fuel filters aren't standing in their way.

They finally call and tell us we can pick up the car. In the meantime, Xteen has been driving my car all week and informs me that my rear brake light/blinker is now out. These guys offer to repair that for nothing, which is literally the least they can do.

We go to pick up Xteen's car and get my light replaced and they drive her car around and there it is, all washed (free of charge) and Darth Vader's death rattle has been replaced by the labored purr of a 23-year old cat that is so blind, it walks into walls. But it's still alive and you are thankful for that.

Then, the guy, whilst still in the car, rolls down the window and says, "Hold on, I'll be right back." This is mechanic speak for "Hold on, I might be able to bleed a few more cents out of you."

Turns out, while driving from the repair bay to where we were standing, which was a challenging 20 yards of level concrete, the "Are you sure you didn't leave the iron on at home?" light came on again and they didn't want to leave it with us in that god-awful condition.

So, today, the car's ready to finally be picked up, either by us, or by aliens. I'm not sure what the final bill will be, but it ain't gonna be pretty. No matter. I've already picked out a new car for us. I'm grabbing us one of these puppies:

Don't worry, I'm already working on getting the bottoms of my feet calloused. Don't want to have to bring it in for a new brake job right after I get it, do I?

Yabba dabba doo,

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