Monday, June 2, 2014

Dumping the Jalopy

Here's the thing,

Getting rid of a car is never an easy proposition. Whether you are giving it away, selling it or donating it. You have to plan for people coming and test driving it, hoping they don't notice that the muffler is half rusted out and hanging on by a thread. Or, like in my case, have a tow truck come and get it because you are donating it, and then break your phone so they can't reach you. Just hope they come when you aren't home. Any way you go about it, it's stressful and a bit depressing because you are doing away with your car. First and foremost, because it is your car, and nobody really, deep down, wants to get rid of their car. Yeah, they may get rid of it to make space, or they can’t afford it, or it breaks down so often it’s like having a car payment, but you still really don’t want to.

So I had this car, an 1986 Honda Accord LX-i, and man did I pick the more troublesome of the bunch when it came to the 3rd generation Accords. This is the only picture of my Honda I have not on a tow truck, I didn't take many pictures of it.

The best way to tell all about it, I suppose, would simply be from the start. Back in late September of 2013 the car I was driving (a 1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S, not a bad car by any means by the way, but it’s still no AE86), belonged to my roommate, and he had to sell it to get back home. He sold it without letting me know ahead of time, so I was scrambling to get a new one. I searched on craigslist for anything under 1,000 bucks, and it’s true by the way, if it costs 1,000 dollars or less, you cannot afford it. Anywho, I find this Honda Accord. And my first car was a Honda, so I figured, “What the hell, even if I have to fix stuff up, it will be cheap.” I knew I would have to do some work, but also knew parts were dirt cheap, which was the driving force behind allowing myself to purchase the vehicle.

I contact the guy about checking out the car, and I ride out to take a look at it. As expected, it looks like an 800 dollar car. I do a quick look over, there is rust around the vehicle as expected, but the engine bay looks cleanish for a 200,000+ mile car. Save for one tear per seat on the seams, and a messed up shifting boot, the interior was next to perfect (save for some stains, but those are easily fixed with elbow grease.)

I didn't get an inspection done or do a real thorough look through to be honest, however, I did at least take it for a test drive. It leaned a little and I heard the control arms making their trademark kill me now noises, but the engine and transmission were solid. So, I decide to purchase it. The guy wanted 950 and I gave him 950, but he gave me back 100 dollars. That should have been been a nuclear alarm, if someone gives money back to you when you are buying a car it's because they feel guilty that you are buying a piece of shit. The reason he said he was selling it was because he wanted a car to work on, but like so many people before him he was in over his head with it, thus he sold it to me.

I got it home and I noticed that the breaks were a little weak and it leaned to the left on the drive home, so I looked as to why. Three of the tires were 165's, and one of them was a 185 winter tire with the tread readily separating. I couldn't help but think 'wow this guy is is a dumbass'. I was planning for new tires anyways, and it's a good thing I planned for a harsh winter and got good winter tires all around, because this last winter was absolutely brutal. Definitely glad I drove that car through it and not my Porsche.

That, however, was only the beginning of my issues when it came to this car. Because I am used to things breaking and needing work, but what went down on this car, was more on the rarer side of things that go wrong. All of it, as it soon became apparent, was because this car wasn't maintained properly for at least a good 20,000 miles or more.

This is the fuel filler neck for the Honda. I was sitting in my living room, and decided on a whim to go look at my newly acquired vehicle before I wen to register and title it. The first thing I looked at was the gas filler area, and boy was I surprised. The thing had completely rusted out, and I wouldn't have been able to put gas in it. So, before I even really got to drive the car I already had to make a repair. Luckily the filler neck only ran 60 bucks, and to put it on was 200. I brought it down, got that and tires put on, and new brakes. I talked to one of the mechanics, and he said to put it on he had to drop the gas tank. Thank God for set factory maintenance times, or it would have been a whole lot more than 200 dollars.

Things were relatively care free until I got an oil change. The day after I got it, the temperature sensor went out, I found out by it overheating like a beast. So, thank God for being a part of USAA, free tows! I got it towed back to the shop that did the oil change where they did a block test. It was good, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong, so I had to bring it to a Honda dealership. A few hours later it turns out it was the temperature sensor, I gave the go ahead to fix it since it had to be done. After all, I needed my car. Necessity is an evil that costs more money then need be, because the part cost 60 bucks, on Rock Auto it costs about 7. Needless to say, however, I got it fixed, and everything was grand.

Up until 2 days before I go to take leave, that is. I heard a weird sound during turning, and a mile down the road I take a right turn and my left CV axle snaps in half. Talk about some breaking news. About a month later I hear the same sound and I need to replace the other CV axle, it wasn't as bad though. A hundred bucks each side for a whole new axle, and 100 each side to put it in. Like I said, this car was very poorly maintained. And speaking of maintenance, let me tell you. In order to put in the number 4 cylinder spark plug without putting it in at an angle, you had to disconnect a power steering hose, it was one of the hardened ones that wouldn’t budge. So you're left with 2 choices: either you add on several hours of work, plus refilling and bleeding a power steering system, or risk creating a misfire in cylinder 4. This car was nothing but compromises.

After a while, it just started to really beat down on me. I was constantly having to repair this car, and it was to the point that I had a car payment, because every month I had to get something fixed. Near the time I got rid of it, I had to figure out something, because April was when I needed a new safety inspection, and I was still fighting with the Honda Dealership to fix my seat belts. Both of them blew. And my whole front suspension, exhaust, and EGR valve needed replacing in order to pass safety, the EGR because it tripped a check engine light. Let me break it down:

October: Tires/Brakes/Fuel filler neck/Temp sensor
November: Upper rear control arms
December: Left CV Axle
January: Right CV Axle
February: Heater hose busted, needed to replace that along with radiator flush
March: Bought a new seatbelt to replace busted one, didn’t fit
April: Finally got seatbelts fixed by dealership under lifetime warranty, got rid of car.

Every month the amount of money I had to pay in order to keep this car going was at least 200 bucks, and that is ridiculous considering that right now I pay less than 300 a month for a brand new 2014 Fiesta ST. But I suppose that is the folly of us car guys, no matter how worthless the car is, we always want to keep it running and keep driving it. Because hell, that is just who we are. We love cars, we love to keep them going, and we hate admitting defeat. I loved that little car because it reminded me of my first car, and it was just this little daily driver that I got attached to because I spent 3 hours a day in it. But then I remember other things, like before the heater hose broke it constantly overheated because the hose got plugged up. No way I could be in stop and go traffic. Or it could be the fact that I always had to make sure that I was ready for it to break down.

In the end, I couldn't rely on the car, and that is a serious problem, when your daily driver isn't reliable. And it’s a serious problem when every time it goes in for a repair you are spending 1/4th of it’s original purchase price, especially when it’s a dime a dozen Honda. I love my cars like I would a dog that I love coming home to. I try my best to take care of it, keep it going, keep it happy, but in the end, sometimes when they get too sick, or try to kill you too many times, you’ve got to put them down. It hurts, but it just makes sense. I spent a few months making this car an economically unsound decision, and it was just time to let it go. I donated it to the Purple Heart Foundation, so hopefully it goes to someone who spends a few bucks and fixes it up the way it should be fixed, and keeps it going.

Here's me talking to the tow truck driver, and my daughter playing in the grass. Notice that missing quarter glass!I replaced the car with my new daily driver, my Fiesta, and I’ll tell that story another time. People talk a lot about taking chances, especially with cars. 'Hey, buy this one, fix it up, it’ll be great!' Or, 'fix this one up just a little, and you’ll have a great reliable DD'! But no one ever talks about when you need to get rid of these cars, everyone just sort of says, “I got rid of it.” And that is that, sort of an unspoken agreement that you never talk about getting rid of a car, that it’s just gone. And I can understand that, mainly because to a lot of us, selling a car, especially an older one that needs work, is seen as giving up, or quitting on it. No one wants to admit that a car was too much for them, but it happens. In my case, I just couldn't justify spending money on keeping it running anymore, and my love affair with Honda’s has waned considerably, so, it’s been passed along to whoever else receives it.
With that said, always remember that even when you finish a journey with one car, there is always a new adventure starting up with another…

And that, that is one thing about getting rid of your old busted car.

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