Friday, November 10, 2006

Automotively challenged

If you happened to be near my home or office recently, and if you happened to notice a woman driving a late-model sedan with all the apparent difficulty of parallel parking a loaded log truck, that would have been me.

I only have 10,000 miles on the car, but for the past few weeks, when I first start the engine, the steering is as stiff as George Bush's upper lip has been since Tuesday. It loosens up and becomes nimble and quick again in the space of about half a block, so I, not being particularly nimble and quick myself, haven't rushed to do anything about it.

This week a loud, groaning noise began accompanying the leaden movements of the steering wheel. On Wednesday somebody asked me about the horrible noise coming from my car, and that prompted me to go ahead and make a service appointment.

A nice guy who works next door to my office volunteered to take a look under the hood this morning. He said the power steering fluid level was really low and there might be a leak, then he prepped me on what to say to the service representative. He said it would be best to go in there acting like I knew some stuff so they wouldn't try to take advantage of me. As there's only about a thimbleful of car knowledge mixed in with the comparatively massive amount of trivial stuff I do know, I appreciated the assistance.

I dropped the car off this afternoon, a friendly smile on my lips and my best little "automotive lady" spiel spilling out of them, and left with my daughter to do some other things while they worked on it. A couple of hours later, the service rep called and said all they'd had to do was add power steering fluid. He said they'd checked the pump, which was fine, and they'd looked for leaks without finding any. He said the only thing they could think of to explain the low level of fluid was that it had come from the factory without enough fluid in it. "Maybe there was an air bubble in there preventing it from filling up with the proper amount of fluid."

Maybe so. I drove my last car for ten years before trading it in, and I don't remember having to add power steering fluid to it in all that time. That's ten years for the old car compared to fourteen months for this one. Must have been some air bubble.

I'll keep an eye on the situation, but the car's driving like a dream, and it's nice and quiet again. I suppose it's possible that they checked everything they should have checked and that I won't have to take it back again in two weeks. I'll think positive for now.

In the meantime, I'm ready to move on to my next automotive hassle: getting a new inspection sticker. The not-so-current sticker now on the windshield expired at the end of August. Unfortunately, it's been about that long since I've found a perfectly good day to ruin by waiting in line at the auto inspection place. Maybe tomorrow will be one.


  1. I'd rather be flogged than deal with car problems. I'm glad your problem was minor!

  2. It's good that it wasn't something big and time consuming.

    Cars are strange things-you take them for granted and when something goes wrong, the world comes to a screeching halt. At least it's that way for me.

  3. Ah yes...inspection stickers! We don't need them here but did in Texas. Here we let our license plates go expired for two years before I got around to renewing them. Oh and then there was my drivers license which was two years out of date. At which point when I got my New Mexico one, I had to take the test again. I discovered I could renew it for *eight* years though!!! Wonder how long it will take me to remember to do something about it after that much time has passed...Carmon

  4. Velvet, glad your problem was so easily fixed. I swear when I was single, I never had car problems unless I was broke, and that I found every garage that was in our town that screwed women over! I should have had the sense you had -to let someone with some knowledge look at it first.

  5. sometimes an old car gets low on flued. if happens again get flued at part store and add flued to drum your self easy to do.

  6. I absolutely HATE when car shops try to pull a fast one on women. About 25 years ago, when I was still in engineering, I had a problem with the AC in my CHEVY Nova. The mechanic said " the desiccant back in the system broke and it's clogging up the ac circulation." Major AC part replacement: $500.

    Asked for parts, took them to lab where I worked and cut the darn thing apart, where I found desiccant bag to be intact.

    Marched down to dealership with parts. Seeing the look on mechanic's face and hearing him stammer about how a recall had just come through and they were just going to call me to refund my money: priceless.

    Oh - and my NEXT car was a TOYOTA Tercel.

    You are lucky your mechanic was honest and the fix was an easy one. But don't take the car. . . run, Velvet, run! Almost halfway through - this is fantastic!

  7. Kat, flogging might be more painful, but at least it's usually over more quickly than dealing with car repairs.

    Janet, I know what you mean about taking cars for granted. When I got divorced, I was a happy camper until about six months later when I had to handle a car problem on my own. The divorce had been entirely amicable and civilized, but I got mad as hell when I realized I was going to have to take care of something that had always been HIS job.;-) Talk about a rude awakening.

    Carmon, thanks for stepping up and bumping me out of the "most negligent" spot. I'll try to return the favor sometime when you need it.

    Jackie, I think car repairs are Nature's way of preventing single women from spending money on frivolous things like thong underwear--and food, clothing and shelter.

    Patsy, thanks for the tip, which I'll use later on down the line, but this is a 2006 car that I bought brand-new last year. It shouldn't have had that kind of problem. It has a good warranty, fortunately, so it didn't cost me anything (except time and worry) to take it back to the dealership.

    Sunflower, my last car was a Camry that I dearly loved. I took it to the dealership for a factory recall on some kind of piddly little part. Before I got out of there, they told me my engine was bad and would need to be replaced "in six weeks or it might go six months, but you really need to take care of it soon."

    Like a fool--and because I live alone and rely on my car--I went ahead and ordered a replacement engine for $5,000-plus. When I got home, I told my son-in-law and also my brother-in-law, who both told me the same thing: "You're getting ripped off."

    My son-in-law took it to another mechanic to have it checked out, then got a letter from me authorizing him to deal with car issues on my half, went back to the dealership and got my money back. While he was there, they had a different mechanic look at it, and he disagreed with the first one's diagnosis.

    I drove the car five more years before I traded it in on this one. You think I'm not traumatized about car repairs now?

  8. That was AWFUL, Velvet - and from a Toyota dealer, too! I got my Tercel around 1982 - maybe that was before they learned how American dealerships operated!


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