Thursday, January 07, 2010


Nothing makes you appreciate your vehicle more than taking it to the shop. Twice this week, I walked out to get in the van with two bundled children in tow only to realize that it wouldn't start. Since that's not an adventure that I like to have this time of year, the van is getting some much needed repairs, which has gotten me thinking about our cars and their quirks.

One of the situations that makes it possible for us to live on 1.25 incomes right now is that we haven't had a car payment since we've been married. Not that we're against car payments or won't have one in the future, but it worked out that way. I paid off my 2001 Toyota Corolla shortly before we were married, and then during our first year of marriage, when we had two incomes, we saved up and paid cash for our used 2002 Ford Windstar minivan. Both vehicles have over 100,000 miles on them now, but we're hoping, knock on wood, that they'll last us for a few more years.

We plan to drive both of these cars into the ground, so we've also had this philosophy during the life of these cars that leads to a few "quirks." As issues arise, we decide if it's something that we can live with. If we can, we don't fix it. If it's necessary to run the car, we do. If we were planning to sell these cars, we'd have to fix these things, but so far, we don't plan to.

So if I ever offer you a used Corolla, please note that:

*The "check engine" light is in a permanent state of "on." Oh, we took it in, and the diagnostic showed a $300 repair that would improve emissions slightly, but has no effect on how the vehicle runs. We chose to put up with the light.

*To unlock the door, you have to use the key, and it only works on the passenger door. It's a pain at first, but you get used to it.

*Mild hail damage. Seriously, I would have to point it out to you, and you'd have to look at just the right angle in just the right light to notice it.

If those things bother you, you might not be interested in my van, in which:

*The brake lights come on, and get stuck on, at will. Make sure you check that they aren't stuck on when you get out of the car, because it will drain the battery. (Actually this is getting fixed in the shop right now, because of my incidents this week)

*The washer fluid on the driver's side squirts the cars beside you, leaving nothing on your own windshield. This is a result of scraping the little plastic thing off during an ice storm last winter. (Okay, this one's getting fixed today, too)

*Matching rear panel dents that I like to call "dimples." One of them I found in a parking lot and have no idea how it happened. The other one...well...let's just say that I forgot that my Dad was parked behind me in my own driveway. The dimples make the van easy to spot in parking lots!

*Speaking of the dimples, one of the rear brake lights is cracked, too.

*Mild hail damage. Same as above. They were parked next to each other, since we didn't have a garage at the old place. (Yes, insurance covers hail damage. This situation worked out in our favor if we were willing to put up with the damage)

*The rear windshield wiper doesn't make enough contact to clear a visual field.

*About twice a year, you'll have to add some power stearing fluid. The leak is so slow! Just twice a year!

But despite all of these quirks, I was driving Brian to work in the Corolla today, and just feeling so thankful that we have two cars that run well, for now. That's more than a lot of families have, and putting up with these quirks has saved us some money for other things. Hopefully this doesn't come back to bite us down the road...for now I'm looking forward to getting my dinged-up, 8-year-old van back.


Mommy Daisy said...

That no payment thing makes all these quirks bearable. We have nothing against older vehicles either. We bought both of ours slightly used, and they are now paid off. I don't mind putting money into repairs now and then since we're not making monthly payments.

Pam said...

I had an old Vauxhall Astra (English)car that would only start after I tapped the alternator with a hammer. I love old cars - it makes life interesting!

Dutcher said...

EM! I don't have payments either and it's awesome. Anyway, one of my dashboard lights is out, so at night I can't see how much gas I have. You really have to slam the passenger door to get it to shut. Part of the sun visor fell off. The change oil light turns on and off randomly. However, these are all cosmetic! It still gets me from here to there. It's my first car that I've owned and I'll drive it until it falls apart!

Charity said...

Oh my! This made me laugh.
My van has SOoooooooo many "quirks" too. I don't know if I could think of all of them off the top of my head, but the best one is that the fuel gage doesn't work at all, so I just have to keep track of my mileage.
Ah. Repairs. No car payment, but big repair. Transmission. yuck. Fortunately, we had saved enough for just this sort of thing, but it was still sad.
Today I kept thinking, Van's back. Money's gone.
Oh well. No car payment. Hopefully it will be a while before we dump more money into the van and I'll still be happy about no payment.

Jen said...

This sounds so familiar! Our van (which will be paid off this month! has almost 100K on it. Nathan's car has over 125K and was given to us by his parents. You learn to live with the quirks as long as the car is reliable. BTW - our check engine light in the van is always on too!