Nick and the Mechanics

18Jan11

The old girl in better days

My car was running just fine until I took it to a mechanic.

The issues aren’t so much with the car itself, or so I thought. My issues deal with car ownership, registration and maintenance.

In the last five months, my car has been in five different shops. Let me reiterate, my car works fine. In fact, I drove it 1,000 miles from Cedar Falls to Philadelphia two weeks ago. Not one problem.

Before moving to Philadelphia, I had hoped to sell my car to make a quick buck. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of insuring my car and paying for a parking spot.

The car was serviced in Marengo, oil change, transmission flush, new brakes, 2 new tires, the works. When I moved to Philly, I left the car with my folks, and Dad had his guy fix a few more items. The car should have been ready to sell.

But then I got my job in Atlantic City, which facilitated the need for a car, unless I wanted to spend four hours of my day on public transportation.

So as I noted before, after visiting Iowa for the holidays I drove my 2000 Honda Accord to Philadelphia, a two-day trip. Highlight: Driving through the Allegheny Mountains in daylight. Lowlight: The potholes outside Chicago.

Car ownership in Philadelphia requires you to jump through many, many hoops. In fact, I am still jumping.

To rent a parking spot in a Philly garage or parking lot costs anywhere from $250 to $500 a month. Not in my budget.

But after living in the city for two and a half months, I learned some of the ins and outs. For instance, I obtained a residential parking permit for an annual fee of $35. This means I can park on the street, so long as I can find a spot. Thus far, this hasn’t been an issue. The furthest I have had to park from the apartment is 7 blocks.

The bur in my pantleg is that in order to buy this parking permit, my car needs to be registered in Pennsylvania.

This requires proof of Pennsylvania insurance, a sizable fee and an emissions inspection.

Since my car is so old and my accident/ticket history is fairly clean, the cost of insurance is only $3 more per month than in Iowa. That was easy.

Second, I went to AAA to register my car. In fact, I went to the office the same day I arrived in Philadelphia with the car. It took a few hours, plus two different credit  cards and a personal cheque, but the registration went through.

The next day I went and obtained the parking permit. So since then, I have been parking on the streets of Philadelphia.

The real rock in my shoe has been the emissions inspection. After registering your car in Pennsylvania, you have 10 days to have your car inspected.

So the next Saturday I went to the Midas shop and went in for an oil change and an inspection – a total of $60.

I thought I would be in and out and on my merry way.

Instead, my car failed inspection. My engine light was on, and Midas didn’t have the proper computer to determine the issue.

My engine light has been on for 4 years. My car still runs fine.

So yesterday, Monday, I took my car to a shop here in Atlantic City recommended by my boss. I have had a bad history with mechanics who work for the chain auto shops, and don’t trust them. Figured they were just trying to hit me up for more $$$ for repairs.

So I took it to a local guy, whose name is on the sign out front, and is friends of my boss’ family. He hooked the engine up to his computer, and told me there was nothing he could do. I had to take the car to the Honda dealership and have them take a look.

So as of this morning, my car has been at the local Honda dealership, getting diagnosed.

As feared the prognosis was worse than imagined.

The engine light is on because of a bad exhaust valve. Cost to repair: $563.

If fixed, it should make my engine light go out, and I should pass inspection.

However, my transmission is also on its last legs. The pump is whining, and could go out any day. A new transmission: $3,600.

Plus the other 2 tires need to be replaced and aligned – another $300.

Lastly, the timing belt has never been replaced, and should have been so 60,000 miles ago (roughly 12 trips to Japan). Cost – $1,150, but they have a coupon, so if it is done by the end of the month, the cost is a mere $650!

Translation: My car is a rolling time bomb.

Either I spend $563 now and wait for the car to implode, or I cut my losses and choose the next best option.

I am looking at 3 options:

* Spend the $563 and cross my fingers every time  I turn on the ignition.

* Trade in for a new/used/leased car.

* Public transportation.

As of now, I am leaning toward public transportation.

After looking at the schedule, I can get on the train in Philadelphia at 6:25 a.m. and arrive 7 miles from my office at 7:37 a.m. My boss (the best in the world) said he could pick me up from the Egg Harbor train station and drop me off again  for the 5 p.m. train. This would get me home by 6:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than I arrive now.

A monthly pass – train + bus – would be $600 a month, about the same amount as I am paying on gas and toll fees. Plus I can nap on the train.

The downside is I would have to get up 45 minutes earlier and I can’t drive to the cheap grocery/liquor stores in Jersey.

So if anybody wants a 2000 Honda Accord for $500, fly on out to Philly and pick it up!

And I believe the ultimate lesson is I should never, ever own a car again.

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2 Responses to “Nick and the Mechanics”

  1. 1 Gnar Ball

    it’s called a bicycle nick. It could solve every problem that you have written about on this blog thingy. did I read that right, it takes an hour and twelve minutes to get seven miles? You could walk faster.

  2. No jerky, it takes an hour and 12 minutes to get 57 miles. But it does take 30 minutes by bus for the last seven miles, which I can bypass, if I get one of those two-wheeled rotational contraptions.


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