Saturday, March 10, 2007

In which the Meridian reports that his car unnerves him

There are times when my car unnerves me.

It's a 1993 Toyota Corolla, bought new in 1994 and which looks just like the one you see here (though mine has hail dings on the hood and a cracked windshield--but is missing only one of its wheelcovers, so there). It's about as unassuming a car as one can imagine, and let's just say that over the intervening 13 years it has become more and more unassuming. On this week's Thursday trip up to Topeka, it just turned 265,000 miles. It's had a couple of alternators; it had to have the AC compressor replaced due to the fact that your correspondent, back in his Mobile days, damaged it by driving over a stump that he (incorrectly, as it resulted) thought even his ground clearance-challenged car could clear--this in the middle of summer, mind; it's had its CV half-shaft replaced; and, thanks to my father-in-law, it's just had its second brake job.

All that is pretty ordinary. It's the not-so-ordinary stuff that is unnerving.

It's never had a tune-up, yet on good days it can still get 40 miles/gallon on the highway. About two years ago, a mechanic told me that the battery tested "weak" and that, since winter was coming on, I should get it replaced. Okay, I said, and then promptly forgot all about it (funny how not having the extra $40 or so creates a selective amnesia). It has never failed to crank in all that time since with that same "weak" battery, including one morning a couple of months ago when your correspondent came out and saw that the car's dome light was still on from the previous night when he had turned it on to look for something in the car and then had forgotten to turn it off. I've been good about changing the oil regularly, but that's been about it. As I told my mother-in-law as she and I were talking about its reliability, "It's not going to die. I'll have to take it out back and beat it with a bat before that happens."

That was last Saturday. The following Monday morning, I looked at my car. The windshield was covered with frost . . . except for a half-dozen small oval-shaped clear spots at its base, about where the defroster vents are. Now, I'm certain that there's some empirically-testable explanation for this. But as I looked at the windshield, I remembered what I had told my mother-in-law the previous Saturday, and I found myself thinking, "It's breathing. It's actually breathing."


R. Sherman said...

Ah, Toyotas.

The best vehicle I ever owned was a used 1991 Tacoma 4X4. I got 30mpg on a trip to Big Bend doing 75-80 mph on those west Texas back roads. Damn sweet. The EMBLOS made me sell it when the Official Elder Son came along. I still pine for it.


René López Villamar said...

I get the same feeling with my car. It's a 1989 Chrysler Shadow, and sometimes it still impress that, despite all conditions, the car keeps running.

It was sick for a time there last month, but it seems we're actually back like in the good old days.

Gwynne said...

That IS unnerving! 265,000 miles and never a tune-up? I've always thought mechanics were crooks, now we know the truth. Your car is probably better for that. And please, please don't beat it with a bat while it still breathes. There are laws against that. ;-)

emawkc said...

I don't think you need to be worried or unnerved until your car beings to kill your enemies. Then you might want to look into an engine overhaul or something.

John B. said...

René, I'm happy for you that you've had good luck with your Shadow. I test-drove one once in Houston, and its utter lack of acceleration scared me on the highways there. Apparently, you feel it has enough power for you there in the Districto.

emawkc, I had thought about turning my post in a more Christine-like direction, but my car isn't that creepy. And you're right: to the best of my knowledge, my car doesn't go hunting at night. Of course, I don't have any enemies, either . . . so maybe my car is a bit bored?

Winston said...

265K without a tuneup? Wow! That's a good 'un. I recommend never getting a tuneup on that car. Don't let anyone touch it until absolutely necessary. Might screw it up.

Roomie had a 93 or 94 Corolla just like that except fire-engine red. Her's was the 4-cyl version (yours must be also, judging from your MPG), had no power, no acceleration, balked at every steep hill (not your worry), and wouldn't stay tuned up. Kept it 3 or 4 years and dumped it for the Subaru she still has.

emawkc said...

"Of course, I don't have any enemies, either . . ."

Well, maybe your car's doing it's job already. Remember that line from The Magnificent Seven?

"No enemies... Alive."


Anonymous said...

I think maybe you should write the Car Talk boys about this. I mean, your car is totally antithetical to their show, but I think they'd love it (especially the bit about taking it out back and beating it to death with a bat).

I always thought there was something special about it . . . it really has a magical talisman kind of quality.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your car HAS had tune-ups. You used to get them back in our early days before you drove it down to Moblie. For the record, you never lied intentionally, your memory is just crap. xxx