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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

 

Blog's Salute to the Automobile - part 1




Ah, the automobile. Those delightful little money-sucking hell boxes. How I love them!

Take a look at the picture above. This the vehicle I drive. Go ahead. Laugh, if you must. While it may look like your average '80s engineering nightmare, looks can be deceiving. This little Toyota could be the mini-van equivalent of a folk hero. It has torn through the icy slopes of Mount Washburn and through the blazing fires of the Mohave. It has been stolen twice and has lived to tell the tale both times. It has seen fire and it has seen rain. It has even dueled with buffalo.

Alas, the van has just entered its second decade, which makes 55 billion years old in Toyota years. Remarkably, it still runs, or at least it did until last week.

Two weeks ago, the van began screeching like a demon with irritable bowel syndrome. At stop lights, going into turns, etc. The van loved its new found "voice" and lived to torture other
motorists with its shrill cries. I diagnosed the problem as a loose fan belt and promptly adopted a policy of turning up the volume on the stereo.

Sometime later, the transmission began acting strangely. I thought back to my last trip to Jiffy Lube and the black doom warnings of one employee: "If you don't change the transmission fluid in this vehicle, it's going to explode and/or kill you in your sleep." At the time, I balked at the price and decided to take my chances.

The van dropped a few subtle hints on more than one rain-soaked freeway. I finally relented last week. An attendant was guiding me in over an oil pit when his eyes suddenly popped out of his head. He frantically began waving in the other direction. But it was too late. I had just committed the ultimate Jiffy Lube faux pas. The van had jumped a tiny safety barrier and landed in the pit.

Fortunately, there was a rubber net that prevented the vehicle from falling too far. Unfortunately, it was straining under the weight and looked like it was about to snap. Four employees rushed to the scene...and promptly broke out a can of sarcasm. "Wooo!!! How'd that thing jump the gap?" "I didn't know these things were still on the road..."

...etc, etc. This is the sort of shit I get every time I get the van near a mechanic.

Eventually, it dawned on them that the van was about to become a permanent addition to their Jiffy Lube. One of them rushed down a flight of stares with a industrial-sized jack. After hoisting up its flabby, metal torso, another jumped in the driver's seat. As the rest of us watched on, the van was pulled to safety.

Victory....or was it?

"That thing is losing coolant fast. It's all over the place down there." The fan belts were fine. A damaged water pump was leaking water and the cause of the screeching. The jury was still out on the transmission.

The rest of the Jiffy Lube crew took a step back. Had the fall further ruptured the pump? Would I sue? Whose fault was this? Did it matter? I had no access to legal council. Yes, I was fucked.

I bit the bullet and drove to the nearest Toyota mechanic. They were closed. Despite the van's mortal wound, it would have to get through the next 24-hours. The van "bled" all the way home. I made it as comfortable as possible in the driveway. Would it survive the night?

To be continued...

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