Monday, September 28, 2009

Feisty Bento #388: The Beast


Top tier: stuffed peppers (recipe to come on Feisty Foodie)
Bottom tier: watermelon; peas; roasted zucchini salad

(There's actually more roasted zucchini salad just hiding under the peas, ha.) 

So, this was going to be a happy post, bento #388.  Unfortunately, I wound up not packing lunch on Friday, so it got pushed to Monday, and stuff happened that turns this into a tearful, unhappy, mess of a post. 

I said almost 3 weeks ago now that I'd stop complaining about the car.  I'm not here to complain about the car.  However, I am going to update you with what's going on because some of you are incredibly, incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about cars, and because I need to let it out before I scream. 

Last week, my lovely, loving boyfriend took the car to get inspected, and to figure out why the tire insisted on leaking all its air, to look under the hood as well and see what was going on with the battery.  It turns out that the tire is fine; the rim was rotted (don't ask me, I don't really know how a metal rim rots but I'm not going to argue) and needed to be replaced.  His father, who has been absolutely amazing to me the entire time I've been with my boyfriend and accepted me as family pretty much right from the start, went to the junkyard and found me a new rim, replaced it, so now the tire issues have been fixed.  That made me happy enough as, let's face it, now I don't have to pump the tire everytime I want to use the vehicle.  Yay!  HOORAY!!! 

At the same time, they took a look under the hood and decided to install a new battery.  Remember that I was having trouble starting it?  Honestly, it was still having trouble starting, but after a good 2-5 minutes of trying (not just holding the key in start position! but trying, trying, then trying again, waiting, trying again), it would turn over.  Yes, this was annoying, but dealable because if my try/try/try again method failed, I had the jumper that I mentioned last night to help it start.  It would start.  So, new battery in place, ostensibly, my car should be workable and running well as can be considering the age and wear on the car.  It should be good. 

The post I'd been planning on making on Friday would have explained all this, and told you how unbelievably THRILLED I was to have a working car.  Would have said how happy I was for such a "small" thing in other people's lives (some people, not everyone); how I am not taking for granted having a vehicle, when I have lived the by and large majority of my life without a vehicle and done just fine, thanks. 

Of course, on Friday, I hadn't picked up my car yet (I was temporarily using my boyfriend's car).  So, Friday night, after a lovely party at Robicelli's, I headed over to pick up my car from my boyfriend.  I got in the car, turned the key, and the most beautiful thing happened: it turned over in one shot, and I drove home, parked, and went to sleep in anticipation of my 9am class the next morning. 

I wrote about what happened next on Facebook in great detail, but you can't read it (or you shouldn't be able to, I have my privacy settings pretty strict) unless you're my FB friend.  The basic gist is... the car wouldn't start on Saturday morning, and the jumper I had before wasn't in my car.  I cried.  Yes, I cried.  I took car service to my class, and on the way, I saw a highway accident where someone must have died (they shut down part of the highway), and I reminded myself, "It isn't that bad." 

My boyfriend lent me the jumper again, and we tested it together last night.  He stood in front of the car, and I turned the key. 

But even with the jumper, the engine would not turnover.

I could complain here, instead of just telling you the facts.  But the facts speak for themselves.  I've sunk a good chunk of money into this vehicle, and I need it to work.  It isn't a matter of convenience.  It is a simple matter of needing it in order to do the things I do.  Hey, I went to school last semester Mon-Wed, without a vehicle.  I can do that (although my CSA pickup is on Tuesdays, so actually, I need the car for Tuesdays as well this semester).  It's Saturdays that are freaking me out.  Trains and buses run funny on weekends.  It may take me 2 hours or more to get to school... a school that is, by all accounts, only 15 minutes away by car with no traffic, 30 with traffic.  My first class on Saturdays starts at 9am.  Do you really mean to tell me that I need to leave my house at 7 - a full hour before I leave for work on weekdays - in order to get to school on time?  A school that is closer to me physically than my office is, but my work commute only takes me 50 minutes???

The thing that I find the most frustrating is that I'm doing well in all of my classes - this is strictly a transportation issue.  Despite taking two writing intensive classes and my third class being my worst subject, I feel like I have a firm grasp of the material, and that I have lucked out with good professors.  By "good" I don't mean easy graders, I mean good professors from whom I will learn a fair amount.  Maybe even more than that, which is awesome.  I've never been able to get really into history, and this professor just really is so passionate about the subject it's hard not to catch that passion just a lil bit by proximity. 

So basically, I am standing at a fork in the road, with a few options, none of which appeal to me as much as the impossible shut down road that is "keep doing what I am doing with the same vehicle because the thing will start."  Because it doesn't start.

Here are my choices:

  1. Buy/lease a new car -
    Pros: brand new car shouldn't have issues and if it does, proof that I'm a car jinx.  (But then what???)
    Cons: I don't want to (read: really can't/shouldn't) take on that financial commitment. 
  2. Buy a used car -
    Pros: I'll have a car that works... maybe... and I would only spend $2k or under, as much as possible under.
    Cons: No guarantee that car will not have issues, if not now, then in a month or two, and then I'm back where I started.
  3. Start taking public transportation only -
    Pros: Save a little bit of money (gas, tickets, repairs).
    Cons: Waste a LOT of time (sleep less = more grumpy); push CSA pickup duties entirely to partner, which is unfair to her, even if she doesn't mind. 
  4. Drop all of my classes for now until I resolve this transportation issue -
    Pros: No longer need a car and can stop stressing over this.
    Cons: Really, it just prolongs the whole getting-my-degree thing, and puts off this stress/worry since I have to go back eventually anyway.  Plus I may lose my tuition assistance if I drop classes now - definitely won't get back all of my money, not sure if I can get back even some.  Also, who's to say that I'll get as good professors again as I did this time? 

Wow, when I began listing out the choices, I thought I knew which one had the edge; then I added the pros/cons portion and it seems things have changed.  I'd be most interested in hearing anyone else's thoughts, whether you've been in a similar position or not, because I am sure you have invaluable insight into all of this. 

Thanks for reading... and always

think outside the lunchbox~!


  1. Don't drop your classes! If you're used to public transportation (however inconvenient) then why not just do that while looking for a new (probably used) car??

  2. Can't your current car be fixed? If it's an electrical problem there has to be a solution. A new battery would have no effect on a slow starting car except to make it crankable for a longer time. The issue lies elsewhere and a good mechanic ought to be able to track it down. Stay in classes esp if you love the history!!

  3. Get the old car looked at again. If it needs major work, toss it. If it's simple work like a new spark plug, then it would be cheap and totally worth it. It might wise to spend a little more on a qualified mechanic.

  4. I agree with the others on getting the car fixed. However if a mechanical fix is prohibitive on this car, some of the money may be recouped, not all but some. Didn't you tell me you recently purchased those tires? Can you sell them? Also, can you sell the car to a salvage yard.

    Again, you won't get all your money back, but you'll get some (or at least these are options where I live).

  5. More info on the car issues: it isn't the starter (because you can hear it trying to start) and it isn't the battery (because it's a brand new battery and the lights/gauges/etc. turn on when I put the key in the ignition, so electricity is still flowing). It's some unknown quantity here. I can't even move the car so I'm confused as to how to deal with this.

    I do want that to be the option: fix the car and just use this one.

  6. You could straddle a couple of the choices -- consider renting a car for the weekend (when public transportation can be odd) - and use mass transit the other times.

    Talk with your CSA partner re her doing the pick ups until car situation is fixed.

    Definitely have pro look at the car -- and remember some things can be fixed using parts from other cars - depending on what the exact issue is.

    While doing all these start scanning Craigs list for sale by OWNER cars - yes they could have troubles BUT you could find something very suitable for your current needs - even if only a temp/disposable one - you can find a few under $1000 - but like with any car make sure a mechanic checks it out and do the Carfax thing.

    I am in NW Yonkers and we just had one of our cars stop working totally - seems to be an engine problem (the one car that "survived" a 100 year old tree mangling it in July during the freak storm here). Craigs list led me to an Ebay posting where we found my replacement van (my car had been pretty well totaled by same tree that day). I am now without the car as the husband takes it to work and with a nearly 14 yr old we had to find work arounds -- he takes a cab in the AM - classmates take him home - it is like a half mile but between the weight of his books and a registered sexual predator living between here and the school we use the cab/classmate pairing. Plus it gives him life skills.

    Our mechanic is looking for an engine from another car that can be swapped into ours - while we look at possible Craigs list buys (I prefer disposable route - like the old days!).

    I did the lease thing the last time we were in this spot 4 yrs ago - I definitely like owning the car outright.

    Good luck - keep trying to problem solve!

  7. I am by no means a car expert, but I'm going to throw out a possibility. When alternators go bad, they sometimes drain battery energy, causing you to constantly have to jump a battery. And lights will turn on but the car won't do anything with a bad alternator. Might not be the issue, but a possibility.

  8. It might not be the starter itself, but something related to the starter. I'm certainly no expert, but my own car was having problems like this a few years back and it was some little part involved with starting the car, but not the starter. I don't think it was prohibitively expensive, but my boyfriend at the time was pretty car-savvy and worked on it, so that saved me a bit. You might try having that part looked at, since the battery itself is probably fine.

  9. ohh ohh ohh -- check out the link at my page

    the mechanics have been a great help for me to get some problems IDed with one of my cars!!

    I think it is Just Answers BUT the link on my blog goes directly to car section.

  10. LOL - well whatever it is -- remember to have folks look at parts from cars taken off the road! Just got word from husband they found an engine for our problem child -- so maybe whatever is wrong with yours can be fixed with a part from salvage!

  11. My husband had to replace the alternator in my car just a few months back. He had it checked, and it was that... before we had replaced it, my car would do what you talk about that your car is doing... Not sure that is what it is, but most auto parts stores will check them for free if you could get your BF or his father or someone to take it off and take it to the store to find out... Good luck, hope something turns up on the good side for you!

  12. I agree with the others that say have it looked at again. If its something that can't feasably be fixed, I say trade it in at a dealer for a certified used car. You can find some that are inexpensive (try Kia or Hyundai - my hubby and I drive those and they're really good cars for not much money), you get some trade-in credit off the old car, and a certified used means it won't have all those problems that a used car off Craigslist might.

    Reporting to Carfax is completely voluntary, so don't rely on Carfax to tell if a car has a bad history - have it checked by a mechanic:

    Another thing you could do, say if you only HAD to have a car on Saturday, is use Zipcar:

  13. Check the HT leads on the car. Don't ask me what they are but they connect the distributor cap to other bits, so if they are dodgy, they affect starting capabilities. The starter also went on my old car and it was the same as yours, it sounded like it was trying to start but couldn't even with jumpers. Might also be worth getting that looked at just incase. I hope you do get you car probs sorted, I know how nasty it is to be without and I live in the sticks!!!!!

  14. Zip car. Pay a low yearly membership fee, use one of their new cars at your convenience for how ever many hours you need it [for an hourly fee/which is reasonable] and be done with your car/public trans now.

    I don't know where you would find a used car under [or substantially under] $2000 that wouldn't give you a world of hurt repair wise.

    You obviously can't use public transpo

    and you need a safe, reliable form of transpo - and I just noticed that someone already mentioned this.

    I hope you look into zipcar. It is an awesome option for your predicament.

    [Your starter or your alternator seem to be bad, why the battery isn't helping - don't know what year the car is, but sometimes these are combined into one part - or it could be your voltage regulator. All parts are replaceable - for a couple hundred bucks if you do it yourself - ie. wonderful boyfriend/father of wonderful boyfriend.]

    Wish you luck.

  15. i was going to suggest zipcar also-- they have a couple locations by you. not economical in teh long run, but for 1-2x a week... maybe.

  16. go used car. you don't have to worry about the initial decrease in value with a new car, and as long as you do your research correctly, you can find good cars for good deals in good condition. Buy from reputable dealers (no craigslist). Definitely suggest an economy car - perhaps a stick shift since they're cheaper if you know how to drive it.

  17. Zipcar looks like it is not too bad -considering the fuel is included and the insurance.

  18. have you considered it might possibly be your alternator? Let me give you an idea of whether or not it's that. You turn the car over. You hear a click. You do it again. Click. You wait a couple of minutes, turn it over, and Vroom! This also sucks battery while you drive so I'm pretty sure you would have noticed that. If it's the starter, it might be the pinions that connect and spark when you start your car. If that's what it is, it's an easy fix. You just have to get them changed out. It doesn't seem like it's the full starter itself because you said it does in fact turn over, but if it's the pins, then what you're talking about is more likely to happen because if the spark doesn't travel from the originating pin to the destination pin, it won't turn your car over. Make sense? So, do this, take the car to the dealership, mechanic, or other person, ask them to test the alternator. If that's fine and it holds a charge, ask to have the pins in your starter checked because it takes a couple of tries in order to turn over. They can diagnose. Good luck!

  19. I had to comment as I can't believe that not a single person mentioned car sharing as an option. I recently went from public transport-maven (1, clean, yuppy filled 20 minute bus ride) to car owner (1.5 hrs of public transport hell). I bought a second hand car, joined the carpool and 3 days a week, I have a carpool buddy and she ends up paying for my gas.

    However, there are tons of options out there for transportation.

    1) Car co-ops. Many major cities have them. In town here, we pay a $500 one time fee and a low low rate when we need a car. Bonus, you can get the vehicle you need, when you need it. Need a truck to help a friend move or bring home your Ikea purchases, no problem. Road trip with 6 of your closest friends, minivan is yours. Generally the car rentals come to about $250 per month. It's a good deal

    2) Car/ride sharing. Check out local ridesharing websites or post an advert My carpool buddy pays me $2.50 each way. Transit costs her $3.50. I could charge her more but why? Note - she has 2 carpool partners so that helps.

    3) Transit + Bike + car share + zip car/car co-op. Combine it for the ultimate flexibility.

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