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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ugh - and my favorite car story looks like I am probably getting a new car.  I had grand dreams of driving my VW literally into the ground, but now I am thinking that might not be such a great idea.  I stopped myself one step short of drawing up a cost-benefit spreadsheet, but here is the basic situation:
  • My car is getting old and has quite a few miles on it
  • Over the last few years, this car has been a consistent drain on my bank account.  I feel like every time I think "surely this is all I'll need to do for a while"....nope.  Not so much.
  • Ben's car is also 12 years old, and we've been thinking on and off about replacing one of our cars in the next couple of years.  We like taking road trips and it would be nice to have one car that was a little newer and more reliable.
  • Of the two cars, mine is MUCH more expensive in terms of maintenance and repairs.  
I was pretty torn over whether I should put $3,000 into my car, which led me to make the mistake of soliciting advice on Facebook.  Opinions ranged everywhere from "never buy a new car ever" to "definitely buy a new car you will save so much in mpg!!" and was instructed to buy a Subaru, a Chevy Volt, a Honda, and a Hyundai.  Instead of helping, the quantity and variety of options presented caused my brain to implode on itself.

So, then I called my car guy who has been nothing but honest with me for the last six years and asked him honestly, if I go through with all the repairs, how many more miles he thinks I can expect before something like this comes up again.

He pretty much straight up told me that as much as he would love to have my $3,000, Volkswagens are weird. He can't promise something crazy won't happen next month, and $3,000 is a lot of money.  In his experience, VWs have more and more problems as they get older, and it's always something quirky and usually expensive.  

Case in point - what follows is a Livejournal entry from 2008 written by yours truly, detailing my personal *favorite* story of fixing my car (note extreme sarcasm).  This story is especially amusing because it was written during a time when Ben and I were not yet dating, but were crushing on each other hard and I was completely in denial about the whole thing.  Check it out.

I spent all of Saturday working on grad school essays. Saturday was actually a lovely day. I could have been outside doing any number of things, but instead I was inside writing.

On Saturday night as I was leaving Baker's Square after a great night of Concert and Pie with Ben and the Clark, I noticed something strange about my car - namely, the power locks had stopped working. I continued on my way home thinking, no big deal the battery in my keychain is probably dead. I made the executive decision to just deal with it until I could get to the dealership for a new battery. At this point, I noticed another strange thing - my power windows had also stopped working. Not sure why but I wasn't terribly concerned by this...I guess I thought maybe the same mechanism that was killing the power locks was also killing the power windows.

I still think that's probably the case, but apparently whatever killed my power locks and windows also eventually killed my car's ability to start, as I discovered when I got in my car on Sunday and suddenly had no mobility. This was not ideal since I had to be in downtown Minneapolis to see a play with Ben in 25 minutes. Luckily my roommate is awesome and drove me there.

This morning I got up bright and early to call AAA so they could come give me a jump start. Then I would be able to at least drive my car to the repair shop to figure out what's wrong with it. From my experience, AAA usually takes at LEAST 45 minutes to get there, so I called them at 6:50 thinking they'd get there just about in time to get me to work.


AAA apparently woke up this morning and suddenly decided to be punctual. They were there in 10 minutes. Needless to say I was not prepared for I'm rocking the "I got dressed in the dark and didn't put on makeup" look, which is essentially exactly what happened.

Additionally, they were unable to jump my car, so I had to pay $20 for a tow up to the shop by work, where they are now looking at my car and probably at the end of the day they'll tell me that half of my next paycheck is going to be spent fixing my car. Again. Stupid car.

Even better is what happened next.  It turned out one of the wires connected to the starter had shorted, so they put in a new spark plug and gave me a spare just in case, but assured me that the current plug should last for a while.


The very next day, I had to run a bunch of errands for work.  We had a trade show coming up and our booth needed some touch-ups....being the entry-level marketing bitch (I say that with love in my heart - I LOVED my job and was by no means anybody's bitch) I had the honor of going to the paint store and the hardware store to pick up all of the necessary materials.

I can't remember exactly why, but I needed to get some supplies from my mom...I think maybe she had some extra paint or paint brushes, and I decided to borrow hers rather than buy new ones?  In any case, I called her as I was leaving the office. She said she was going for a walk around the lake with a neighbor and could I pick up the items from her car if she left it unlocked by the lake?

My office was only about 15 minutes from the lake near my parents' place so this wasn't a problem at all.  I zipped over to the lake, hopped out of my car, grabbed the materials from my mom's trunk, went back to my car and hit the power locks...and nothing happened.  Right away I knew this was trouble, and sure enough when I tried to start my car nothing happened.  No worries though because I had an extra plug!  Lucky I had that thing.  I pulled the spare plug from its hiding spot in my glove compartment, plugged it in, and tried to start my car.

The plug shorted immediately.

So, now I was stuck by myself at a lake in the middle of the woods, with no way to get anywhere, in the middle of my workday.  The lake is about six miles around and I had no clue how far my mom was on her walk.  She might be 20 minutes away, or she might be an hour and a half away, I just had no idea.  I decided to call AAA and immediately realized I had left my phone on my desk at work.  Brilliant.

Just as I was about to give up and have a complete meltdown, the water pump maintenance truck drove up!  I can't imagine what this guy thought when a random 25 year-old in business attire knocked politely on his truck window and asked if she could use his cell phone to call AAA.  The random 25 year old was me, obviously.  Luckily the guy was extremely helpful and sympathetic.  Yay random strangers.

This time, AAA was not as punctual.  I waited for them for at least an hour, by which point my mom had finished her walk and offered to drive me to the paint store while AAA towed my car.  I made it safely back to work with all booth supplies in hand by...4pm.

And finally, they figured out what was wrong with  my car.  A wire in the dome light was shorting out, and this same wire was also connected to my power locks and starter.  Bart, the guy who works on my car, literally took the interior apart trying to find where the bad wire was coming from.

I can't say it didn't make sense.  My dome light had been acting up for several months, and would randomly flicker on and off without me even touching the switch.  When this happened I would usually either a) smack my fist into the light with a considerable amount of force, or b) wedge a credit card or paper clip, or other such item, into the dome light which for some reason seemed to temporarily fix the problem.  While extremely effective, these methods probably did not help the wire-shorting situation.

HOWEVER, why on EARTH would you design a car such that a malfunctioning dome light can kill your ENTIRE CAR.  This I still do not understand.

Anyways.  That's my favorite car repair to date.  That one also cost me $3,000 but at least it made my car a legend at the repair shop.  Bart apparently still tells that story.

Here are some favorite (non-repair) memories of my little car:

Tahoe Road Trip

Cali Road Trip with my dad

After my friend Emily decorated the interior with poofy bows at my wedding :)

So, that's all I've got for now!  I also asked my car guy for recommendations in terms of models that run for a long time with minimal maintenance.  I want my next car to last another 12-15 years, so I need to invest wisely.  He said I should look at Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Ford.  I'm leaning towards a Honda Accord or Civic...I'll keep you posted :) fun.


  1. I have a VW too- and INDEED they are weird. I have had freaky problems with the spark plugs, and electric system (locks, windows) that mysteriously got "solved" but now I forever live in fear they will stop working again. Haunted cars! I do love my V-Dub though :)

  2. You had quite an experience with your VW, but I think it is a high time to buy a new one. If you think that you are spending too much on repairs, it is time to buy a new vehicle. You can invest on a brand new car, or if you are on the lookout for some pre-owned vehicle, you can scout your local car dealers or you search for sellers on the net. There is definitely one car out there that would suit your style and budget. Good luck with car shopping! Hope you find a good one.

  3. Well, if both cars were such a burden on the pocket, then it’s a smart idea to buy a new one. Damage from age and wear from use can be very difficult to remedy, and it wouldn’t be financially sound to spend on repairs over and over again. Just imagine if your car broke down, and Ben can’t get to you because his car also broke down. Anyway, I hope you already found a new car and that it would last.

    @Nicole Vickers

  4. Buying a new car will be better once you’re overspending for constant repairs. Your mechanic himself said that cars that are really durable and I hope that by now, you’re already driving a car that you want. I know you’ve got some sentimental reasons not to change your car, but I know that you can have more adventures with a brand new car. :)

    Ashely Redden


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