I am not the healthiest person in the world. This may come as a shock to some of you, of course. Despite my svelt, scrawny physique, my insides are falling apart. It’s probably because I feed them nothing but Hershey Kisses and Pepsi. However, this post is not about me (except for the first three sentences). It’s about my car.
Broken cars have been a popular topic lately, it seems, so I figured it was time to jump on the bandwagon. You see, I take very good care of my cars (at least I like to think so—my dad might disagree). I’m pretty good about regular maintenance and can do all of it myself. I even have the presence of mind to notice things like grinding noises or puddles of fluid that weren’t there before. I usually have no idea what to do, so I take it to my dad and kindly let him help me.
But there are times when even my dad, car whiz that he is, cannot fix a problem. For roughly two years my car, whom I affectionately call Dulcinea, was having a few issues. She was idling very low at stop lights, and her gas mileage was pretty atrocious. The car is rated at 20 mpg in-town and 30 on the highway, but it was getting more like 14 and 23. And even though the check engine light would come on from time to time, the code scanner said nothing. In other words, I needed to take her to a dealership.
Unfortunately, they told me there was nothing wrong with my car. They said it was in perfect shape and was running great. Yeah, right, I thought as it nearly stalled at every light on the way home. So I just ignored the problem for another year and a half until I started getting check engine lights more frequently.
I took her to a dealership again (a different one) and described all the problems in detail. They called me a few hours later to tell me that they could find nothing wrong but that they’d keep looking. They called again even later to tell me that my idle air control valve and PCM module were bad and had to be replaced. I really had no idea what those things were, but it sounded plausible—if it’s idling poorly, then an idle air control valve might be to blame, right?
I decided to trust them, and when I got Dulcinea back, she seemed to be doing much better. No more low idling, bad mileage, or check engine lights. My worries and suspicions of nearly two years had finally been vindicated. The elation wouldn’t last long, though. On the drive to Denver for Thanksgiving, the steering seemed a little off.
I’d suspected for a while that it was time for a realignment because it pulled to the left a little, and the tires were wearing unevenly. Now, however, it seemed to be getting a little loose. This isn’t a problem you want to notice while driving at 75 miles an hour or while navigating windy, icy canyon roads. Yeah, I was almost positive that it wasn’t handling like that before. It was definitely a little wobbly. It had to be more than just poor alignment—probably a loose tie rod, which is far beyond my abilities to fix.
Guess it’s time to take her in to the shop again.