Wowza! When it rains, it pours and today my Chevy Cavalier is spraying repair costs all over the place.
As regular readers know, I'm getting ready to go on a driving trip with my cousin (mentioned first here, and most recently here). So the hubby lovingly and wisely insisted that I take the auto in for a once-over before Kath and I hit the road.
We penciled in the repairs for today. We both had some time in our schedules so he could follow me to the garage and then ferry me back home to continue work. That plan got a bit more urgent yesterday afternoon when, upon my return from a business meeting, the hubby noticed that my right rear tire was low. We figured it was nothing major, probably a little pressure loss because of the extreme temperatures, and he took the car to a local gas station and aired it up.
But this a.m., before we could head to the mechanic's, hubby had to change the now totally flat tire. At least he was able to do the work in our garage and not roadside. And from my point of view, he, not I, did the dirty work! Sorry, sweetie, but thanks much!
With the tiny temporary tire on, we headed to a shop my husband found earlier this month when he got his vehicle inspected. For you non-Texans, vehicles here in the Lone Star State have to pass an annual safety inspection. You know, make sure the lights work, brakes are OK, turn signals blink, etc.
Since last September, Travis County also has been conducting emissions tests. This was a contentious issue in Palm Beach County when we were there, with folks whining about the hassle, cost, blah blah blah. What a bunch of babies!
For as long as we lived in Maryland, we took our cars in for emissions testing; first the basic tailpipe test (which is what's happening here) and then for a full-scale treadmill test. It doesn't take that long. It's once a year. And if it helps air quality and your car's performance, then what are you griping about?
A lot of folks in our area of South Florida argued that the air quality was just fine. Duh! So keep cars in excellent emissions condition and it'll stay that way. Much easier than trying to clean up air in which you can literally see chunks of pollution!
Anyway, we take my Chevy to this garage for a tire repair, general once-over (including the always critical air conditioner check-up) and the safety and emissions tests. The technician just called. $800+/- for the whole auto enchilada.
Seems my squeaking brakes, that have been troubling the hubby for months, need new calipers and some other touch-ups. Personally, my driving motto is "no brakes" so I don't see how they could be that worn. Maybe it's because nothing's been done to them for the six years I've owned the auto. Or maybe it's because when I do use them, it tends to be at the last moment, meaning I kinda hit them pretty hard. Hope my insurance agent isn't reading this.
Then there's the steering column. For years, almost since the day I drove it off a North Palm Beach dealership lot, it's squeaked. I mentioned the noise every time I took the car to the dealer for routine maintenance. The first few times, the repair department said it was nothing. This last time, just before we headed out to Texas in 2005, the dealership mechanic said I'd need a new steering column. The cost: $1,500!
I flatly said no thanks. There was no way I was going to let mechanics, who for years had told me it was no big deal, do major work on my car right before I moved 1,300 miles away. If I was going to pay that much, I wanted to be damn sure I was in town so if there was a post-repair problem, I could head right back to the dealer and chew out whoever didn't correct it.
They assured me that the auto was still drivable. The worse that would happen, they said, would be that my power steering would fail. The hubby has worried for months now that it'll go out when I'm turning across coming traffic, leaving me vulnerable to a broadside from a driver who shares my last-minute braking technique. Me, I just have been in driving denial.
Today, though, the guy at Lamb's actually found a reason for the noise -- one, I might add, I suggested several times to the Florida repair guys -- and it's not quite as drastic as complete steering column replacement. Seems there's a power steering fluid leak; not major and not big enough to cause my Cavalier to fail inspection, but one that needs to be taken care of eventually. The cost to fix it will be around $500.
If I had to pick one repair over the other, the mechanic said to do the brakes first. Hubby, who wants my car in tip-top shape so he at least won't have to worry about that while I'm tooling around West Texas with my cousin, said let's do it all. So we are.
I console myself with the thought that the repairs should keep me in my little silver bullet for a few more years. I like the car and I really, really like the last four years of no car payments.
But I think Kathy and I definitely will now be staying in Motel 6s instead of some more costly boutique bed and breakfast inns!