Tag Archives: cars

Automotive Ineptitude

I grew up in a place where the hood of a car was propped up on the weekends on a fairly regular basis.  The reason was two-fold: my folks drove a lot of less-than-awesome automobiles for a good stretch of time, and my dad also posessed the technical acumen to solve a lot of his own problems with cars.

I helped out, but I didn’t absorb much, and served more in the capacity of a tool holder/fetcher/light-pointer than anything else.  Suffice it to say, I moved out of Eagle River with the bare minimum of knowledge about cars.

I think that’s a fairly typical situation these days.  Not only have automobiles become more complex machines, with their computerized parts and compact designs, and proprietary elements, but the way that cars work has actually gotten lots and lots BETTER over the last 20-30 years.  An average guy doesn’t need to know as much about how the car works or how to fix it, because they simply don’t break down as much.

It’s a workable situation until you get to certain “required” maintenance where that average guy is just going to get bent over, to put it as mildly as possible.  One of the things that you get with a manual transmission auto is the “timing belt.”  It’s a part that most manufacturers will recommend replacing somewhere around 60-75,000 miles.  My Mazda just hit 87K.  I haven’t changed it yet.

It’s not that I haven’t thought about it.  Particularly with my 80-mile daily commute, I actually spend a little bit of time dwelling on it every single day.  On one hand, I’m sure that it’s a good idea to have this job done, and on the other, I can’t help but think back to my days of Ford Festiva ownership.  I drove Willy, my 93 Festiva, for about 7+ years and over 100,000 miles.  I bought when its odometer was at about 52K.  My mom recommended at the time, “hey, get that timing belt replaced first thing.”  It seemed like a prudent move.  It was my first car that I actually bought, and I wanted to get going on the right foot.  I don’t remember what it cost, but for a little car like that in 1998, I’m pretty sure it was fairly reasonable.  That was all well and good, but I drove that car another 100K (twice as long as it went on the first timing belt), and never thought about replacing it again.  I drove it into the Rawhide sunset with that same belt that was installed at Lakeland Motors on that fateful June afternoon.

So when I get the coupons in the mail from the Mazda dealer, imploring me to get that timing belt replaced, warning me, “Don’t Wait Too Long!” and I see that the coupon is for $100 OFF this service (when I know the last time I did it, albeit 10 years ago, the total service wasn’t 100 bucks), I think of that second belt that went into the Festiva and I wonder, are they just trying to screw me?

I envy those of you who have a reputable mechanic that you feel you can trust.  I don’t have the vaguest idea of how to go about finding one, and in all likelihood, I will bumble through my years of auto ownership, getting boned on one deal or another, at predictable intervals, in accordance with my maintenance schedule.

On the Road Again

I have meticulously logged every tank of gas and mile that I’ve driven on my car since I started working in Oshkosh again.  160 miles a day is a lot, and I wanted to be able to anticipate fuel consumption, cost, etc., at the beginning of the month when I get my hard-earned monies.

06/01/09 10.85900 369.20000 33.99945 2.69900 29.31 0.0794 BP, WI & OH
06/03/09 11.33700 369.50000 32.59240 2.74900 31.17 0.0843 BP, 20th & SP
06/05/09 9.50000 341.10000 35.90526 2.77900 26.40 0.0774 FLEET FARM
06/09/09 11.84700 381.30000 32.18536 2.78900 33.04 0.0867 RENEW
06/11/09 9.56000 348.80000 36.48536 2.77900 26.57 0.0762 BOB’S
06/15/09 11.59800 398.10000 34.32488 2.73900 31.77 0.0798 BP, 20th & SP
06/17/09 11.88500 420.30000 35.36390 2.79900 33.27 0.0791 MOBIL, CAP & DWNR
06/21/09 10.62200 348.10000 32.77161 2.71900 28.88 0.0830 RIVERSIDE BP, CAPTL
06/24/09 12.79500 433.40000 33.87261 2.67900 34.28 0.0791 RENEW
06/26/09 11.39600 371.00000 32.55528 2.64900 30.19 0.0814 RENEW
06/29/09 9.48100 303.60000 32.02194 2.60900 24.74 0.0815 RENEW
TOTALS 120.88000 4084.40000 33.78888 2.72666 329.60 0.0807

This is sort of what those charts look like.  I’m breaking it down by month, and then I’ll probably average those figures out quarterly, or over the course of the year, what have you.

I had a really light July with all the traveling we did and days off that I took.  Still, up to this point, I’ve put 10,197 miles on the vehicle since 6/1.  I was thinking it over this afternoon, and I’m not going to crack 100,000 miles on the car before January 1.  But it’ll be close.

I feel OK about the mileage as long as I’m taking care of the car (and I am).  I was actually imagining how interesting it would be to still be driving this car when it flips 200, 250, or 300.  I figure cars these days will last a while, especially if they’re not that old as you pile the miles on.  In my limited observation, the cars that have historically had trouble are the ones that actually used less, because maintenance slips your mind, or they sit around in the elements to rust out and fluids to dry up, that sort of thing.

If I end up doing this commuting for a long while, though, I will be glad to pick up one of these badboys when they come down in price.


So, after the average price of gas in the Milwaukee area topped 4 frakking dollars today, I said to myself, “hey, is that new Honda hybrid rumor I heard anywhere close to fruition?”

It is!

Still haven’t found any photos or drawings of this car, so what it’s gonna look like is a bit of a mystery– but they say it’s a “futuristic five-door hatchback,” for what it’s worth.  I’m excited.  I wonder if it’s too early to get on a waiting list?

Still More Room to Get Crazier

Latest word from the Energy Information Administration is that gas will peak around $3.60 in June.  As the linked article mentions, there are plenty of folks who think it’s looney to imagine the price will stop there.

This, combined with the spiraling cost of… well, everything, further galvanizes my mindset to be “I’ve got to get rid of this petrol-guzzling monstrosity ASAP.”  Now, those of you who’ve seen what I drive may think that I’M nuts, but remember that I drove the Festiva for all those years, and I was spoiled by its fantastic fuel economy.

I’ve mentioned to a number of people that I’ve read rumors about a Honda subcompact hybrid that is apparently still in the cards for the 2009 model year.  Granted, I don’t really follow the “news” about the auto industry that closely, but until I see a picture and a photo and a MSRP for this vehicle I’m not going to bank on it.  Something priced in the range they’re talking about got me to thinking about a math problem, though– feel free to take a stab at your leisure:

If I were to buy a new car that averaged 60 miles per gallon (versus my current average of 30) at a net cost of about $5,000.00, how long would it take the savings in fuel to offset the purchase price, if I drive the car 15,000 miles a year?

So that’s something I’ve got on the brain.