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A Worn Wiper

Every now and again I give myself a writing assignment. Typically I write about whatever is on my mind, but occasionally, as a way of attempting to not always take the easy way out, I give myself an assignment. Yesterday I took my car to the mechanic and knew I had a couple of hours to kill while sitting in the waiting room. So I decided I’d just start writing and see what happened. A rather silly assignment, I’m sure, but one I enjoyed. Here are the less-than-stellar results.

*****

I took my van to the mechanic today. He’s a long-time member of my church and a guy I actually trust (rather a rarity with mechanics). With a couple thousand miles of driving facing me in the coming weeks, with the van needing an oil change and with an engine light that has been lit up for several months now, I thought it would be a good idea. The plan was to get the oil changed and to replace the EGR valve. I don’t know what an EGR is or does, but the mechanic assured me that replacing it would make the engine light go away. Seems fair to me. I do know that a faulty EGR valve (and the associated engine light) won’t make the van explode or burst into flame or otherwise self-destruct, but it does mean that if something else goes wrong, I may not know since the engine light is already booked solid. So it was time to get that valve fixed. Simple, right? An oil change and a valve swap and I’m out of here!

But you know the way these things go. My mechanic, like most, is not content to let me go until he has pocketed all of my money. After a few minutes he popped his head into the waiting room and told me that my (new!) tires (that I bought elsewhere) are showing uneven wear. I don’t need to do anything right away, but I’ll need to deal with it soon. “Dunslop” tires he called them, to go along with my “Scaryvan.” A couple of minutes later he called me into the bay and showed where my power steering fluid is leaking which, I suppose, will explain the whirring or whining sound I often hear at low speeds. I don’t know much about cars, but I was able to verify that it was, indeed, leaking. The suggested fix is around $700 (and involves replacing a rack or something; the luggage rack maybe?) but he’s going to try a cheaper alternative for me that involves some kind of additive and regular monitoring of the reservoir. Then I found out that replacing the EGR valve requires removing the alternator; though the alternator is fine (I know you were concerned), removing it would take a few extra minutes. And, as you know, time is money when the van is up on the hoist. Oh, and the brakes are down to about 30% with the rotors showing some pretty bad wear. Have I been feeling any pulling as I’ve used the brakes? They don’t need to be replaced immediately, but another few months and they’ll be done; don’t be surprised if you start to feeling the pulling soon. It will be around $300 to get those done. I am still waiting for him to walk in here and say, “I’ve got some great news! We were going to charge you $300 for a new EGR valve but it turns out we found a spare one in your glove compartment. How about that!” But I’m not holding my breath.

I’m looking at the car sitting up on the hoist and kind of hoping it just falls off. Wouldn’t that be grand? Then insurance could deal with it and I wouldn’t have to get all this stuff fixed. Suddenly I find myself hoping for a fortuitous hydraulics malfunction. Come on, just tip to the right a little bit…

I think a car may be one of the great suburban evil necessities. When you’ve got three children, you have to upgrade that car to a minivan (or if you’ve got three children and little common sense, a giant SUV may serve as a replacement). I hate cars (and vans and SUVs). There is nothing else that costs so much and yet, every time you use it, it decreases in value (except your house, potentially, if you live in California or Arizona). Every time the sun sets, that car is worth less than it was when the sun rose. Every time you take it for a drive, you take a chunk out of its value. The payments stay the same month after month, the maintenance costs rise, the value falls. This is particularly true when you own a Chrysler Grand Caravan as I’m discovering just a little bit too late.

I just found out that the rear wiper is torn. At least that one is cheap and easy to replace. I’m no mechanic, but I do know how to do that, anyway. Then again, while they’ve got the car in the bay, I may as well just get them to do it.