Monday, October 15, 2012

If black smoke is pouring from your car, something's probably wrong: The perks of being a car owner

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^^That's me banging my head against the keyboard.^^

 I just can't seem to catch a break with my car. Parking tickets (some legitimate, some not), multiple trips to the DMV (I practically live there now), frantic faxes back and forth between DC and Montana involving power-of-attorney documents, even getting my car towed (FYI, not my fault)...all this makes me wonder why I have a car here in the first place.

Let me share the latest in my saga of woe.

I was driving with some friends. After about 2 minutes, my British pal Felix piped up from the backseat (please envision this with an English accent), "Aftan, is that smoke coming from your air vents?"

After my minor heart attack, I reassured him that nah, it wasn't smoke, it was a trick of the light. Of course. My car canNOT be on fire.  I kept an eye on the vents, but didn't see anything suspicious. The temperature gauge read as normal.

Then we pulled over for some coffee. "Hmmm," I said, sniffing the air. "Does anyone else smell...smoke?"

My other friend got out and made a quick inspection. "Yep," she said, "there's definitely smoke coming from the under-carriage, looks like it's concentrated near the passenger-side door." I peered over the steering wheel and saw small dark plumes wafting lazily from the hood.

My reaction:

Oh of COURSE, I thought. This just WOULD happen, because nothing with this car is ever straightforward or normal.

I sighed and pointed the car back toward home, driving nervously the whole while. I don't know much about cars, and something about smoke coming from the under-carriage makes me think the whole thing must be about to blow up.

I took my poor little beast to an autoshop the next day. They diagnosed a medium-sized, but serious, repair: apparently the rubber boot around the brake clamp had split and spewed hot oil everywhere. The smoke was the oil burning off as I drove. Not a big deal. However, in fixing this they also noticed that my brake discs were about to fail (not the brake pumps, but the discs that the pumps clamped onto...or something). If these had failed while I'd been driving, I "would have been in big would have been bad," as the mechanic said.

So they made the repairs, and I also asked about replacing my radio, which despite four years of life support had finally died. They directed me to Best Buy for the that, which apparently does free installations once you buy the radio. Who knew? the people at Best Buy replaced my radio, but in the process discovered that all FOUR of my speakers had died, too.

No wonder the sound system wasn't working. Another bill later, I have a fully-functional stereo.

So the next time you see a Subaru rolling down the street, all the windows down, most likely blasting country music -- that's me, in a WORKING and SAFE (for now) car with a WORKING sound system. Hoo rah.

No, truly, despite my complaints, having a car is awesome, cuz it lets you go out of town for apple-picking and other fall excursions. But more on those fun things later.

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