Car Trouble

My car and I have been through a lot.
Of repair shops, that is.
Charlotte, affectionately called Charlie, is a ’92 Oldsmobile with a splashy personality. Sure, her windows only roll down every other day. Sometimes she shuts down at intersections, and sometimes when I press the gas pedal the engine doesn’t engage. Her doors automatically lock a few seconds after the key turns in the ignition — people who borrow her tend to get locked out. But that’s just her character, a little scrappy, shining through the rust. Whenever she decides my life is too predictable, she likes to throw me a curve.
Last winter it was simple engine trouble. She refused to start at temperatures below 32 degrees. (Kind of a problem in Minnesota…) I struggled through on my friends’ generosity and the occasional warm day. Spring brought repercussions from an accident. Charlie was struck from behind on an icy day, and the collision knocked the muffler loose. The company that fixed the muffler also informed me that my fuel pressure regulator needed replacing.
“Yeah, sure,” I said, raising an eyebrow. I never believe car repair people, at first. I have too much experience being told I “URGENTLY” need parts I replaced a month prior, and the “blinker fluid” trick only works once and creates major trust issues. (OK, that was my dad, not a mechanic.)
But the mechanic was right, and I did need a new fuel pressure regulator. When it was installed I thought Charlie had run out of mischief. I was wrong, of course. Charlie loves surprises.
On a hot afternoon midway through the summer, Charlie’s radiator fans started running. The car had been off for more than an hour, the keys were in my pocket, and I was far, far away. By the time I made it back to the car the battery was drained, and I had to call AAA for a jump at 11 p.m. (The man who recharged the battery then shut the door, locking me out. It was a long night.)
I never solved this mysterious problem. Instead, I started carrying a small wrench in my pocket and unscrewing the battery every time I parked the car. It was tedious, and kind strangers kept offering help, but Charlie finished out the summer.
This spring, when I got back from England, I got a brief respite from car trouble as I readjusted to life stateside. That ended last month, when the blinkers flickered out. True to form, Charlie’s flasher was located in a place not marked on the blueprints; the mechanic had to take apart most of the dashboard and eventually found it behind the ashtray. Still, it’s a fairly minor problem. Charlie was easing me in.
A few days ago I smelled something burning as I drove down Humiston Ave. I didn’t see the smoke rising from the hood of my car until I parked it in town. The clutch bearing on the AC compressor is shot. It doesn’t smoke if I don’t turn on the air, but that’s a temporary fix. With luck and a little help, I think she’ll be trim (though perhaps lacking AC) by next week.
I’m not mad; she’s my Charlie. I’m just glad she’ll be in good shape again.
I bet it’ll last at least a month.

2 Responses

  1. A.L.

    Hi Roberta, after reading your article,I laughed and felt very sad all at the same time. I drove that car, (under a different name which I can’t remember) for 17 years and actually shed tears when we parted. I really think all your car problems are the grieving heart of a metal animal that misses its owner. Please tell her I said hello and feel duly guilty for abandoning her to the frigid north country. When my mother gave me her eleven-year-old car, I suddenly had to pay hundreds of dollars in repairs. My solution is what I would suggest to you as well: I said to Mom’s car: yes I know I’m not Mom and never will be; I can’t live up to what she was to you. But I will care for you and hope you will do the same for me. Outside of a breakdown here and there, we’re doing fine at 14 years old. Great article. Much love, A.L. 🙂

  2. Pingback : Car trouble: Second edition | Night Vision

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