Friday, September 29, 2006

Is it the nickel? Or the dime?

On Monday my commute-to-work car worked just fine going to work in the morning. But when I jumped in it to come home, it seemed to take a long time to produce any cool air-conditioned air.

In fact, I was several miles down the road before I realized it wasn’t going to produce ANY cool air.

I called Carol from my cell phone and asked her to meet me at an auto air conditioning repair place. She did, and I left it with them to look at on Tuesday.

I figured probably a new (or rebuilt) compressor. At least $500-600. I told Carol that I wondered if the car was going to start “nickel and dime-ing us to death.” After all, it’s 9 years old and has 165,000 miles on it. And it’s just a little Mazda Protégé with a 4-cylider engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.

I was amazed the next day when the shop told me the problem was a $15 electrical relay! Of course, it cost $45 labor to replace that little relay, but still! Only $61.45, and now it’s putting out cold air! WOO-HOO!

Now, however, I figure that might have been the nickel.

Yesterday the car ran great all the way to work. But when I jumped in it to come home, it was hard to shift, and the clutch pedal felt funny when I pushed it. The further I drove, the harder it became to get the darn thing in and out of gear.

I called Carol from my cell phone and asked her to meet me at a car-repair shop. (Is this starting to sound familiar?)

I left the car for them to check out today and tell me the diagnosis. I figured a new clutch was in the offing, for about $300 parts and $500 labor.

Today they called me and said it needed a new master and slave cylinder. (I didn’t know that manual clutches got into bondage situations like that.) It turns out the total bill will be $400.

I figure this is the dime.

But on the positive side, if this repair gets me another couple of months of driving the paid-for air-conditioned (still necessary here in South Texas) vehicle, that’s cheaper than a couple of months of new car payments.

So I’ve had the nickel and the dime. Next probably comes the quarter or the dollar, and that will likely be the signal that it’s time to shop for a replacement.

(P.S. You’ll notice I didn’t mention the “C” even once in this post. I don’t EVEN want to get THAT started!)


schnoodlepooh said...

Sometimes older cars just do the "nickel and dime" thing. It's just what they do. It doesn't mean there's any "C" thing going on. Please let's not have a "C" thing that has to do with cars. That can really get expensive. I think you're getting off easy for a 9 year old car with 165k miles on it. It's probably about time to start shopping around though... Good luck.

Michelle said...

Well my car is 17 years old, 4 cylinder and manual transmission and it goes just fine - nothing major happening excepting the engine blowing up when my brother borrowed it about 12 years ago on a long journey and he did not notice the oil light had started flicking. So my reconditioned engine is going well after 12 years and I have not even had the clutch replaced. Your car will be fine for many years to come. Be gentle with her - she will love it if you talk to her and praise her.

Duke_of_Earle said...


I talk to (ahem) HIM often. Sometimes I praise him, sometimes I ask him why he's acting tempermental. But I'm counting on him providing me with many more miles of good reliable service before he "retires."


kenju said...

Don't dare mention the "C" word, John! All heck will break loose.

Sorry your car is not working well. Hope it stope with the nickel-diming before it turns into the quarter-dollaring phase.

Badabing said...

There is one way to avoid the quarter-dollar event...leave the car at home and ask Carol to drive you to & from work ;-)

I've already experienced that quarter-dollar thing several times, but I've been procrastinating getting a new one for about a year now...I just hate buying cars :-(

robotJAM said...

Well, my push bike is 45 years old and has probably done around 10,000 miles.
So far I have had a new chain, pedal, seat, handlebars, wheels and cabling.

I haven't had it from new.

Nankin said...

Why is it mechanical "things: can be so agravating? Good luck.