breaking up is hard to do

Posted: 07/07/2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

sorry for the cliched title, but it’s the best I can come up with, given my state of mind.

I guess I am going through the five phases of grief.

Over my car. It is a Volkswagen GTI, V6. The first car I have gotten speeding tickets in. (two)

The denial has been building for a while. I have been nursing this relationship for years, knowing it would eventually end, but not really certain when. In a vague sense, I figured it would be another year. The car has been paid for since I bought it brand new in 2001. I was leaving my Big Person’s Job to start grad school and needed something that wouldn’t kill me with repairs.

Save for oil changes and normal stuff, the car treated me well for the first few years. Weird stuff happened, like the plastic lifters for the electric windows collapsed, shattering the glass inside the door. Mercifully, it was under warranty.

After moving to Way South Texas in 2004, things started going wrong. I remember spending the better part of my first full summer here, at the repair shop. The check engine light kept coming on. The mechanics seemed to diagnose the problem and I was good to go. Until it came on again. And again.

The heat here is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived. I think this took a toll on the vehicle’s delicate German engineering. (never thought I’d describe German engineering as delicate, but that’s what it is)
The handle for the glove box came off. Interior moulding came off the door handles. My leather seat, cracked and split from the heat and sun.

And then came the “Little Miss Sunshine” phase (which it hasn’t outgrown). I discovered that the car’s alarm system would start up if I got in the car and didn’t fire up the ignition within 45 seconds. It was exactly like that scene in the movie where the VW bus’ horn begins honking at will, incessantly.

Whenever I had passengers, I would tell them to hurry up and get in so I could start the engine or there would be trouble.

That wasn’t all. The sunroof opens at will. No idea why. The keyless entry (which was a big selling point for me) stopped working and then began working again. It was baffling.

Last fall, while driving a group of students to Austin for a conference, it grew warmer and warmer inside the vehicle. We discerned that the a/c had crapped out. Luckily, it was October and a front was coming through, so it wasn’t too bad.

In March, knowing I needed to drive another carload of students to Kerrville for another conference, I sucked it up and had the a/c fixed. By the time they were done, I was $873 in the hole. Ow.

The anger came last month when, after going in for what I thought was to be an oil change. Seems the gasket cover and some hose were broken and $524 later, it was fixed.

I knew that I would be needing to get another vehicle, eventually. Hell, this thing only has less than 75,000 miles on it. I really wanted to drive it for twice that much mileage. I guess this was the bargaining stage.

On Sunday and Monday, depression began. I was on my way back from the beach and I noticed the check engine light was on again. This was it. I took it to Auto Zone and the diagnosis was something about a faulty air combination valve.


If it was something normal like transmission or brakes or a clutch (it still has the original), I would be understanding. But this weird stuff is wearing on me. The car’s adorable-ness was shallow. It was becoming a nuisance, an embarrassment.

I cried for a bit on Monday, realizing that a new car and, more importantly, monthly payments were in my immediate future. I was not ready for this part yet. I wanted to do this on my terms, not the car’s.

But I can’t put up with the hassle any longer.

Acceptance came on Tuesday when, after researching vehicles I can afford, I found something I could love. I went for a test drive. It doesn’t feel as solid as my VW and the steering wheel feels less sturdy, but the visibility is remarkable and it looks sporty enough so I don’t feel like a soccer mom. And, I can get it with a manual transmission, which is a must in my book.

Today, Wednesday, I found my current car’s title. I don’t know how much I’ll get for it, given the check engine light and the upholstery issues. But I am hopeful it will be enough for a decent down payment and affordable monthly payments.

Tomorrow, I return to the dealership to make my bid. I won’t be driving it off the lot just yet, because they don’t have the one I want. But I will be getting it, and hopefully, a number of years without headache-y maintenance.

  1. Joey says:

    Hey Donna, betcha I can find a guy who can fix your problem on the cheap here in Edinburg. $524 for a gasket cover, $800 for an a/c is ridiculous, especially when I have fixed the same problems for less than $150. I have a 2000 chevy with 150,000 and it’s still working like a dream because of this guy. Your car should last way longer if it only has 75,000 miles. Let me know.

  2. donnapaz says:

    Joey, thanks…but it’s the labor that costs so damned much. And I go to a place that specializes in VWs. These vehicles, while sturdy on the outside, have very delicate electronics and I think I got one that is very delicate. I’m going back to Honda. I had two before I got this car and they didn’t cause me very many problems at all. I am ready to cut my losses.

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