About 17 months ago, my Saab 9-5 was totalled, and I bought another with the insurance payout. The new one (“Mal”) was a year older but had 10,000 miles less on the clock. I thought it was a fair trade. My mechanic warned me that Mal was going to need a new transmission at some point. I decided to buy it anyway, and so far, so good, on the transmission.
But oh, every.other.bloody.thing has needed replacing, it seems. This car has been such a money suck. I reckon it’s cost more each month, on average, than a new car payment would have.
Just last week I spent $577 on it. And booked it in for this coming Friday for another repair that will cost about the same. And that’s before this weekend’s debacle.
Early yesterday morning I left K sleeping, donned my workout gear, and slipped out to go to the gym. Mal wouldn’t start. Dead as a doornail. I decided to wait for a decent hour (i.e. more than six hours after he’d gone to sleep) before soliciting K’s help, so spent the next few hours walking his dog (yep! me!!), scrubbing things in his kitchen, and studying California’s propositions for the upcoming election.
(I am not comfortable with the damsel-in-distress act. I prefer to solve my own problems, but I was kind of stuck. I considered just calling AAA, but was concerned that the narrow steep driveway might not support a tow truck, and knew that the noise would wake him anyway. And then he’d wonder why on earth I hadn’t just woken him in the first place.)
Eventually he got up and jump started my car. Not knowing what had caused the problem, I decided to drive to an auto parts shop about 18 miles away and see if the battery had charged. It hadn’t, so I bought a new battery.
I even installed it myself.
So yeah, I was feeling pretty good about the outcome, until early this afternoon when I was driving up the mountain and all the alarms sounded. My new battery was dead dead dead. First it told me that the ABS and airbags were inoperable. Then the power steering stopped working. Then the power brakes. I was on a freaking winding mountain road and I had no control of my car. It kept DING! DING! DING!ing. Shut the fuck up, Mal! I know it’s an emergency!
I managed to wrest it over to the side of the road. And call AAA. And K. Who, though he was right in the middle of a music editing project, of course dropped everything to meet me at my mechanic’s and bring me home. (Boyfriends are kinda handy, I guess.)
So now I’m going to need (I assume) a new alternator. And the flaky transmission is still waiting in the wings, to die on me at an inappropriate time.
My mechanic tells me that I’m at 100,000 miles, and ten years, so all the parts that were designed for that lifespan are dying one by one. But if I fix them all, I’ll have another good decade. Is that true? Or is it just a tale to keep me tied to the guy who makes his living from people like me?
What’s the formula for figuring out when to bail?
Should I have been scared off by the MAL in the license plate?
When do I stop throwing good money after bad?