Murphy's Law

Buying a car can lead to expensive surprises

I'd have to admit that owning a car for only five days has given me enough material for two or three columns. And I don't even have the new plates on it yet!

Yes, I finally got a car. After surviving for several years without one, it came to pass that I needed one. My new job is in Boca, but that's all I can say about my job for now. Security, and stuff like that.

But, like I've said, these past five days have been very hetic.

Picking up the car was a trip unto itself. My mom is considered a “safe” driver. What she is, is an extreamly overcautious driver. For instance, the car in front stops at a red light. My mom stops.

“Mom, you can pull up further. Fifty feet away is a bit much,” I said, as she drove my new used car home.

“Sean, what it that car in front suddenly slips into reverse? What then?”

“Mom, I don't think anyone has been front-ended before.”

“My breaks could fail,” she shot back.

“So?” I said. “There's always the emergency break, and if that fails, slip the cat into reverse, wait for the car to stop, then neutral.”

She pulled up.

Even so, little old ladies with blue hair crouched behind the sterring wheel of a football field length Oldsmobile passed us. My friend, Bill, who drove us to pick up the car was waiting for half an hour at our house. And he left after we did!

Anyway, the car seemed okay. It drove smoothly, and purred like a kitten. Until we filled it up with a full tank of gas.

Then it sounded like War World III. Putt putt putt putt sputter sputter BOOM BOOM putt putt sputter GASP BOOM BOOM (and various other load and ominous sounding car noises)!

I said it was a bad tank of gas. Mom said it was the muffler, transmission, distributor, and kitchen sink. Both of us were wrong.

“Well, all it seems to be is a bad spark plug wire. These two here are shorted out, causing you to run on only two cylinders,” said Bill's father, Bill. We managed to limp over to his house, and he was kind enough to look at the car. “If I had any spare plug wires, I'd give them to you, but I don't.”

“But that is all that's wrong with it?” Mom inquired.

“Yes. I think you should take it in though, just for a check up,” said Bill's father, Bill.

We just barely made it.

On the way home, the car stalled ten times, would do only fifteen (even slow for Mom) when the gas pedal was floored. It sounded like a sub-machine gun (and we even saw an accident on the way home. Some girl got side-swiped at an intersection. So maybe it was good that we weren't going faster. Who knows?).

We managed to coast into the service station. My mom walked up to the person inside the building. There were two people actually, one working on a car, the other sitting in the car.

“Yup, how can I hep you?” said the one working.

“My car has some bad spark plug wires. The spark plugs may need changing, and the rotor may be bad,” I said, repeating what Bill's father, Bill, told us.

“Well, the rotor has something to do with the breaks,” said the person in the car.

“Jes shut up,” said the other. “Okay, leave the keys, and we'll look at it tomarrow.”

“Okay, but it sounds like you have a break problem to me,” offered the one in the car.

“Jes shup up,” said the one standing, and within moments, were arguing about where the rotor was located. We ended up walking home into the oncoming rain (if it had been clear, it would have been the sunset), wondering if we would get ripped off, or not …


And it still does.

The car in question, the Murphmobil I, lasted until early '94 (a Toytota Tercel Hatchback '81—I bought it in '88) when the State of Florida deemed it unroad worthy (emissions - would take a new engine to fix) and so it languished in the parking lot until March of '96 when I was forced to sell it (damn condo commandos) for an undisclosed amount (ahem).

My second car, the Murphymobil II (a Toytota Tercel '89 two door (which I inherited in early '94)) lasted until December 28th, '96 when the transmission seized up in Cordele, Georgia, some 500 miles from Lower Sheol right smack dab in the middle of two major holidays.

I'm now on the Murphmobil III, The Revenge (this time, no more foreign cars—'84 Buick Regal four door 6 cylinder land cruiser), and like the Murphmobil I, it too needed some work when bought, although (knock on American steel) not as much.