It started with a funny noise. A funny noise, a kind of throbbing, and a little extra smoke. So I took the car in on Monday to get looked at, to find out why it was doing it. "Oil", they said – "lack of oil". Ah. Okay. Wish I’d checked the oil more regularly. Then they said "lack of oil caused by a valve problem". Oh. "Which will cost $430 to fix, because we’ll have to pull the car apart to get at it."
D’oh! All right Mr Mechanic, here’s my car, you do your work.
Then they said, "You know how we said it was a valve problem? Well it’s not just that. It’s the head gasket". The head gasket. Uh oh. I have very little idea what goes on under the bonnet of my car, and even less idea what the head gasket is or does. But this sounded bad. And expensive. "It’s going to have to be replaced", they said. "It’ll cost $950". Not because the head gasket is tremendously expensive, you understand, but because it’s deep down in the bowels of the engine. Argh!
D’oh! All right Mr Mechanic, I’ll make sure the credit card’s up for it, you do your work.
They rang back this afternoon. "We were wrong", they said. "Your head gasket is fine". Ah. Well, that sounds good, but why would they ring to tell me good news? Hell no. They hadn’t. "When we were pulling your engine apart, we found what caused the oil leak. It’s a big problem, you’d better come down and take a look."
I felt like I’d been asked by the doctor to come and visit a dying relative. I went down there. The guy ushered me into a darkened spot at the back of the workshop. There was my car, stripped down, bits everywhere. He showed me what they’d found. A crack in the cylinder shaft thingy. Pretty much irreparable.
D’oh! All right Mr Mechanic, what are my options? The main one is getting a reconditioned replacement engine. Yes, a whole engine. I asked what the ballpark cost would be. "About $3000".
THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS? I could almost buy a new second hand car for that! Three fucking grand? I DON’T REMEMBER THIS BEING IN THE FUCKING PLAN!!
The guy could see my disappointment. "There is an alternative", he said. "It sometimes works". $30 for a bottle of stuff which may seal the crack. May. No-brainer to try that, right? Uh uh. Not when you take into account the $1100 or so cost of the work to put it in, put the engine back together, let it run for a week, then pull the engine apart to flush the stuff out, then put it back in again. And all without any guarantee that it’ll work.
$1100 versus $3000. "It’s a lot if you weren’t thinking about upgrading your car". Yep. Never were truer words spoken. I hadn’t been thinking about upgrading. Well, not before today.
I do believe that my long standing belief about cars being a money pit has come true.
So, now I have some thinking time. To decide what I’m going to do next. You know, I’ve been thinking of buying a bicycle…
The moral of this story: check your oil regularly. Go do it now. Go on!