Friday, July 19, 2013

The day Trevor might have been right. Maybe.

My car, y'all.  My hot mess of a lemon car.

Ever since I bought my Envoy in 2004, it has been a problem.  Well, not the car itself, but the computer system has been a nightmare.  It is my normal to be at an intersection and have my car suddenly go berserk and die.  I'm used to it, though, and don't even give the situation a second thought.  Because, generally speaking, all that needs to be done is to calmly put the car in park, turn it off and then turn it back on.  This resets the computer and WALLAH!  Problem fixed.  Most of the time, I don't even need to put the hazard lights on because I've fixed the problem before the light turns green or the cars behind me have registered a delay in the flow of traffic.

Of course, it wasn't always this way.  There was a time, early on, where my car dying would cause me to panic.  I'd turn it off, get it going again and make a beeline for the dealership.  They'd hook it up to the diagnostic computer and find...well, nothing.  Because I had reset the computer when I had turned off the engine, and whatever problem that had occurred to make it die in the first place had been erased from memory.

It only took a handful of experiences rushing to the dealership, spending money on diagnostic exams that yielded nothing because "the problem could not be duplicated" and being treated like some sort of car hypochondriac by the service techs before I became absolutely desynthesized to any kind of dash board warning light or sudden engine death.  I've simply gotten into the habit of NOT getting my car checked out (outside of regular maintenance, of course) because I assume that there is nothing wrong with it.  Which is rather alarming when I remember situations like the time in 2007 when my gas tank cracked due to some sort of structural problem common to vehicles of my make and model.  Or in 2009 when my instrument panel had to be completely replaced because my odometer decided to stop working.  Or that horrible time I was driving home from a work-related conference in another state and my car died multiple times on a major highway going 70+ mph.  

Okay, so maybe my car has a history of being a potential death trap.  But it hasn't succeeded, so I'm willing to forgive and forget.

(Thanks for going along with me on that.  For the sake of argument and this story.  Because I've already written a lot of words and I don't want to start the telling of this story over.)

(With that in mind...)

Suuuuuuuure, there have been problems.  But only like three or four biggies in over nine years of vehicular ownership.  It hasn't been the norm.  Every car has it's moments.

Because, again, MOST of the time, warning lights in my car mean absolutely nothing, so - when a new problem arose in my car last month - why wouldn't I poo-poo a few alarms, lights and warnings regarding my car's brake system?  Especially, when I could make said alarms, lights and warnings go away simply by turning my car off and back on again?  Because those are the very signs that suggest "nothing is wrong as usual" and I've conditioned myself over the last nine years to simply ignore them and pretend nothing is actually happening.

Except it did keep happening, and then I mentioned it to Trevor in passing and he got all "you've got our child in the backseat" kind of hysterical about it.  Because "those are the brakes" and "stopping is important" and blah, blah, blah.  So, about three weeks ago, we took it in and...well, NOTHING.  

Just as I expected.

Again, they could find nothing wrong with my brakes.  $50 and an oil change later, I was back on the road.  Granted, the test DID show that I should probably start thinking about getting new brakes sometime in the next 8,000 to 10,000 miles, but nothing immediate.  The dealership wasn't able to duplicate all the brake-related alarms, lights and warnings that I had been experiencing, but this was nothing new to me or my car.  Just another weird mystery computer glitch.  Nothing new about that concept in my world.  And so I kept driving.  The glitch kept happening, but it was sporadic and responded to the good ole "turn the car on and off" method.  So I wasn't worried.

Until, that is, last weekend.  I went to the gym on Saturday.  No problem.  After my five mile run, I drove across the street to get gas.  Again, no problem.  Turned on the car after filling up.  PROBLEM!  All the brake alarms, lights and warning starting going off.  So, I turned off the engine, waited a few seconds and started the car again.  More alarms, lights and warnings.  I tried again.  Warning! Warning! Warning!  Fourth time a charm?  Nope.

Annoyed now, I moved my car into a parking space in front of the 7-11 and away from the pump, and called Trevor.  His recommendation was to turn it off and wait a few minutes before trying again.  And, guess what?  It worked like a charm.  No more alarms, lights or warnings!

Except the alarms, lights and warnings were back again the next day, and the day after that.  What's more, it started happing EVERY time I drove anywhere, and I was getting very tired of all the beeping, flashing and SERVICE BRAKES IMMEDIATELY-type messages.  And, what's worse, Trevor started to get all paranoid again and kept making comments about Banner's safety in my car.  Which is annoying when you JUST HAD the brakes tested and were told that they were fine.

So, since I had to work on Monday this week, I took today off to deal with the car situation.  Figuring Banner would prefer to do just about anything other than hang out at the car dealership, I dropped him off at school before heading across town.  I was almost to Sewell before I realized that this was the first trip I had taken anywhere in days where the blasted alarms, lights and warnings HADN'T gone off.  Knowing full well that the dealership wouldn't be able to find the problem without them, I proceeded to drive around aimlessly for over an hour waiting for them to appear.  Because, you know, why not.

They finally did go off, though, and I made an immediate beeline for the dealership.  There was an awkward moment, after I exited my car to let them record my mileage, when I lunged at and very nearly tackled the service guy who made a move to suggest he was nano seconds away from turning off my engine.  Because I was pretty sure that I'd have another fruitless visit if the computer got reset, I completely overreacted.  Thankfully, the service tech seemed to understand and even humored me by putting a purple post-it note with the words "DO NOT TURN OFF ENGINE" in all caps on the dash.

Bless him and his patience.

It took a couple of hours for them to run all the diagnostic tests, and the results were...well, not good.

Apparently, my brakes are controlled by a computer.  When I hit the brake, a message is sent to said computer and the computer tells the car to slow down or stop.  The brake pedal is nothing more than a glorified computer button.  I don't know why this surprised me so much.  I guess I assumed that my car was too old to have anything except good ole mechanical brakes.  Which I suppose is silly considering that this is 2013, not 1953.  I don't question things I don't pretend to understand.

But I digress.

The computer that controls my brakes has failed.  It needs to replaced immediately.  Because, without a working computer, it doesn't matter how perfectly fine my physical brakes are or how many more miles they can go until needing to be replaced.  If the computer doesn't tell the brakes to stop, the car might just keep going until it encounters something, make it stop.  Like a brick wall.  Or another car.  Which?  Not good.  Especially with my precious baby in the backseat.  

Additionally, some hose that controls my power steering has a hole in it and one of my brake lights is out.  Because, you know, why the f*ck not?

Also, the dealership is out of loaners, rentals are at a premium for whatever reason this weekend and no one has an extra car laying around that I can borrow.    


Oh, and when I was told about all of this, my phone was about to die, my sister wasn't answering her phone (she was supposed to be my ride and we were going to grab lunch) and I found out the estimate to fix everything would be around $2,000.

I'm not sure if it was the combination of all of this or if it was the mere thought of calling Trevor and admitting that he had been right about my car all along, but I broke down in tears right there in the parking lot of Sewell.  It wasn't pretty.  It was the kind of cry where the harder you try to stop, the uglier the cry becomes.  I'm pretty sure I scared the other customers.

Luckily, my brother and dad were able to come and pick me up.  We went to lunch and then William drove me home.  Trevor was able to pick up Banner this afternoon, and now I'm just sitting on the couch trying to count my blessings and assure myself that everything is going to be okay.  Because, really:  Banner is safe and asleep in his crib.  My car has never actually failed to stop.  I don't need a car this weekend.  My mom can help get me to the dealership on Monday afternoon.  I have credit cards and a fund set aside for an (eventual) new car.  I can afford the repairs.  Everyone who saw me at Sewell today was a stranger and (even if I did ugly cry) it is unlikely I will ever see any of them again.  It is going to be okay.  Really. 

So what if me and the Envoy have possibly irreparable trust issues?  I can get over it until the time is right to ditch it's "I cry the car version of 'wolf' so much that no one believes me when there is a legit problem" mechanical a$$ and move on?  Right?


I'm so having popcorn for dinner tonight.  I've earned it.

Update (or, you know, "some bonus thoughts"):  
  1. Just reread this and realized that I've basically been in an abusive nine year relationship with an a$$hat of a car.   
  2. The ugly public cry may have been the result of very little sleep coupled with a lot of bad (and expensive) vehicular news.  Last night, I was roped into seeing THE CONJURING.  And I use the term "seeing" liberally because I was wearing a hoodie and only saw about 15% of the movie.  Despite not actually watching most of the flick (and drinking a "large" wine at the theater to cope), I still managed to have several nightmares last night which left little room for anything resembling restful slumber.    
  3. Dolls are unnecessarily creepy.  This is neither here nor there, but the sun just went down and now all I can think of is Annabelle.  Who, according to my sister, was a Raggedy Ann doll in real life.  OMG, I DON'T NEED SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION.
  4. I should stop watching scary movies.  Please take note, TREVOR.  You owe me a nice PG rated cartoon now. 

Update II (11:07 PM):

Trevor just read this post and said, "So, basically, the whole point was that I am right and I agree".  To which I respond, "No, Trevor.  Absolutely not.  I only alluded to the fact that you might have been right in a very non specific way.  You should reread the title and take note of the words 'might' and 'maybe'."

Also, stop sending me texts that read, "clap, clap, clap".  


Melissa said...

You know how I hate to side with Trevor, but. . . Go car shopping! Break up with the Envoy. You can come up with a new jingle for your new car.

RR said...

Ooooh, nooooo, Oy Oy! I know you'll get a new car eventually, but I'm attached to that one, probably because I've never been in it when it had the problems you've described. I hope it comes through okay. Fingers crossed!