Jill's Ford Escort, 1992
My wife's first car that she purchased, as opposed to a family hand-me-down. She was very proud of this car, she had shopped for it herself and struck the deal herself and paid for it herself. While the Escort was a cheap car, she had passed up on the cheaper Festiva as even to her (no car buff) it was too cheaply made.
This was a good car for her. Roomy, small, economical. It treated her pretty well over the years. But these are not cars that are built to last the ages. She had over 100K on the odometer when we started dating, and the motor-mouse seatbelt (an abomination!) had jammed in mid-track. I guess this is pretty common. She had checked with the dealer, and found that the price to repair it was quite high.
I managed to take it apart and found that yes indeed, the price to repair it would be quite high. The track the seatbelt ran in was aluminum, and it had worn away so that the cable jumped out of the track and jammed. The only way to repair it was to replace the whole assembly. And any used one you found was likely to be ready to fail soon, so you really needed a new part.
So what I did was to cut the cable, releasing the 'mouse', and dragged it back to the B pillar so that it could again serve as an anchor for the belt. You just had to clip it on and off manually. Awkward due to the layout, but not too hard. And a whole lot safer than having no seatbelt. While I was at it I unplugged the passenger side one too, since there was no point in it chugging back and forth and wearing itself out too. She rarely carried a passenger, let 'em belt up like she did!
Then the car started to overheat. She had a new thermostat put in, as this is cheap and easy. No dice. It was now leaking coolant, and she took it in to get the standard water pump and timing belt swap. The leak stopped, but it was still overheating, and she was running out of money. So I replaced the radiator, as a birthday present. It was the only part left. That brought the temperatures down, but then she started mysteriously losing coolant. And the exhaust was white and smelly. Uh-oh.
She took it in and they said that if she was lucky it was just the head gasket. She was not lucky, they found the head cracked in four places. (Honey, I know you really like this car, but the squirrels are getting old. I think it's about worn out.) This is about when I had the idea to get her a car as a present, possibly an engagement present. It's also when her grandfather decided that giving her his Taurus would solve a couple of problems. (It's kind of funny, a girl who can't understand why anyone would want more than one car ends up with three of her own, and marrying a guy with six of his own.)
Anyway, it's entirely possible that the head cracked because of the overheating caused by the other worn-out parts, but we'll never know.
So here she was caught in the classic good-money-after-bad car trap. She's already in to it a significant amount, and yet it's worth near zero. So she managed to scrape up another $1,000 and had another head put on. Now the car works fine, no problems. But for how long? And, it's worth less than what she had recently spent on it, though it is again a functioning car. In hindsight, she would have been better off financially had she parked it alongside the road at the first sign of trouble and thrown the signed title and keys onto the front seat and walked away. (My brother has actually done this, but he's a mechanic and might be expected to know when this was a good thing to do.)
The car was fixed, but it had shaken her confidence in it. I was also annoyed with it. By the time we married, she had two spare cars of her own to drive, so she was interested in getting rid of two. Her brother and his wife were in need of a second car, so she gifted it to them. (Her brother the pastor actually married us, so we can consider the car his payment! Let us hope that `paying' with a broken car doesn't result in a broken marriage.) She also sold the Taurus, leaving her with just the Mercedes convertible. Good choice, honey!
She still occasionally misses the car (especially when she trips over one of our many cars or one gives her trouble) as it was all hers, small, and got good gas mileage. I, however, am happier that she routinely drives herself (and our son!) around in something a little more substantial, the SDL.
The brother ended up with another second car, something a little more suitable for a family of four, so they in turn gifted the car to some deserving person. We can envision that this car is eking out a fulfilling existence as a moving good deed, its aging but not-dead-yet squirrels churning and chittering happily under the hood as it's passed on from need to need.
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