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Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Car

So having a car has been very useful, and getting it from Horyon's father for free was pretty cool, too. It's 10 years old, we've been driving it for about 9 months (minus the 2 I was in the U.S.), and haven't spent money on much more than gas and car washes in that time. But dance long enough, and you always have to pay the piper.

I kind of thought we had. The second or third day that we had the car, I drove Horyon to school and got a flat tire on the way home. I put on the spare, a regular sized wheel, and later we got it patched. A few days later, the spare got a puncture. I was thankful that I had repaired the original, because it went back on the car. The spare, too, was patched, and put back into the trunk, and we have had no tire problems since then. Maybe because the car felt it had broken me in. It was just waiting for Horyon to try riding it.

Horyon got her driver's license just a couple of weeks ago, and has been driving back and forth to work since then. Well, less than two weeks actually. Then last week, as she went to leave from her second day of teaching, the car wouldn't start. She called the mechanic authorized by our insurance program, and they came and took a look. They ended up replacing the starter motor and battery, to the tune of about $300. They also put together a nice little checklist of things they thought ought to be replaced, fixed, or re-duct-taped. We nodded, smiled, and planned to go to the mechanic who usually takes care of the car.

Incidentally, we went to the usual mechanic about a month ago, for a general check-up. He said nothing serious was wrong.

Early this week, there were more problems. Something just wasn't right. When Horyon took the car in for them to look at, it was a mess. If I'm interpreting Horyon's translation of what the mechanic said to her correctly, they replaced all the engine gaskets and plugs, as well as some other work. That was another three or four hundred bucks.

Then on Thursday, on her way to work, the car stopped going uphill. Not just any uphill, but a busy, steep street, one that would barely be four lanes if there weren't cars parked (illegally) on both sides of the street. And following her was a large truck from the construction site just down the hill. Keep in mind that Horyon has only had her license for a couple of weeks. Her car stops, starts going backwards down the hill, and there's nothing she can do about it. Fortunately, she managed to get it stopped before hitting anything. She waves on the traffic behind her, and folds in her rear-view mirror. One of her kind coworkers stopped and helped her get the car moved to the side of the road. She called the mechanics, and told them where she was, and they came and got it. When she got to school, her coworkers were amazed at her luck, having three incidences in her first couple of weeks of driving.

By early afternoon, the mechanics had it all sorted out. Horyon's father went down to take a look. He said, "I can't see the gears and stuff because of all those little chunks of metal in the casing." Their reply was, "Those little chunks of metal are the gears and stuff."

Another $500.

Our free car has now cost us around $1300. I'm still pretty grateful. I think that in the States the repairs would have been way more expensive. And we have been reassured that the car is now in pretty good shape, and should be road-worthy for quite some time.

Oh, we had to go back to the mechanic today. When we turned the car on, the display in the stereo was blinking, and after three or four minutes, it shut down and flashed the word "COdE" in that cute, digital spelling. The mechanic got into our glove box, looked at the manual, and typed in a code using the radio program buttons, and BOOM we were back in musical business. He explained to her that it was an anti-theft device of some sort.

Now I don't want to seem ungrateful, but the stereo in our car is hardly worth stealing. It sounds fine and everything, but it's not a pimped-up, ear-throbbing, window-breaking machine. It plays music. CD's, tapes, radio. AM and FM. And I plug my MP3 player in through one of those cassette adapters. No one would steal this stereo.

So it must be something to discourage car theft. Imagine, the thief gets in, hotwires the vehicle, and drives off. He's feeling pretty good, got some Doors playing on the stereo, when suddenly the music stops. The vibe is no longer there, and he is discouraged. He pulls over with a sigh, and finds that he no longer has the will to open the door. The flashing "COdE" on the stereo seems to mock him. He calls the police with his own cell phone, confessing his crime, and then dives in front of an 18-wheeler, ending his misery.

Yeah. That's how it would work.



p.s. Horyon told me that I need to mention a few things: first of all, I was slack in my maintenance of the aforementioned vehicle. Among other things, I neglected to put water in the radiator every week or two. I always thought you just kept an eye on the temperature gauge, but in Korea I guess water evaporates faster because we're further East than in America.

Second, my smart-ass attitude tends to cover up the fact that this was my fault for saying that I had been driving for 16 years when we took on this car, when in fact I have never really owned a car that I was solely in charge of maintaining.

And third, Chaeryon (and other new drivers) should take heart. A new car is much less likely to just suck a lot of money out of your wallet without warning. But find out what you need to do regularly, and DO IT!!!

Fourth, with no Maxine pictures, how can I expect anyone to actually look at this posting?
We're getting ready to go out. It looks like Maxine is hoping that the car is really working correctly.

1 comment:

Former resident of Gopetar, Nepal said...

Aren't cars great! We got one back in September (1996 Volvo) cost about $6000 from a co-worker. I don't drive it much. Mainly for my wife to shuttle the kids around. Much better than taking a taxi everywhere. We haven't had any breakdowns yet. But we have had to get a few things fixed: shock absorbers, front wheel drive and gas line. Only 6000 baht ($150)! Living in Thailand has its advantages.

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