Tag Archives: Car

That New Car Smell

As happens with cars, my Mustang is in the shop right now.  At three years old, she has performed well with only a few minor glitches over the years.  The puddle lamps had to be replaced in the first month, the Sync module had to be replaced in the first year, and this year the hood needed a paint job to correct a factory defect.  Even with all that, the car has performed very well for me.  I remember when she was brand new, she had that “new car smell” that makes driving a new car a complete sensory experience.  Now, three years down the road, that smell has faded amid all the fast food, sweat, washings, vacuumings, and other daily minutia.  I am pretty meticulous about maintenance, so I get the regular oil changes and rotate the tires when needed.  Even with all that, Sally developed a rattle last month that was bothering me, so I took her in to the shop to have her checked out.  It was worrisome because the factory warranty has expired and I did not opt for the extended warranty, despite the repeated pleadings of the robo-callers.

Fortunately, the problem is covered and is being repaired.  Something about the tie-rods needing to be replaced.  When I first took her in, the attendant said the mechanic needed to work on it wasn’t working that day and that I should bring it in during the week.  I have to work during the week, and being a new employee, I didn’t want to take time off work to do it.  She scheduled an appointment to bring it in on a Saturday.  Great!

The day of the appointment, it was raining, so when I showed up, the service manager said they couldn’t diagnose it in the rain and I would have to leave it.  Fortunately, they said I could have a loaner.  Great!

They put me in a white 2019 Ford Escape.  I had owned an Escape before back when it still looked like an SUV, and this one looks more like a crossover.  Not my favorite style.  This Escape is a base model; no bells or whistles.  Four-cylinder with no satellite radio, no back up sensors, no sun roof, no navigation, and no automatic temperature control; all the things I love about Sally.  But when I got in, it had one thing.  It had that one quality that gives even undesirable cars a certain appeal.  Every time I get in, I take a deep breath of it and let it fill my nose with that new car smell.  So, while I have been driving a car I wouldn’t buy, I have enjoyed getting to experience that new car feeling while Sally is being fixed.

It is amazing how you get used to the features of a car that you don’t even realise until you don’t have them anymore.  I almost backed into a car in a parking lot because I was waiting for the back up sensors to beep.  I almost froze on the way to work because the car didn’t automatically adjust the environmental controls for the temperature.  I got stuck in traffic because there was no navigation telling me about an accident ahead on the freeway.  But even with these shortcomings, I am enjoying driving the loaner.  You just can’t beat that new car smell.  If only there was a way for older cars to get it back.


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Observations During a Mundane Afternoon

After several weeks of procrastinating, I finally got my list of chores done this week. Among other chores, I got my hair cut, the oil changed, tires rotated, and the car detailed.

I needed a haircut, so while I was getting my oil changed at Walmart auto center, I went to the TGF hair salon in the Walmart for my quarterly trim. While the beautician was delicately snipping the half inch off the top (only the grays, I told her) an older, brightly clad bottle-blonde woman with blue-veined legs emerging from hot pink spandex shorts came in, walked up to my attendant and demanded Paul Mitchell face soap.

“We don’t have any,” the employee said, not missing a snip of her scissors.

“Could you order it?” the woman persisted.

“I’m afraid not,” the employee started to reply, but didn’t get to finish the thought.

“Why not?” the woman interrupted.

The employee stopped snipping for a moment. I caught her eye in the mirror and gave her a bemused smile of sympathy. “We don’t carry it,” she answered.

“So, you can order it.”

“No, ma’am.”

“Why not? You carry other Paul Mitchell products.”

The manager came out and took over the conversation, desperately trying to get the woman to understand that face soaps are not a product that TGF can order. The customer seemed unable to process that a hair salon does not carry the facial product she wants. The question “why not” was asked after every statement.

“Well, I’ll be back in a week to pick it up. Please order it for me,” the woman demanded as she pushed her shopping cart out of the store. We all snickered when she wandered out of sight.

While sitting in the chair getting my ears lowered, my stomach started rumbling. During this week, there was a discussion online about In-n-Out Burger coming to Houston, so I decided to have lunch at what I thought would be its most direct competition, Smash Burger. After that meal, I have determined that Smash Burger is not in competition with In-N-Out Burger. And having had In-N-Out on more than one occasion, the real competition it has to beat is 5 Guys or Whataburger. Smash Burger is above McDonalds and Burger King, but that’s about it.

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While leaving Smash Burger and heading to Discount Tire, I came upon a lone wheel rolling down the feeder road, weaving lazily from one lane to the other, never quite finding the curb before angling back across traffic. It rolled for at least a mile before it wandered down a side road. There was no car pulled over that was missing said wheel, no indication that anyone had lost it and no one appeared to be looking for it. It was just out for an afternoon jaunt all by itself. Makes you wonder what else your car does when you think it’s parked.

I left Discount Tire and headed over to the car wash. After getting my car detailed, I stopped in a parts store to get a battery for my motorcycle and then to the gas station to fill up the tank. Before I could even open the gas cap, a van pulled up beside me and a young Hispanic fellow stuck his head out of the window.

“Hey, man,” he asked, “you need a new home theater system? I got a spare one in the back.”

“Nope. I’m fine, thank you.”

“You sure, man? I can let you have it cheap.”

“I’m good.”

As they drove off, I had to wonder of what truck that system “fell off” or whether or not some home was missing its stereo.

On the way home, after completing all the tasks I needed, including getting the car detailed, the skies opened up and rained all over my car. But, it’s all good. It just gave my car “the wet look.”

It was an interesting afternoon, to be sure.

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No Charge Part Deux

With the sun shining high in the afternoon sky, my wife and I headed out on a weekend trip to the Texas Hill Country, looking to spend a relaxing weekend touring small town Texas; specifically Georgetown and Round Rock. We do this as a way of indulging our past times of antiquing and exploring the nearby countryside. We used to do day trips in the immediate area, but now we have to plan longer trips as we travel further from home.

We have two vehicles, both SUVs: a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport and a 2009 Ford Escape. They are like siblings sometimes, in that they get sick at the same time. When I was a child, my two sisters and I passed the chicken pox back and forth three times, so that my parents had to constantly deal with at least one sick child for several months. My cars are like that. Earlier this year, both of their batteries had to be replaced within a week of each other.sick_car[2]

Anyway, the highway was fairly populated, but traffic was moving at a relatively brisk pace. We stopped at an absolutely horrific Denny’s for a protracted, mediocre dinner before continuing on to Austin, where we planned to turn north into Round Rock. As we cruised west on highway 290, I felt a “thunk” in the car, almost like I drove over something that flipped up and hit the undercarriage. Suddenly, the car lost power and began to slow, despite my continued pressure on the accelerator. Something was wrong.

I drifted over to the shoulder and rolled to a stop. With the blinkers on, I waited for a break in the oncoming traffic before opening my door. You’d think that at some point, the road would be empty, even if only for a moment, but there was a steady stream of cars barreling down on us as I sat there with the door cracked open. Finally, I spotted my opening. I figured after the panel van went by, I would be able to hop out, close the door and scamper around to the front of the car before the red Kia knocked me over. I counted to three, hopped, slammed and scooted just in the nick of time. I opened the hood and peered inside, as if by doing so, the gremlin that was plaguing my car would jump up, throw his hands in the air and surrender, never to bother us again. Alas, I saw nothing amiss under the hood. Everything looked as it should. No hoses were loose, no belts screamed, no fittings spewed. With these new computer controlled cars, there isn’t even a throttle linkage to manipulate.

The engine was idling as it should, but it wouldn’t respond to the accelerator. My wife, Michelle and I feared we would be stranded and have to call someone to come get us. It was at this time that it occurred to me that this is a computer controlled vehicle, and what does one do when a computer malfunctions? One reboots. So I turned the car off, waited a few seconds and turned it back on. Bingo! The accelerator once again controlled the car. The vehicle managed to run just fine for the rest of the weekend and even into the next week.

My Sport was having mechanical problems of its own, having a rubbing sound and burning smell after driving for a while. I knew I needed to get that fixed before something ignited or a wheel flew off and rolled ahead of me down the road. For that car, it turned out the right rear brake caliper was jammed and after a boatload of money, it was fine. But the very same day I got the Sport fixed, the Escape’s gremlin returned. Michelle called me to let me know the car stopped accelerating on her way to work. She followed my example of pulling over, turning the car off and on again to reboot the computer and it worked, but that meant we had to get it fixed ASAP. It would not do for her to be stranded on the way to work in rush hour traffic if the gremlin decided a reboot wouldn’t suffice anymore.

I was worried, as the Sport’s repair bill was impressive and we had not budgeted for yet another repair bill. The Escape had more than 108,000 miles on it, so its factory warrantee was long expired. Fortunately, after some internet research, I found out that the issue is related to a known factory recall for the throttle body assembly, and that Ford was effecting repairs for affected vehicles at no cost. Yea!

So, once again, my two cars got sick at the same time, but fortunately, I only had to pay for one! Hopefully, they are both done getting sick for a while. But we know these things come in threes, so I’m knocking on wood as I type this.

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