Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I have just decided a thing

Many of you who have read here for a while know that I drive a little KIA Optima named Tinkerbell. Before she was Tink, she was part of Enterprise's fleet of rental vehicles, so when we bought her in 2004 she was low mileage, a good price ('nothing parties like a rental!'), and, most importantly, she had enough backseat room that we thought she would 'fit' our family for many years to come.

Well, those many years are up, for many reasons.

1) The Things are, at 13 and 15, both over 6'2" and still growing. Their size 14 sneakers will attest to the fact that they are likely going to be very tall grown men, and current proof (aside from the big feet) is that they both wear jeans with 34-inch inseams, and those are just barely long enough.


Up until a few months ago, those legs fet in the backseat of dear Tinkerbell, but those days are fast coming to a close, and anytime we 4 go anyplace together the Things get crammed into the back seat and can't budge until we make a pit stop.


It is for their comfort (and, let's be frank, MINE, as more room would naturally mean less complaining for the back seat) that trading Tinkebell in for 'something bigger' is a good idea.

But wait, there's more.

2) Maintenance.

In the past few years, since the car ticked over the 100K mile mark and thus the warranty expired, ol' Tink is experiencing part failure after part failure, and is currently costing me the equivalent of about 150 bucks a month in repairs.

I KNOW, ridiculous, right?

But here's the thing - it's not a car payment. It's not a hit on my credit rating to pay out LESS than a car payment each month, and so I keep shelling out for things like timing belts and motor mounts and power steering whatsits and suchlike. Maps. Or something.

The latest thing to have gone wrong, and in a highly worrisome manner, are the front 'ball joints.' Please, do not tell my car she has balls, and that not only does she have them but they have JOINTS, for that would certainly be a shocker and she might just drop her transmission in surprise, which would suck because those things are expensive and we can't have that!

Ball joints are, apparently, important for the car to not squeak. And squeak, and squeak some more when a) going over bumps, b) turning, c) thinking about going over bumps, d) coming to a stop, e) starting back up again, and f) almost anything else that involves movement except turning right. For some reason, turning right is fine.

Now, you might think that an obnoxiously squeaking care would be cause for concern, and you'd be right, except I'm beginning to bristle at having to keep spending money on the car so I've put it off for a bit in protest over having to part with yet MORE of my money on this less-than well-fitting vehicle.

Hey - 300 clams is 300 clams, ya know what I mean?

EXCEPT - dig this: I just did a little research on ball joints, which led to research on KIA suspension, which led to the following:

it appears that in June of 2009 a recall of MY YEAR CAR was issued for problems with the front suspension in vehicles that were sold or operated in 'road salt' states, which Connecticut is, which is where I bought that car and DROVE IT IN THE WINTER. Never mind that they brine the living sh-t out of roads around here when there's even a whisper of a chance for snow...

I should not be surprise, I suppose, that I never heard of this recall. I should also not be overly surprised that the mechanics at the dealership never told me about it. It should come as no surprise, given the info about make/model/year/geographic location mentioned above that I just recently had to have the tires re-aligned because the right front tire was showing signs of rapid and unusual wear, which is PART OF THE SIGNAL THAT YOUR SUSPENSION IS BAD!!!!

2 + 2 = potato, as far as the repair guys at the KIA place are concerned, apparently. Never let a chance to get a paying customer in the door, even when the recall mentioned 'free repair' of this dangerous condition. Yeah man - your ball joints or lower control arm can corrode clean away, leaving you in a possible position of having the front of your call FALL OFF, possibly while driving! Why would they NOT tell me about that in June of 2009 when the recall came out??? Heavens! It would be like actually taking care of your customers instead of waiting for them to become so desperate that they'll throw money at you to make the damned squeaking go away???

Naturally, I am bristling. I am taking mega-umbrage as well, and might even go so far as to say I could go very medieval on whichever 'customer service representative' I come across, this afternoon, when we take the car in to get it banished of the maddening squeakery.

So, yes, I think I shall be getting THIS repair for free. Naturally, I will use my nicest mild-manndered man-killer voice with them as I tell them about this little issue, and how I believe they should have told me that my car fit every demographic to meet this recall. I shall knock it into their thick lying skulls that they really should be shooting for good customer service, not just mo' money, mo' money.

My rage is justifiable, and white-hot.

Rage, though at time satisfying to experience, will not get me a new car, which is what we need, because even though this latest repair might be coming in at under a dollar if I have my way, there will be other repairs needed, that much is sure, and I 'm pretty much sick and tired of repairing a car that doesn't really suit our needs anymore.

So, new car, or new-ish car, because I'm not buying new, just new to me.

What should we get? What do YOU drive? Would a couple of he-beasts like the Things fit in the backseat(s)?

I'm leaning toward minivan (Honda Odyessy, anyone?), but purchasing a nice land yacht (something from the 60's with a huge trunk might work) is appealing as well. There are currently 2 people car shopping for me (they volunteered! honest!) who are pushing the minivan, but I'm open to other suggestions.

Comments are welcome, as are opinions, general rage-venting, and ideas for dinner.

Time to go chew out a mechanic or 2. Tiff out.

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