Thursday, March 31, 2016

It Rained On My Parade

My automotive conveyance, yclept Big Girl
Heading in to my place of employment on a recent Tuesday, commencing my final approach onto what the higher ups like to call "the campus," (yes, it's all collegiate we are) I made the hard right required to depart the main thoroughfare. As I did, I heard, over the squalling of the radio sports personalities, a rather harsh scraping noise emanating from somewhere to the rear of my ride.

Quickly dropping the cockpit windows to their fully lowered extent, and chopping the sound on the radio, I listened. Carefully. For I have heard that noise before, 'tis the harbinger of incipient brake failure. (In fact I heard that noise every other year on my old Dodge Stratus. That car went through brakes like a shark though a school of fish. Okay, it wasn't that bloody but I like the imagery. Okay, the car chewed up brakes like crazy. In the many years I owned Volkswagens I don't think I ever had any brakes replaced. The Stratus kept a pads and rotors factory somewhere in Southeast Asia in the green for many a year...)

Anyhoo. With the radio off and the windows down I heard not a peep from astern.

Hhmm. Imagination? Some random background noise on the radio?

I dunno and I thought nothing further of it.

Until Tuesday night, making the hard right onto my street, there it was again, that scraping noise. The radio was already off (my station of choice seems to enjoy running commercials for nearly every minute of my afternoon commute, so it goes to O.F.F. mode), down went the windows.

"Scree scree scree scree."


After parking in the drive way, I heard this slow, "tick, tick, tick." Which I thought to myself, "sounds just like hot metal cooling."


So Wednesday morning, I nurse the ride to work. At an appropriate hour I call the Honda dealership. They can fit me in.

Before y'all go off on "the dealership," you must understand my philosophy. Having an excellent mechanic at one's beck and call is indeed a wondrous thing to be cherished. A tale to tell around the campfire after a long day's hunt.

It's also hard to find one of those. I had a really good one in the Netherlands. But he retired and the land of the Dutch is rather too far to take an ailing vehicle anyway.

A good mechanic is a rare and wondrous thing. Something to be sought much like the Holy Grail. Folks might say that they know a really good mechanic, but he's not taking any new customers. Or that he works out of his shop in the far reaches of the Yukon and only repairs cars on odd numbered Tuesdays in months where one shouldn't eat oysters.

I know they're not like unicorns. I have actually seen a good mechanic. I have never actually seen a unicorn.

They're more like Sasquatch, or the abominable snowman (Yeti to his neighbors). I think they're real, I might have seen one once in the deep woods. Then again it was dark and I did have more than a few pints in me. Hey, we were at a hunting cabin playing cards and drinking beer. It's what we rustics did back in the day.

So, no personal mechanic in my phone's memory (though I have a real wizard of a roofing guy therein) so I called the dealership. Now mind you, I like this dealership. It's where The Nuke bought the car (which I was gifted some years ago) back in ought-five. They've treated us fair and they've done superb work in the past so...

So maybe I do have a guy, well actually a bunch of them.

Anyhoo, it was discovered that the right side calipers had frozen and had done their worst to the other bits of braky stuff on that side of the car. The left side braky things were also showing their age and...

Long story short, I had the brakes replaced just about all around. To include the calipers on the starboard side, port side was fine. Not sure what caused starboard to go tango uniform, but as the Germans say "egal!" What's done is done and my wallet has suffered.

To the tune of, well let's just say it was north of a grand and leave it at that.

The Missus Herself says we need to think about a new ride for Your Humble Scribe. As it costs me (maintenance wise, to include oil changes) less than two thousand a year to keep Big Girl in fighting trim, I'm wondering, does she know a place where I can get a new Japanese-make SUV for less than two grand a year?

If she does, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, car repairs are a fact of life. Expensive and somewhat unpleasant but hey! I'm helping the economy and keeping a number of folks employed.

Yeah, I've got that going for me...


  1. A good car mechanic, like a good contractor to fix up stuff on the home, are jewels.

  2. As a former Navy Machinist Mate, and having worked in the Shipyard as a mechanic, as well as some time in the car barn for commuter rail, and a mercifully short stint as a steel mill millwright, I tend to do most of my own car repairs.
    The joys of doing my own car work is that I do not need a large crane to pick up the car parts, and even if some of the car parts are kinda stuck together, they are never stuck together like years of neglect and salt water make things stick together. And no car repairs involve close proximity to high voltage bare wires (big electric trains), and no car repairs need to be done while wearing a silver suit and being next to red hot steel.
    And I am well along in the competition of he who dies with the most tools wins.
    Still though, a sobering thought is that my first car repair, a simple tune up on my parent's car, ended with the car being towed to the garage.
    Unfortunately my skill set does not include computer repair. A couple of days ago I added memory to the new laptop. A great Youtube video deluded me into thinking it would be easy. The only thing the video missed was a caution to not pinch the screen ribbon cable when you tighten down the case. Now the magic smoke has been released from the cable, and I am hoping the new ribbon cable, (hello Ebay) will contain enough magic smoke to make the laptop work.

    1. I tend to shy away from doing anything I'm not trained to do. One of the things Chez Sarge lacks is a garage. I'm sure I would be tempted to do my own repairs if I had a garage to do it in. Then I would also keep the number of the towing company close by.

      You released the magic smoke from the ribbon cable? Oh no, now you'll have to clean up all those spilled electrons, it's the magic smoke which keeps them in the cable. So I'm told.

      I miss my old VW Beetle, I actually could (and did) do simple mechanical fixes on it. Had a book to guide me and simple tools were all that was required. The "good" old days, so to speak.

  3. We have an excellent car repair place here in Baraboo, Home Town Auto Repair. That is where Vlad the Impala does for work. Vlad is a retired Chevrolet 9C1 Police Patrol Vehicle, so he has cop car brakes. I love having cop car brakes! I also love having a car that was designed to be abused. Squads tend to run 24/7 in the winter, and they must be capable of idling for hours, and then go to Warp 6 immediately, so a 13 mile each way commute is just gravy for Vlad.

    Since, if you are patrolling correctly, even in the depth of winter, you have your window down at least partway, as you could very well hear something you want to look into more closely, police cars have better heaters than regular cars. I like that BAKE and ROAST settings on some mid winter Wisconsin nights.

    If you are willing to go with the Work Truck version, you can still get a V-8 4X4 Suburban for less than $30,000.

  4. Last month I had my front brakes replaced, including the calipers. Got it done on a Monday, and then on Thursday I started hearing "clatter clatter clatter" from under the vehicle. So I looked underneath when I got home. I know little about car repair, but I immediately saw the problem. Namely, the mechanic had not tightened the bolts on the calipers properly, and one of the bolts had actually fallen out on the road. I was lucky the calipers had not come off completely. I had the car towed back to the mechanic and made them fix it. But you better believe I'm not taking the car back there again.

    A good mechanic is a jewel. These guys were stupid lumps of...

    1. I had my front brakes down, incorrectly it would appear, in 2014, i.e., not that long ago. Yup, won't be visiting those a$$clowns again.

      One thing I like about the dealership is that if they piss you off, they have a corporate HQ who will intervene. At least (from my son's experience) Honda USA treats their customers very well. My local Honda dealership is good as well.

      It would be nice though to have a mechanic on staff.

  5. I do a lot of my own car/truck stuff. While I'm not that good, you can't beat my hourly rate.

    1. Re: "...not that good" is head and shoulders above my "I suck at car repairs."

  6. Had my front brakes done about a month ago.
    The Honda dealer told me they were almost ready for replacement.
    I have a good friend who is a step up from "shade tree" mechanic.
    He had all the tools.
    He started repairing on weekends as a hobby and, when he was laid off, became a full-time mechanic.
    The only thing wrong with taking the car to him is listening to him complain that he doesn't have any free time.
    But the money he's saved me makes it worth suffering through.
    The best part is he is ten miles closer than the dealer.

    1. Having a good mechanic is a wonderful thing.

  7. My image of you is shattered . . . I figured you'd be driving a 1969 Mustang with a 5L Coyote engine. Brakes? I figured you'd think why the hell do I need brakes? They only slow you down . . . (uncontrollable sobbing at the thought that my hero has feet of clay . . . )

    1. Ah Lewis, another illusion shattered...

      My son actually races (non-professionally) out in California. I've ridden in that car heading from Riverbank down to Sandy Eggo. It's quite a rush, the only time I could really feel the G-forces while riding in something without wings.

      As for me, I prefer fairly sedate modes of transport while on the ground. Not to mention which, I got the car from my daughter, for free.

      Have I mentioned lately how "thrifty" (read cheap) I am?

      Oh, I forgot, [pats the DiploMad on the back while saying] "There, there. There, there."


  8. I had a good mechanic once, he specialized in VW's but would do other cars. He retired so I also rely on the "Dealership."

    Mechanic and dentist if you have a good one, stay the course.

    1. Roger that.

      Sound wisdom on the mechanic and dentist thing.

  9. As you say, good mechanics are hard to find and if they are good, they are
    also expensive. That's why I do my own work, that way I also know it's done
    right. And it doesn't hurt that I'm a gearhead and enjoy doing it myself
    although sometimes I hold long conversations with myself about the ancestry
    of automotive engineers!!!

    1. Probably the same internal conversations we've all had about the various places aircraft designers find to cram equipment into the fuselage, the cockpit, the nose, under panels with a gazillion brass screws...

  10. I'm pretty good at wranchin' on vee-hickles, and take a good deal of pleasure from it. However, there's a lot to be said for having, and being able to take advantage of, other options. I do like to toss business to our one excellent local mechanic. Especially when it's 'lectrical stuff.

    1. While I could do the job, it would take me ten times as long and might not come out all that nice.

      I leave it to the pros.

  11. I also have a 05 Element and at about 50,000 the front discs and pads needed replacement and at 80,000 it was time the rears. Now at 124,000 I am starting to think about the fronts again, but the last time the tires were rotated the brakes still looked passable. Have you changed the cabin air filter yet? Just did mine and it was well past due. Easy to change at home and only about $20 for the two filters.

    1. I get the cabin air filters changed about once a year. I let the oil change guys handle that.

      No, I don't change my own oil. Disposing of it is nasty, and a pain in the wazoo. Again, I let the pros handle it.

      I love my Element.


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