Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Had to take the 4Runner in.

She's a good car, she is, but she just hasn't been right lately. No power. Blinking 'Check Engine' light. I can tell it's my wife coming up the street just by the flying saucer sounds the vehicle makes. And the paint's peeling back and little plastic pieces are raining off it, littering up the neighborhood. But it is nearly ten years old, and it's been from Mexico to Canada and back again. And one time it had a bear in it.

As is our fashion, we took it to the Toyota Dealer to get it fixed. I'm not sure why we do this. Something about the term "dealer" just doesn't sit right, you know? (The House always wins/Guy in the alley selling kids crack, etc.) It doesn't sound particularly trustworthy. But then something inside of you says, Toyota makes the things, they should know how to fix them good and proper! But at 230,000 miles, do honest-to-goodness Toyota parts really matter anymore? We should've just taken it to the cheapest and quickest guy on the closest streetcorner. But then, those guys don't give the car a wash when they're done with it, and you're usually pulling strange tools and rags out of the engine compartment when you get home and look under the hood to see if you can figure out what you just dropped another thousand on.

Also, when you take it to the dealer you get to walk across the lot and see all the nice new Toyotas that you know immediately that you can't afford, and then Mr. Allsmiles comes out, puts one hand gently on your shoulder, and convinces you that, no, hey, sure you can handle the payments! Your credit is marvelous! What a beautiful child!

We didn't buy a new car. Yet. The service department never called us back at the end of the day, actually. Oh sure, we got the first call where they let you know that they changed the oil and ran the diagnostic check ($130 so far) and then said that they need to pull the valve cover and check the valves because the computer showed that it's misfiring on the #1 cylinder and they'll have to replace the valve cover gasket when they do that (another $250) and then they'll be able to really get to the bottom of things and find the problem and we'll get back to you by the end of the day with the bottom line (could be untold thousands).

And they never called. I picture them standing around the car in their monogramed Toyota button-ups, smoking Winstons and putting back jelly doughnuts, trading diagnostic dilemmas a la House. But the dark, paranoid, conspiracy nut inside of me is convinced the salesman who approached us was texting the service department while he was walking us around a new Sequoia: HLD OFF. ALMST GOT BIG $ALE. EZ MARK.

What burns me is that I've been staring at eight valves on the Chevy 454 in the back of my boat all summer and I could pull a valve cover off and change the gasket with one hand tied behind my back and a live chicken in my mouth and they're gonna charge me two-hundred-and-fifty dollars for this?! Tell you what, stand over there and have another bear claw, I'll pull the cover off and you lean in and let me know what you see and I'll make sure the boss pats you on the back for it. By the way the old gasket's fine, it's made of rubber, not paper, and it'll last forever.

But I don't. The family car's gotta be fixed and I don't have time to waste. That Sequoia was looking awfully nice, though. Nice and big. Could pull the boat as good as any Tundra all the way to the Great Lakes. But that's just what the Ditchman family needs right now, a second car payment. Well, maybe next year.

Or maybe next week, if this 4Runner is on its way to the great Pick-A-Part yard in the sky. Guess we'll find out later.