7 Minute Miles

The Joys of Car Ownership

Posted Sunday, March 29th, 2009 02:42 pm GMT -5 in Cars

The past month has not been kind to our garage or our pocketbook. Our two cars are getting older (both are 2005 model years), but I wasn’t expecting events to unfold like they did.

First, my wife gets a flat tire on her Accord sedan. I helped her get the temporary spare on and she drove it to the local Honda dealer. They tried to tell her that all her tires were so threadbare that it was illegal to drive it and then tried to sell her $1100 worth of new tires. We shopped around and talked to some friends before deciding to order four new Pirelli’s from Discount Tire Direct for $404, including shipping. An extra $100 at the local Discount Tire center for installation and I thought I was golden. Didn’t turn out that way, unfortunately…

The online site had me qualify her car for the correct tire size and I placed the order. It took about five days for UPS to deliver them and I set up an appointment for installation. Once there, the installer comes out and tells me the tires are too big for the car. So much for the online qualification. I had to buy a second set of new tires that they had in stock (which thankfully I had already researched and liked) and arrange to send the others back. Discount Tire Direct did refund the full $404, but I had to pay UPS another $75 to ship them back to Ohio. So the total cost for the new tires was lower than the $1100, but still a royal hassle.

On the day I took the Accord in for the new tires, my wife drove my MINI Cooper. She calls and tells me the car is out of wiper fluid. I told her to pop the hood and look for the blue cap on the left side of the engine bay. She calls back a few minutes later and says it’s still not working. I get home and take a look – she put the wiper fluid in the coolant compartment by mistake. I make arrangements with the local MINI dealer for a fluid flush and they say it’s OK to drive it in that day. We make it over there, get checked in and I’m more than happy to pay the $100 to have it fixed.

A few hours later, I get a call from the mechanic at Motorwerks, Tucker Masui. Tucker says there is a transmission fluid leak and it appears to be along the input shaft seal. Since they have to drop the transmission to reach that, it would cost $1600. He also found a loose tie rod and two torn arm bushings (which apparently wear out after 60,000 miles). The total would be about $2500. Shock sets in.

I consulted with a several other MINI owners and did some research online. Everyone thought that, yes, the price sucks, but yes, it likely needs to be done. One additional piece of advice I decided to take was to have the clutch replaced at the same time, since they would have to drop the transmission for that too. I asked Tucker to keep the whole repair as close to $2500 as possible, but it still turned into a $2800 bill. Since my tax refund hadn’t arrived yet, I had to dive into the line of credit at the credit union to cover it.

Tucker says it will drive like a new car and should be able to go 3-4 years without any other major repairs. He was right about the clutch – I’m amazed at how precise it is now. I can also feel the tie rod and bushings difference in the steering. Tucker had actually asked if the car had been in a front end accident, as the rods were slightly bent. He also said that could be caused by running into curbs on a regular basis. Guess I need to be more careful with speed bumps.

Originally published by DK on March 29, 2009 at 2:42 pm

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