Saturday, April 23, 2011

How many lives does she get ?

Cats get 9 lives, or so it is said and written in folklore.

But what about cars?

My car, Jazzmine, has had more than her fair share of situations of seemingly eminent "death" to the junkyard or used car lot.  But she keeps on coming back!
At this time of year when we celebrate the new life (a.k.a. Springtime) I thought it would only be fitting to honor my sweet ride!
Reggie Mantle always made fun of Archie Andrews for his "jalopy" but the connection between a man and his car is an important one.  Especially in the past two or three years I have become much more connected to my car and I understand why good ol' Archie spent so much time fixing his.

So here is a mostly complete list of my baby's ailments ...

On Halloween night in 2003 (or 2004) I was driving faster than I should have been on Powers Blvd. and slid off the road.  Heading backwards, I rolled over onto the driver's side of the car and skidded down the dirt on the West side of the southbound lanes.  Oddly enough the airbags never deployed, but my seatbelt held me safely in place until the car came to a sort of stop ... and then landed back down on all four tires just inches away from a HUGE hole big enough to swallow my car!  Long story short (trust me ... this IS the short version), the only repairs needed were for a busted tire and rim, replacing the driver's side-view mirror, and re-attaching the gas tank hinged door.  I was driving her again within just about a week.

A few months later, Jazzmine's horn started acting up.  It would just go off with no warning.  One such incident was quite funny because Karen was driving and was a little perturbed at a slow moving pedestrian.  As we drove past, the horn let out a loud (and very long) HOOOOOOONK which frightened the lady on the street and embarrased Karen something fierce!  It was very hard to stop laughing.  Faulty wiring that had to be "worked around" was the cause here (but eventually I've run out of a need for a horn so it's all good!)

Only about a week later I began to notice a grinding sound when I switched the car from 2nd to 3rd gear.  It usually only occurred when slowing down (or speeding up ... hee hee) around corners, but eventually it required me to hold the gear shift in 3rd gear to keep the transmission engaged.  Finally, it wouldn't even go into 3rd gear at all.  A local mechanic stated that our transmission was "shot" and that it would be around $1400 to replace it (or $900 if we wanted to go get the transmission ourselves from a junkyard).  My solution?  Just drive it without 3rd gear.  5 years later and still no additional "transmission" problems ... maybe I should have invested the $1400 ... naaaahhh!  :)

Years went by and with only a few minor issues (flat tires, battery failure, etc.) things were sailing pretty smoothly.  Then on a cold and snowy Saturday morning in October, 2008 (what is it with that month?!) I was driving into work and one of those idiotic "slick roads won't slow me down" drivers (see: ME from a few years ago) lost control of his big ol' truck and then slid right back over in front of me ... WHAM !!!  This time the airbags did deploy (giving me annoying chemical burns on my hands) and I thought my baby was a goner!  The jerk drove off but a kind stranger tracked him down so eventually the police found him (there's a LONG story there ... ask me if you're interested).  The damage?  Lots of body damage to the front end and of course the airbags deploying made the car a "total loss" for insurance purposes, but ultimately ... she was fine to drive!  A few weeks later I removed the power steering fluid reservior** because it was rubbing against the flywheel of the alternator, but that didn't take long at all.  (**Read on to find out how this poor decision comes back to haunt me!)  Sure this meant I was without power steering, but who needs that anyway?!  Ask my wife if you don't think that is an actual problem.  :(

About 10 months later I was driving my brother-in-law, his son, and my two boys back from Broncos open day training @ Invesco field.  Out of the blue every time I tapped on my brakes there was a scary clunking noise from the front passenger side of the car.  I assumed it was something wrong with the tire so I eased on the brakes and planned to pull off the side of the highway (I-25).  Apparently this was a very bad idea, because the sound intensified as the car slowed down and soon smoke and sparks were blowing out of the hood and wheel well!  Once we were completely stopped I attempted to open the hood (not easy to do since the "hit and run" accident smashed everything tight in my little engine compartment).  Smoke billowed out and it took a LONG time before we could even try to assess the damage.  After a long, slow tow-ride back home (thanks again Dad!) and some "dirty work" we found that ... the alternator had "seized" and the flywheel had SNAPPED so the alternator and serpentine belt had to be replaced.  And to do that, I also had to ... wait for it ... replace the power steering reservior** (and so we did the pump too).  About two months went by but eventually she was road ready again and I had power steering back (which was VERY nice, especially around corners and parking lots!)

Fast forward to March of this year.  Karen is on her way back from the Denver LDS Temple and she calls me on the phone asking why the radio keeps cutting in and out.  Uh oh.  I recognize that as a telltale sign of either the battery or alternator not working.  Long story short, she is eventually stranded on the side of I-25 and it is truly the end for my sweet ride.  She and her dad spent quite a bit of time re-charging the battery and getting the car back into our garage.  And there she (Jazzmine) sat for several weeks until I had time to open her up again.  For some reason, the alternator had failed again.  My father in law helped me pull it out and I had it tested.  It wasn't producing any charge, so $160 later and with some impressively fast help from my buddy Tony, a new alternator and serpentine belt are in!  This time I'm keeping the receipt (because I bought the lifetime warranty!)

So when is it "over" for my little car?  NEVER !!!  I've learned so much about cars as a result of needing to "fix" my current one, but I am so grateful for the experience and I really do love my baby!  I know she won't always come back to life, but I'm going to do all I can to help her hang on as long as she can!

It's you and me against the world Jazzmine!  :)



  1. Wow! Jazzmine is one tough babe! Loved your shout out to "Archie's jalopy"! Can't believe you have had so many car issues in just a few years, and I am so glad that you (and Jazzmine) are still around!!

  2. I'm glad Jazzmine is running again :) I know you have missed driving her. To be stuck with the van... Yuck!