Monday, September 16, 2013

Junk Car

Son's old car finally died the other day. I was just thankful that he made it home that last day.

It was an old car when he got it three years ago - 1998 Buick with 80k miles. It was an old lady car. And supposedly an old lady had been the only owner. Yeah.

Everything had gone wrong with it. I'm not very mechanical, but the main problem was something with the engine that was going to be too expensive to repair - something cracked or loose. There was no acceleration. It took a few miles to build up speed and most cars behind him were not very understanding. The engine would just decide to switch off at random times, including the freeway at rush hour. When this happened, the power steering and brakes would be lost. The air conditioning didn't work well - a huge problem in 100 degree heat - and would screech very loudly most of the time. Some fan wouldn't switch off which caused the battery to run down. The suspension was gone and it was bouncy. The brakes were spongy and screechy. The brake pads were gone. The air bags had been disabled. The rear view mirror was super glued to the windscreen. The radio didn't work. The power windows were broken. The body was rusty. The tires were bald. The hub caps were missing. Shall I go on? It would probably be easier to list what did work.

It might be funny if it weren't so sad and dangerous. And I'm not exaggerating.

The last problem was burning oil and terrible gas mileage. He phoned that day to say he had just filled the gas tank and within 50 miles was already down to a 1/4 tank. Oh, and there was black smoke coming out the exhaust and he could smell gas. I said, "Get home!"

We then were the owners of a junk car as it sat in the driveway for a few weeks. And we didn't want to become that stereotypical rural property with the four broken down cars in the yard. We had to get rid of it.

After a little searching, Son found an auto salvage company that offered to not only pick it up but give him a few hundred dollars for the car. After a couple of weeks of waiting and nagging, the car was still in the driveway. Son said it wasn't as easy as it sounded. He had booked several appointments but they hadn't come. So with a big party planned on the property in a few days, I took over. After all, I thought, how hard could it be?

Son gave me the numbers and I phoned Rusty's Auto Salvage, supposedly a local company, to find out when they might be coming to pick up the car. After choosing from the menu options, my call being transferred, being put on hold a few times, I finally spoke to a real person in a noisy call center in New York somewhere. So much for the local company.

I must explain at this point that we do not have a land line and have poor cell phone service in our rural location. So if we want to carry on a conversation without being disconnected, we have to go out on the front porch. Did I mention the 100 degree weather?

After giving Rusty the car details, phone number, and reference number, I was transferred to the second "local" company. This time it was called American River Auto Dismantling. I forgot to ask where they were located. I went through the same routine - choosing the menu option, transferred, put on hold then finally spoke to a real person in a noisy call center. I confirmed the details and was given a stock number, and transferred again.

The third company was at least in Texas, so I was getting closer. It was called Insurance Auto Auction. So with the stock number I was able to verify that, yes, they did have a pick up scheduled for the car the following morning. It had been dispatched to the fourth company - a towing company.

So the following morning, I phoned the auction company to confirm the pickup and offer directions. I was told the driver was on the way, had GPS, and would phone if he got lost. I told them, well he will get lost then because our address does not track correctly on any system. Oh well, I tried.

I had urgent things to do that morning, with a big party in just a few days, so left Son in charge of making sure the car was taken away. Thankfully, the tow truck did eventually arrive and did take the car away. We were the second pickup of the day. The driver was new, apparently, and didn't speak much English. But the car was gone when I got home. And the check cleared the bank. Whew.

So now, when we drive past those properties with all the broken down cars in the yard, I have a little more sympathy for them. A little.

We did not want to look like this property down the road. Yes, that's a tree growing under the car.

The tow truck finally arrived. We were the second pickup of the day.

The tow bar was used for the car.

It took some maneuvering to get the car in the right spot.

The front of the car was put on the tow bar.

Here's Son's car being strapped on and taken away. Finally.

Thanks to Son for the photos.

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