awfulhorrid: (Default)
It followed me home. We're still determining if we can keep it or not.

Open the garage bay door, Fred )

What now?

Mar. 25th, 2011 01:44 pm
awfulhorrid: (Default)
This morning my old Saturn was pronounced officially dead. Oh, it starts and I can probably drive it to the junkyard, but it's no longer fit for even short-range transportation. In the past few months I've been getting small warnings that it wasn't going to last much longer—the periodic OBDII warning light, issues with shifting, losing oil and coolant ... lots of smaller issues pointing to a single undeniable conclusion: it's a 16 year old car with over 300,000 miles on it. Really, there's only so much you can do to prolong the inevitable with that.

On the way home from school last night, the transmission suddenly shifted into low gear and just stayed there. I've had this happen a few times and usually if I shut it down and wait a few seconds the problem clears up. (Rebooting works in an amazing number of devices these days; who knew?) This time was different. As I pulled off the road the oil warning light came on and the engine shut down even before I could stop. When I hit the ignition it started right back up, but now there was a cyclic whirring sound from the engine and the oil light kept flickering on and off. I knew there was a gas station a few miles down the road, so I continued carefully onwards and stopped there. It was closed, but there was a Walgreens across the street and at least I was off the street and in a well-lit location.

Upon checking, I discovered the oil wasn't even hitting the dipstick. I could see a sheen of oil on the accessory belts and a spray of oil across the underside of the hood. For those less than automotively inclined, these are not good signs. The dark oil oozing from the front of the engine said the words 'head gasket' to me which is bad, but I knew I'd at least be able to get home. I called [livejournal.com profile] bookwurm to let her know what had happened then purchased three quarts of oil from Walgreens. That put the oil level back to normal and reduced the engine noise back to merely concerning rather than immediately alarming. It was a little nerve-wracking trip. I could hear the oil-soaked belt slipping every time I had to slow down (and the alternator output decreased, of course.) I drove to the garage near our home and filled out the drop-off form. The mechanic called me this morning and gave me the news.

I'm really not sure how we're going to swing a replacement vehicle. The balance seems to be between payments to a dealership -- which means a higher overall cost, but probably a more reliable car and more options for recourse if something is wrong with it -- and trying to find an individual seller with a one-time payment in our range. That way seems almost certainly to be buying someone else's problems. My mechanic has said if we do that then we should bring the car by his garage first and he'll check it out for free. Apparently there's a firm benefit to being regular customers. I'm leaning heavily towards going through a dealership, though. We can figure something out for the monthly payments, although the down payment, tax, title, and other costs remain a concern.

Augh.

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