A familiar tale of woe: The Auto Repair Blues

NEIGHBORS

July 27, 1994|By LARRY STURGILL

Auto repair: an added expense of operating a motor vehicle that usually begins immediately after the warranty expires and continues until you decide to sell, trade or junk the vehicle.

How do I begin to tell my tale? It started with a small oil leak around the valve cover. Nothing serious, I thought. Just add a quart of oil between oil changes.

A little overheating was next, and I was slowly losing coolant. It's a leaking radiator, I was told. Two hundred and 40 dollars later, I am assured the problem is solved.

But the weeks went by and I was buying coolant two gallons at a time and oil coated my engine. I decided to try another repair shop and hope for the best.

This time I was told it was a blown head gasket that would cost me about $500. Two days later, more bad news -- the engine head is cracked. A replacement will cost another $350. I look at my checkbook, do some quick figuring and tell the repairman, "OK."

A week passed, then two and the repair crew couldn't find a good used or rebuilt head. Finally, after three weeks, I picked up the car, paid dearly and drove happily away.

Almost immediately, I realized something wasn't right. My once peppy car was a dog. No power, no acceleration, no more than 50 mph on the interstate.

As I made it into the driveway of my parent's house, smoke was rolling from beneath the hood. When I open the hood, I am greeted by flames. Luckily, a fire extinguisher is at hand.

Once again, I call the repair shop. They are stunned, they say, and dispatch a tow truck. As I watched my car being towed away, I finally realized I am in the middle of the car repair from hell.

Two days later, I was told that the source of the fire was oil from a faulty gasket leaking on the hot manifold, and that the repair crew now believes the engine block is cracked. I will need a new engine.

I am quoted engine replacement prices that make me feel faint. )) Added to what I have already spent, it is more than my 8-year-old car is worth. I am betwixt and between. A new car is out of the question, and this car, except for the engine, is still in excellent shape.

I said: "Find me a rebuilt engine." We worked out a deal that I can live with, just barely.

It has been another week. Friday, it will be five weeks and I still don't have my car.

I have this sense of foreboding that this is just the beginning, not the end, of my car problems. The transmission is making a grinding sound.

*

Last year, Festival New Orleans made its first Columbia appearance, and thousands of people enjoyed Cajun and Creole food, the best of Louisiana's Zydeco and swamp rock music and the craft displays that the festival offered.

The festival returns to Merriweather Post Pavilion from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and the promoter says it is bigger and better, with more food, more crafts and more bands.

Admission is $20 for adults. Children under 12 are free.

*

A lot of young people, both boys and girls, make extra spending money by baby-sitting. Most learn by trial and error and by sitting with younger siblings while their parents are out.

There is a better way to learn about baby-sitting. Howard County General Hospital and Health Quest are co-sponsoring a course on the "Essentials of Baby-sitting."

The course will be taught from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the new Health Education Center in Suite L of Columbia Medical Center at 11055 Little Patuxent Parkway.

Subjects to be covered include strategies to help teen-agers manage children, how to provide a safe environment for the children being cared for and how to react in emergencies.

The course fee is $25 and lunch will be provided. Participants will receive a certificate.

For more information, or to register, call 740-7600.

*

On Aug. 13, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the support staff of Howard Community College is holding a flea market in the student parking lot.

Tables are available to rent at $15 each. For table rental or for more information, call Renae Moore at 992-4800, Ext. 4764.

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