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Out with the old

Posted by joeabbott on October 20, 2014

[Ed. note: while I know I didn’t take many pictures of my car, I had to remove three of the pictures from this post as they were of cars that were not my Saturn!]

I’m not a “car guy”.

I don’t “talk cars”, I don’t work on them, I don’t care about any feature other than their ability to safely and efficiently transport me and whatever I want to take from Point A to Point B. And it’s a bit hard being that guy.

WP_20140401_003I work at a place where egos are bolstered by hood ornament emblems, where screensavers are emblazoned with various sleek driving machines, and people talk about the differences in makes and models not by articulating their technical distinctions, but by a code of “C300”, “Z4”, “228i”, or “458 Spider”. Some of this jargon is strangely familiar to me but most of it fails to register. When people start talking like this, it’s as if a door silently but firm closes in my face.

P7140001P1010001It’s not that I can’t understand it, I just find no value in it.

Cars, for me, are transportation. I don’t want a dinged up, rusted old thing to get me around, but I also don’t mind being the guy with the “plastic car”, aka, driving a Saturn. And I do. My car has some road noise, the handling is rough, and it’s getting a bit old. But I wasn’t ready to get rid of it yet … although I realize it’s time.

I was heading into work on Wednesday (I had moved offices and was transporting my mini-fridge back to work … the movers won’t transport personal stuff) when I noticed just a little more engine noise than usual. I wasn’t sure at first, as I had a portable CD player entertaining me with the book version of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card … you see, the CD player in the car no longer works reliably. Anyhow, I squinted at the dashboard … oh, the dashboard lights don’t work on all instruments; the result of a poor repair after an accident some years back … and determined the RPMs were normal but I did note my speed was down, so I gave it a little gas.

The engine revved, the RPMs climbed, but I didn’t feel that expected tug of acceleration. I was worried but played the “wait and watch” game, still believing everything was reasonably normal. I drove over the next small rise, traffic cleared a bit and I was continuing to slow. I wasn’t coasting at this point, but the usual power wasn’t there, so I goosed it.

RPMs climbed, engine noise increased, speed continued the slow decline. Crappers.

PA130002    WP_20140401_004  

But, the car wasn’t completely dead. I was able to drive the next five-ish miles to work and park it at the office. No smoke coming from the exhaust, nothing leaking from anywhere … just a normal looking (if not a bit tired) 2002 Saturn Vue. But, I wasn’t naïve: before leaving I collected a few of the items I’d want (including my garage door opener), headed to my office, and started problem solving as I often do: by sending Suzy a bit of email.

WP_000431Before noon we had AAA picking up the car and towing it to the dealership where we have most of our car work done. Over the next couple of days (and transferring it to a partner dealership where better diagnostics could be accomplished) it was determined that I required three replacement catalytic converters (all three on the vehicle were defunct … odd, I assumed a car had only one), and that two downstream sensors from the catalytic converters had been damaged and required replacement. The bill, if we did this on the cheap, was just a few dollars over $2000.

P8020001That hurt, as I’d targeted that much as the top dollar I’d put into the car before looking for a new vehicle, but I didn’t really want to walk away from the Vue just yet. It wasn’t a “friend” or anything like that … tired as it was, it just seemed too functional to be considered scrap! I was still playing the “maybe it’ll all work out” game, when the repair guy and I spoke again and he noted I’d likely need new sparkplugs and, hey, maybe it’s time to look into replacing that timing belt, too. The plugs alone came in at just over $400 … something about having to pull the manifold on this model to replace the plugs … when the decision to walk away was solidified.

What now? Well, I’d considered getting a replacement SUV (I’d been driving an SUV for a very long time) when Suzy and I realized that we’d get more utility from a small pickup truck. So, we’re looking at pickup trucks and, more accurately, Marcee Hanan from Car Buyer’s Advantage is looking for a car for me. We have worked with Marcee a couple of times and it’s just a joy. We don’t need to do a thing and it all works out. I remember when Suzy got her Prius through Marcee: Suzy drove her old car into work, came out around lunch time to sign a few papers that Marcee brought, exchanged keys, and it was done! Suzy got a better deal for her trade-in than we thought we’d get, got the Prius for less than Consumer Reports said was a good deal, and did almost zero legwork.

I gave Marcee my requirements (cruise control, CD player, power locks\windows) and said everything else was negotiable. I don’t care about trim, I’m not into “packages” and when she asked about color I said, “who cares”. And pretty much mean it … who does? Not me. Well, when it came down to it I said something like, “black, grey, or red are all good, white is OK, and Suzy says no to blue”. Marcee is still looking and I expect to hear from her soon; I just want something that gets me reliably from Point A to Point B … and I’m a bit sad it can’t be my Saturn.


I remember when I started hiking and climbing: each purchase strained the budget. After I got all the gear I needed to survive the elements and surmount the environment, there was one thing left I required: a vehicle that could get me and my gear to the trailheads. The Vue was that purchase and it has served me admirably. It’s also stranded me on the highway once or twice, and there was the big accident I got into that one time, but to those are just one-off details. It’s not so much that I’m attached to the Vue, I’m just not attached to finding a new car; but here we go.

I’ve included all of the pictures I’ve taken that have my car in them from the last 12 years; overwhelmingly I’m taking pictures of my cargo and not the car. Had I mentioned I’m not a car guy?


3 Responses to “Out with the old”

  1. momma said

    Oh boy, I can relate. People seem to expect me to get a new car, now that that’s a possibility for me. But why? My old Toyota hasn’t had a major problem in its 9 years – has gotten me wherever I need to go for 204,000+ miles. And she doesn’t punish me for not having a garage to tuck her into at night – in fact, when I had to make an emergency run to check on UJ last winter, at 18 below zero (at 2 a.m. up there in Virginia), she just started up like a dream. People also suggest I now build a garage, but I don’t want to hand over what the builders would want, so what’s worked for 50 years for me will have to keep on working. I do consider making the leap next year, but I’m not a car person either, Although at one time I was looking at a Hunter Green Jaguar in a dealership window downtown – ‘had a tan cloth top, and I thought wow, if I ever hit the jackpot THAT is what I’m buying! Of course the car has to sort of fit the person, so I ditched that idea long ago. I’ve thought about a Prius but I hate that pause that does NOT refresh when you start up again when the light turns green – and I have some qualms about it not liking our cold winters around here, though I do see a fair number of them here in the Cities. So I’ll keep putting it off, I guess, until something major pushes me into making a decision. I was glad to hear that Marcee is still on the job – she’s the one who found my Camry, on your suggestion. I remember, I wanted not only a CD player, but also a tape player, and she managed to locate one for me, though I’m sure I’m the only one still using one on occasion. Well, I seem to think this is MY blog…. Just want to wish you both good luck on her search for you. And I still keep seeing Saturns around here, looking very good, and am wondering is they’re still making them somewhere? Momma

  2. Jay said


    Sorry to hear about your car troubles. It will be fun to get into something new though!! What about a Hummer? 🙂

    We’ll have to make some decisions about a car for Ashley soon and I gotta say – I’m not really sure how we’ll work that….

  3. joeabbott said

    Right now I’m looking at getting a pickup truck! We wanted to replace it with an SUV … we’re quite comfortable with that sort of vehicle … but we think we’ll get more utility out of a pickup. And, all I can say is, I’m really glad I don’t have to worry about cars and college for kids! 🙂 We’ll have to vicariously come along with you for that ride (so to speak)!

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