An expensive fix

We drive a fifteen passenger van, affectionately nicknamed “The Blue Beast”.  It has been a dependable vehicle for the past six years, but she is a decade old now, and she is beginning to show her age. The upholstery, for example, has been completely trashed could use a little cleaning. And the carpets need to be removed by a HAZMAT team could use some time with a pressure washer. She has a few dents….marks earned at the hands of variously inexperienced or inattentive drivers, as well as the door dents due to the poor design of the side barn-doors.  But other than the cosmetic, we have been blessed to have had few problems with the Beast.

For a few months I have been smelling anti-freeze. Since the Handy Man cannot smell anything to save his life well, I wasn’t really relying upon his assurances that he smelled nothing. When the girls all told me they couldn’t smell a thing, either, I figured it was one of those phantom mom things that I smelled. Every few days, I would remark, “Wow. That anti-freeze smell is really strong! Can’t you smell that?”  I would be answered with a shrug of the shoulders which clearly indicated that the owner of said shoulders (it could be any of three pairs, and I will let you, dear reader, figure out which ones so as to not incriminate them needlessly) thought mom was off her rocker again. 

A few weeks ago, my check engine light came on again. We replaced one of the oxygen sensors about two months ago, so when I took the van to my mechanic so he could pull the code, I was pretty surprised it was the oxygen sensor again. He laughed and told me that my vehicle has three. Go figure. He assured me that I would be fine, but if I started to notice a decrease in gas mileage, I should go ahead and bring it in.

A week later, I started hearing the tell-tale squealing of what could only be the back brakes going bad. Unlike all the Volvos I ever drove, the van brakes don’t squeal when the brakes are applied. No, the brakes squeal when the van is moving. It is highly annoying. I called my mechanic and made an appointment to get my van in there on Monday morning. In the mean time, I filled my van up, and as is my habit, I checked my gas mileage. Except for one incredible trip earlier this summer (all highway) when my van got above 16 mpg, I generally get about 12.9 mpg.  This time my mpg calculation showed I was getting 11.5 mpg. Now, if I drove a  vehicle that got close to 30 mpg. dropping 1.5 mpg would not be such a big deal. This however, represented almost a 12% drop in my fuel efficiency. Time to get it fixed!

So I called my mechanic and left him a message that he was not only fixing my brakes, but that if he had time, I needed him to fix that oxygen sensor. He called me that morning and informed me that my van was also pouring antifreeze from the water pump. I totally trust my mechanic. He knows that we are without a job, and he has always dealt with me honestly, so I had absolutely no reason to disbelieve that my van needed a water pump. I HAD been smelling the antifreeze for weeks after all!

So, $867 later, my van is fixed. I am grateful that it is in safe working order. I am grateful for a mechanic who deals with me fairly. I am grateful that the water pump didn’t decide to go bad on a mountain back road. But, oh, my Visa bill!

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