The Very Model of a Modern Lemon

When I drove up hill, a torrent of water would come out of the dashboard.

I just had to replace the catalytic converter on my 2002 Subaru Forester. This cost me more than the blue book value of the car. My brother-in-law would kill me if he knew, because he firmly believes one should never spend more than a car’s blue book value on a repair.

But I think there’s more to consider. First of all, this repair will add years to the life of the car. Now that it can breathe again, it’s really in pretty good shape. I trust that there will be many more years of driving in this car. It’s a reliable old work horse. Second, do I really want to spend money on a replacement, given the outrageous cost of cars these days? I might wind up with a 2003 something, but better the devil you know. And I like not having a car payment.

Yes, it would be nice to have heated seats and a rear view camera. It would be nice to be in a hybrid. It would be freakin’ amazing to be in something new. But it’s not really a high priority in my life. I’d rather spend the money on travel. And I mostly only use this car to get from home to work and back again. (And no, public transportation isn’t really an option given my schedule and my location.)

And even though this car is old enough to vote or drink in some states, it’s still just fine and dandy compared to the 2001 Dodge Caravan I used to drive. It got me from Florida to Washington state, so I’m grateful for it, but that vehicle was a lemon-flavored nightmare.

It had no heat and no functioning windshield wipers. In Seattle. I had to wrap myself in a horse blanket to drive in the winter, and any time the rain got bad, I would have to pull over.

After a good rain, if I drove up a hill, a torrent of water would come cascading out of the dashboard, and wash across the floor like a tsunami, only to pour out the back doors. This, of course, meant that I had a myriad of electrical problems and I was constantly replacing fuses. The radio didn’t work. There was also no air conditioning. The door windows would open and close at random intervals.

Since the car was constantly moist on the inside, and there was no heat, this meant that the humidity, when I’d drive the car in the morning, would build up on the inside of the windows. I was constantly toweling them off in transit so that I could see to drive. Even worse, on very cold winter mornings, I’d have to come out and scrape the frost from the outside and the inside of the windows.

To combat this inside window frost, I developed a strategy that now seems laughable, but at the time it was essential. I snaked a 100 foot extension cord out my bedroom window and into the car. On the car end, I attached a tiny portable heater that I would sit on the dashboard. On the bedroom end was a timer that would turn on the heater about 45 minutes before I woke up. Then, at least, there was a patch of window to see out of.

I finally had to get rid of that van when the entire thing started shuddering as I drove. I thought it was going to disintegrate. So I turned it in to the car dealer who sold me the Subaru. But I made them put it in writing that they would not sell it to someone else, and would not donate it to a charity, and wouldn’t even sell it for parts. They’d only have it crushed for scrap metal. Because that thing was a death trap, and I didn’t want to pass any part of it on to anyone else.

Now, I kind of laugh in horror at what I put up with in that van. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But now you know why I love my Subaru, and refuse to let a catalytic converter come between us.


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Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

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