That’s some expensive starter, Harry

Late last year, my truck died.  I went out to go pick up Anna from school (oddly enough, the car was in the shop), I turned the key and…nothing.  It didn’t even fire.  Apart from the fact that I was going to have a really difficult time picking Anna up from school if I didn’t figure something out in a hurry, it was actually no big deal.  The truck is very much a second vehicle.  I only use it to drive odd errands around town and the random trip to Des Moines.  I made arrangements with a friend who works in town to come pick me up and help me fetch Anna and then called my dad to see if her could help me fix it.

We struggled with it.  We tried charging the battery, but that didn’t work.  We replaced the battery and that didn’t work.  Oh, and I suppose I should mention that when I say “we” I really mean “he” – my dad knows a lot more about cars than me, although that doesn’t take a whole lot.  I always say that I’m good with fluids – gas and windshield washer fluid mostly – but apart from that, I’m pretty clueless.  Our next best bet was the starter but for that it was going to have to get towed to CarX here in Ames that does all the work on our cars.  They have seen our little Mazda through so many things, most recently a stubborn “check engine” light that took quite a bit of troubleshooting to pinpoint.  I trust them implicitly – they’ve had plenty of chances to do work they didn’t need to do and have never done it.  They have taken me back to look at what’s wrong so that I can see it with my own eyes.  I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but the manager there knows me on sight and I couldn’t be more pleased with my service I’ve gotten there.  There’s nothing like having a car shop that you can trust to make you sleep a little better at night.

So Heidi called AAA and got the truck towed there this morning.  They looked it over and there was a whole hell of a lot more wrong with it than just a bad starter.  The source of the major problem WAS the starter, so at least there was that.  However, the tires were so bald that they basically said in not so many words that it was amazing I hadn’t had a blow-out yet.  The serpentine belt was also about to break and the front brakes were shot.  It was leaking power steering fluid and overdue for an oil change.  Add in the front end alignment that needed to be done with the tires and the flushing of the power steering line that needed to be done since that was replaced, the total was significantly more than the 300 or so dollars I was expecting for a bad starter.  We’re talking 4 digits here.  More than $1500 but less than $3000 – let’s just say that much.

This was definitely not in my plan or my budget.

Fortunately, the man-love came through again and helped a lot – Heidi had just recently gotten paid from two different publishers so that definitely put a dent in what we had to charge.  Still, it’s frustrating.  THIS right here is why I can never get ahead on debt.  As soon as I get to a good place where I’m paying it down at a good clip, something like this happens.  Every time.  It makes it impossible to save because every spare cent goes to paying down debt and then shit like this happens.  All I can say is THANK GOD people love my wife’s books because that’s making all the difference in the world right now.  Those are the sexy things we spend that “disposable” income on – serpentine belts and tires.

I was mad at first – blaming myself which is my natural go-to in a situation like this.  I admit that I had fallen into the trap of “well, I don’t drive it that much so what could really possibly go wrong with it?”  Clearly, the answer to that is “a lot.”  Basically I had a lot of car repairs that would have happened over time happen all at once.  It’s life, it happens.  I do blame myself a little bit – I know better than that.  But it’s done and even though my truck’s probably not worth in Kelly Blue Book value what I paid to fix it today, I can’t buy a replacement vehicle for that and it’s still cheaper than a car payment.

I think I was put on this Earth to always struggle with finances.  I fully admit to making mistakes in the past – I’m paying for those now.  I made some dumb decisions and well, you can’t change the past.  I think we do a lot better now than we used to so even a guy like me can make progress.

But the truck runs like a champ.  I’m thinking of racing her at Thunder Road.

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2 Responses to That’s some expensive starter, Harry

  1. John Hill says:

    Hang in there, man. I am in the same boat with the debt and unexpected expenses, but at least you’d done enough work toward things that you could afford to do the repairs.

    • Dan says:

      Thanks John. It’s true – at least with Heidi’s income now, we are better equipped to handle things like this. We just keep on plugging away and eventually, it’ll disappear.

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