back in july i bought myself a “new” car. it’s one i’ve been wanting for years but because i was financially supporting bryan, and in a permanent state of “totally broke”, it never happened. it’s a 2002 honda insight, and i had to take a bus then a train then another bus to BFE, new jersey to get it.
it had problems from the moment i drove it off the lot and had i been thinking better, i probably would have taken it back and told them i changed my mind. instead, being the glutton for punishment that i am, i soldiered ahead. on first start-up i thought “gosh, this is a lot louder than i thought a hybrid was supposed to be…” and i mentioned it to the people at the dealership, but they brushed it off. turns out it probably needs to have the valves adjusted. when i took it for a test drive, i thought “that’s an odd little jitter in the transmission at low rpm’s…” and i mentioned it to the people at the dealership, but they poo poo’ed it, saying “oh, that’s just the way those hybrids are. that’s just the transition between the electric engine and the gas engine.” turns out, the transmission needs to be rebuilt, and it’s a known defect with that specific transmission.
and yet i bought it anyway.
as i drove away, i noticed it was low on gas. sure would have been nice of them to at least fill up the tank before they sold it, but fine. nbd. i’ll put gas in it. when i stopped at the first gas station, the car wouldn’t take any gas. well, i know that in my mr2, it’s sometimes finicky and if you don’t hold the nozzle at just the right angle, it won’t take gas. it will act like it’s full, but it’s not. that’s what this one was doing, but i was feeling impatient and the guy didn’t speak very good english (in new jersey, you don’t pump your own gas. it’s illegal.) so i figured i’d just head down the road to the next station and try again. unfortunately, i promptly got stuck in construction traffic on the PA turnpike and it took an hour to get to the next station, where we had the same problem. i called the dealership and they said to try putting the nozzle in upside down, which will help vent the gas better. right, i forgot that trick (i actually had heard that before, in relation to older cars that sometimes don’t vent properly, like my mr2). unfortunately i had lost my spot in line at the gas station at that point, and i didn’t feel like waiting again, so i hopped back on the turnpike and putted down to the next rest stop, where we tried the upside-down nozzle trick, which still yielded a no-go. the car simply wouldn’t take more than a quarter tank of gas.
i once more called the dealership and they suspected the same thing i suspected: either the venting system was broken, the line was somehow clogged, or (most likely) there was something wrong with the level sensor/sender between the tank and the gauge, and i in fact had a full tank, even though it thought i only had a quarter. i drove it back to the dealership, where they stuck a long funnel down into the tank, which would bypass the vapor issue, but it still wouldn’t take any gas. they told me that if i still wanted to buy the car, once i got back home i should take it to a shop to have it fixed and the dealership would cover the full costs. long-story-short(er), that’s exactly what happened. two weeks and a new fuel system later, i was back on the road.
unfortunately it also had a smashed driver side mirror glass, which needed to be replaced before i could get the state inspection. the dealership had ordered a replacement piece sent to me, but when it finally arrived i discovered that they had ordered the glass for the passenger side. it wouldn’t fit. having already spent the money on the part AND the replacement of the fuel system, i didn’t figure they’d be willing to buy a second piece of glass, so i went to the dealership and bought another.
while i was waiting for the replacement glass to come in from the dealership, my “check engine” light came on. a quick stop at pep boys to read the code said that my gas cap was giving me issues. we tightened it back down but it didn’t clear up. had to buy a replacement gas cap. it finally went back off again.
two days after i got the mirror glass and gas cap issues fixed, i took it to get inspected. at the state inspection station, they broke my spoiler.
in september i took my first big road trip, up to the mountains. i got about an hour out of the beach and got a flat tire. i pulled over on the side of the road, put on the spare, and found that it too was just about flat. it had just enough air to get me to the nearest service station to put air in it. that spare got me to my destination (another 2 hours up the road) and back again. bought 4 new tires when i got home.
when my mom came to town in october and drove my car around while i was in the hospital, the transmission started getting worse. by the time i got back to it after my surgery, it was nearly undriveable. the shifter had become so stiff it almost couldn’t be put into gear, and the shuddering at low speeds made it feel like the car was going to break down at any minute.
then the “maintenance required” light came on. a quick call out to the insight community says that this means it’s due for an oil change. probably should do spark plugs while i’m at it.
in november, just before thanksgiving, i was at a kickball tournament where a deep home run bounced right off my driver side mirror, snapping it right off. the dealership wants $350 for a new mirror. i found someone with a parts car that will let me buy a mirror for cheaper, but in the mean time, that meant i couldn’t drive my car to cleveland for thanksgiving as i had planned. it’s just not safe to drive that far without a driver side mirror. had to get a rental car for the week and park my car in the driveway.
when i got back from cleveland, i found that my brakes had begun grinding. they were squealing a little before then, but now they’re full-on grinding. spectacular. needs new brake pads asap.
the next day, my “check engine” light and the “IMA” light came on. my stomach dropped. this is like getting the red ring of death, on my car. i took it to the dealership where they confirmed my worst fear: it needs a whole new battery system. it’s going to be $3300, which is more than half of what i bought the car for from the dealership. they also found that i have a massive leak in the transmission oil pan, and the whole thing needs to be replaced. i told them not to even bother giving me a quote. i know i don’t have the money.
so, here i sit, $5000 in debt on a car i can’t drive. or, i CAN, but it’s going to up and die on me at any moment. sure, i still have the mr2, for what that’s worth. i could keep trying to sell it and try to get some money together to put toward the insight, except i know i won’t get the money i want for it, and i’d be better off trying to part it out, which i don’t really want to do. selling parts is a lot of work. or, i could try to fix it up at least to the degree that it’s street legal again, and go back to driving that. it’s got ~300k miles, it leaks oil like a sieve, it may have a blown head gasket, it needs new rear brakes, the entire e-brake system has gone out, it has no functioning speedometer, the steering rack is failing and causing the front suspension parts to wear out prematurely, it needs new bushings all the way around, and those are just the most critical things. then we get to things like the blown speakers, the lack of air conditioning, the non-functioning window switches, and the leaky roof.
i’m feeling very defeated at the moment.