in which I have the worst luck with cars (part iv) …

Ooooh, I haven’t done one of these in a while. I figure, since it’s my birthday tomorrow, that I should celebrate by regaling you with another super fun story about how vehicular technology hates me.

Remember how Mah-gret the Mazda died? Well, her untimely death at the hands of a cherry-red catalytic converter made it necessary for me to find another form of transportation, as job searching and then going to hopefully found job would have been difficult in a town as spread out as Nashville. My parents had just purchased a car for my sister at Carmax and were just raving about the experience; she had the car right up until she had to sell it because she was moving to South Korea, so I guess it worked out for them. Anyway, they took me to the same store on July 4, 2007, and I found the perfect little car: a 2005 Saturn Ion that I named Izzie.

To be completely honest, I loved this car. It was cheap, good on gas, small, etc., but in case you didn’t know, Saturn no longer exists. There are multiple reasons for this – the 2008 recession and GM focusing on its “core brands” are probably the two biggest issues – but let’s just say I probably should have been more concerned that the majority of my car was made out of plastic, but hey, hindsight is 20/20 or some shit.

A mere three weeks later, I got into the car to drive to work and noticed the dash was reading “low coolant” – something along those lines, it’s been over ten years and I don’t remember, so I turned Izzie off, got on my hands and knees, and looked under the car for leaks. Of which there were none. I also didn’t smell pancakes, which is what my brain always goes to when I smell coolant. After putting my spare tire on because of course my tire was also flat, I bought some coolant and went about my day.

Flash forward less than five days, and the same damn message flashed across my dash again. I called up Carmax, and they suggested I bring it in. Stephanie, the woman who met me as I dropped the car off, asked me how long I’d had the car, and she seemed genuinely sympathetic when I told her that it hadn’t even been a month. They paid for a rental car, thankfully, even if it did end up being a PT Cruiser that smelled like it had been sitting in a landfill for seven years, but hey, it had coolant in it. Carmax had Izzie for about a week when they called me to say they had no idea what was wrong with the car but that she didn’t seem to have any leaks, so I could come pick her up whenever. I was very grateful that I worked nights, as this process would have been even more of a nightmare than it already was, but I thought, okay, cool, we’re done now surely.

About a week and a half later, the same message popped up. I can’t remember exactly what I screamed at the car, but I’m pretty sure “whore” was part of it. I checked under the hood, and sure enough, the coolant reservoir was bone dry. After I’d filled it less than three weeks prior. Instead of waiting until I’d calmed down (like I do now – I’ve learned since then), I called Carmax right the hell then, but the shop was closed and I would have to drive down the next day. Thankfully, I had my bicycle that I could ride to work, which was less than a ten-minute ride away, and after I told my boss why I was in such a shit mood, he let me run food the whole night instead of having to be friendly to people. Now, I couldn’t sleep after I left work because I didn’t leave until 4A, and it would be nearly impossible to get myself up with only three hours of sleep, so I just drove down to Carmax and waited until they opened their doors at 07:30A. I’m sure I looked a fright – all black clothing, overnight makeup, and surly expression – but I didn’t care. I was beyond annoyed.

In order to keep this from being a novel-length post, let’s just say this kept on happening. They couldn’t figure it out, or at least that was they were telling me. They put miles on it, looked for leaks, etc., but could not give me a single answer.

“Look, if it’s not leaking, where is the coolant going? Coolant heaven? Are there coolant-drinking gremlins that live in my driveway?”

That may have been an actual, exasperated quote from yours truly.

About a week and half later, the same message popped up. I leaned my head back and just screamed, “Are you FUCKING kidding me? Oh, no, you are NOT, you whore of a car.” And I checked under the hood; the coolant reservoir was BONE DRY. After I’d filled it less than three weeks prior. Instead of waiting until I calmed down, I called Carmax right the hell then, which might or might not have been the best idea, but they told me to drive down again in the morning because it was 4P and they were closed. Thankfully, I had a bicycle to ride to work, and I was less than a ten minute ride away. When I got to work that day, my boss couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t wanting to talk to my tables, but once I explained the situation, he just let me run food the whole night. I couldn’t sleep at all once I left work because, well, I couldn’t leave until 4A, and it would be silly to get only three hours of sleep. When I showed up at Carmax’s doors at 7:30A, I’m sure I looked a fright: all black clothing, overnight makeup, surly expression. I was not pleased.

In order to keep this from being a novel-length post, let’s just say that this KEPT. ON. HAPPENING. Carmax couldn’t figure it out. They even drove the car to the service manager’s house (which I later found out was just car speak for “we have no idea what’s going on so let’s put some miles on this thing to pretend like we’re doing something”) and back to Carmax, but could not give me any answers.

I had been making payments on this car for four months, and only during one of those four months was I actually driving her. Carmax eventually had me return the PT Cruiser, and my insurance helped me get a rental car (a Mazda 6, which OMG I still want one of those – so fun to drive) for the remainder of the time. I was absolutely fed up with the whole situation and was about to get the general manager involved when I magically received a call from the service manager, telling me, “Oh, it’s the head gasket. It’s blown.”

Before I could even get angry about how long it had taken them to figure that out, she offered me a new engine. And I suppose you can probably guess how this conversation went:

“Like brand new, never been used or touched by you guys?”

“It will be a used engine. It only has 21,000 miles on it, which is less than is on your engine.”

“You’re kidding, right?” My incredulous laughter could not be contained.

“Ma’am, we stand behind this engine.”

“You also stood behind the current one, and look where that got me.”

She tried to haggle with me for about thirty minutes, and my brain was nearly roasting from how angry I was. Finally, I just said, “Look, you wanna put in a new engine, be my guest. But I’ll be getting a different car.”

“I don’t have anything to do with sales.”

She could not remember anyone’s names and just told me to call the store when I asked who I needed to talk to about it, so I try to get a hold of the general manager and leave several voicemails for him. I never heard back from him and hadn’t been contacted about this “new” engine, so I went to the store and waited for the general manager to meet me in the lobby. After about thirty minutes, this older gentleman came out, who was not the general manager, as it turns out, but the something of sales or whatever, and as he was starting his spiel with me – you don’t want a new car, just let our service team do their jobs and put in a different engine – I got a call.

Remember Stephanie from the beginning of this story? She and I had become fairly good friends because I was at the store once a week at least, and she was impressed I hadn’t turned total Karen (granted, this was before Karen was a known thing). Well, she was on the other end of the call.

“Hey, it’s Stephanie! So, they tried starting up the Ion with that new engine? Yeah, so it doesn’t work. They wanted me to tell you that you can just go select a different car.”

I asked her to repeat that to the guy sitting beside me, who defeatedly sighed and showed me the lot.

Now, I was not completely happy about this. I would have rather gotten a complete refund and gone to buy a car elsewhere instead of being yoked to these assholes until I paid it off, but I was just so tired of driving a rental car, even as fun as a Mazda 6 was, that I just gave in and picked a red 2005 Chevy Aveo (oh, that one has its own story, believe me) that I named Roxy. I vowed never to shop at that place again, and I pretty much tell everyone that I meet, sometimes if they don’t even ask, to do the same. That 125 point inspection is, as far as I can tell, a simple marketing gimmick; a warped or blown head gasket should have shown up on someone’s radar, but I’m thinking they just don’t care.

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