Tag Archives: car

The Car Hunter

Early this week I conducted a cost-benefit analysis for my car. I’ve done this numerous times over the years, and each previous time I would reaffirm my commitment to my vehicle. Not this time. My conclusion this week was: the time has come for us to say goodbye.

So I began conducting research on automobiles in my spare time. I visited dealers, talked to people, test drove cars, and pondered financial ramifications. All this led me to trade in my Integra and purchase a Sonata this afternoon.

My 1992 Acura Integra.

My 1992 Acura Integra was a good car. I bought it at the end of December 1999, right before Y2K arrived. My logic was that if I wrote a big check on the final business day of 1999 and the world melted down at the start of 2000 I might walk away with a free car (it didn’t work, the check went through). So I drove the Integra for 10 years, three months, and three weeks. It had 145,125 miles on it when I traded it in. All I can say is, well done good and faithful auto.

Some of my criteria for my “new” car were more passenger space than my Integra (which isn’t saying much), four doors (for more space and guitar transport ease), 30+ MPG highway fuel efficiency (just because), and relatively low mileage (so it lasts). As I looked at cars the Hyundai Sonata figuratively jumped right out of my computer screen and parked on my desk.

I found a 2009 Sonata at Stocker Subaru in State College that I really liked. I scheduled a test drive. Before I got there the car sold. But they also had a 2009 Sonata Limited with low mileage in stock, so I stopped by to look at that. Long story short I test drove the car, liked it, made an offer, spent another day test driving cars at various dealers, then returned and bought the Sonata.

My "new" 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited.

It’s a loaded sedan that is totally an old person’s car. It’s not particularly trendy or sporty, but it’s practical and comfortable. I read a review that said “The Hyundai Sonata is a great car for people who don’t care all that much about cars” (The Truth About Cars). And that describes me perfectly. I want a car that gets me from Point A to Point B, is efficient and reliable, and manages to look presentable.

So the car hunt has ended.

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Walk’s Auto Service Center

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Walk’s Auto Service Center in State College PA for quite a while. Here is the story of my first experience with the fine folks at Walk’s. First, some background for the story.

During the summer of 2005, while I was living in Montgomery County (PA), my car elected not to start a few times on hot days. It would turn over once or twice, then just shut down. Since my automotive skills are on par with my nun-chuck skills (I have none), I was stumped after realizing the battery was not the problem. So I took the car to an unnamed auto shop. And that day the car ran fine, the mechanic looked at it, found nothing wrong, and still managed to charge me something. My car behaved the rest of 2005 and in early 2006, during which time I moved to State College.

In the summer of 2006 the trouble started again. Turning the ignition in my car was like rolling dice. I took it to two auto shops in State College. Both of them “solved” the problem for nominal fees. The problem was not solved.

On July 27, 2006 I went grocery shopping. It was a sunny, hot summer day (in the mid-80s). When I returned to my car with my groceries it decided not to start. Thankfully I was only a quarter mile from my apartment, so I simply made three walking trips to shuttle the groceries home. As I made these treks back and forth I decided one of three things was going to happen within the next two days:

A. I will destroy my car with a sledgehammer. While it would have been very gratifying, and good for the soul, it also would have been terribly impractical. Plus, aside from this random petulance my car had served me well.
B. I will sell my car and get a new one. This was tempting and a real option.
C. I will get my car fixed. The most practical option, and my first choice. However, I had attempted this option three times already and had nothing to show for it but an ill car and bills.

I decided to try option C. I looked up towing companies and found Walk’s Auto listed. They came, picked up my car, and hauled it back to their location. I described the symptoms to a mechanic, he promised to call me as soon as he had a diagnosis.

I got a phone call a couple of hours later. Diagnosis: My car was experiencing periodic failure of the PCM relay.

I’ll admit, I had little faith that the problem was solved. I’d been given diagnoses by three different mechanics in the past year, and all three of those were not accurate. I think I had a right to be skeptical.

My car was repaired and ready to go the following morning. And it was genuinely repaired. Problem solved.

And that is the story of how I became a fan of Walk’s Auto.

Their prices aren’t the lowest in town but they are fair. I’d rather pay a bit more for solid work from a mechanic that I trust than a bargain rate somewhere else. Plus they have online coupons available for many services, and they offer a discount to PSU students for labor costs.

In the past three years I’ve had two instances of extraordinary service from Walk’s in addition to The Diagnosis. On one occasion a veteran mechanic saved me a considerable amount of money by replacing a seal on a part I thought I’d have to replace (this is a story in itself). On another occasion a mechanic stayed late at the shop to finish a few minor details of my car’s inspection because he had promised I could pick up my car that evening.

Thank you Walk’s, I appreciate it.

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Car Horns, Their Use, and the Lack Thereof

I read a statistic of dubious legitimacy that stated the average driver will honk a car horn 15,250 times in a lifetime. If this is true I am an underachiever of epic proportions.

In my 12 years as a driver I have used a car horn less than once a year, and never while actually driving. My car horn use is limited to test runs (I wonder what the horn in this car sounds like?) or honking in response to my little sister waving (while I was parked in the driveway).

Somewhere out there (probably in New York City) someone is making up for my weak showing.

I’ve decided that I will attempt to use a car less than 100 times in my life. Hooray for horn parsimony.

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Brother can You Spare a Dime?

This morning I walked out to my car at 9:45am to drive to church. As I walked across the parking lot I noticed the cover for the fuel tank on my car was popped open. Did someone siphon the gas from my car? I wondered. I opened the door, and saw that the inside was in disarray. Most of my loose change was gone (I estimate  about $7.00), my pack of Extra Polar Ice gum was missing , a few CDs were lifted (though I really don’t remember which ones I had in my car), and two of my pens were taken.

Here is what was not taken: the E-Free softball team equipment from the trunk, a flashlight, my insurance/registration cards, a pencil, 27 cents, one lone piece of gum, two CDs (Caedman’s Call and PFR Great lengths), a screwdriver, a wrench, and a case for Oakley sunglasses. I don’t think any gas was removed from the car.

When I discovered this I had two immediate responses.

I laughed. About ten days ago I was doing laundry and I ran low on quarters. I ran out to my car and removed about $10.00 worth of quarters from the change I had accumulated in it. I thought to myself: this would be a bad time to steal the change from this car, because all you’d get is pennies, nickels, and dimes. That thought came back to me as soon as I saw my change missing. I might be prophetic.

I said to myself: “We’ve been robbed!” In a John Candy voice. Then: “Do you think so?” In a Steve Martin Voice. A wonderful bit of dialogue from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Life is funny.

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