My New Car

carShortly after pothole season, my eight year old Civic began making expensive noises.

It started with an angry metallic buzz. Over time it got worse.

I wasn’t concerned because disturbing sounds are often engineered into critical components. The designers do this to draw your attention to failing parts. It’s their way of saying, “hey buddy, start saving because this one is going to cost you.”

So I started saving.

A week later something went clunk when I bounced over a speed-bump. I usually don’t mind clunks – but this one emanated from a region not associated with clunks.

Next came a wobble or was it a lurch? I will let you decide. Name the sensation you get while running on wet grass in a loose pair of shoes.

Whatever you call it: a flutter, a flounder, a wiggle, a waggle, a wobble or a weave, it is still not something you want when taking a curve at 65 mph.

Finally all of these woes: buzz, clunk, flutter, flounder, wiggle, waggle, wobble and weave, united into one unholy harmony – the kind of tune that only VISA would enjoy.

This was going to set me back.

I figured the buzz would cost $500 at minimum. I pegged the clunk at a cool $1,000. A wobble or a weave tops $1,200 easy, and after adding it all up, the bottom line was a sum too close to the trade-in value of my Civic to not simply trade it in.

Which is what I did. I got a new car.

How exciting!

My wife got excited.

The receptionist at the car lot got excited.

The sales rep got excited.

Her manager got excited.

The finance guy got excited. Everyone got excited but me because new things and especially new cars do not excite me.

Sure… New cars are as fresh and full of promise as a clean sheet of paper. But I am suspicious of promises, especially new ones.  In the past, other new things have promised me that life would always be fresh, clean, shiny and flawless – for all time.

Life is never so kind.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not stuck on old things. It is just that old things have a history to know them by whereas new things only offer promises.

Take my old Civic.

The front bumper wears a permanent snarl from the time I clipped a deer – but during those frantic moments that car took me safely into and out of a ditch.

The right rear quarter panel is crumpled because a drunk ran a stop-sign, but again the Civic saved me.

The carpets are coffee stained and bagel crumbs fill the cracks in the seats like grout. A lot of me and my family remains in that car, but now its history will belong to someone else and they will live with our ghosts until time sets them free.

Before we parted, the Civic and I had a last moment together.

The old and new car rested side by side in the parking lot while the sales rep and I exchanged keys. I thought of saying good-bye but with the rep as excited as she was, I thought better of it.

That Civic looked so sad, so worn, so tired and so abandoned.

I wanted to tell it not to worry. I wanted to reassure it that everything would be okay, but I thought better of it.  I know that car too well, and I know it is just as untrusting of promises as I.

Author: Almost Iowa

57 thoughts on “My New Car”

  1. I almost shed a tear when I left my last motorcycle at the dealership for a trade in. I didn’t really want to let go, but recently her water tank had exploded while I was riding it, in addition to various other new strange and frightening sounds arising during my daily commute. Anyway, it didn’t help when the ignition wouldn’t turn (in the mechanic’s hands) and the mechanic said “looks like this is one of those bikes that only accepts one owner”. I tried turning the ignition one last time and it fired right up, almost like she was trying to tell me to change my mind and take her back. It was so hard to walk away!

  2. The last car I unloaded I’d driven for 16 years. I sold it to the cousin of an in-law. Periodically I’d run into her and could ask how the old beast was running. She always had good things to say about it, until it turned 25 or so when it gave up the ghost. That car was an old friend for both of us.

    I’ve been driving my current rig for 14 years. Guess I’m about due…

  3. The alliteration had me laughing. Forever I bought new. But then I discovered that nearly new worked just fine. And I think that stray cars are just like stray cats and dogs, grateful to be rescued. Not to mention several thou less expensive. –Curt

  4. I can relate! A part of me is always sad when I give up a car…so much of our life is spent there, and we do get so attached. We actually used to name our cars, but stopped because it actually made it even harder to give them up. Still, I hope your new car turns out to be a good one!

  5. It’s hard to say goodbye. Think of all you’ve been through together. I got rid of my 16 year old truck recently. Gave it to my nephew and when I see him in it nothing feels right.

  6. You remind me that our 14 year old Highlander could emit a death rattle at any moment. I have an appointment to get the emergency brake fixed next week – only $370 so still worth it. Congratulations on the new car. It is a big deal to give up a faithful ride for the potential recalls of a new buggy. Let us know how it works out!

    1. I kinda wish I had my old VW beetle back. There was nothing on that car that I couldn’t fix. Volkswagen means “people’s car” versus every other brand that is a “mechanic’s car”.

  7. My Princess is home, and I’ve never been happier. In the end, it turned out to be only cosmetic damage despite going in that ditch, and the guys at the body shop threw in a nice polishing-up of the headlight covers at no charge. I hated the RAV4 they put me in. Of course it was only a four-night stand, but I couldn’t even whomp up some appreciation. It was too big, too slick, too techno. When I slide back into my wonderful Corolla, it was like coming home. With luck, she’ll be my last car. After all, she’s only got 97,000 miles on her, and my last Corolla hit 356K. We have a way to go.

  8. It will be hard to pry me away from my current car (now into its 11th year). The latest noise, grind from front wheels, had me certain I’d be replacing bearings (ka-ching!!), but fortunately just needed brakes.

    Enjoy your new wheels!

    1. My wife had a horrible sound coming from her brakes. It was a brand new car too. I test drove it – and removed a pebble caught in the calipers. I like fixes like that. 🙂

  9. My car died at my front gate and I nostalgically photographed it getting towed away. That was nearly a year ago. (Thank goodness I have an old truck). Your story made me sad! Your story was also well-timed, because today I’m getting another (hopefully pre-loved) car .

    1. “pre-loved”

      I can just see the guys in the plaid suits lining up to use that term. 🙂

      Good luck with the new (used) car.

    1. To bad Car Talk is no longer on NPR. It was my all time favorite show, hosted by brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, known also as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”

      One segment went like this:

      Caller: “then the car slows down unexpectedly..”
      Ray: “Hold up right there. I have to ask, ‘do you cheat on your wife?'”
      Caller: “Why no, of course not.”
      Ray: “Good, then it is just a filter. Otherwise, it would cost you a thousand bucks”

  10. Oh, Greg. I’m sure that before long you can dent up the new one, grout it with bagel crumbs, and color the seats with a few coffee splotches. It’ll feel just like home. Then you’ll have a few years of enjoyment before the clunk, grind, bonk, shudder, wobble, lurch starts up again. 😀

  11. Great post. I feel your pain. “Clunk, wobble, weave” Sounds like suspension, which is not good. The only think worse than a true suspension problem is a problem with the electronic suspension adjustment system. That’s kinda like the 737Max problem for your car. The system notices the wobble and makes changes to turn it into a weave – weaves are easier to fix.

    I took mine in and paid for the big repairs, but its days are numbered.

    1. I first drove my wife’s new car on a rainy day. The road was slick and I let t drift around a curve. The car has lane departure control that I never experienced. I didn’t spin out trying to correct it, but I came close.

  12. It’s never easy to say goodbye to an old friend no matter what makes it run.. Some friends run on blood some run on oil. May the great God in vehicle heaven look kindly on your old friend.

  13. I’ve never felt so fond of a Civic as now. 🙂
    When the insurance decided the cost of repairs exceeded the value of our first car, a Mazda Protégé, I felt I was saying goodbye. To me it was always new; it was fun, fast, and young. It was the car that took us on our first road trips as a new couple and the one that raced all the lame cars off the line at suburban stoplights.

    1. Ah, the first road trip car. For me that would be a classic VW micro-bus. Yeah, I came from that era. Anything but fast, but it was fun.

  14. We are on the threshold of a new car purchase. Hubby is in charge of research and I am in charge of nodding, hm-hmming, and praying. Praying that this new “thing” will have a minimum of electronics that malfunction. Our son has been driving a loaner for a month because the bluetooth thing-y in his new car didn’t work. The shop can’t find the problem.

    By the way, sorry I couldn’t help name the wobble waggle noise. I don’t run on wet grass wearing loose footwear. Loose footwear? All the time. Running? Not this gal!

    1. I suppose not everyone runs on wet grass with loose footwear – but then that wobbly-weave is the same sensation as people of a certain age feel when stepping out of bed. For the younger set, its fashionable shoes.

    1. A Chevy Colorado. Technically, they are a truck, but these days, cars are really trucks and trucks are really cars. The only thing not confusing about it is that everything gets bigger – except for the stuff that gets smaller. 🙂

  15. We’ve had two cars largely held together with duct tape, one with a wired on bumper. Wow, my husband hated giving those up! But I was done driving cars when the driver door wouldn’t stay latched, and when water sprayed up from the floorboards on raining days. Yes, I’ve written about them. Fun post!

    1. I have ten siblings and in the old days, we owned a 57′ Chevy station wagon. There was always a toddler between my parents in the front and a baby on mom’s lap. The middle kids occupied the middle seat and the older kids claimed the back. The floors were plywood. One day, while going down the highway at 55 mph, one of my sisters vanished while standing behind my father. The rotted floor had collapsed. Luckily, she was clinging to the back of his seat. After that, the plywood was replaced with plate metal.

  16. I tend to keep cars long after they have told me the sad news that it is over. It is hard to say goodbye for me. The car, however, seems happy to get away. Super post, Greg.

  17. I felt this way when my old van died on a highway in Alabama. It was a goner and had to be towed on the spot. I cleaned her out, received cash for her ‘parts’ and drove away, in a rental, with the biggest hole in my heart. I still miss that car.

  18. I don’t drive and consequently never have, nor probably ever befriend a car. I can, relate to the tender sentiment. Nice write! 🌼

    1. Love goes way beyond people. We can love pets, for certain, but also love cars, bicycles, coffee cups and place. I literally cried once when moving out of a house that I lived in for years.

  19. Nooo – you’re making me feel all the remorse I’ve felt about my old cars (named Trucky and Kemosabe). I definitely get to attached to automobiles.

      1. My dad sold a 72 camaro in the mid seventies and still keeps up with who owns the husk. I’m certain he’d buy it if he had the money, regardless of its state.

  20. Its true. There was so much family dna in my last car i could have moulded a zombie out of it and still had enough for a season of CSI.

    1. I hear you on that.

      My wife tells a family tale about when she was a kid, whenever my father-in-law pulled into a burger joint, he would order for the family without any regard to what they wanted. The kids hated pickles and would remove them from their burgers and stuff them between the seat cushions.

      When cleaning the car before he sold it….

  21. I felt that way when I traded my Honda Odyssey in because it was full of memories and trips with the grandkids that would be never more. After that we lasted one year with the new and improved, and I had to get rid of it – too fancy, not me. So, now we’re doing okay with this new one, but I’m truly at my best in my truck. I love my truck. And, yes, when you reach a ‘mature’ age, Visa or the bank is the only participant who enjoys the process. Heck, I’d still be happy with manually rolling up my windows. 🙂

    1. To tell the truth, something I try to avoid, my new “car” is actually a truck and I love my truck and it loves me, so much so that it texts me from time to time, and occasionally sends emails. 🙂

  22. I understand what you’re saying here. My car is my friend. We go through life together so when I have to leave her behind because I’ve got a new one, I feel sad too. It’s a feeling of betrayal tempered by reason. The Germans probably have a word for it.

    1. My favorite German word is: Kummerspeck. It translates to Grief Bacon. It’s what you do when you are so sad that you eat through a gallon of chocolate chip ice cream. My muse does that all the time. I prefer bacon after splitting up with a car.

  23. The lure of new car smell… a siren song to be sure. But they have no crumbs, scars or permanent butt print. I understand, it’s hard to let go of an old friend. I tend to buy new, then run it into the ground before I let go. Mine is 5 years old now and husband is talking trade. I’m like , what! She’s just getting broken in!

    1. I usually let my car tell me when the relationship is over.

      Car: clunk, wobble, weave, grind, poof, bang…
      Me: So it’s over, huh?
      Car: Thud…

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