For many of us, cars are far more than transportation appliances. Our cars dutifully serve our families for decades, making memories along the way. Your car can be more than just a vehicle; it can end up loving it just as much as your own skin and blood. That’s why it hurts so much when it’s time to let that car go. Sometimes, sending your ride off to the junkyard in the sky is the best decision.
On Friday, a lot of you read the first article by Andrea Petersen, a wonderful service advisor in the Pacific Northwest. Her story was a different take that we hear about often. We all know how it feels to let a beloved car go. You’ve gone to school in that car, you got to learn how to wrench with that car; maybe you’ve even taken several family trips. We don’t often hear what it’s like for the service advisors who sometimes see these cars right before they end up at a junkyard in your town.
Andrea’s story really does remind you of the sort of work that a therapist or a doctor does, but the patient is instead a vehicle. Her story really hit hard for today’s COTD winner DDRDAN (okay, this comment is a few days old, but I’ve been out!):
Fuck, this hits deep.
My dad’s “finally made it” car was a well-optioned V6 Camry. For 12 years growing up, that car took me to every day of school, every sports match, every family event. It became mine when I got my license. I asked my junior prom date out by popping out of its trunk.
I graduated high school and the Camry passed to my older brother. It got him through almost a decade of medical training and two cross-country moves. About a year after he began practicing medicine, the starter finally gave out one morning while he was on call. A decade of multiple daily drives to a hospital don’t do kind things to a starter motor. He bought a more doctor-grade ride, left the Camry on the curb where it was parked, and handed me the title.
We replaced the starter together right there on the street corner where it had died. It was probably missing 3 quarts of oil, but that Toyota 1MZ-FE V6 sounded and felt brilliant. Good as new, more than two decades and one trip to the moon since my dad bought it. Good in my soul.
So as many Autopians do, I fell in love with my new shitbox. Dirty, underserviced fluids became fresh synthetic ones. I gave myself a week of hand cramps replacing the thermostat, but the working cabin heat was worth it. I shelled out for a complete set of front suspension parts and kept them stored in the trunk, ready for a long weekend to get it done.
That weekend never arrived.
One morning a year ago, I get a call from local police saying my car is impounded after having been found abandoned up the street from my place at 5am. Attempted theft. I show up to the impound lot thinking I have some wires to splice and maybe a key cylinder to replace. Instead, I find all the electronics completely gutted. I got the car towed to my trusty local shop.
The next day, I get the same call that the author routinely makes: $600 just to fully tally all the electrical damage, and countless thousands of repairs after that. I did the logical thing and sold it off to a scrap yard.
Handing off the keys and title to the tow truck driver was one of the worst feelings of my adult life, for reasons that don’t make logical sense, and never will. I just stood outside the shop and cried watching the tow truck pull away.
At its end of life, that Camry was worth less than most kitchen appliances. But we don’t shed tears when the compressor on the refrigerator gives out for good.
We make illogical purchasing decisions, dedicate time and blood to cold metal that has been manufactured on the scale of millions, and drool over weird trims of mundane cars. And it’s awesome.
Thanks for the reminder of why cars kick ass.
I feel you, DDRDAN. In 2008, my parents bought a 2003 GMC Envoy XL.
It already had over 100,000 miles on it, but my parents were proud of the SUV. Its chrome shined bright and the charcoal gray paint still sparkled after a good wash. That SUV served my family well for 12 years. Along the way, my family faced challenges. Just a year into ownership, the engine grenaded. We loved it so much that we replaced the engine. The air suspension failed a year later. We converted the suspension to coils, hoping to future-proof the SUV.
A decade and perhaps dozens of high-dollar problems later, and it found itself sitting in the driveway of a foreclosed house. It sat for so long that weeds growing from the cracks of the driveway went through the spokes in the long-tarnished wheels. Apparently, it was sitting full of mold due to a leaky sunroof that allowed water to fry the electrical system. If that wasn’t bad enough, it had a gas tank so rusty that the fuel just leaked out. I wanted to save it, but I just wasn’t in a place to do it. Like the Kenny Rogers song ‘The Gambler’ goes, you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.
Hug your cars tightly tonight, you lovely readers.