Monday, December 11, 2006

Car Talk

Doing my own car maintenance makes me feel like a total badass. I'm not hard core, or anything, but I'll do any of the little stuff like changing the air filter or checking the oil level, and I'll even make a go of slightly more complicated things like installing a new headlight. If the Toyota owner's manual gives directions and I can buy the parts at K-Mart or Target or Wal-Mart, I'm pretty game. There's something so pleasingly empowering about knowing which of the grime-encrusted pieces to pull out, push in, or rotate. I especially love when you finish and you get to drop the hood back down with a satisfying thonk, wiping the grunge from your hands with a rag as you walk away.

This weekend, though, I had to take the car in for a few more involved treatments. My tires were getting pretty bald, and I've been meaning to replace them for several weeks now. Last week's nasty ice and snow storm brought a new sense of urgency to the matter, so I had four new Goodyears with lovely deep tread installed, and replaced the battery while I was at it. To the best of my knowledge, the battery has not been replaced since I've owned the car-- eight years. I figured I was just living on borrowed time there. And tomorrow I'm taking it in to have my beloved mechanic figure out why it's running so loudly all of a sudden. Oh, and to have the only piece of simple routine maintenance that I won't even attempt taken care of: I need an oil change.

I hate to drive, I really do. But I love my car. It's nothing special, and it's not even paid for yet. But I've been all over the place in that car, and I know all of its little quirks, right down to the cappucino stains on the passenger seat, souvenir of a hurried morning running later than usual for work on an icy day in Buffalo, and the wonky vent that either points straight up at the ceiling or straight down at the floor, and just refuses to hold any position in between. If you know where to look, there's even a small dent in the ceiling where a perfect stranger smashed a spider with a rolled up paper, making it possible for me to finish driving home without having an accident either on the road or in my pants. Every once in a while, I borrow someone else's car and feel vaguely dissatisfied with my little four cylinder buggy, but it always wears off after a couple of days back behind the familiar wheel. It's dependable and remarkably cheap to run and maintain. I plan to drive it until it falls apart. Given the fact that my last Toyota was still going strong at 168,000 miles and 14 years when I totalled it (effing deer!), I've got reason to believe that our history together is just begun.


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