At least my car isn’t keeping me up anymore

I bought a car this week.

I didn’t want to buy a car.

I HAD to buy a car.

I had to buy a car because I’ve been losing sleep over the one I bought a few years ago.

Believe it or not, there are times when I can’t sleep. In this case, it was because I had a lemon on my hands.

During our first summer together, my car bucked like an unbroken horse and left me stranded on the side of the interstate a couple of times.

The dealer replaced the catalytic converter TWICE before discovering the real problem: a loose ground wire.

I have no reason to doubt my service advisor’s explanation for fixing the symptom, rather than the problem. He said it was tough to diagnose. He told me the loose ground wire caused the engine to backfire, and when the engine backfired, the catalytic converter suffered damaged.

After it was fixed, the car was fine – until it wasn’t.

The following summer it began developing transmission problems. Specifically, the transmission kept kicking itself into failsafe mode, which made the car sluggish.

That’s actually an understatement. When the transmission went into failsafe, I could put the gas pedal to the floor and the car would not respond for a full ten seconds and then just creep for a few seconds more before reluctantly making better headway.

This particular problem generally only cropped up in the heat of summer and only when my car was idling at a red light, for example, or when I was stuck in a Washington, D.C. traffic jam.

The immediate solution was to perform a quick reset by shutting down the car, then turning it back on. But a long term fix was elusive.

My service advisor initially recommended replacing the transmission. I was shocked at the expense, but my car was still under warranty, so I agreed. When that didn’t fix it, though, he said the replacement must have been defective, so he replaced the replacement. That didn’t do the trick, either.

I then ended up helping myself to far too many of the complimentary donuts service departments leave for their customers. My car was in the shop too often in a futile attempt to determine the root cause of the problem.

The last time was in March, when I took it to a different dealer for a fresh pair of eyes before it started acted up in summertime heat. The service advisor there put his top guy on it and he found what I wanted to believe was the source of my car’s trouble. He told me the fan that’s supposed cool the transmission when the car idles was broken.

That made perfect sense to me. If the fan wasn’t working in already hot, humid weather, of course the transmission would overheat and do what it’s supposed to do to protect itself from damage, kick into failsafe.

I thought my odyssey was finally over. But on Tuesday night, when I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to work, my car kicked itself into failsafe.

I’m a patient guy, but even I have my limits.

A new car is in our garage.

I didn’t want to buy it.

But at least I’m sleeping better.


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