Farewell Neon, you were a good little car....

When I first moved to America in 1996 I had no idea what car to buy. I had heard horror stories that the car salesmen over here make the guys in the UK look like vicars and I was in a rush because I was paying through the nose for a rental. One of my friends told me about buying cars from rental places so I headed down to the closest one and found a very nice little 95 Dodge Neon for a little under $10k. The sales process was great - you test drive it then you give them a check. They price their cars just under the blue book value and have a no haggle policy. I love it.

The car has served me well over the years and I added a little over 110k miles to the clock. I've had pretty much everything replaced over the years but its never been major enough that I said 'it would be cheaper to get another car'... until this weekend.

We were heading out on a camping trip to see the meteor shower and at 8:30 on a foggy morning just outside Montesano, WA my 'check engine' light came on. I am unfazed by such warning lights because they report so much bad stuff which generally involves you paying the garage $60 to tell you something you already knew or you don't care about. Plus there was nowhere to stop. I had just finished explaining this to J when the engine spluttered and I decided to pull over to the side where I discovered the engine had actually stopped and wouldn't restart. We spent the next 2 hours waiting for a tow truck.

Now the first tow truck was going to tow us to Aberdeen but the AAA guys couldn't find any garages open on a Saturday - yes a SATURDAY - what is it with this place? They offered to tow us to Les Schwab - great if you want tyres but not so much if your engine is dead. Thankfully this tow truck broke down and they had to send another from Olympia and they offered to tow us all the way back there - it cost more money but the price was reasonable and waived if you let them fix your car.

Turns out the timing belt had broken - well shredded itself actually. Fixing it was around $600 but there was a gamble - on some cars a broken timing belt can damage the engine but it takes $300 of work to see if this is the case. I decided to gamble. So they spent the next few hours stripping down the timing case. They had a LOT of trouble getting one of the parts off so we decided to spend the night down there hoping they would have it fixed on Sunday. On Sunday morning they were very happy to tell me that they had got the part removed, and very sad to tell me that they had found a sheared off bolt that was probably what caused the problem. Unfortunately the bolt was a dealer only part so they couldn't get that until Monday. So we got a ride home.

We never did go camping but it turns out that the event got a lot of rain and nobody managed to see any meteor shower and we were in a nice hotel room drinking wine from the local 7-11

On Monday they got the part and replaced the timing belt.... but when they tested they found the worst.. the cylinders were damaged which requires a lot of repairs, minimum $1500.

And so little Neon I have made the sad decision to leave to down in Olympia where hopefully the mechanics will fix you in their spare time and maybe you will get another lease of life. Well that's what I will tell myself because I don't want to think of you sitting in a rusting pile of cars with no wheels. Please everyone take a minutes silence....

Published 15 August 2007 11:17 AM by zman
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