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Just one more year!

We do not replace our cars very frequently. Basically, we buy a car and drive it until it is no longer road worthy. Alas, our 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is approaching that point. This vehicle has over 150,000 miles on it. The power doors quit working long ago. The air conditioner is flagging. The electrical system has gremlins and seems to be in need of an exorcism.  At this point, nearly every repair costs more than the car is worth so we are at that point where any time something goes wrong we ask ourselves if it is time to throw in the towel and send this vehicle off to minivan Heaven.

The latest issue was the driver's side window. We knew, after our experience with a 1990 Dodge Caravan, that the car would not pass the safety inspection unless the window goes up and down. We also knew that the repair bill to make the current minivan's window work would be astronomical in comparison to the value of the vehicle. It would effectively become a working window with a car attached to it. Enter YouTube!

My husband found a video that took you through a step-by-step replacement process and gave you a source to buy the needed part. "You can do this in 30 minutes!" the video assured. Now my husband has never been much of a car mechanic, but he is an electrical engineer and this seemed to be an electrical issue so he accepted the challenge and ordered the part. After six hours of work the part was in and the door panel was back in place. Turned the key and...nothing. Except for the fact that windshield wipers kept going even though the switch for the wipers was in the off position. Ugh!

At this point I would have poured a glass of wine and looked up the number for the nearest charity that would tow away a vehicle at no charge. But not my husband. He put his engineering thinking cap on and determined that he must have drained the battery during the repair process. He pulled my son's car up beside the van and gave the old girl a jump start. Voila! It started. Window goes up and down. Wipers work normally. He drove it around to charge up the battery and we called it a night.

The next morning, he went out and started the van, and all was still well. However, rather than just driving to the vehicle inspection station right then, he turned the car off and got the GooGone to clean the tape residue left on the window after the repair process. One clean and shiny window later he turned the key. The engine would not turn over. The windows would not work. The lights would not come on. But there was no funky wiper action and the radio worked!

I've got the charity number on speed dial by this point but he returns to Google and YouTube. Apparently, all the connecting and disconnecting of the battery that occurred during the window process messed up the computers. He found instructions that said to disconnect the battery and pull some fuse for at least 30 minutes, then reconnect and start. Sort of like a Microsoft reboot. It worked! He didn't press his luck. He drove to the automotive shop and left it for an inspection.

A few hours later, we got the phone call. The van failed the inspection. Something about too much play in the sway bar. Now what? After all the effort and energy given to that minivan over the last 24 hours, my husband couldn't bear to give up on it now. He paid the money, had it fixed, and we are now displaying a brand new safety inspection sticker.

But that's it. No more! Dear minivan--this is your last chance. Next summer when this sticker is expiring, do not expect us to jump through hoops to make you last. If you fail the inspection, it is the junk heap for you. Unless, of course, my husband finds another YouTube video for another "30-minute" fix.


Keith R said…
Don't worry so much about putting more money into repairs than the car is worth. The less it is "worth", the less incentive to trade it in. After all, if it was worth as much as a new car, you'd trade it in immediately. The less it is worth, the greater the incentive to keep it running.

Think about the cost of a new replacement - no way any repairs will equal that bill.

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