Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Car Talk

A few weeks ago, we had a very pressing and time-sensitive need to practice parallel parking. My oldest is almost 17, and her temps would expire in two weeks -- which would mean taking (and paying for) driver's ed all over again, and getting fifty more hours of practice (ten of which must be night hours). So Darwin went out and bought five orange cones and stored them in the trunk of his commuter car. We had to use his small car for maneuvering practice, as it's a good deal smaller than the big blue van, and somewhat smaller than the beater minivan we bought for cash for the teen driver to learn on (and one day drive to work).

However, on the weekday morning that my 16yo and I planned to practice parallel parking in a nearby parking lot, we found that Darwin had indeed taken the big van to work, but had not left the keys for his car. This was a problem, since my key fob for his car, a big clicky thing, had recently been dropped and broken open, and hadn't worked since.

No matter. We would grab the cones from the trunk and take the minivan, since the goal was to practice in some form. However, Darwin's car was locked (unusual as it's normally parked in the garage), so there was no getting the cones from the trunk.

At this point I considered my options. Sending a passive aggressive text to Darwin about not being able to get into his car to get the cones wasn't going to further our ultimate end of being able to practice parking. What would further that end would be driving the minivan to the store and replacing the battery in my key fob so that we could get into the car.

So my daughter and I took apart the key fob to find out what kind of battery we needed. The battery was wedged in tightly, and it took a lot of shaking and a tiny screwdriver to pry it out. And the long and short of it was that the battery had been put in backwards when the key fob fell apart, and once it was turned around, it worked again. So we were able to take the small car and practice parking, with the ultimate result that my daughter passed her driving test, and now we have three licensed drivers in the house.

And I don't have it hanging on my conscience that in a moment of frustration I took it out on Darwin.


A day or two after the driving test, the beater minivan began to whine and moan at us when we turned the steering wheel. It seemed serious enough to be looked at, and indeed it was: steering fluid had been leaking out, and the work could potentially cost as much as we'd paid for the van in the first place.

So we called a family council and let the kids help us hash out the options:

Replace -- sell the van for parts, use the cash to buy another van. Cons: we wouldn't get much cash; who knows what problems a cheap minivan might come with; if we bought a more reliable used van, we'd be taking on another car payment, which might cut into some people's dance lessons and tae kwon do.

Repair -- fix the van. A faster option than buying a new car, and one that kept a third basic car in the family. At least we'd know the steering would be repaired. Cons: Expense; who knows what might break next on this old car?

Reduce -- sell the van for parts and go without a third car. We already have a large family van, so do we need another car Cons: the big van is much harder for teenagers to handle than the basic minivan, and is hard to learn on; oldest daughter wants to get a job, meaning she'd either have to take the family van and leave me without a car, or I'd have to drop her off and pick her up; another driver is coming up soon.

In the end, we chose to repair the van. Darwin sourced the parts and ordered them from a third party, which cut down the price of the initial work, and then a part that the mechanic had feared was damaged turned out to be fine. So the cost turned out to be half of the initial estimate, and certainly far less expensive than replacing the minivan.


And yesterday my second daughter, 15.5, announced that she would be able to get her temps next week...


Jamie said...

OH, do I hear you on the aging van trials. We just decided, after a similar conversation and with some gnashing of teeth, to replace a $600 part in our 2008 Odyssey. And good luck with the soon-to-be driver! I'd probably rather go through another round of driver training than another round of toilet training, but I'm not 100% certain about that.

MrsDarwin said...

Toilet training is low-level (or high-level) frustration almost all of the time, with explosive moments, but as far as I know no one has ever died from having an accident. :)

Kathy said...

I taught all 5 of my teens to drive (including parallel parking) my minivan. Eventually they all thanked me, when parallel parking with a car was a piece of cake. :-)