Yesterday, I spent an hour or so outside with the Focus. It seems that the heater stopped working sometime during the summer. Of course, this event went completely unnoticed until just this week, when winter raised its ugly head. I drove the little car to work and never got warm. Okay, I know the drill. Drain the cooling system, remove the thermostat, flush out the system and replace with new coolant and a new thermostat. Piece of cake. I bought the stuff on the way home from work at Pep Boys on Thursday and did the work yesterday morning. The little Focus hasn’t required much attention in the year-and-a-half that I have owned it, so dropping $20 into it to fix this little problem was no big deal. Sure, it was cold out there, but it was much better than making an appointment somewhere and leaving the car there all day (to speak nothing of the labor costs). I drove the car yesterday after the work and it heated up nicely. I’ll watch things carefully for a week or so – sometimes cooling systems burp air and will need a top-off.
I went to the post office this morning and sent off the half-pound of paperwork that VISA needed to process my auto damage claim for the rental car last month. Total cost to repair the fender was $999. They didn’t ask for any loss-of-use charges. They couldn’t rent the car while it was being repaired, so they were entitled to collect for that time. I also didn’t hear anything about the cracked windshield. Hmmmm… Enterprise sent me the estimate from the body shop, as well as some nice color printouts of digital photos of the damaged fender. All in all, I wrinkled their car, and they were incredibly nice about it. I would rent from them again (and I would also use my VISA again, too).
I had a flat tire on the Explorer this week. It was the left rear tire. Upon close examination, the tire was leaking from a cut on the edge of the tread – not an (easily repairable) nail hole. The right rear tire had a leak this spring and it still leaked after a trip to the tire shop for repairs. So I just squirted some Slime into that tire and it solved the problem this spring. Rather than mess with the cut tire (or buy more Slime), I decided to replace both rear tires – they were almost down to the wear bars on the tread anyway. Tirerack.com to the rescue! The Explorer has Goodyear tires – the same size and style that it was built with. Tirerack had the tires on sale! I ordered them Thursday, and the UPS guy was here with them on Friday. Monday, they’ll get installed.
Minor annoyances for sure, and not all that expensive. Gotta take care of the cars, because we expect them to take care of us.
I was walking Bonnie this morning, and we passed a Kia Sportage parked at the curb. It obviously belonged to someone attending one of the nearby church services. I couldn’t help but notice that it had a big red “CLUB” attached to the steering wheel. A club on a Kia? Not necessary even in this neighborhood. I suspect that one could leave the windows down, the doors open and a bottle of Mad Dog on the seat next to the keys and it would be safe. Who would steal a Kia?????
Caution: Politics below…
There’s a lot being said about the US Government bailing out the auto companies. There are a few things wrong with that. The biggest one is that the government doesn’t have any money. As a matter of fact, they are spending our children’s and grandchildren’s money right now because they can’t stop – they can’t help it because spending buys votes. When I was a kid, the government bailed out Chrysler (with loans that were paid back). The management at Chrysler changed, with Lee Iacocca taking over for $1 in salary for a year. Everything worked out that time. However, we are now being asked to loan money to all three of the major US automakers to save them from bankruptcy. Why are they facing bankruptcy? Their businesses are in the tank because of their labor costs. Their labor costs are high because of the silly contracts negotiated with their unions over the years. The management has built a business that is now impossible to run. A Toyota Camry, also built in the US with union labor, costs about $2000 less to produce. It’s a nicer car than a Ford because Toyota can spend an extra grand per car and still pocket a thousand of extra profit.
I give the domestic auto makers a lot of credit – they have some nice products. Unfortunately, they’re overpriced. You can get a really nice Honda Civic (made in Ohio) for the same price as a Ford Focus (likely built in Mexico). Check it out! Which is the better deal? Which would be worth more in 5 years? Why would anyone buy a Focus?
Until they can have competitive labor costs, the Big 3 will continue to sell us sub-par autos at full prices. Bankruptcy is how you get rid of that problem. The stockholders will suffer (because they supported the management) and the unions will suffer as well (sorry – successful parasites never kill their host). We need new management. The sooner we get it over with, the better for our auto industry. That’s not really politics – it’s just common sense.