When it comes to your car, a little love may work both ways

Should Have Done Those Tune-Ups, But She’s a Jeep!

I have never had much luck with cars. In fact, one could say I’ve killed off several. The very first car I ever owned was a 1970 Opal GT that I never put oil into. That car lasted as long as it could with a dry engine, which finally seized up and caught fire one night on a long, deserted highway. Then there was the Mazda B-Series truck I owned for a few years. One night, after piling a bunch of friends into the back for a nice little tailgate picnic, the transmission decided to drop right out of it -- literally. I traded that truck in for a 1988 Honda Accord that eventually died a slow and agonizingly smoky death along a highway due to, um, needing more than just a little bit of oil. These are just a few examples of the many times a car has let me down.

About six years ago, however, I managed to break this ongoing curse. I went out and I bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. It was love at first sight! We bonded, that Jeep and I. This Jeep understood me better than any other car has. She understood my whims and idiosyncrasies. My lack of regular car maintenance never got in her way. She put up with anything and everything. She has hung in there through a zillion road trips, races to make movie start times, speeding along to catch planes and generally being left on her own to take care of herself.

Yes, I can say that for the last six years I’ve been very happy with my Jeep -- until now. Without any warning, the curse returned. There have been break-downs and break-ups. My Jeep has lost her way and I’ve lost my patience. When I take her to the shop to replace her water pump, her fuel pump breaks a week later. When I replace the entire electrical system, the battery dies a day or two after that. 

These are just some of the “little” tangible things going wrong with her lately.

She used to love me, my Jeep, such a good old gal. I thought we had a wonderful relationship. Now I think she may be possessed by the devil or has developed a sociopathic disorder that is focused on getting me “out of the picture,” if you get my drift.

She just turned 150,000 miles and decided to be belligerent and just plain mean. 

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “but she’s old – have some compassion Jewels!” (or else you’re thinking “why in the hell is she anthropomorphizing her car?”).

But, but... She’s a Jeep! 

My Jeep is supposed to live forever and be able to go through the Australian Outback and, er, back. She’s supposed to be a survivor. She is not supposed to ever let me down like all those other cars before her.

I bought this Jeep for reliability and durability, plus a good dose of unrealistic expectations like being able to put an entire 12-foot tall Japanese Cherry Tree I purchased on a whim into the cargo area and just drive off. The tree, the Jeep and I made it home safe, but I was a road hazard for about 30 miles. I will not re-enact that stunt ever again, but that’s beside the point.

Instead of being the most dependable, caring, and gracious car I ever owned, she has recently been acting like an Edsel with post-traumatic-stress-syndrome, or possibly she’s possessed by a demon with a hangover and a bad case of denial.  She starts up one day and then forgets how to keep the spark going the next.  She teases me with an ignition, only to shut down the engine when I get to about 50 mph. She needs a shrink, a priest or a sledgehammer. I haven’t decided which.

While I can deal well enough with known problems, it is the intangible issues that are driving me crazy. When I change gears, there’s this funny noise that sounds like an elephant mating call. I have to remember not to drive by any zoos. Also, she’s taken to stalling out on railroad tracks, only to start up again once my panic rises to an appropriate level. She’ll wait until I get to the drive-through window speaker at whatever fast food joint I go to, then stall out. For the people in the cars lined up behind me, this facilitates the road rage they have always wanted to express, but never thought they would find a good excuse to exercise in a drive-through line. I just love to be honked at by five or six cars at once. The cacophony of horns is definitely a better adrenal boost than the coffee I was about to purchase.

My Jeep loves to start right up in the mornings, but will have a nervous breakdown by the time I want to go to lunch. She’ll stall out on dark country roads when I’m trying to get home, but never when I am on the way to somewhere I really don’t want to go. She waits until I’m attempting a fast pull into traffic and turns herself off to try and kill me. I get to watch people swerve round me and flip me off. I suppose they believe I just pulled a stunt like that on purpose.

Like some sort of mechanical and oily angst, she’s obviously deliberate and has a plan for my ultimate demise. She is determined to get back at me for something -- some infraction I have obviously forgotten.

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I should have done those tune-ups more often. Maybe I should have changed her oil every 3,000 miles. A good car wash once in a blue moon might have soothed her as well. A brake job would have been nice a few years back ...

Who knows? All I ever really did was count on her to get me to my destination then take me safely back home.  I can’t be blamed for those minor details, right?

She’s at a mechanic’s shop now. When I told them what has been going on, the poor fellow at the shop told me this:

“There are two things a car mechanic never wants to hear:  #1 'It only does it some of the time', and #2 'It only does it when my wife drives the car.' "

I am someone’s wife who just told this mechanic that the problem only happens some of the time ...

My Jeep is about to go into surgery - I just got the call. My one-time dearly loved Jeep may or may not come back from the brink, but I do not feel too guilty that I could care less about her pulling through. She has let me down too many times now, the poor old thing. She’s become my Christine, a la Stephen King. This has me thinking. Can an exorcism really be performed on a car? Someone let me know. It may be my last resort.

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