Car Repair Victory

After a successful installation of a replacement headlight in my car last year, I’ve felt inordinately empowered about vehicular repairs (before you scoff, that headlight replacement took major effort as Nissan apparently intends headlights only to be replaced by gnomes, judging by the amount of space I had to squeeze my hand into).

So when the CD player in my car went out, I had an inkling that I might try replacing the head unit myself.  And while I was at it, I had that passenger door speaker I blew over a year ago that I’ve had to adjust the balance to avoid hearing the annoying rattle on any songs with bass.

I wasn’t really serious until I was pricing the kind of head unit I wanted…and the costs it was going to take to install the damn thing.  I had my eye on a unit that was about 1 step above the cheapest thing I could find.  I could have gone with less if I’d compromised and gone without a CD player and done MP3 only.  As it was, I found a deal on a unit that does radio, HD radio, CDs and Mp3s with direct control of my iPod AND on two new speakers for my front doors, all for less than $200.  I was prepared to spend that much (particularly after shopping and looking for over 3 months with nothing but shitty radio to listen to commuting to work), but to have to shell out so much more for the install….

Things came to a head when I was facing down a 4.5 hour road trip.  There was no way in hell I was about to make a drive like that with nothing but the evil Empire of US radio to keep me company.  No, I had to have a new head unit.

And I would just have to install the damn thing myself.

If not for the instructions from Crutchfield (if you want to order car audio supplies, I highly recommend them–they provide instructions, help by phone, and they threw in some freebies like the face plate to match my unit to my car) and YouTube, this might not have been possible.  But with those two things and a soldering iron from Radio Shack?  It was a girl-power victory.

Disturbing, but neat fact:  your car interior mostly snaps together like a kid’s toy (especially if you’re in the mid-to-low end compact or sub compact car range).  I now know I can yank out half my dash with appallingly little effort and no sweat at all.

Also good to know:  Just use the power drill.  I tried to avoid it when removing some screws holding the old head unit, just using a hand screw driver.  It wasn’t worth it.  I wound up with a stripped screw and had to resort to a Dremel tool to get the thing out.

And soldering:  Way, way, WAY easier than you’d think.  First off, matching the wires may seem intimidating because there’s a ton of them, but, honestly, the shit is mostly color-coded.  Once you’ve matched the colors, stripped a little of the plastic off the ends, twisted the bare wires together, then you just put the iron under the wires, the solder over the top and watch the magic happen.  I’ll admit, I spent a bit of time watching YouTube for that one, too.

In the end, the only problem I had was that at first, when I got the dash all back together, the radio wouldn’t work.  I had to go back in, only to find that the antenna was only half-plugged into the socket.

All told, I probably spent 4 hours actually working (not counting my time spent shopping and preparing with YouTube videos).  I have a fantastic head unit, I can finally plug in my iPod (no more having to make CDs before a road trip!), and I have another victory in my war against my own ignorance about my vehicle.  The empowerment continues.

Wasted Weekend

So, the saga of the car continues.  I made another attempt at popping the hood and trying to identify the issue.  It’s literally painful for me to have an issue with a piece of equipment or technology that I can’t at least identify.  Sure, I may not have the tools or resources to fix it, but as long as I know what the problem is, I get a small victory.  Not so today.

In the meantime, the laundry remains unfolded. the stack of ironing hasn’t shrunk.  I did empty and reload the dishwasher, and the kitchen’s clean.  And, of course, my big Friday-off-weekend-museum plans continue to be thwarted.  If you are imagining me shaking my fist at the ceiling, you’re not wrong.

And let’s cap this off with my having nothing interesting whatsoever to say for this post (reference above bitching and moaning).

But, at the end 0f the day, I turn on the news and my car issues and wasted weekend pale in comparison to the uprisings, floods, earthquakes and tsumamis the rest of the planet is dealing with.  So, my weekend was wasted, but the bigger problem is that I’m a total jackass.

Technical difficulties

Apologies for the lack of a Friday post.  Bigger apologies if you couldn’t reach the site.  I spent about 4 hours on Friday evening trying to get connected to the site so I could post my entry, but alas, the Internet Overlords (or at least the web hosting overlords) were against me (and if they were against you between the hours of 8 and midnight, please leave a comment–I’m still trying to narrow down the reasons for the issue).  So, I’m going to try to post this back-dated (don’t want to take the top spot from Kristy).

Coincidentally, I was going to blog about another technical difficulty which tried to ruin my Friday:  my car wouldn’t (and still won’t) start.  She drove just fine Monday, and cranked with no issue Tuesday (before I opted to drive my Mom’s car instead since it hasn’t been out of the garage in a while).

I hate not being able to fix things myself, unfortunately the time it would take me to work on the car and figure out the problem, well, I just don’t have it.  I can narrow down all the obvious stuff (the battery is fine as are the connections to the battery, she’s not leaking any fluids, nothing looks obviously disconnected under the hood and her fuses appear to be okay).  She attempts to turn over when I crank it, but just never does.  There are some other things I could work on checking (spark plugs and connectors, the starter itself…), but again it goes back to time and lack of familiarity–while my conceptual knowledge of the operation of my car is enough to keep me from feeling totally embarrassed, the hands-on part makes me feel utterly ridiculous.  I mean, I know the role of the starter and basically how it operates, but I’ll be damned if I could actually pop the hood of a car and point to it with an certainty.

So, since I have two other vehicles that need driving, I’m very lucky.  I’ll be waiting until my next Friday off work to call up the tow service connected to my repair shop of choice.  And when it turns out to be some easy-peasy fix, I’ll try to assuage my feelings of inadequacy and stupidity by reminding myself that the cost will be worth it for the time and frustration I save.

Driving Into My Secret Heresy

I have a recently developed secret heresy.  The relatively new onset of this heresy does not diminish the overall problem: I have found myself suddenly, and inexplicably, a  major Top Gear Addict (the good, British version, not the crappy American version).

Now, for some of you, Top Gear may not seem even remotely heretical.  Definitely not something to be ashamed of.  The difference is, you probably haven’t spent large amounts of time scoffing at and dismissing cars valued for their speed.  I have.

My entire judgement of  cars up until now has been based on the following points:

-4 wheels

-good gase mileage (too cheap to pay for gas)

-ability to go well over 100K miles without major repair (cheap again)

-A/C operates (hot climate background necessitates this)

-Radio operates (tornado alley requires the ability to tune into local radio while driving across Kansas)

I am all but turned on by excellent gas mileage and high reliability.  I don’t mind driving, but I don’t enjoy it so much that I can ignore the costs of car ownership (my enjoyment of frugality is greater than my enjoyment of driving).  I am small Japanese car material, and I’ve always been okay with this.  I am interested in alternative fuel vehicles and don’t mind if they will be less peppy and have top speeds of 60mph.  I don’t even mind if they are tiny (as long as I can get in my own suitcases, hell, I drive alone 99% of the time anyhow, so small is fine).

And then came Top Gear.


For those of you not familiar with Top Gear, it’s a British programme (note the -e there;  it’s been ported to America, Australia and other places, but the original is the best) about speed and cars out of any reasonable person’s pay grade.  Three guys test drive these over-priced speed machines, and comment in a very British-humor way.  But this is no episode of Motor Week on PBS.  In between reviewing stylish new rides, these three not-ugly-but-not-overly-attractive British men perform meaningless and insane challenges in various and sundry types of cars (turning regular cars into amphibious vehicles, staging races across parts of the world between fast cars and public transport, etc.).

It’s humorous, meant to be funny.  But at the heart of the show, there’s car talk.  What’s cool and fast and awesome.  Oh, and there’s also stars who drive reasonably price cars around a race track (imagine Cameron Diaz driving the British equivalent of a Chevy Cobalt hell-for-leather around a formula 1-esque track).

Um, yeah.  Evaluations of Prius gas mileage this ain’t.

How is it that I find myself glued to watching a show about speed and luxury cars?  A show that mocks the little Hondas I find appealing?  That dismisses gas mileage with derisive snorts?  This is not right.  This is not me.  And yet, this show runs a back-to-back marathon set on a Saturday and I’m glued to the boob tube like it’s a loop of gratuitous rewind moments interspersed with footage of Colin Firth, Zachary Levi and Matthew McConaughey.

I repeat:  WTF?

Sure, Jeremy, Hammond and Captain Slow are all hilariously funny with their banter, insults and commentary.  And yes, I do find it side-splitting to watch a VW beetle dropped from 1 mile up.  But it doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m not a car person.  I should NOT be this sucked in.  It’s embarrassing.  I actually found myself wanting a Mercedes McLaren SLR the other day.

Shame?  Right here.

Time Vampire Begins With A Screeching Halt

Today’s Time Vampire is just started sucking away my precious hours in the worst way possible:  with a car wreck.

Yup, I got rear-ended today.  The first automobile accident I’ve experienced since I was 3 and someone hit my Mom’s car.

So we start this draining of my minutes with the initial impact.  From movement to stopping.  From progressing to home to sitting on the side of the street, not moving.  Minutes tick.

Phone calls, a bawling teenager, police, sweltering while the cop interviews everyone, and writes everything down.  All told I got home an hour later than I should have.

But that’s just the beginning.  Now comes more phone calls.  Insurance companies.  Auto repair shops.  The call line for the police report. Sllllllluuuurrrrpppp.  Time disappears.

Then come visits to the auto repair shop.  Gathering estimates.  More phone calls.  Then I actually have to get the car in for the repair.  Gurgle gurgle.  A few more hours down the drain.

And let’s be realistic, there will be even more phone calling to get the payment settled.  And more time gone.

So the split second of impact?  Just grew into one massive, hungry time vamp that is going to deprive me of way more time than I ever wanted to waste on this crap.