If you’re looking for a new car, may I suggest a program car? Just go to a car rental office and ask them about program cars. They’ll direct you towards some of the best used cars ever.

My ’95 wagon is such a vehicle. I got it in May or so of ’97, about the same time I moved out of the roach motel and into Berkshire Square. I bought an extended warranty with the beastie, and let me tell you, it was worth every penny.

In August of ’97, the alternator died and was fixed that day at no cost to me. I didn’t need a rental and I didn’t spend a dime.

Later, in October that year, a brake-pad fell off.  They took care of the labor, but not the part, because the pad fell off—it didn’t wear down.  They also covered the rental car. This is when someone said my main serpentine was going to need replacing. By this time I was dating Phil and he said it could wait. I trusted him.

Fast-forward to summer of ’98 when Phil and I were living in Garland. I had started working at Software Spectrum and Phil decided to get the main serpentine taken care of. And that’s when we discovered that the engine in the wagon is not a 3.1 engine, but a 3800 engine. Phil had called around to the various Pep Boys in town and explained to them that he needed a blah-belt for blah-car and they said blah-belt doesn’t go with blah-car. And so the car has the wrong engine in it. Which makes me happy. It has the fast engine, the mean engine, the engine that if you put a super-charger on it, you’re got what the Addison cops have under the hoods of their Bonnies.

Then the alternator gave out again. The warranty covered the alternator, but not the battery, and the dealership wanted $85 in parts and something in labor to replace the battery. I told them I could do it myself. We went to Pep Boys, got the battery, and dropped it in when we went to pick up the car.

About a month later, we got a letter from the dealership asking for $300. Apparently, the warranty had run out and the Olds Warranty folks had turned down the claim due to mileage on the car. I mailed back the receipt they had given me with “PAID” stamped across the top and asked them to always check the odometer first. The warranty had passed the car at the start of the problem. I think they were just pissed because I replaced my own battery.

So, the warranty had finally run out. It took a year before things started breaking.

Actually, I know why it all happened. August 1999 was a real scorcher and I got stuck in downtown Dallas traffic.  I’m very hard on cars and I have a very different driving style than Phil does.  Add to that, the fact that I was driving around Dallas looking for size 11 women’s wedding shoes (it didn’t happen) and I was just coming back from my interview at CompuCom, and I was driving out to Garland to pick Phil up from work…. The car overheated and ate the trannie.

Yes, ate.

But we were doing okay financially and it’s amazing what you can find in Garland when you’re looking for car stuff. Astro Transmissions—a couple of guys who have appeared in various motor mags--managed to get the entire thing fixed for $1400. I think that’s how much my first car cost.

But it was fixed, and the wedding went as planned, and everyone was happy for six months.

A word of advice, if your automatic transmission ever overheats and breaks into little parts and chunks up your coolant line… then for god’s sake! get the entire coolant system flushed afterwards.

I know this because I didn’t do it. So, six months later, the head-gasket had been eaten up and the water in the radiator looked like it came out of a Yoo-Hoo bottle.  And that was $1200. Strange, I remember scraping a car because of a head-gasket.

And now? Well, the car works great. I’ve gotten most of my major “breaks after warranty” shit out of the way.  I’ve owned the car three years now; if I was going to run it into the ground, I would have by now. Lord knows I’ve tried.

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