car is currently in hospice. I'm trying to keep it comfortable and
provide a reasonable amount of care, but I've accepted that it's probably
approaching the end of its life.
With the expenses of two daughters in college and one in the prom
dresses-driver's ed-manicures-cell phones-Starbucks throes of high
school, we need to keep our geriatric family vehicle alive for as
long as possible.
My car is paid-for, which means, of course, that it has been steadily
disintegrating since the day of our final monthly installment. So
my goals at this point are to keep it relatively hygienic, reasonably
safe for human occupancy, and only moderately embarrassing for the
The following are a few strategies you can use to maintain your own
vehicle with compassion (and minimal expense) in its twilight years.
First, speaking of expense, prepare to pay for at least one major
repair every couple of months (and continually ask your wife if the
repairs exceed the cost of a new car payment). These repairs will
probably not cause the check engine light to shut off completely,
but it may not burn a hole in your retina like it did before.
Just last month, my car required the replacement of two major partsapparently
in order to keep it from exploding. I'm not much of a "car person,"
so I didn't really understand the technician's lingo, but I could
have sworn he said I needed two new flux capacitors.
Next, maintain the exterior of the vehicle by purchasing a membership
at one of those automatic car washes. Here, you can remain inside
the car while a depressed teenager wielding a giant toilet brush sluggishly
smears some dirty water on your windshield before sending you on a
cheap amusement park ride through the thrilling tunnel of suds. Will
your license plate fall off? Will you suddenly remember that your
driver's side window won't roll all the way up unless you call down
elaborate curses upon it? You never know what excitement awaits you,
but at least you can be certain that it will start raining immediately
upon your exit from the tunnel.
Now for the interior. If you still have a teenager living at home,
be sure to search all nooks and crannies of the vehicle for food debris
and clothing. If you smell something funny (funnier than usual, that
is), lift the edge of the floor mats to retrieve fermented Gummi Bears
and McFossilized french fries. (Resist the temptation to see if they're
still edible. They aren't.)
For floorboard carpet stains, I've found that Shout stain remover
is effective in eliminating evidence of Panda Express takeout spills.
As an added bonus, it will leave your floorboards with the pleasing
aroma of freshly-laundered underwear.
And speaking of underwear, reach as far under the seats as possible
to discover random articles of long-lost, soiled athletic clothingand
the occasional sports bra.
Once you've cleared the vehicle's interior of most biohazards, ask
your teenager to please keep her feet off of the glove box trim, center
console, passenger window, etc. In fact, ask her if she could please
find a way to occupy a seat without actually touching anything.
I'm sure that when the day comes to say goodbye to my car, I'll experience
some wistful sadness. After all, our three daughters grew up riding
in it and forcing me to listen to bad music. Maybe I can make it run
for a few more years to keep those precious memories alive in the
soft glow of the check engine light.