Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on...
And I want it now...

Breakdown, takedown... you're busted...

Saturday morning:
It was a regular Saturday, all things considered. Katie and I were at breakfast in between her lecture and lab finals in anatomy. We were leaving IHOP when we heard the POP... a muted gunshot sort of bang echoing out in the late morning hours.

We looked outside and saw no blown-out tires. A plastic bottle, perhaps? We hoped for the best and drove back to Katie's school for the second round of her exams. I noticed that the car was a bit sluggish in right turns on the way back. But nothing to worry too much about.

Upon leaving the school after the remainder of her exams, we heard another small pop. We looked at each other. Our eyes betrayed our vocalized confidence in the power of the Silver Bullet to hold strong.

We began the drive over to the dealership to drop off the car.

As you would expect from any car, however, the problem did not replicate itself during the trip, so we continued home.

I reassured Katie saying we would use the Beast for the rest of the weekend and I would drive the Bullet to work on Monday as I go right by the dealership and could stop in if I noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Monday morning:
I finished transferring some personal items out of the Bullet into the Beast for Katie should she need them. I got in the Bullet and turned over the engine. As I backed out, I heard the telltale scrape of metal on metal. Never a good sign.

I continued backing off the driveway over the curb. I turned the wheel and heard the soul-searing groan of a car in pain. Extreme pain. When I attempted to straighten the steering wheel to pull forward, nothing happened. The driver's side front tire responded, but not the passenger tire. And I was blocking the entire road. I finally forced the Bullet to endure the pain and drag its broken wing to the side of the road, out of the way of any potential traffic.

I exited the car and walked around to the site of the injury. The tire was turned in, trapped in a perpetual left turn. I peered behind the tire and saw that the cap attaching the tie rod to the wheel base was sheered and the rod was hanging loose.

Oh it's a great morning in the 'burbs.

I called roadside service and a tow truck came and took the Bullet to the local dealer. Katie drove me to work and returned home as we both awaited word on the damage.

The dealership called me at work about an hour later to let me know that it was, in fact, the tie rod. But nothing else was damaged. However, the front brake pads, which we already knew were going bad, were worn down about 95%. As much as I hate to pay for multiple services at the same time, I knew it was better to buy the pads now instead of waiting for the pads to go completely and then have to replace the rotors and discs, as well.

$500 later and here we are praying that this mother of a payment covers the Bullet for quite some time. But the question now arises, with all the work we've put into the Bullet in the last year (a big chunk just since January), should the Bullet be the first to be traded in despite being three years newer than the Beast?

How they stack up:

The Beast - 1997 Ford Ranger

  • 4 cylinder
  • 2.3 liter
  • >95,000 miles
  • no extended cab
  • ~15 MPG
  • 1/4 ton bed

The Silver Bullet - 2000 Dodge Stratus

  • 4 cylinder
  • 2.2 liter
  • >75,000 miles
  • ~25 MPG
  • moon roof

Yeah, the Bullet is three years younger than the Beast and should, theoretically, be in better shape. But the Beast has been doing pretty nicely in the nearly five years since it was paid off. A few problems here and there, but nothing too bad (I am currently knocking on a wooden baseball bat). The Bullet, however, since being paid off last summer, has been into the shop about three or four times for non-routine maintenance work. We'd like to think that this investment of money will be the end of it for a while; but, for all we know, it could just be the beginning (now I'm knocking on a wooden table).

It kills us because Katie always assumed we would run the Bullet into the ground and get me something with a little more get up and go that has better traction for those wonderful northern Illinois winters. A slightly higher MPG would be very nice, too, considering gas prices these days.

But it strikes me now that maybe we should run the Beast into the ground. It's been a great truck and I think it would reliably last me a few more years, at least.

I don't see how either really has that much trade-in value on it. But, certainly, the meager advantage would go to the Bullet based solely on age, appearance, mileage, and features.

We're not sure what to do. We really do need to start thinking more about it, though.

If Suze is right, next week better friggin' rock. I'm buying my lotto tickets now!

For the time being, though, anybody got some Ramen they're willing to donate?