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?

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Yummy, ramen... I have lots of ramen...

I think you should just see which one goes first! Sounds like it will be the Bullet!

Tracy Lynn

And Jiffy Muffin Mix- you can make , like , fifty thousand different things with that stuff and it's only 25 cents a box. It's like the loaves and fishes, but without all the Jesus.


Fun times. Now you've got me worried. This month will be the last payment on my current vehicle. Lord, I don't want to hear any popping in my near future.

ms. sizzle

sounds like you two need a care package from the cruz. ;)

i hate car troubles. they stress me out!


It could be worse. You could pay off your car, spend $1600 getting it fixed up, plan on coasting for a few years without car payments... and then have somebody total it while it sits parked in front of your work. That was a fun experience. And even with the insurance, I ended up with car payments again. There's life for ya.


oh my goodness, 500 is nothing. We just sunk 2600 in our beast and it's still not driving right. I wanted a new car. Hubby reasoned that fixing it would be better than having a car payment.... I may have actually been right this time


Kilax, you're in Italy... and you're eating Ramen? What's wrong with this picture?

Tracy, oh we have plenty of Jiffy mix. Have you tried the Jiffy Pizza Crust? Good stuff.

Karl, it's an automotive conspiracy. Even the guy in the service department told me it was "planned obsolescence." The fact he knew that word, alone, frightened me.

Sizzle, Cruz Care? Sweet! Car problems are the worst. Usually because they tend to be the most expensive.

Dave, okay, I'll give you that. Although my truck has been hit in a parking lot. Thankfully, they called the police and came and found me. And paid me.

Jacquie, you were definitely right. That's a down payment!


A friend of mine once compared car trouble to being sick. I think he's's enough to really drag you down.

Isn't the deal that it's generally better to drive your car into the ground so long as fixing/maintaining it doesn't exceed its current value?


sorry your monday sucked...
hopefully all will be better soon.


Claire, my only question is how to find an accurate current value for our car so I can try to make this determination. Plus, I just worry that the next thing that happens will be really major and it will happen while Katie is driving with me nowhere nearby to help. I fear that.

Suze, I hope so, too. Thanks.


I haven't yet had a truck quit on me before I quit on it, and I've let each of them go with much regret, almost sentimentality (you'll have it, too, because you've NAMED them). So my vote is yes, drive that baby truck right on until the wheels fall off. That's our plan for both Alex's Silverado and my Tahoe...unless I get a real minivan itch going. Which could happen.


And I've been told that the smaller engine that my truck has usually translates to much longer life. Of course, now that Katie's had a couple days to drive around her fixed-up car, she's back in love with it. Says it hasn't felt this good in almost two years.

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