Thursday, January 06, 2011

Did you know?

Did you know that if you are in an auto accident and it involves one of the vehicles making a U-turn from a stopped or parked position, that the vehicle which gets hit is the one responsible for the accident? Ouch! My poor, newly purchased minivan (Chrysler Town & Country) is in the repair shop at the dealer where we originally purchased it. I got into a car accident this past Monday morning just after dropping off the youngest two kids to school. I posted two pics showing most of the damage. I couldn't open up my driver's side front door at all! The vehicle itself was drivable, thank heavens. But, my front driver's door and driver's side sliding door panel will both have to be replaced. :( The accident was deemed my fault because I apparently pulled out into the path of the other vehicle. I did look before moving out from the shoulder of the road before making the U-turn at the front of my neighborhood, but apparently there must have been another car heading my way. She plowed into me...smack! No one was hurt thankfully. I had just finished dropping off Sierra at our neighborhood bus stop when this happened. I was making a U-turn to go back home and had been parked on the side of the road just before the incident. I was truly surprised that the other driver wasn't at least somehow deemed partially responsible, as I thought she must not have been paying attention and could have avoided the impact. But, Florida law doesn't apparently agree, nor does my auto insurance carrier...that was a shock to me! I miss my car, but fortunately our car insurance covers a rental vehicle for us while the repairs are being made and they replaced my car with a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan, which is almost identical to the Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Although the rental car has an upgraded feature...automatic sliding doors! That is definitely a nice feature that I wish we could have had in our van, but we were trying to get the best vehicle for the lowest price and pretty much had to choose the option we did, just to keep our car payments within the range we wanted to be in. Anyway, just figured I'd post a new blurb on here since I haven't written on this blog in many months.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

From bad to worse...when things suddenly seem to conspire against you!

Just decided to blog about what a crazy, frustrating chain of events we had happen the other was almost comical, if it weren't for the fact that it involved $460 in car repairs!

Last Friday my minivan started to make a horribly loud sound whenever I would turn left or right and whenever I would accelerate the car. I knew it would need to have some sort of repair done on it ASAP. We made it through the weekend. But, by Monday morning, as I was backing out of the driveway while getting ready to take Sierra to summer day camp, the steering wheel became very hard to turn. I almost thought I wouldn't be able to drive it. I hurriedly dropped Sierra off and immediately found an auto parts store to buy some power steering fluid and some oil. I figured that the power steering system was going bad, but I was also hoping that it could be something as simple as needing to replenish the power steering fluid. I was all proud of myself for being able to look up the diagram in the vehicle owner's manual of the power steering fluid reservoir and how to check the level. After I came out of the auto parts store, I popped the hood (again secretly proud of the fact that I was doing this all by myself, but also a little nervous about semi-trucks and other various men in trucks passing by and possibly offering their assistance) and checked the steering fluid was quite a bit below the minimum level. I was hopeful that replenishing the reservoir might really help. The oil level was completely bone dry. My vehicle typically burns through oil very quickly and has been doing so for the past 18-24 months. Since I had put two quarts of oil in it about 4 weeks ago, I was not thrilled about the fact that I had to put 4 quarts in it once again. Anyway, proud of my attempts to know what I'm doing and to try and diagnose and "treat" this newest of car troubles, I left the parking lot and drove straight home. I emailed Scott at work to let him know how dire it was now that we have the car evaluated and repaired for whatever might be causing the terrible rattling sound in the engine area (near the right side of vehicle) and the disconcerting loud whines whenever you turn the vehicle. He mentioned to me that when he left the house for work earlier in the morning (after I had already left to take Sierra to her summer camp), he noticed a large fluid leak stain in the driveway from my car, which was not oil. I went outside right away to see where this leak might be coming from. I got down onto the driveway concrete (feeling a little like a redneck just about to slide under an old clunker) and saw the fresh leak stains. I touched it and it felt like water. Hmm...then I looked up underneath the car directly above the stains to see where it might be leaking from. I saw a drip of something hanging off the edge of one area. I touched it and it looked and felt exactly like the new steering level fluid I had just put into the car just a little while before. Sure enough, when I popped the hood again to take a look, everything I had put into the power steering fluid reservoir was already gone!

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I did not end up driving my car the rest of the evening on Monday while driving to and from work, I took Scott's instead. We dropped off the van first thing in the morning on Tuesday while I went on my way to work using Scott's car. Luckily, he was already planning on working from home this day due to the kids being out of school for the summer. I went to work and later found out from Scott that indeed, the shop called and said we'd need a new power steering pump, as well as two new serpentine belts since the leaking steering fluid had weakened the older ones. Also, we asked them to repair a hole in one of my tires that had caused me to have a flat tire a couple of weeks ago due to a nail in it. I've been driving with the full-size spare on the van ever since. Apparently, as our luck would have it, the nail is not what caused the flat after all. The steel belt inside the tire had shifted and pulled away, causing a separation from the tread. I needed a new tire, to the tune of $90 (however, they said they'd give me an extra 10% off the tire). Just one more thing to fix on this van...ugh! I finished my shift at work and was happy to know that by the end of my work day, I could go home and we'd then go pick up my repaired minivan. Well, I walked outside my office building and got into Scott's Ford Explorer, turned the key to crank the engine and...nothing! Absolutely nothing. The car didn't even make a sound to even seem like it was attempting to start up. I tried several times again, stunned in disbelief that for whatever reason, our only working vehicle seemed to be "deader than a doornail". I called Scott on my cell and asked if there was some special trick I should know to start his car, since I know that sometimes some of his electrical systems and wiring can be a little's a 12-year old vehicle. He explained that I need to try and see if one of the battery cables had become knocked loose. I propped open his car hood (having to hold it up by myself since there's apparently no more metal rod for holding the hood up itself in the vehicle) and saw the cable that he was talking about that sometimes comes loose from the connection to the battery due to corrosion. I tried with all my might to fit it snugly back onto the battery and heard the car CD player start playing music. Success...or so I thought. I tried to crank up the engine thinking it would be smooth sailing from here, but nope! It didn't quite have enough umph to crank up. As I fiddled with this cable for the next 10 minutes or so, I could hear it trying to get some juice, but sounding like it just could not get the right fitting that it needed to work properly. I didn't think the battery was actually dead or anything. So, after many unsuccessful attempts, I resorted to calling Scott back on the phone and explaining that either he would need to come get me or I'd need to have his car towed...ugh! Of course, since my van was still at the repair shop, that meant someone from the shop would have to come and pick Scott up at our house in order to pick up the van, pay for the repair work and then have him come and get me. Just after I hung up the phone with him, I tried one more time to crank the engine, fully expecting that it would still be dead as it had been all along. Much to my surprise and amazement, it suddenly cranked up without any hesitation whatsoever! I couldn't believe it...there was really no reason to explain why all of a sudden it was working now. But, thank God for small miracles! I called Scott back and told him that it looked like he would not need to come and get me after all. I then went around to the hood and tried to shut it, but it would not latch. I retried and slammed it, retried and shut it ever-so-gently and then tried again using medium pressure. Nothing would make that thing latch! For the record, according to Scott, he never has any difficulties in getting the hood to latch shut. Even Scott attempted to shut it when I returned home and was unsuccessful. It seems that I have "tainted hands" or something of the sort.

Well, after coming home all greasy looking with black hands and of course sweaty since it's 95 degrees outside, Scott & I then went up to the repair shop to pick up my minivan. Finally, we were going to have our working cars back...albeit $460 later. After Scott paid the bill, we stepped outside and Scott was going to drop me off at the was parked in an adjacent lot across the street. Of course, for him, his car's engine started magnificently with no problems. He was also able to magically get his hood to latch shut the proper way once I was gone and not standing nearby him. It seems that I was the only one with the "hands of death" when it comes to cars I guess. After I took off on my way home, feeling impressed by the sudden smoothness and quietness of the engine, now that the entire power steering system had been replaced with brand new parts, I stopped at the nearest traffic light in front of UCF, waiting to turn left. All of a sudden, I hear a strange sound in the near distance, almost like the warning signal of an approaching fire engine in an emergency. I looked around in my rear-view mirror and to my left and saw that Scott was in his car to the left of mine and he was shouting my name, trying to get my attention. I let the automatic driver's side window down to see what he wanted and he shouted, "Your smokin' all over the place in the back, honey!". I look and sure enough, there's a huge white cloud of smoke coming from the back of the car. WTH? I asked him, "Are you serious?". He told me to take the car immediately back to the repair shop and see why all of a sudden this new problem had occurred just after driving it off their lot. I could not believe the bad luck of it all! I mean, here I was thinking we'd FINALLY gotten everything taken care of once and for all and was holding out a bit of hope that maybe we'd still have more time and miles on this van before having to look at buying a newer car. I took the van back up there and they had the mechanic which had just done all of my power steering repairs come out to investigate it with me. He explained all the repair work they had done and showed me where this and that was located, etc. I asked him why he thought there had been the sudden white smoke coming out of the tailpipe and at first glance, he wasn't too sure. He explained how sometimes the steering fluid and even the degreasers they apply to the engine following such a repair can burn off in the engine and create a little bit of smoke. When I explained that the white cloud of smoke had been coming from the tailpipe, he appeared baffled and said that anything burning off the engine like that would not be seen coming out of the tailpipe. He then got into the van and proceeded to rev the gas pedal and told me to let him know if I saw the white smoke again. He was trying to recreate what I was explaining to him had just happened at the traffic light. Sure enough, another large amount of white smoke came out of the tailpipe! The look on his face said it all...I asked him what would cause that, since this was a new problem that we had never seen in the van happen before. He said that it can only be caused by the rings inside the pistons which are located inside the engine...that it's normally due to wear-and-tear on the engine. I'm thinking, ok, some O-rings or something...I can have those replaced if need be, right? Oh no! Apparently, these rings are not replaceable and basically this means that I would need to have either a new engine installed or perhaps, obtain an older one that is still good from a junk yard. He said this would certainly explain why my van has been literally burning through oil for the past 18 months or so at a rate probably similar to that of the most recent BP oil rig disaster! I probed him with all kinds of questions, wondering how much this type of thing might cost. He explained that at the very least, perhaps we could locate a used engine for approx. $1200 and maybe the installation might cost around $800. Of course, these were just ballpark figures and who knows how much in the end this kind of thing would end up really costing me. I could tell that he was trying to be reasonable and not overestimate what he was telling me. I think he was still trying to give me a bit of hope, in case I was planning on keeping the vehicle. Suffice it to say that after this assessment and newfound knowledge, I knew right away that this meant that it is definitely going to be time to retire the minivan once and for all. I can not justify putting another $2000 into this vehicle which has 145k miles on it and had a transmission completely rebuilt just 15 months ago for a total of $2300! Considering the fact that we just spent $440 about 2.5 months ago on a new starter for it, another $330 just one month ago for yet another starter and valve cover (since the seal around the oil valve had been leaking for over a year and was the newly determined culprit as to why my starters were getting saturated and basically shorting out), on top of today's repairs totaling $460, I think it is safe to say that this baby is on its official last legs and is more than just a sinking ship at this point. What's really disappointing is that I actually had left the repair shop earlier that afternoon with a smidge of hope that we might have some more time left in the vehicle. But, after this sudden, unexpected smoking tailpipe incident, the tides had just turned 180 degrees again and it looks like we are going to have to soon say goodbye to the Kia Sedona once and for all. I've been driving it for just shy of 9 years now and Lord knows I have put some serious miles on it to and fro since purchasing it brand new in 2001 when Chandler was just an infant and Sierra was only 2 years old. What's also a bit upsetting is that it's been such an astoundingly much more quiet ride since bringing it home Tuesday. The clanking and sputtering-type noises I've been hearing for the past few years coming from the right side of the engine compartment have now miracly disappeared! Apparently, all this time my power steering pump must have been slowly but surely wearing out and was causing the belts and pulley to wobble a bit and make an odd, loud noise. I swear it sounds like the car is almost back to brand new, it's so quiet inside now! I have not seen any more smoke coming from the tailpipe since showing it to the mechanic on Tuesday after we picked up the van. But, who knows how much time is left? It's a crapshoot I guess. What a day!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chandler's Final Soccer Game in his First Season!

Chandler has had a wonderful time playing soccer for his first time ever recently through a local YMCA! My good friend and co-worker, Su Sheridan, has a son the same age as Chandler, Noah. She's been asking me for the past few years to sign up Chandler for soccer so that he could join Noah and they could play on the same team. Funds were usually the main reason I wasn't able to sign him up in previous seasons, but this year I made it a specific point to make it happen for Chandler, since he's 9 years old now and has never played any sports on a team before and he has way too much physical talent in his little body. His coach said many times throughout the season that she could not believe that he has not played before because he's a "natural". I thought I would post some pics from his last game, which was on Saturday, May 15th, 2010...


One of my favorite moments after each game...seeing the teammates shake hands with the opposing teammembers as they say, "Good Game!!" It's heart-warming to see them all learn at such a young age to express good sportsmanship and respect towards others.

Looking at all the trophies set up on display for all the soccer teams!
All the boys can't wait for the trophy ceremony!
Chandler steps up to receive his trophy for playing a great spring soccer season!
Chandler and Noah...friends forever!