My first hint actually came last December, driving through the mountains. Unless, of course, that clunk into forward after backing out of the driveway every morning since I bought the car counts. That's been happening every morning for 280,000 miles, though; thus, easy to ignore. Less easy, in fact inspiring that hollow in the gut clenching, was the clunking into a lower gear while I was trying to maintain the speed limit on the long climb up a mountain.
But it went away, and after a couple months, the paranoia did too. Maybe I didn't really need a new transmission. A little over 297,000 miles, the car decided otherwise. In Northfield, about 70 miles from home, give or take. But, it could have been worse. I made it home. It had cooled down a bit, nice since I had to turn the AC off and open a window since the drag on the engine made the tranny act up more. And white knuckles are not actually a permanent condition, once the threat is over. At least for the moment.
My last tranny replacement, for the model of the same car one year older, cost just over $2600. So last night I needed to accomplish two things. I needed to figure out where that amount was coming from. And I needed to figure out who it was going to get paid to so I could get the car back fastest. I already had a lot of days scheduled off, including 5 Tuesdays for my knees, the recent holiday, and the upcoming 11 days of vacation to/from Arizona. Self-employed folks generally try to either avoid or do a better job of spreading around the lack-of-income days.
Payday is today, and the amount is adequate for the upcoming bills, including gas and groceries. I can knock off one bill from the list after deciding to not go ahead and buy the pair of knee braces. While the leg feels better during walking, and the straps don't rub with the sleeve under them, yesterday was the break-it day on my tolerance. The part which pushes my knee in pushes too hard and my body reacted, but weirdly. I developed a hive, not on the surface but deep, next to the bone. Not only is it sore, but if I rub it I can feel the itch. Not the best sign. So, add $300 back in to the budget. I'll just be bowlegged. Heck with vanity. Maybe PT can assist.
Looking at my CDs, I can manage the funds. I just don't want to that way. So it's time to call the credit union and ask for a loan for the amount. They seem to like me, likely due to my always paying off their loans ahead of time. Either way, it's doable, financially. That still doesn't mean I got to sleep well last night. I never do with that feeling of impending disaster hanging over my head. On the other hand, I can snooze during the day, snugly at home.
I also spent time looking for alternative transportation. Surprisingly, there are a few used Hyundai accent hatchbacks out on the market now. That's pretty rare. I'm not thrilled with the prices, particularly if I can keep this baby going another 200,000 miles or so before replacing it.
I located three different places to get the work done. Of course, all were closed hours earlier. so I'd have to cool my jets until they opened in the morning. The closest opens at 9:00 AM, the slug-a-bed. The other two were 7:30 and 8:30, the latter being where I last had a tranny done. The latest opening was across the river, and it had occurred to me to wonder if the car would cooperate in climbing that long hill one last time in its condition.
In any case, it's Paul's day off, so I've got a ride home from wherever. While we discussed that, I also figured three days to get the job done, based on past experience, and negotiated using his car Tuesday to make my knee appointment. That also means getting up an hour and a half earlier to ride down with him so he can get to work.
That smarts just to think about.
The earliest to open was the nearest Hyundai dealership, in White Bear Lake. Paul goes there for his warranty work and those pesky repairs after each deer encounter. They know him well. There are a lot of deer on his route to work. Or should I say a lot fewer? Somehow though, they just keep getting replaced.
At any rate, the quote I was given was exactly what I expected, but the timing was only 5+ hours work. Immediately I entertained dreams of returning to work on Monday. Silly me. There was also the issue of actually locating the exact tranny for my model car. Did I have the VIN? Sure, in the car, call ya back in 5 after I get dressed. Then there was the wait for him to find the part, and... hooray, there's one... in California. None closer. Be here next Thursday.
Dang! And if they can't locate something better, no little independent outfit will either. But....
How about a "gently used" one from a wreck? That required another search and callback. He sounded disappointed when he called, just like he had about how long it would take. There was one locally, has 5000 miles on it, can be delivered by Tuesday. Must still be sitting in the car, I figure, waiting for a customer to justify the effort. My guy thought the cost being asked was outrageous, being a mere $400 under the cost of new.
Hmm, save $400, add two days where I can earn, and with only 5000 miles? That's newer than the car when I first bought it. No brainer: accept! And no bothering with those other two phone calls.
So, the car's been dropped off. I wondered just how much of an adventure that was going to be, as the car clunked between each gear for the first 8 miles, another new symptom. However, it rode pretty smoothly the rest of the way, only a few slight jerks between gears, and one pop up into neutral for about 3 seconds where the RPM needle did a dance in order to show me it was just fooling about the good behavior.
It'd be just my luck if, on the test drive to verify the tranny was what's acting up, it decided to behave perfectly. Still, all in all, it could have been worse. Say, waiting to die somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the way to Arizona next month, no competent honest mechanic around, and another 6 days to wait for the only tranny available at a jacked up cost.
So I guess I'm lucky. Now if I could just take that luck and put it on a lottery ticket....