bjarvis: (Default)
The trip home from Rehoboth Beach, DE, Sunday evening was a bit too eventful for my tastes.

While zipping along I95 southbound north of Aberdeen, MD, the battery light came on. A minute later, the engine light, oil light and others came on too, and the dash began beeping. As we pulled over onto an exit ramp, we lost power steering. As quickly as possible, we stopped on the shoulder of the ramp and killed the engine.

It's a 2006 Grand Caravan with 175,000 miles on it, so we were prepared for the worst, but after some consideration, we came to our own conclusion that the tensioner for the serpentine belt had broken. With such slackness in the belt, the alternator and other devices weren't functioning as they should.

AAA summoned us a tow truck and we were able to rent a Pacifica to get us and our equipment & luggage home while the PrincessMobile stayed at the garage.

Monday morning, our suspicions about the tensioner were confirmed. And this morning, Kent drove to Aberdeen to return the Pacifica and collect the PrincessMobile. The car repairs were about $320, the car rental $290. In all, it was better than going shopping for a new minivan.
bjarvis: (Default)
We're only three weeks into the new year but my non-resolutions for 2014 already have a mixed record.

Good: The gym stuff continues. I'm stepping up the program a bit: instead of my usual three sets of 12 reps per exercise, I'm finishing each set with an additional set to exhaustion at 75% weight, then another set to exhaustion at 50%. So far, so good.

Good: Body fat has dropped from 20.6% to 18.3%. Yay! I miss carbs & sugar but the cravings aren't as bad as they were for the first five days or so.

Good: New glasses have been ordered. Yes, they are progressive lenses. I should have them in the next few days.

Good: I'm now transferring $200/paycheck, up from $150/paycheck, into a savings account.

In Progress: We tried to purchase a new laundry sink for the basement but haven't found a model we liked. On the good side, we scored two tall used bookcases for $20 each so our book piles are much neater.

Very Bad: My credit card balance went from $0 January 1 to $4400 as of today. That's $1800 for a new dental crown, $800 for new glasses and $3000 for a new transmission for my car, less interim payments. At least I've received reimbursements from medical insurance for the dental work & glasses and will recoup the rest from my medical flex spending account, and that $3k for the transmission is after a 10% discount. I plan to have this nearly zeroed again by the end of February.

Good: The tax returns are looking good again for this year so the updates to wills and medical powers-of-attorney will be created in March per our original schedule.

All other items are still a work in progress. More news as it develops.
bjarvis: (Default)
The nice thing about traveling is that it’s the perfect opportunity to test drive cars you might not have previously considered. Even better, when they suck out loud, you can return them with no shame.

This trip, I had a Volkswagen Beetle. I give it a so-so rating.

On the good side, the seats were comfortable, the engine had great acceleration and the fuel consumption wasn’t horrid. It had a nice feel while driving in both city and highway conditions and handled very well. And who could resist its iconic profile?

On the bad side, it made me constantly and uncomfortably paranoid about my surroundings because nearly all of my lines of sight were blocked in some fashion. The rear view mirror was much too small to show what was happening behind me IMHO, although perhaps a larger one wouldn’t have been utterly defeated anyway by the four headrests. Even when I swiveled in the driver seat to look behind me while reversing, my field of vision was limited on both sides by the rear headrests. The roof struts on each side created enormous blind spots which scared the hell out of me while changing lanes and parallel parking. Even the windshield was less than it could be as my seat sat physically so high in the chassis that I was looking through the top two inches of the windshield rather than a preferred 1/3 vertical down the height of the windshield.

The steering wheel seemed designed to block my view of the dashboard. I could find no position which didn’t obscure some portion of the dash or controls. I had a choice of aggravating my carpal tunnel syndrome or seeing the speedometer and ultimately chose the speedometer for fear of local speed traps and radar cameras.

Trunk storage was OK. The two passenger rear seats were a token effort at best: only the smallest of people could get into & out of those without acrobatics or sit with comfortable foot & leg space.

My ultimately love/hate metric for a rental car is whether or not I'd swap my 2001 Honda Civic for the car I'm test driving. In this match-up, my Civic wins in nearly every category which matters to me. Your mileage may literally vary.

In short, it was a cute & snappy little beastie, but I couldn’t drive one for more than a few days without going insane. Road rage is supposed to come from other people on the road, not inflicted by your own vehicle.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I collected my car from the garage Monday afternoon. Finally, it drives, sounds & smells like it should. And considering how much it cost, it damn well better!

Alternator $315.25
Alternator bracket $85.65
Alternator bolt $5
Manifold converter assembly $793.24 (inc. $128.05 labor)
Oxygen sensor (front) $114.91 (inc. $29.55 labor)
Oxygen sensor (back) $119.79 (inc. $29.25 labor)

In all, parts cost me $1,246.69, Labor $187.15, shop supplies $39.99 and sales tax $77.20 for a total of $1,551.03.

On the good side, I'm confident I'll get another five years of reliable use out of this car. As expensive as the maintenance has been this summer, it's still cheaper than buying a replacement car.
bjarvis: (Default)
I collected my car from the garage this afternoon. Finally, it drives, sounds & smells like it should. And considering how much it cost, it damn well better!

Alternator $315.25
Alternator bracket $85.65
Alternator bolt $5
Manifold converter assembly $793.24 (inc. $128.05 labor)
Oxygen sensor (front) $114.91 (inc. $29.55 labor)
Oxygen sensor (back) $119.79 (inc. $29.25 labor)

In all, parts cost me $1,246.69, Labor $187.15, shop supplies $39.99 and sales tax $77.20 for a total of $1,551.03.

On the good side, I'm confident I'll get another five years of reliable use out of this car. As expensive as the maintenance has been this summer, it's still cheaper than buying a replacement car.
bjarvis: (Default)
My saga of car maintenance continues...

After the timing belt replacement last month, I noticed my car was distinctly louder than it should be. Indeed, much louder than any car should be without the custom look-at-me!-look-at-me! hyper-bass I-have-a-small-dick-and-must-compensate mufflers. After discussing this back at the shop that same day, I was informed that the exhaust system near the manifold was corroding and a hole had developed: the entire system would have to be replaced. Having just dropped $1k that month for a timing belt and water pump, I opted to hold off for a short while to let my bank account recover slightly.

Yesterday morning, I bit the bullet and took my Civic back to the shop for the exhaust work. Initial estimate: $1100.

Yesterday afternoon, they called me to say the exhaust work was complete but now that the engine was quiet enough, they could hear something else not quite right in the proximity of the timing belt which had been replaced last month and asked if they could keep the car another day to investigate to ensure their prior work was solid. I like people who are willing to admit a mistake or seek improvement and I didn't need the car so I agreed.

This afternoon, I got another call: the sound wasn't anything to do with the timing belt or such. It was the alternator. More specifically, a bold & bracket attached to the alternator had corroded --did I mention the car is 10 years old?-- and allowed the alternator to slip a few degrees out of alignment, thus causing excess wear & tear on its bearings. If they could hold onto the car another day, they're over-nighting a replacement alternator, bracket & bolt to replace the dying one and, because I've been a good customer and exceedingly patient through this ordeal, they're waiving labor costs. Still, my bill this visit will top $1550.

sigh I didn't really need to eat anyway.
bjarvis: (Default)
Last June, I started catching up on a lot of neglected car maintenance. This past week, I finished the second half: replacing the timing belt and water pump (long overdue), along with the normal oil change.

As expected, it wasn't cheap:
Parts: $460.89
Labor: 447.40
Shop Supplies: 39.99

With taxes, it came to $978.33. Ouch.

Still, if one is to believe the owner's manual, the timing belt replacement is some 60,000 miles overdue so I was really pushing the envelope and a failure while driving could cause catastrophic damage as well as severe inconvenience.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I have to admit that as much as a nearly $1800 bill hurts me, my Civic is running much better than it did prior to all of the maintenance work.

As I drove out of the NTB parking lot, I could definitely feel the brakes were much improved. After driving about 30 miles each way to the data center (all highway) for a night project, I felt the steering was more responsive, the ride was smoother, gear shifting as I accelerated & decelerated was smoother and overall drive seemed quieter.

I still need to have the timing belt and the cartridges for the airbags replaced but that should be done next week --after my next paycheck.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I have to admit that as much as a nearly $1800 bill hurts me, my Civic is running much better than it did prior to all of the maintenance work.

As I drove out of the NTB parking lot, I could definitely feel the brakes were much improved. After driving about 30 miles each way to the data center (all highway) for a night project, I felt the steering was more responsive, the ride was smoother, gear shifting as I accelerated & decelerated was smoother and overall drive seemed quieter.

I still need to have the timing belt and the cartridges for the airbags replaced but that should be done next week --after my next paycheck.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I love my Honda Civic but money has been short for a while as I've been trying to catch up on a series of large expenses --a campground annual lease, a new furnace, a wedding, etc.. All of that neglected regular maintenance has been hovering over my head, slowly ratcheting up the fear that eventually something would break and I'd be marooned out in the wilderness somewhere.

While my immediate cash supply isn't any better than it was months ago, at least there is only one known major upcoming expense --our Atlanta IAGSDC convention at the end of the month. Because of a confluence of external factors, I resolved that I would catch up on the bulk of the neglected routine car maintenance this week.

I just collected my Civic back from NTB.
  • Oil change $10 (had a coupon)
  • Oil disposal $3
  • Four new tires @$74 each $296
  • Tire disposal $12
  • Maryland tire recycling fee $3.20
  • Basic tire service $52
  • Wheel alignment $115
  • Coolant flush & exchange $110
  • Serpentine belt (AC & alternator) $55
  • Serpentine belt (power steering) $50
  • Tune-up $80
  • New sparkplugs & install $71
  • Front brake pads $150
  • Brake rotors $150
  • Rear brake maint $30
  • Brake fluid exchange $60
  • Transmission fluid exchange $145
  • Labor $296

Adding in taxes, I paid $1,792.56.

Ouch. That's $250 more than our monthly mortgage payment. :-(

Worse, this doesn't include the replacement of the timing belt, the water pump and the air bag cartridges, all of which are very overdue and still pending.

On the brief drive from the shop to home, the only noticeable difference in performance was the vastly improved feel of the brakes --they're no longer mushy and soft. I hope the other minor improvements will become obvious as I drive to the data center tonight; a slight increase in fuel performance would be nice although I was averaging about 37 mpg prior to the work anyway.

I'm consoling myself by focusing on how much more reliable the Civic will be, how I've extended its working life a little bit and how much more confident I can be while using it on extended road trips. It's not helping yet, but it's all I have currently.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I love my Honda Civic but money has been short for a while as I've been trying to catch up on a series of large expenses --a campground annual lease, a new furnace, a wedding, etc.. All of that neglected regular maintenance has been hovering over my head, slowly ratcheting up the fear that eventually something would break and I'd be marooned out in the wilderness somewhere.

While my immediate cash supply isn't any better than it was months ago, at least there is only one known major upcoming expense --our Atlanta IAGSDC convention at the end of the month. Because of a confluence of external factors, I resolved that I would catch up on the bulk of the neglected routine car maintenance this week.

I just collected my Civic back from NTB.
  • Oil change $10 (had a coupon)
  • Oil disposal $3
  • Four new tires @$74 each $296
  • Tire disposal $12
  • Maryland tire recycling fee $3.20
  • Basic tire service $52
  • Wheel alignment $115
  • Coolant flush & exchange $110
  • Serpentine belt (AC & alternator) $55
  • Serpentine belt (power steering) $50
  • Tune-up $80
  • New sparkplugs & install $71
  • Front brake pads $150
  • Brake rotors $150
  • Rear brake maint $30
  • Brake fluid exchange $60
  • Transmission fluid exchange $145
  • Labor $296

Adding in taxes, I paid $1,792.56.

Ouch. That's $250 more than our monthly mortgage payment. :-(

Worse, this doesn't include the replacement of the timing belt, the water pump and the air bag cartridges, all of which are very overdue and still pending.

On the brief drive from the shop to home, the only noticeable difference in performance was the vastly improved feel of the brakes --they're no longer mushy and soft. I hope the other minor improvements will become obvious as I drive to the data center tonight; a slight increase in fuel performance would be nice although I was averaging about 37 mpg prior to the work anyway.

I'm consoling myself by focusing on how much more reliable the Civic will be, how I've extended its working life a little bit and how much more confident I can be while using it on extended road trips. It's not helping yet, but it's all I have currently.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I've been driving a Nissan Versa for a week now. I hate it.

I'm not a fan of the ultra-light, all-plastic feel of the car as zips along the road. I was in constant fear it would be airborne if I encountered a breeze, a pebble or a mosquito. The turbulence trailing a semi was entirely too uncomfortable.

I could understand if not approve of the engineering decisions which lead to such a ride: it's an entry-level vehicle so it won't have the deluxe ride of a high-end car. And obviously, one of the easiest way to make a vehicle more fuel efficient is to reduce the mass of the vehicle overall.

What I don't get are a number of very obvious user comfort decisions which seem to be to have been weighted in the direction of annoying the hell out of the driver.

There are no interior lights for people in the front seats, as I discovered these past few evenings. The sole interior light is in the far rear, accessible to the driver only with extreme contortions; I had to undo my seatbelt to reach it without overextending my shoulder. Even then, its brightness would be best described as perhaps 25% of a firefly. The "message waiting" LED on my Blackberry is brighter.

I dislike auto-locking doors on principle but I can deal with that: all four doors lock when the car approaches 10mph. What pissed me off is that all doors stay locked by default when the car is subsequently parked. IMHO, at least the driver's door should automatically unlock when the driver pulls his interior handle.

The glove compartment is too small to be useful. Seriously, I couldn't fit any map into it unless I folded the map in half yet again and pushed firmly.

I haven't been able to obtain a comfortable driver's seat arrangement even after a week of driving. I'm a pretty average build but my two choices seem to be either having my legs overextended to reach the pedals while my arms are comfortable on the wheel or having my legs comfortable while my arms overextend. I haven't been in any other car which made it so difficult to find the correct seating balance.

In short, it may be a nice car for some but the Versa is not a car I'd rent again and certainly wouldn't buy.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I've been driving a Nissan Versa for a week now. I hate it.

I'm not a fan of the ultra-light, all-plastic feel of the car as zips along the road. I was in constant fear it would be airborne if I encountered a breeze, a pebble or a mosquito. The turbulence trailing a semi was entirely too uncomfortable.

I could understand if not approve of the engineering decisions which lead to such a ride: it's an entry-level vehicle so it won't have the deluxe ride of a high-end car. And obviously, one of the easiest way to make a vehicle more fuel efficient is to reduce the mass of the vehicle overall.

What I don't get are a number of very obvious user comfort decisions which seem to be to have been weighted in the direction of annoying the hell out of the driver.

There are no interior lights for people in the front seats, as I discovered these past few evenings. The sole interior light is in the far rear, accessible to the driver only with extreme contortions; I had to undo my seatbelt to reach it without overextending my shoulder. Even then, its brightness would be best described as perhaps 25% of a firefly. The "message waiting" LED on my Blackberry is brighter.

I dislike auto-locking doors on principle but I can deal with that: all four doors lock when the car approaches 10mph. What pissed me off is that all doors stay locked by default when the car is subsequently parked. IMHO, at least the driver's door should automatically unlock when the driver pulls his interior handle.

The glove compartment is too small to be useful. Seriously, I couldn't fit any map into it unless I folded the map in half yet again and pushed firmly.

I haven't been able to obtain a comfortable driver's seat arrangement even after a week of driving. I'm a pretty average build but my two choices seem to be either having my legs overextended to reach the pedals while my arms are comfortable on the wheel or having my legs comfortable while my arms overextend. I haven't been in any other car which made it so difficult to find the correct seating balance.

In short, it may be a nice car for some but the Versa is not a car I'd rent again and certainly wouldn't buy.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
The interior ceiling liner of my Civic has been sagging around the rear window for a while. I've been meaning to fix it but it seems I never get the time & energy together during daylight hours. Until now.

The project itself took only 30 minutes, most of which was lining the border areas with tape to ensure the spray adhesive didn't get out of control, then waiting the required few minutes for the adhesive to dry slightly before pressing the liner into place.


Sagging Headliner - Before Sagging Headliner - Before
2001 Honda Civic, 2010-09-07
Sagging Headliner - After Sagging Headliner - After
2001 Honda Civic, 2010-09-07



A little surprise: I've had this car for nine years but never knew it had a shoulder-level restraint for installing baby seats. It makes sense of course, but I've never installed a baby seat into this car in all this time so I never thought to look.

At some point this week, I need to get the beast into the shop for an oil change and to pump up the tire pressure a little. I haven't inspected closely yet but I believe I need to replace at least two tires and the brakes are overdue for some work.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
The interior ceiling liner of my Civic has been sagging around the rear window for a while. I've been meaning to fix it but it seems I never get the time & energy together during daylight hours. Until now.

The project itself took only 30 minutes, most of which was lining the border areas with tape to ensure the spray adhesive didn't get out of control, then waiting the required few minutes for the adhesive to dry slightly before pressing the liner into place.


Sagging Headliner - Before Sagging Headliner - Before
2001 Honda Civic, 2010-09-07
Sagging Headliner - After Sagging Headliner - After
2001 Honda Civic, 2010-09-07



A little surprise: I've had this car for nine years but never knew it had a shoulder-level restraint for installing baby seats. It makes sense of course, but I've never installed a baby seat into this car in all this time so I never thought to look.

At some point this week, I need to get the beast into the shop for an oil change and to pump up the tire pressure a little. I haven't inspected closely yet but I believe I need to replace at least two tires and the brakes are overdue for some work.
bjarvis: (beaver)
I had an extensive to-do list for today and it's completed! These items included:
  1. getting the oil changed in my car;
  2. getting a $500 money order for the church to rent their community hall for our A2 square dance class Sept 9-Nov 11;
  3. getting $200 in cash from the bank for misc spending for [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr and myself over the next week or two;
  4. driving to the data center to install six HP blades which arrived last Friday evening;
  5. shipping four HP power distributors to my employer in California;
  6. eat lunch.


Bonus round:
If I'm feeling energetic and traffic doesn't suck after lunch, I may even take the money order and the rental agreement to the church today, just to get that item off the checklist.
bjarvis: (beaver)
I had an extensive to-do list for today and it's completed! These items included:
  1. getting the oil changed in my car;
  2. getting a $500 money order for the church to rent their community hall for our A2 square dance class Sept 9-Nov 11;
  3. getting $200 in cash from the bank for misc spending for [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr and myself over the next week or two;
  4. driving to the data center to install six HP blades which arrived last Friday evening;
  5. shipping four HP power distributors to my employer in California;
  6. eat lunch.


Bonus round:
If I'm feeling energetic and traffic doesn't suck after lunch, I may even take the money order and the rental agreement to the church today, just to get that item off the checklist.
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I have a 2001 Honda Civic LX. It has served me well for years and --automotive gods willing-- will do so for many more. My only maintenance complaint however is pictured below:



The covering layer of upholstery is slowly pulling away from the ceiling along the entire back. At the moment, this is merely cosmetic but I don't want it to get any worse; since I generally drive with the AC on rather than the windows open, there isn't much tension on the material from air flow but I should repair this sooner than later.

Does anyone have any advice on how to go about repairing such a thing? I'm guessing some form of fabric glue or adhesive would do the trick... is that so? Is there a particularly good product or brand? Should I leave this sort of thing to the professionals?

Any & all advice is welcome. (On the car issue, that is.)
bjarvis: (Honda Civic)
I have a 2001 Honda Civic LX. It has served me well for years and --automotive gods willing-- will do so for many more. My only maintenance complaint however is pictured below:



The covering layer of upholstery is slowly pulling away from the ceiling along the entire back. At the moment, this is merely cosmetic but I don't want it to get any worse; since I generally drive with the AC on rather than the windows open, there isn't much tension on the material from air flow but I should repair this sooner than later.

Does anyone have any advice on how to go about repairing such a thing? I'm guessing some form of fabric glue or adhesive would do the trick... is that so? Is there a particularly good product or brand? Should I leave this sort of thing to the professionals?

Any & all advice is welcome. (On the car issue, that is.)
bjarvis: (Challenger)
When all traffic lights are out because of a mechanical or electrical failure, the intersection by law is a four-way stop. That means every vehicle stops so everyone gets a turn to get through. Unless you're an emergency response vehicle, you don't get to breeze through on a whim.

Idiots.

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