I'm posting a few things belatedly -- this is from Friday, December 16, 2005...
It's only a $650 water pump/timing belt repair.
But considering the other mechanical shortcomings of my wife's 1996 Plymouth Neon (so old that neither the make nor model exist anymore), we have reached our limit. We could replace the leaking water pump and its attendant timing belt. But we still would have dashboard instruments that work only intermittently (a $600 repair so common that the garage owner said Chrysler should have recalled the circuit boards). And we still wouldn't have air conditioning next summer (the A/C system failed so many times that my wife gave up on repairing it), so I'd have to listen to my wife complain about it. The door windows still wouldn't have frames (we have to roll them down and up after closing the door in order to quiet the wind noise). The trunk lock still wouldn't work (we have to release the latch remotely from inside the car). And worst of all, a huge repair bill for the next thing to go wrong could be right around the corner.
So after putting several hundred dollars into prepping it for winter just two short weeks ago, we're throwing in the towel. Of course, it is the nature of cars that this problem couldn't manifest itself before I made that investment. Believe me, it pains me to throw away a car with two new tires and a new battery, but it's not worth fighting it anymore.
My brother, a former mechanic, recommended the new tires as well as the cooling system flush. Since that possibly caused the water pump leak that put the final nail in the Neon's coffin, and since he's my brother, of course I blame him. He never liked the Neon anyway (he abandoned his wife's Neon at her parents' house several years ago), so I have my suspicions. He called it the Peon, or was it Pee-on?
While I'm at it, I'll blame my wife and her horseback riding hobby. It's 80 miles roundtrip to the barn where she rides weekly. While that may not seem like much, it has increased our annual miles driven by 50%. Theoretically, we could have squeezed a few more months out of the car without those extra trips.
My brother and my wife -- it's a conspiracy to make me spend money on a new car. I haven't bought a car since 1992 and haven't made a car payment in more than ten years. I do not miss either experience.
While my brother is thrilled that he won't be working on that car anymore (he did a lot of work for low prices or free so I can't really complain), I do have a bit of a soft spot for the old Neon. My wife bought the car before we met, and I rode in it on our first date. Our first kiss was in that car, too. We took our first weekend trip together in the Neon, the 1997 Illinois Route 66 Association Motor Tour. We also drove our Neon on our honeymoon in early 1999 (my wife almost ran over my head and crushed it like a grape in Beaumont, TX but that's another story).
My only consolation is that my wife said she would have given up on the Neon several years ago. As the person in charge of the household budget, I feel like at least I succeeded in deferring a major expense for a while. All told, she got ten years out of that car and maybe 125,000 miles (can't say exactly since the odometer doesn't change when the gauges aren't working). On the bright side, our marriage has outlasted the car, which is better than many other marriages these days. The big question is, will our marriage survive the next car?