Posts Tagged ‘Nissan Sentra’

Auto Correct

May 22, 2013

Sunday May 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   In the continuing education program that is called life, I think I can cross off yet another lesson I have learned painfully and in the most difficult way. That seems to be the only way to really get the message, and this time I have certainly gotten it and then some. This one will stay with me.

   I have learned and learned well that there is a big difference between being ‘thrifty’ and being a flat out cheapskate, and also that there is NOTHING ‘free’. I thought I had known that already, but apparently I needed a refresher course from the universe. Hopefully this will be the last one.

   What a humongous mistake it turned out to be to accept the ‘free’ 1994 Nissan Sentra from my friend Richard Caan. Richard is a great guy and only had the best of intentions, but his gesture of friendship turned out to be a painful kick square in my ball joints that kept kicking for months.

   On paper, it looked to be a win/win situation. He had just been paid out a healthy chunk from a fender bender his sister had that wasn’t her fault, but the car was still drivable. They had planned on donating it to charity, but Richard knew I put a lot of miles driving to gigs and thought I could benefit from a low mile Japanese car that had never given his mother a problem while she had it.

   In theory, he was correct. Nissan Sentras are supposed to be notoriously dependable and have a stellar track record from all I heard and read. For whatever reason, I got the exception to that rule and I had nothing but one incredibly painful and ridiculously expensive crisis after the next with that rolling turd for as long as I had it and it sucked both my wallet and my spirit completely dry.

   The body work before I could drive it cost $750 for a replacement hood and right fender. If that would have been it – and Richard and I both thought it was – that would have been a sweetheart deal. The car only had 105,000 miles on it, and by all estimation I could have driven it for years.

   Other than the fact the car was red and the hood and fender I had replaced were blue, it wasn’t a bad looking little roller skate. There was one hubcap missing when I got it, but I replaced it and even with the hillbilly two tone it wasn’t as bad as some of the tin cans I have owned in my life.

   Then, the gates of hell opened wide and everything went wrong. First it was the exhaust system that fell off in Springfield, IL. That cost a ridiculous $825. I still can’t believe the exhaust system for a golf cart like that costs that much, but at the Midas Muffler Shop in Springfield, IL it does.

   I didn’t think the exhaust systems of Air Force One or the Space Shuttle would cost that much, but I thought since I planned on keeping it a while I’d invest and that would be it. HA! That was just the beginning. The brakes were a bit spongy, and that cost $350. I needed a new battery and battery cables, and that cost $125. The right headlight blew out and that was $45. It didn’t stop.

   Then I had a problem with the driver’s door. It wouldn’t stay closed in the dead of winter, and for a while I had to crawl in through the passenger side and get sodomized by my own gear shift. It was $150 to fix that. Then the alternator blew on my way to a gig and that was another $250 – plus a tow.

   I don’t even want to add all that up, because it would just depress me more. I was being flat out cheap rather than thrifty, and it was a big mistake to think I’d be able to get a free car. I really do appreciate Richard’s kind offer, but if I ever get another one from anyone I’m going to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. I have learned my lesson. NOTHING in this life is ever ‘free’.

Out with the old...

Out with the old… with the next one. This is my 124th vehicle.

…in with the next one. This is my 124th vehicle.


Deals On Wheels

January 29, 2013

Friday January 25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Sometimes the right thing to do is to cut one’s losses and move on. That’s something I have not been willing to do as often as I should have in my life, and it’s only brought more heartache upon situations that have already proven to be losing propositions. It’s time to try something different.

This nightmare situation with my ‘free’ car has been a flat out disaster. Well meaning intention or not, I just can’t afford to keep getting kicked in the ball joints like I have been and I need to go in another direction. I’ve painted myself into a financial corner and this couldn’t come at a worse time, but when is a good time for any problem? They show up like bad relatives that won’t leave.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for a different car of late, and I found it. There are no guarantees with any used car unfortunately, but this is a calculated risk I feel I have to take. I need to have a dependable car to get to gigs, and also as a self esteem builder. Driving ratty cars is getting old.

My plan had been to drive the ’94 Nissan for at least a year, and save some money to move up the food chain and buy something at least halfway decent. My credit is so far in the toilet I doubt I’ll be able to get a car loan in this lifetime or the next, but that’s where it sits. I’m in a tight spot.

The car I found is an extra clean 1995 Toyota Camry. It’s only got 95,000 miles on it, and it’s a one owner car from Wisconsin of all places. There are written records of all the maintenance that was performed and the original owner took it to a Toyota dealer exclusively. It’s been cared for.

I’ve had several Toyotas from that era, and loved every one of them. They handle well, and get great gas mileage. The only reason I got rid of any them was that they were hit and totaled out by the insurance company. Had that not occurred, I’d probably still be driving one to this very day.

There’s no guarantee this one won’t get plowed into as well, but I am going to roll the dice and go deep into debt to get it anyway. I’m juicing up my credit card as far as it will go, and I haven’t been one to do that as a rule. I’ve saved it for emergency situations, but this is starting to qualify.

It was getting to the point where I was sticking more into that Nissan than if I’d had a loan on a brand spanking new Cadillac, and I just can’t see that continuing. I’ll send the Nissan through the auction, and that will go to pay off the credit card. I’d prefer not to do it that way, but right now I have no other choice. This is an opportunity I feel I need to jump on, and I’m not going to flinch.

I can’t help but be reminded of the people who owe me money from years ago, and if I had that I could have paid cash for the Toyota and had money left over to throw at my IRS bill which also needs to get paid sooner than later. This is a very painful lesson, but rather than stew in what I’ve blown in the past I need to forge ahead and get myself out from under this mess. It’s a tough test.

In the short run, this is a stressful pain in my differential. The last thing I want to be doing right now is farting around with changing cars – especially in the winter – but in the long run I feel I’m  making the right choice and hopefully it will free me up to keep myself on a good track for 2013.

Auto Focus

December 24, 2012

Saturday December 22nd, 2012 – Waukegan, IL

   I sincerely try to help people whenever I can, and today I had the opportunity. Ben Bergman is a young comedian from Kentucky who now lives in Chicago. I like Ben and we’ve done a couple of road swings together, and he needed a car after his Chevy Cavalier gave up the ghost recently.

Ben heard me talk of how I’ve been going to the Waukegan Auto Auction for years to buy road cruisers, and he asked if I wouldn’t mind tagging along with him to show him the ropes. I’m glad he did, as I absolutely LOVE doing that. For whatever reason, going to the auction is a passion.

I love looking over the cars and spotting the cherries. I’ve done it enough times where I have a pretty good idea which ones are worth bidding on, and even how much they’ll go for. I haven’t a clue how that information can be useful, other than helping people like Ben score a sweet deal.

We met up at the auction at 8:30am, and went through the lot trying to find cars he might want to bid on. We found about six out of the 100 plus vehicles on the lot, but that’s about average. It boils down to a numbers game, and after that it becomes a poker game when the bidding starts.

I enjoy the adventure of it all, and even though there’s risk involved it’s still fun to look over a lot full of cars and see which ones might be desirable. It’s a lot like a sports draft, and those who do their homework often come away with remarkable bargains. Ben handled himself very well.

He’d looked over the vehicle list at the website and marked a few prospects he wanted to look at. I’d done the same, and he made some good choices. One that neither of us had marked was a 1997 Nissan Sentra that had 112,000 miles on it. It was a sweetie, and I could tell by looking at it this was the belle of the ball. I’ve had that feeling several times.

Ben liked it too, and we decided that would be our target. He bid on a couple of other very nice Hondas, but even though he won the bidding it was below the seller’s reserve amount. He would have had to negotiate a price, but there was still a possibility he would have gotten a killer deal.

We decided to wait until the Nissan came through, and he ended up getting it for $1550. There was another guy bidding with him and it probably shouldn’t have gotten that high, but it was the sweetest car on the lot and even at that price he made a fantastic buy. I loved watching him get to bid on the car, as I know how exciting that is. I felt like a dad watching his son buy his first car.

Ben thanked me several times, but I didn’t mind helping at all. I was happy he was able to steal it away from the other bidder, and I think it will last him a long time. Then I got into my own car which also happens to be a Nissan Sentra, and discovered my driver’s door wouldn’t close. Some goofy glitch with the latch happened and I had to drive with my left arm holding the door shut.

The automatic seatbelt kept clicking on an off, and it was a scene right out of a movie. I wasn’t laughing then, but it’s hilarious now. The ‘free’ car from my friend Richard keeps on costing me by the week. I had to pay $45 for a mechanic to take the door cover off and oil all the parts. Ugh.


Hillbilly Two Tone

November 16, 2012

Wednesday November 14th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   I received the phone call today telling me my new old car was ready to be picked up after about six weeks of waiting for it to be repaired. When I dropped it off, I told the mechanic there was no rush and he really took it to heart apparently. It was to the point I’d almost forgotten it was there.

My friend Richard Caan gave me a 1993 Nissan Sentra that first belonged to his mom and then his sister. His mother bought it in 1995, and drove it mostly back and forth to work. It’s only got 107,000 miles on it, and despite needing a list of repairs I thought it was worth rolling the dice.

Richard’s sister got into a fender bender which took out the right front headlight and dinged up the hood and right front fender. The person who hit her was insured, and she was paid off for the damages and kept driving the car. Still, it was generous of Richard to give it to me. I’m grateful.

He knows I go through cheap cars like KISS goes through makeup, and I appreciate the chance to nurse another one back to health. He knew I’d give it a good home, and I knew his family had owned it for years and it had the potential to be driven for thousands more hopefully easy miles.

The grand total after getting a junkyard hood and fender along with ball joints, a muffler weld, heater blower repair work, an oil change, coolant flush, new battery and wiper blades totaled out at right around $1000. I transferred the title and registered it legally and that cost another $100.

The mechanic I took it to is located in Kenosha, WI and was recommended by my other friend Mark Gumbinger. The guy works on all of Mark’s cars, and does quality work at a fair price. He told me when I brought it in it was a solid car, and would be worth fixing if the price was right.

The mechanic went through it with a fine tooth comb, and gave me the final total of how much it would cost to get it road ready. I told him I’d prefer to keep it under $1200 if possible, and I’m thrilled he did. If I can keep it running for a year at right around $100 a month, it’s a sweet deal.

Of course he couldn’t find a hood and fender that matched color, but that’s ok. I am long past the point of having to impress anyone with my car. If Carmen Electra won’t date me it’s surely not going to be because my car is a hillbilly two tone. There will be other reasons besides that.

It is a little disappointing that I’m still driving pieced together Frankenstein mobiles this late in the game, but that’s how it goes. I’d rather do that and still be able to live my dream than have an ulcer producing hellish job that comes with a shiny company car. We have to choose our battles.

Sometimes being a comedian can be hellish, but at least there are good times to make up for it to balance it out. Every other job I’ve ever had has always been a living nightmare. I’ll trade off multicolored fenders on a 20 year old car given to me by a friend to have a chance at satisfaction.

As far as my other pickle, that was a good car too. I put more than 50,000 miles on it and I just think it’s time to be safe and move on. I’ll hopefully be able to get $1000 for that one, and make it a wash. I’m getting an older car with far fewer miles. Is it the right choice? I’ll soon find out.