Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Obnoxious Humming

My car has a hum. It is the kind of hum one hears when a wheel bearing is going out, or maybe the U-joint. The last time this happened, my wheel fell off. Oh, not all the way off, mind you, just part of the way off, so it rested at a 45 degree angle to the car.

The tow truck driver dropped it at an independent VW garage and I locked it, dropped the key through the little hole in the front of the building and added a note. They called me the next day and said they had found my note, but it really hadn't been necessary. They were pretty much able to see the problem when they walked up.

That afternoon I had someone drop me off. The mechanic came out and looked at the car with me and said, "So, it surprises me that this happened."

"Really?" I said. "It surprised me too."

We both stood beside the new wheel and nodded our heads. It was a nice, shared moment, but then he ruined it. "Yeah, because usually you have a little warning."

My eyes lifted and I focused on the building across the driveway. "Oh? How long of a warning?"

He folded his arms and stared up at the sky, calculating in his head. "I guess about six months."

"Hummm," I said and knitted my brows. "What kind of a warning?"

"A humming sound. You never heard it?"

I have a six-CD changer and front and rear speakers, for crying out loud. If there was an off-note tone, I simply edged the volume up. "I did once, when they had just repaved. I thought it was the new pavement."

His lips thinned and he sucked in air. "Let me tell you all the things that could have happened by ignoring this." The next ten minutes I nodded and made little noises meant to sound like I agreed with him. When he finished his diatribe he jammed his hand into his pocket and yanked out a little cup shaped thing. I backed up a step. "And here is another thing," he jeered. "Do you see the little copper wire down in the bottom of this?" He shoved it next to my jaw.

I squinted into the cup, but could not see the wire. I'm not a car person and this was obviously a car part. My jaw rose in challenge. "No I don't."

"That is because there isn't one." He held it up in front of my eyes. "But there should be." He marched over to the hood and hauled it open. "Someone put a cheap imitation part on this car instead of a genuine VW part," he accused, "and the car is not going to run as well without it." He pointed to a new part shining in beams of sunlight and birds chirped all around us.

That was about seven years ago. Last week he came out from the shop floor, wiping his hands on a fluffy white towel, and shook his head. "I'm sorry. There isn't a lot we can do." He listed all the possible causes of the humming.

I finally held up my hand. "So what are you trying to say?"

He held up his own hand and started ticking off points on the other. "You've got one hundred eighty thousand miles, the roof leaks, the throttle is going, the clutch is going and it is very possible the transmission is going. It is time to start looking for a new car."

A lump formed in my throat. "How long does it have?"

He shrugged. "Six months, a year."

Today I sat in a 2010 Subaru Legacy and a VW Jetta and had to tamp down a bubble of emotion as I looked through the windshield at my little Cabrio quivering in the parking lot. This is going to be hard.

Any suggestions?


  1. Oh your poor little Cabrio. I feel for you. I had Golfs and Rabbits back in the day. I miss them.

    I would say Jetta just because you might get customer loyalty and get to keep your mechanic.

    But I love the Legacy. It has bigger trunk space.

    Tough decision.

  2. I would def go with a Jetta :)

    I feel like this is a look into my future...when I get a car I get my family's "teenager car": a 20-year-old powder blue astrovan. Yeah. Also, the brakes gave out a year ago. Should probably get that fixed.

  3. Piedmont,

    What I really wanted was a Pontiac Solstice, but, alas, they have done away with Pontiac. My second choice was a Saturn Sky, but Saturn has been downgraded from a planet, apparently. And no, my third choice was not a Hummer.


    A twenty-year-old powder blue minivan with no brakes? How much do you want for it? :)

  4. Awww, Melanie. Your Cabrio is dying. Wahhh. It looks so bright and shiny and so, um, new. We're supposed to be able to get waaay more than 180K! What's up with that?

    I bought mine used last year for cash. Hope it lasts another couple of years, no new cars in my near future.

    Good luck picking something out! Olivia

  5. Olivia,

    I knoooow. My nose is all red and I've gone through an entire box of tissue. Okay, well, maybe not. I'm still in denial. Maybe that humming isn't the transmission. It could happen, right? I'm hoping you make 200k

  6. U need another convertible. Don't deny it. I've never seen anyone who needs a convertible the way you do. Don't even look at a hard-top, not even one with a big sunroof like mine. K? K!

  7. Mel - just think of your Cabrio in auto heaven with Charles,and go buy a new car. Do all the consumer reports type research you feel you need to do, but for heaven's sake, go buy a new car. You'll sleep better knowing the wheel's not going to fall off.

  8. Nina,

    There are no convertibles with four doors. It would mean you'd always have to transport...


    Charles is in auto-heaven? I miss him. He was a good car, too. :(

  9. I am so sorry. I have had to put a few cars down, and it never gets any easier. Be sure you stand by, and maybe give it a little pat. That helps.

  10. Molly,

    Thanks for your support. I'll try the little pat...and a margarita.

  11. Awww, how sad. I used to have a VW Cabriolet, back in the day. It was red with a black top. It was my favorite car of all time until the newest edition to the family---my Jeep!!! I highly recommend you get a 4DR Jeep Wrangler. I love mine. In the winter it will handle well in the snow, and in the summer the top comes off and you are at one with the road. The perfect all season vehicle!! My condolences on the VW....

  12. Angela (Mrs. Clackamas County 2011)

    Thanks for your sympathy. I had not thought of a jeep. The top comes off, you say? And you are one with the road? My heart is beating faster.

    I will check that out.

  13. Yes!! Check out the fourth of July parade pictures I posted on my blog. I LOVE it. I got one with built in navigation, you can download your cd's directly into the system so that you don't have to lug them around. You can also talk to people through the car speakers while driving, it has voice commands so you say; 'Call Brad Pitt' or whomever you would like to call and it connects you right away. What's not to like about that?!!!

  14. Angela,

    I went to your blog at and saw the jeep. That is cute! But I'd want the princess, prince and Elvis, too.

  15. Sorry but the princess and prince are already taken. I'll make you a really good deal on Elvis though!

  16. Angela,

    Maybe I should give this more thought.

  17. oh no...are you sure? doctors ... uh..i mean mechanics can be wrong...
    your cabrio looks so even has its body side molding (mine fell off from the heat here - but only on the passenger side)....
    i think my heart is thumping wondering about my own 99 cabrio..with 130K miles...oh no....
    my only advice: go with your heart.

  18. Karen,

    Oh wow, yes. 130k, you still have a couple years, I'll bet. I still LOVE my cabrio. I wonder if there is a former Cabrio owners support group.


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