Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Car Inspection - Cheap!

Every year in Virginia, your vehicle has to pass an inspection.  They check all the standard things like brakes, lights, windshield wipers, tires, etc. and if everything looks "up to snuff," you are passed (whew!) and you get a new sticker good for 12 months.

When we first buy our cars, we take for granted for about the first five years that they will pass inspection with very little problem and no expenses aside from the fee for the inspection and the sticker.  As the cars get older, maintenance needs to be done, so we will tack that onto the inspection, just because, you know, the car's in the shop anyways.  And now that we have a 2000 and a 2002, we are also finding that things are starting to break and usually we will find that out when the car goes in for its annual inspection.  Making the annual inspection no longer a thing that is fairly cheap on that month's budget.

Justin does a fair amount of his own maintenance on his 2005 Honda sports car.  He enjoys working on the car and it's much cheaper for us if he changes his own oil and vehicle fluids than if we took it to the mechanic.  Which I think peeves the mechanic because it's such a cute little car and it would probably be fun for him to work on it.  Instead he is stuck with our 2000 Jeep and 2002 Ford Explorer.  Fun - not so much.

For me, the vehicle I own has always been simply a method of getting from Point A to Point B.  As long as it is reliable and not a stick shift, I am fairly happy.  Emphasis on reliable.

My mom always said that once cars started needing repairs or breaking down on her, she would lose faith in that particular vehicle and go buy a new one.  Of course, with the economy what it is and with our desire to pay down some debt, there is no longer the luxury of just going out and replacing a slightly aging car with something new and shiny and with an automatic parallel parking feature.  (How incredibly cool is it that some cars can actually park themselves without your help now?)  But that also means that I know that every single May, I am going to have a fairly large repair bill because since my vehicle is now over nine years old, when they inspect it, the likelihood is that there is going to be something that has worn out and needs to be replaced.

I knew that I needed to take the Explorer to the dealership this year for the inspection because my "service engine soon" light had been on for a very long time.  Our regular mechanic had tried to figure out how to turn it off and whether or not there was something wrong with the car on several occasions and every time I would hand him my credit card for some amount in the hundreds and get the vehicle back with the "service engine soon" light still on.

Before I could get my own car into the shop, Ben called me from final exams at school and said that his own "check engine" light had gone on.  Uh oh.  His is the 2000 vehicle and that couldn't be good.  Not only was I looking at however much my car was going to cost, the Jeep had to go to the shop now.  So we took that in and sure enough, the 02 sensors needed to be replaced.  Whatever the 02 sensors are, that cost us $542.  I am assured by Justin that they need to be working, so I guess it was money that had to be spent.

Sunday night, I dropped off the Explorer at the dealership with the instructions to do the inspection, do the 60,000 mile service (because it's been 9,000 miles since it needed it), and figure out why the "service engine soon" light was on.  I knew it wasn't going to be pretty.  Sure enough, Ford was able to find it and thank God they did, since I was really tired of looking at that light being on and worrying that something was wrong with it.  Well, something was.  The DPFE sensor had "failed" and needed to be replaced.

Between the inspection, the service, and the DPFE sensor, we had a bill of over $800 for my annual car inspection.  Which is cheaper than last year, when I had to get new tires and the bill was over $1200.  But, if you add my car to Ben's, we spent over $1300 in May on vehicle repairs.  Yes, of course, it's cheaper than buying new vehicles.  I clearly know this.  But why does it still hurt so much to hand over that credit card for these things that are necessary?  I don't want to spend $1300 on vehicle repairs.  If I'm going to spend $1300, I would much rather spend it on a really nice weekend at a warm, tropical beach on the eastern shore.  I think that's what really gets me.

I was informed yesterday that the car passed inspection with no problems.  That's great.  I'd hate to hear what it would have cost if there were "problems!"



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