QOTD: Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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qotd willing spirit weak flesh

Yesterday, the awe-inspiringly tall Matthew Guy asked about examples of daily drivers that achieved stratospheric odometer readings, which immediately catapulted this writer back to the middle of the previous decade — a better era for most things, save vehicle design.

Back then, your author’s beloved Camry Coupe was still running like a dream at 261,000 miles. Nary a drop of oil lost between changes. Repairs? Nonexistent. Bliss can truly exist outside of heaven. It was a happy coincidence that Guy’s post occured on the same morning that Murilee showed us an indestructible five-cylinder Benz diesel; truly a paragon of longevity.

Yet for every high-mileage champion, there’s a vehicle that gives up well before its time — wheezing to a stop before the finish line is in sight. Perhaps you’ve owned one?

We all hope and pray that our current ride goes the distance but, like your childhood vision of owning an ice cream factory, such dreams are often unrealistic. While I had hoped that my previous vehicle would soldier on well past its paid-off date, that was not to be. With coolant consumption reaching alarming levels, I hastily traded in Cruze 1.0 in order to recoup any measure of my initial investment. Blame might lie on a full-loss wintertime coolant dump that occured years earlier, and for an unknown period of time. There was a cold snap, a hose came loose following a dodgy repair, it’s a long story.

So, off it went to the auction at 129,000 miles. Not happy, this owner was. Now, before you place the blame solely on the decision to purchase a GM throwaway, the previous three low-rent GM sedans I’d owned were still running fine at 150,000+ miles. (Fingers crossed on Round Five…)

Despite its name being a stand-in for cheap reliability, my sister’s long-gone 2003 Honda Civic developed fatal engine and transmission issues at a ridiculously (for the model) low miles. It was a 1.7-liter/five-speed combo, if you’re curious. I don’t think the Civic made it to 125k before she ditched it in favor of something that wasn’t a grenade-in-waiting.

When a looming repair (or repairs) stand to cost the owner more than the car is worth, dropping the thing like a hot potato is the only acceptable course of action.

Comb those memory banks, B&B. We’ve talked indestructible hand-me-downs, now let’s talk turds. Did one of your vehicles give up the ghost long before its supposed best-before date? What was the odometer reading?

[Images: Chrysler, Honda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Dividebytube Dividebytube on Dec 18, 2019

    My dad's 1984 (?) Oldsmobile 98 with the ill-fated diesel engine. It was a beautiful car with white leather, factory CB radio, power everything, and... slow as molasses. Diesel engine went at ~60k miles of mostly highway use. My dad had a gas engine put in - and the transmission promptly fragged while I was driving it to a job interview. After that experience he went right to the Nissan dealership and bought a Stanza. A drop down in size and Brougham-ness but the reliability difference - woah! Me? I've owned a few used cars that were cheap and overly abused so I won't begrudge them too much. The Taurus wagon with the slipping transmission, the Saturn SL that burned oil like a sieve, the Volvo 850 with the ticking rockers, the Honda Accord coupe with the slipping transmission. Argh!

  • Formula m Formula m on Dec 18, 2019

    A Honda Civic your sister felt she needed to get rid of at 125,000 miles or = 200,000kms ??? That's about when a vehicle gets expensive to replace the many wear items or rust kills it in Canada My parents bought a new 2001 Pontiac Montana sport when I left for college. I came home 2 years later it had 68,000kms (42,000 miles) It had been pressure tested many times for water leaks under warranty with no fix. The interior was a rattle trap from the cottage roads. The leaking head gasket at 42,000mi was enough to trade it on a Nissan Maxima. Other than used 4x4 trucks no one in the Family bought another GM product. I even worked for GM during college co-op in 2004-2005 and in Sales for GM from 2007-2009 until the bankruptcy

  • Lorenzo A union in itself doesn't mean failure, collective bargaining would mean failure.
  • Ajla Why did pedestrian fatalities hit their nadir in 2009 and overall road fatalities hit their lowest since 1949 in 2011? Sedans were more popular back then but a lot of 300hp trucks and SUVs were on the road starting around 2000. And the sedans weren't getting smaller and slower either. The correlation between the the size and power of the fleet with more road deaths seems to be a more recent occurrence.
  • Jeff_M It's either a three on the tree OR it's an automatic. It ain't both.
  • Lorenzo I'm all in favor of using software and automation to BUILD cars, but keep that junk off my instrument panel, especially the software enabled interactive junk. Just give me the knobs and switches so I can control the vehicle, with no interconnectivity of any kind.
  • MaintenanceCosts Modern cars detach people from their speed too much. The combination of tall ride height, super-effective sound insulation, massive power, and electronic aids makes people quite unaware of just how much kinetic energy is nominally under their control while they watch a movie on their phone with one hand and eat a Quarter Pounder with the other. I think that is the primary reason we are seeing an uptick in speed-related fatalities, especially among people NOT in cars.With that said, I don't think Americans have proven responsible enough to have unlimited speed in cars. Although I'd hate it, I still would support limiters that kick in at 10 over in the city and 20 over on the freeway, because I think they would save more than enough lives to be worth the pain.