We’ve all passed one of those cars. You know, a car that’s making some ungodly noise that sounds like the harbinger of its imminent demise. I’ve always wondered when I cross such a vehicle why a piece of junk like that is even still on the road. Until…
For nearly a decade I have had a faithful auto companion. The Mazda Protégé Jason and I bought shortly after we got married now has over 180,000 miles on it and yet it still works well. It has required very few repairs over the years, which is quite impressive given the minuscule amount of money we paid for it and its current mileage. Unfortunately, that vehicle, which once made me proud, had become a bit of an embarrassment as of late.
I am not a car person; cars definitely don’t represent a status symbol to me. They aren’t a good investment so I’m of the opinion that spending a lot on one is a bit of a waste. As long as mine are comfortable and reliable I don’t care how old or stylish they are. Frankly, I’d rather spend my money on buckets of shoes and trips to Hawaii than a car payment. So, although I am not prone to vehicular snobbery, I must admit that I haven’t particularly enjoyed driving my Mazda the last year or so; in fact it’s made me hang my head in shame on many occasions.
Two or three years ago our Protégé started making a high-pitched squealing sound. It didn’t do it all the time, just now and then. Cold, hot, or wet weather seemed to aggravate it. We asked several mechanics about this issue but none of them could find anything wrong or had any ideas what the problem might be. As time went on the squealing became much more frequent and obnoxious, yet we still had no insights as to the cause.
Recently the shrieking had become so annoying and constant that Jas and I were starting to seriously consider buying a new car. After all, with the cause still a mystery we didn’t know if the vehicle was going to spontaneously combust at some point. Plus, I was getting pretty wary of driving the squeal mobile around.
Waking up all your neighbors with an ungodly screeching sound as you pull out of your driveway really adds to the awesomeness of any weekday morning. Yup, there’s no better way to turn your morning commute into a joyful affair than giving everyone within a mile radius the impression that horrible shrieking aliens have taken over the planet.
We thought we would give fixing our Protégé one more try before giving up. We kept note of what set off the racket and went into a mechanic with our full account. Unlike everyone else we had taken the car to, this guy thought he knew what might be the problem: belts that have stretched. Apparently it’s common for engine belts to stretch and become loose over time, which can cause them to slip and screech. He tightened the Protégé’s belts and tadah, no more noises. So all that time all she needed was a $30 belt tightening to be as good as new. Unbelievable! If there weren’t so many idiot mechanics out there I could have saved myself a lot of ridicule and hearing loss.