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I'm shopping for a car.

This doesn't mean that I'm planning to buy a car any time soon. Shopping for cars is a recreational activity with a practical application -- if I suddenly need a new car, I have a good idea of what I should buy and can get one in the most expeditious manner possible.

My current car is a 2004 Ford Five Hundred with AWD. I am very fond of it. And it only has 90,000 miles on it. However, being a twelve year old car (even if it is a Volvo in drag -- the Volvo engineers had a lot to do with this car's design), it could become an expensive car to maintain at any moment or decide to lose some critical system without which you don't actually have a useful car. And it is a sign of my faith in the car that it has four new tires and a new air conditioning compressor that I paid for within the last year.

But I'm shopping for cars. :)

My original target car was the Ford C-Max hybrid. It has a tall enough roof line to accommodate the length of my torso, which is important and rules out a lot of cars. (Getting in and out of the passenger seat of a Chevy Camaro was a painful experience.) You sit pretty low in it, which is a bit of a disadvantage, but it would get good mileage and be good for driving around town. However, it would be marginal as a family car as the girls get taller and the luggage capacity isn't really sufficient for a long trip with family should I want to use it for that, especially since I tend to carry a guitar with me. So I eventually (and reluctantly) scratched it off my list and moved to larger vehicles.

Well, how about a Ford Escape? It fits the bill everywhere, except that the new Escape will not actually hold my guitar placed lengthwise across the rear cargo area. Huh. This, of course, leads to another drastic reduction in either luggage or passenger capacity, neither of which was on my list of things to do.

Next vehicle up is a Ford Edge. It checks off all of the boxes: plenty of room for the family, plenty of room for cargo, comfortable seating in the back, the guitar fits lengthwise across the back. It is annoyingly expensive, but so is most everything that I'm looking at, partly due to the fact that there's a certain list of comfort features that I'd like to have at this point in my life. There is a small problem with the seating, as some genius decided to put a protruding side bolster into the seats that makes them functionally narrower than they should be. Even Consumer Reports wondered what that thing was doing there. It's correctable at a good automotive upholstery shop, but an annoying additional expense if I decided to get it "fixed".

I have now gone from a small, moderately expensive car to a large, more expensive car. And I start to wonder what I'm doing here.

So, the question becomes "Why don't you just get a second minivan?" The mileage isn't going to be worse than the Edge. It's not going to cost more than the Edge. And it ticks off all the boxes.

It would probably even fit in the garage, given that I was looking at putting an Edge in there. :)

And it turns out that they're about to start selling the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid. This is the "new" Chrysler minivan, but it would actually get decent mileage in town, at the expense of losing the stow-and-go second row seating. Of course, then the mid-row seats become more comfortable, because they don't have to stow. It's annoyingly expensive, but the tax credits drop the price down to something much more reasonable.

That might just be the answer.

If I were buying a car right now.

Which I am not planning to do.

But don't tell Katie, because she wants a Pacifica, having seen one at the dealer when Gretchen was getting the current minivan worked on...

(Ten year old daughter with car lust. *sigh*)
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The new refrigerator arrived today and is happily installed in its space. The old refrigerator is in the garage, waiting to be hauled away by ComEd.

In solidarity with the old refrigerator, the A/C compressor on my car failed and needs to be replaced.

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The keyless remote fob for my Five Hundred has just stopped working. Replacing the battery did not help.

There's another fob here somewhere that I could test with. If only I could find what we did with the stuff on top of my dresser when we packed everything up. *sigh*
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Late last week, the refrigerant control valve for my Ford Five Hundred arrived. Today, I called the shop and they said to bring it over and they'd install it tomorrow. I figured that I could drop the car off this afternoon, so I did. I explained to the boss how the install worked, having studied the YouTube videos on the subject in the absence of actual written instructions. He thought it sounded pretty simple and handed it off to one of the shop mechanics.

So they evacuated the A/C system, removed the plate that covers the valve, removed the old valve and cleaned out the valve chamber, installed the new valve, replaced the cover plate, and recharged the freon in the system. And now the A/C produces cold air at idle. :) The whole repair cost just over $200 including the freon recharge.

I never would have figured this out if [ profile] sweetmusic_27 hadn't been out shopping for a new used car which led to me doing some browsing about Five Hundreds. Some things just work out... :)
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The air conditioning on my 2005 Ford Five Hundred has been sadly lacking for a while now, despite a trip to the local mechanic last summer. Especially problematic is that it doesn't seem to function at all unless the car is moving at some substantial speed. On the other hand, the car itself is running fine so you can't really send it out to pasture just because the A/C isn't working, right?

Now a friend of mine was looking for a new used car which led me to recommend a Five Hundred for her particular needs. And this led me to doing some Internet research on the cars. Somewhere during these searches I tripped over a reference to the A/C problem that I deal with on my car.

It looks like this might be fixable with a $35 part and less than an hour of labor.

I have spoken to my mechanic and have ordered the part. They'll install it.

And then I'll chill for a while.

I hope. :)


Jul. 12th, 2015 11:41 pm
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Oh, yeah. Remember the dealer decal that I pulled off of my car? I took a bottle of Windex out to make an assault on the remaining goo this morning while waiting for Katie to pull herself together so we could go get lunch.

A lot of elbow grease removed the goo.

And visible in very faint lettering is the name of the dealership from where it appears that differential amounts of sunlight over the years has affected the paint. It's really sort of fascinating.

Maybe it will come out in the wash.
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My Ford Five Hundred is ten and a half years old, but it's still running fine. It is, however, the oldest car that I've owned, which is (I would suspect) a byproduct of having children with college funds to fill. So I look at new cars; I just don't do anything about it.

The other day, I pulled the car into the garage after a drive on a hot day. I happened to walk past the rear fender and I looked at the dealer decal on the trunk lid. It seemed distinctly crumpled, so I reached up, found a loose edge, and tugged lightly.

The decal came off intact -- and well worn! -- in my hand.

Apparently, the dealer no longer wanted to be associated with this car.

Of course, the dealer went out of business many years ago, so... :)

(I do need to get some cleaner out there and remove the remaining decal glue.)


May. 5th, 2015 10:05 pm
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Let me preface this by saying that I do not normally test drive cars that cost $120,000.

However, today my financial advisor had arranged a presentation on the energy industry and investing at the local Tesla dealer which included the opportunity to take a test drive. How could I pass this up?

When my turn for the test drive came up, the model that was available was the performance version. This was not a problem.

Getting into the car was. The one thing that is abundantly clear is that there is really not enough roof clearance in a Tesla Model S for me to sit comfortably. As a result, I was pretty far reclined back from the wheel.

The car, on the other hand, as a piece of engineering is enormously impressive. Where you would normally find controls on the dash, there is a 17 inch portrait orientation touch screen. Its most useful function is as a display for the rear-facing camera which has a monstrously wide field of view. This is good, because the rear window is pretty much a slit. :)

The batteries sit underneath the entire chassis, so the vehicle is about as stable as you can imagine. Apparently the Feds couldn't figure out how to get it to roll over for their crush testing, so they just kind of tipped it by brute force...

It wasn't quite rush hour yet, so there was an opportunity to take it up and back on the Edens Expressway. I got to the ramp, tapped the accelerator and --

Holy crap! There was enough acceleration to give me a touch of motion sickness. The salesman who was riding with me explained that was what they called the "Tesla Moment". Oh, yes. Yes it was. :)

I eased up on the throttle and merged in easily.

The car handled really, really well. Of course, you'd expect that. Really, the only thing that was unusual -- other than the massive torque! -- was that the regenerative braking slowed the car down very quickly when you took the foot off the accelerator. That apparently takes a bit of getting used to, but I'm pretty sure that I could sort that out eventually.

In any case, it is a lovely, lovely vehicle.

It is not the vehicle that I am looking for, barring a sudden and jarring midlife crisis arriving, but whoa!

It is definitely cool. :)
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I headed out for lunch today, intending to go to Charcoal Delights, and discovered quickly that there was something wrong with my right front tire. I limped it over to the restaurant, discovered it was not a happy tire at all, and rolled it on to the Just Tires next door where I had bought the tires back in 2008 after getting a blowout from a pothole. Fortunately, I'd also bought the road hazard warranty, so the replacement tire only cost $40 installed. I ended up also replacing the left front tire so that they matched.

I note that the new road hazard warranty is substantially less good, as it expires after 36 months, while the old one was good for the life of the tire. Ah, well. I will likely replace this car some time in the next three years anyway...
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With apologies to [ profile] jeff_duntemann...

Last night, we had quesadillas for dinner. The girls were initially quite skeptical, but we persuaded Julie to eat a flour tortilla that we had filled with cheese, microwaved, and then folded over. Her reaction: "This is good!" Yes, dear...

The air conditioner in my car has been unwilling to keep up with the heat. On the way back from the baseball game on Saturday, it couldn't get the car cool at all and we finally opened the windows. Today, I took it to Meineke where they vacuumed everything out and recharged the refrigerant. So far, so good.

On the other hand, the leak in the family room ceiling is still there. I've got a very good idea of how the water is coming in now, but the fellow who was going to caulk the area is stubbornly refusing to return my phone calls. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to get this taken care of, but apparently finding someone reliable is harder than it looks. And it rained hard again tonight. *sigh*

The big demo for work went well today. Afterwards, I went through the code and reverted my changes from the weekend and replaced the HashMap in serialization with an IdentityMap as [ profile] mdlbear suggested. Happily, the demo code still works after that. :)

And tomorrow the cleaning lady comes. Perhaps she will find the missing car keys.
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The new radio that supports my Bluetooth phone (and HD radio, as a bonus) is now installed, thanks to the kind efforts of [ profile] dave_ifversen who did a lot of very nice soldering as part of the process. While he was handling that, I was trying to figure out how to get the mounting bracket to mount onto the radio. And it turns out that first you have to take the trim plate off the radio. And then you have to remove a metal sheath from the radio. And finally you have to remove some more metal from both sides of the radio.

And then the mounting bracket will fit. It even fits well.

After all the soldering, the actual installation was mostly anticlimactic, other than the placement of the external microphone.

Tomorrow, I'll see how it works with my iPod. (One of the requirements for the radio was that it have a front USB port and a front AUX in. The fact that it comes with a real volume knob and real buttons is a bonus. :) )

Thanks, Dave!
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Having decided to keep my current car a while longer, because it's running just fine (and I hope mentioning it doesn't jinx that :) ), I started thinking about reasons why I actually would want a new car. My car is, after all, comfortable. And it hauls a lot of people and things. The gas mileage is nothing to write home about, but it isn't execrable. And even with current gas prices, keeping the current car is a lot cheaper than another car payment.

But I have been intensely jealous of [ profile] daisy_knotwise's new van. Part of that, I suppose, is that we've ponied up for the satellite radio, but, honestly, I don't have that desperate an urge to pay for more satellite radio service. And it has Bluetooth and will pair up with my phone so I can make hands-free calls, which is really handy (no pun intended), especially since there's some danger that Illinois might ban hand-held cell calls in cars shortly.

So what I have here is basically radio envy. And I can fix that.

So I've ordered this from Crutchfield. It has Bluetooth phone support and will pick up the local HD channels, which should be entertaining as a change up from the stations that I'm normally listening to. And it has front USB and AUX ports for my iPod Touch.

All I have to do is get it installed...
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First, Katie insisted on bringing [ profile] daisy_knotwise breakfast in bed, consisting of toast, cereal, and iced tea. It was really very charming.

However, it was shortly thereafter time to head out to lunch. And Katie emoted greatly about how she did not want to get dressed and go out to lunch. Eventually, she got dressed and we told her to get her coat and put it on, because it had turned cold again since Friday.

Except the zipper on her coat was stuck. And after half an hour of both Gretchen and I messing with it, it became apparent that we weren't moving that zipper. So Katie put on another coat and we went to lunch, which actually went much better than I'd anticipated when the folks at the counter agreed that they would give Katie some whipped cream for her pancakes. :)

Gretchen wanted to pick up some buttons for the shirt that she is making for Steve S. This meant heading out to a Jo-Ann Fabrics, so I suggested going to the one near Golf Mill Ford so that I could show Gretchen what the C-Max actually looks like at a closed dealership where no one would be chasing us down to try to sell us a car. She thought that was reasonable, but we had to revise the itinerary to swing by Sam's Club to buy a replacement winter coat for Katie, because there was no chance that Gretchen would succeed in replacing the zipper in the failed coat today or possibly ever.

I strode back with my attached family to the pile of children's coats. On top was a coat with a removable zippered liner -- that turned out to be a second coat -- in purple with attractive snow patterns printed on it and in Katie's size. It must have been my day.

A few minor clothing selections later, we headed for the checkout and back to the van, where Julie agitated to change into her new clothes. We stalled her until we had a chance to run by the house to drop off the grapes that we'd bought; then piled back in the van and to the dealership.

By now, it was cold with snow flurries. Katie and Julie fled back to the van at an early opportunity, but Gretchen got a chance to see the general form factor of the car that I do not need to be -- and almost certainly won't -- be buying right now. I even got to see one of the plug-in models, which looks the same, save for the port on the left front fender.

Finally, we got the buttons and headed home.

In any case, the trip settled one thing. I won't be buying a car from that dealership, because every single one of the cars that we looked at was saddled with a window sticker announcing an extra almost $1400 charge for unwanted paint protection, undercoating, fabric protection, and the like.

I don't think so, thanks.
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My current car is about eight years old and I like it a lot. It's a 2005 Ford Five Hundred with AWD and a continuously variable transmission. It's got about 72000 miles on it, because I've been driving less since I started working at home.

However, I like to keep track of what the next car is that I'm likely to buy, because you never know when you'll have to buy a car now. I've had my eye on the Ford Fusion for a while now and even had an opportunity to take [ profile] catalana's car on an extended test drive when she flew home to her parents out of O'Hare one year. And the Fusion would work.

Well, except that the 2013 Fusion is a whole new car, based on the Mondeo platform from Europe. This meant that it was time to check sizing again, because I need a lot of headroom. I was chatting with my friend Clark (who works for Ford) about this down at Chambanacon and he suggested that I should look at the C-Max, which is apparently also new in the U.S. for this model year. I'm always skeptical about these things, but I figured that sooner or later I'd get around to taking a look.

And today I was out Christmas shopping by myself, so I figured I'd head to a nearby Ford dealer and check it out. I warned the salesman that I wasn't in the market right now, but that I wanted to do some research.

It turns out that the new Fusion might work, but it feels a bit small to me.

The C-Max is big in terms of headroom. The one I sat in had a sunroof and I still fit in it.

And all of the C-Max models are hybrids -- some of them are plug-in models, although that's more than I would need.

I must think about this...
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Several years ago, I hit a monstrous pothole on Dempster that completely wrecked my right front tire and which bent the rim on the wheel. (This would not have been nearly so annoying had I not warned [ profile] catalana earlier that very day to look out for the potholes on Dempster.) Unfortunately, it was an alloy wheel and the tire shop informed me that there was nothing that could be done about it. The wheel was sound enough that the tire would hold air -- usually! -- but periodically there would be another leak and I'd have to get it remounted and more sealant sprayed in.

When I got the last oil change at our local Meineke, I asked the guys there if we could find a replacement wheel that they could put on. And they directed me to Wheels America.

Rather than buying a new wheel, they were able to repair it and eliminate the ding. I had to get the tire taken off at Meineke and take the wheel over for repair myself, but the next day, I got the wheel back, took it back to Meineke, and things appear to be as good as new. With any luck, those annoying leaks will be a thing of the past.

Total cost: about $130 to Wheels America and about $33 to Meineke.

I can work with that. :)
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So we finally sold our old Chrysler Town and Country minivan to [ profile] samwinolj and Bonnie last month. And there was much rejoicing.

There was more rejoicing (at least of a kind today) when Bonnie was in a head-on crash in the minivan. Bonnie is fine, the air bags having deployed just as they were supposed to.

The van appears to be a coin flip away from being totaled.

But the big piece of metal and the air bags did the job that they needed to.

And that's the good news.

Van Go

Mar. 15th, 2012 10:46 pm
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It took until the Ides of March, but the old minivan has now been safely transferred to [ profile] samwinolj and Bonnie. The new minivan is parked in the garage.

And there was much rejoicing. Even if it did take four trips to the DMV.
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We've managed to get the lien release. [ profile] daisy_knotwise took it down to the Secretary of State's office yesterday and we should have the duplicate title tomorrow. This means that we are ready to do the transfer.

Unfortunately, [ profile] samwinolj is not feeling well.

I hope he feels better soon! (And not just so that we can get this done.)
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And now it's off to Dorsai Thing, which will be the first road trip for the new van.

We believe the girls will enjoy the DVD player. At least while it remains novel. :)
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Why was I not surprised that no fax showed up at the Secretary of State's office today? Nor did I get a phone call from Ally Financial explaining what had happened.

So I called them again. And this time, we established definitively that they never held this loan and cannot issue a lien release against it. That would be ok if they hadn't caused me to waste a week by telling me that they could do so when I initially contacted them.

I spent some time berating them and suggesting that, just maybe, it would be useful if they would actually train their staff. They won't, of course.

I have now located the former lien holder who I have had to perjure myself with on their web site by saying that I have "lost" the lien release -- I more strongly suspect that they never sent it, because it would have been in the same pile of documents where the title to my Ford was recently found -- and pay them to disgorge.

I'm less than pleased by the whole process.

On the other hand, maybe I can finally get this car into [ profile] samwinolj and Bonnie's hands next week.



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