What the hell am I doing with three cars?

Yes, dear readers… I have three cars at the moment.  For two licensed drivers.  Ugh.

Here’s the deal – Before we left the DR (under the assumption that we’d be selling the FJ at post… may I add that that was the single dumbest assumption I’ve ever made?  By assuming, you make an ASS out of U and ME, and all that…), we decided to beg my parents/sister for the old Volvo wagon that was kicking around the family in order to have a lock on a car when we got back to the States.  Luckily (or unluckily, as it turns out), they acquiesced, and we were the proud owners of a 2002 Volvo V70.  Hooray!  Well, around that time, Wife decided that she would like to re-learn how to drive (I was of the habit of doing ALL THE DRIVING in the DR), and had her heart set upon a car made by the now-defunct Saab mark.  More or less the same one that saved her life many years ago in a head-on collision on the highway, so, really, who’s going to argue that one?  Well, she found a 2002 9-3 Turbo with the necessary specs, and we put a deposit down on it sight-unseen.  Yes, dumb-da-dumb-dumb-dumb.

Fast forward to picking the Saab up…  I drive into a part of Providence, RI that I’ve never been to before (for good reason… and I’ve been in some shady parts of Provvy), and pull into a “dealer”‘s lot.  There are a lot of cars there, in various states of repair.  OK, I say to myself, let’s get this done.  I conduct the whole rest of the transaction in Spanish (feeling good about myself after two years in the DR) with the Bolivian owner: take the car for a test drive on the mean streets of Providence; look over the car; gain assurances that the promised work has been done; and finally pay the remaining money to take ownership.  OK, I think, this car’s alright for the next 6 months.

I get the car back to my parents’ house, and my father and I drive up to the Cape.  He’s driving the Saab, and I’m in the Volvo.  After the drive he complains of a slight shimmy in the steering wheel (a problem which the dealer promised to fix) and an intermittent loss of power when maintaining highway speed (shit, Googled this and it’s probably something to do with the waste-gate clip on the turbo… who knows how much).  I decide to kind of forget about the problems until I’m back in CT, and my Dad drives it back several days later noting the same issues.

I finally get back to CT after a few more days, and I take the car to get new tires ($600) and an oil change ($100 – the oil change another thing the dealer promised me that wasn’t done), and on the way back from getting the tires, I’m accelerating onto the highway when the car almost completely loses power and the “exclamation point” light comes on on the dash.  Those of you whom have owned Saabs know that this isn’t good.  In fact, there is rarely a time in life where an exclamation point warning light is a good sign.

Well, I get the car home, and turn it off.  I quickly Google the issue, and see a whole bunch of articles pertaining to the alternator.  Great.  I go back out to the car and try to start it.  Nada.  Battery’s dead.  That confirms the alternator.  I jump it, pop the hood, and look down to the alternator.  It’s not turning with the serpentine belt.  S-W-E-E-T.  I call the local European-specialist garage and tell them to expect me.  I hop in the car and try to drive the 2 miles there, but if you’ve ever dealt with a dead alternator before, you know how far I got.  Mind you, THIS IS ALL THE DAY BEFORE I’M LEAVING FOR MAINE FOR MY 1 MONTH OF HOME LEAVE.  I’m also counting on having 2 cars to drive up there……

Fast forward to after having the car towed the rest of the way to the shop… I ask the guys to fix the alternator and take a look at the rest of the car.  Tell them I’m going back on vacation, and I’ll deal with it when I get back… they can call me with the estimate, etc.  Leave for Maine (450 miles away) and wait for the call.  Arrange with my parents to pick the car up when it’s done.

About 3 days later, I get the call from the shop, and they tell me of the blown alternator ($750… duh) and the front and rear brakes that have 5% life left ($550 front, $500 rear, ugh), and the “small” leak in the exhaust just behind the manifold ($350).  I say, “Sure!  Fix it, except for the exhaust… I’ll deal with that later.”  I enjoy the rest of my vacation, come back to CT on the way to DC and pick up the car.  My wife drives it to DC, and there aren’t any other problems to speak of.  So, silly me, I start to think I’m out of the shit when….

….My wife comes home today and asks me to check the power steering fluid on the Saab, because it’s “become difficult to turn the wheel when stopped.”  Great.  Couple this with the suspension issue on the Volvo right now and the fact that I’m trying to sell the FJ which we had to ship back to the U.S. (and is in GREAT condition, and currently for sale), and I’m wondering WTF is it with me and cars right now?  I’ve done nothing but care for all of my previous cars, and my car-ma (sorry) sucks right now.  If I had only one car to deal with this would all be moot.  But having three, and two of which are having problems, this really is just too much.

Now I need to reconsider my priorities, get two older cars in for-sale-shape (probably for another several hundred dollars), and hope for the best.  Ideally, I can sell the Saab and the Volvo and recoup my expenses (i.e. the ~$2,400 EXTRA I paid for the Saab on top of the $3,000 just to take ownership of that nightmare) and hang on to the FJ until we leave for post.  But what if I can’t sell the FJ?  WTF do I do then?  Sell it at an obscenely low price, low-ball myself and not get a decent car at post as a trade-off?  Hold on to the FJ and pay ~$250 a month to store it on top of the car payment?  Beg State to put it in emergency storage since we’re moving to a RHD country in which POVs regularly need ~1 year to clear customs/get registered?

Anyone?  Bueller?

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