Automotive Hypochondria

I sent this to Tom and Ray, but I figured I’d let the forum community take a stab at solving my dissolutions as well. Wow… that’s wishful thinking.

Dear Tom and Ray,

I don’t have a question about a mechanical issue. In fact, that’s the problem. I believe I suffer from a case of Automotive Hypochondria. My entire family are easily labeled as car enthusiasts. My dad has a few classic cars, a couple old Minis and a couple 60’s Volvos. While they have there issues, they are all, considering, reliable. My daily driver is an '84 Toyota Landcruiser. It is, by definition, reliable.

I am normally the one entrusted to fix anything that breaks on the cars, which is fine. I enjoy working on cars, and while not great, I’m vaguely capable. I can do pretty much any repair when I have a Haynes manual in front of me.

But despite all of this, I never feel comfortable driving any of them. I find myself darting my eyes nervously at the gauges, my left leg trembles as I depress the clutch, the subtle aromatics of antique machinery worries my olfactory senses. My Landcruiser recently had a power steering high pressure line go bad, which I fixed with little issue. However, since that has happened, I’ve hardly driven it for I now return to my classical pantheon of anxiety.

And sadly, I believe I know the root of all of this. Our 1990 Range Rover. I would mention the '92 Range Rover, but it has long since been relegated to a barn from the shear terror it exudes. When classic Range Rovers work, they are magnificent. Smooth, balanced, poised, quick. But my rough calculation is that for every 10 miles I’ve ever driven Felix, as he is known, I’ve spent about 5 hours repairing it from my truncated joy. A promising ratio this is not.

Am I simply worried that the accelerated rated of entropy will spread, like pig flu in a kindergarten, to all vehicles? Why, then, have I become nervous to drive anything with an air of occasion, age, or rarity?

Is there a cure? Am I insane? Is this a common occurrence? I need answers to at least two of those questions.

I figured my only choice was to ask two men who’ve never owned a reliable vehicle in their lives, and who furthermore are responsible for making countless vehicles in the greater Cambridge area exhibit the same level of mechanical catastrophe possibility.

Thanks. -Ted

Do you worry this much about your washing machine? Have cars taken over your life?

What you are is tired, and burdened with two Range Rovers, vehicles that will break the heart of anyone who thinks he can keep them running well. You need to get rid of those beasts, and confine yourself to older iron with no computers. For a while just drive your Cruiser, take on no big jobs. Just use the machine. You will enjoy the peace. And then you’ll get bored, and ready to dive into de-coking the valves on that '51 Hillman Minx you’ve had your eye on.

Is there a cure? Yes, dump the Range Rovers and find something else to worry about.

Am I insane? Possibly. You’re certainly masochistic. Why would anyone keep such notoriously unreliable vehicles? Do you enjoy suffering?

Is this a common occurrence? For you? Apparently so. For others? Absolutely not.

The words we use are really too much. Catastrophic failure of an engine is only a catastrophy to the engine. To the owner it is only inconvenience and unplanned expense. I almost think it’s funny when some things don’t work right, but that’s just how I am. I don’t go near water so I will probably get croaked by bumping my head or I might get struck by lightning on a clear day.

I play Chess and sometimes I hear checkmate when I don’t expect to. What I was afraid of was not what got me.

Agree; OP should send those 2 crap boxes to the crusher! A friend of my wife is married to a staunch Englishman. In the 60s he bought a Rover 2000, an innovative but poorly built British sedan. It was very unreliable, and to solve that problem, he bought a SECOND ONE!!!

OP needs to re-examine his role in life; he appears to be an unpaid automotive version of a social worker!

If you like fixing cars, get something that will keep running, such as older US muscle cars.

@ Caddyman

No, I don’t. My washing machine recently did break, needing a new drive coupling, but I have washed clothes since fixing it.

I think the problem is just one of spiritual attachment. No matter what anyone says, cars do have souls, feelings, etc. When you consider how an engine works, it’s pretty damn incredible that they run at all. Sure, the principles are sound, and tested, but it’s still a violent process. Look at all of the old crappy cars that are out there running, with 300,000 miles, that haven’t had an oil change in years, etc. Isn’t it kind of amazing that it can still manage to contain thousands of explosions a minute, manage to get the valves open and closed at roughly the right time, etc.? They’re amazing machines. But when the Range Rover brakes, I feel that I owe it to it to fix it. Everyone always says sell the Range Rover. But it’s not the Range Rover, it’s Felix. All the obsessive details, like when you close the driver door you have to tap it twice in the exact rhythm, ala Fonzie hitting the jukebox, or else the door won’t close.

Seeing it broken is like seeing a sad puppy. Yeah, it has cancer, hip dysplasia, heart worms, and lupus. Well wait… noone has ever had lupus, so I take that last one back, but still…

But this brings to life an interesting phenomena I’ve noticed, one that pertains mainly to Range Rovers. The less an owner cares about it, the longer it lasts. Being that they were heinously expensive new, and incredibly cheap now, they have a certain appeal to the layman. So a lot of non-car people seem to own them. To these people, the ones that never really maintain them, and to who they are just an old car, they seem to never fail. But to the car enthusiast, well… it’s a constant battle. It’s as if they know the times when they break, and whether or not they’d be fixed. It’s like they’re testing us.

And besides, I can’t sell it right now, as it needs a new head gasket.

If I grew up with Range Rovers, old Volvos, and old Minis, and I currently drove a 25 year old vehicle, I’d worry every time I went for a drive too.

Get a new Toyota or Honnda. You’ll heal. It’ll take time, but after a few years you’ll forget what it was like to worry every time you go anywhere. I experienced the change back in "76 when I traded my '72 Vega for a new '76 Corolla. All of a sudden things no longer broke. Eventually I realized that worry-free driving can actually happen. I discovered a whole new feeling.

And that’s why I now drive a Miata!

But do you not somehow miss the romance of uncertainty of driving something strange? Does it not feel weird to see 15 cars every day that look exactly like yours? It’s all a compromise, I suppose.

I’m changing my opinion from “possibly” insane to “definitely” insane.

Cars do NOT have souls, or feelings. They are machines made of metal, glass, rubber, plastic, etc. They are incapable of rational thought. No souls, no feelings, nothing.

You’re anthropomorphizing. This is not healthy.

You do, however, make is sound a little bit like fun. Enjoy your Range Rovers.

Oh no, wait, you can’t because they don’t run.

Enjoy not enjoying your Range Rovers.

You are a romantic. The pain caused by your Rover is exactly why you want to keep it. Every time it evokes any emotion in you is your special time, as it would be with any good romantic. So, drive that Rover for many, many more years. It…hurts…so…good…

That’s oddly beautiful. The use of the term “special time” is a little creepy, but…

It kinda makes sense. Am I the only who who cries when they see any video like the video where they destroy the Chrysler Turbines? It’s, just… sad. And yet we had cash for clunkers. Wow. Oh well, powerful and smart haven’t always been the same thing.

The answer is “Yes” I do miss driving a marginal, weird, somehow attractive quirky piece of machinery. I solved the problem by acquiring several 85 and 86 Honda CH250 motor scooters. These little machines are pretty ugly and dated looking, and they can require some wrenching from time to time, but they go 65, they get about 60-65 miles per gallon, they carry two up every hill in the San Francisco area without a problem. I ride one of them to work every day. The Miata is for longer joyrides to Napa, and for the rainy days we get in the Winter.

A scooter is small, and fits crosswise in front of a car in the garage. Repairs are pretty straightforward, parts are still available through eBay, they are cheap to buy and you can lift and carry every single part without help. If it breaks you can bring it home in a pickup truck. The scooters are cheap, so I have 3. If one is down, I still have 2. My insurance for all 3 is $240 a year, including uninsured motorist coverage.

Nothing wrong with being something of a fool about machinery. Most of us regular posters are at least a little screwy. So what?

Why don’t you sell your cars to a collector or someone else who will take good care of them, and buy newer, more reliable cars?

That’s mildly insulting in a way. I do it because I love it, I guess I just get weirded out more than I should. But you kind of imply that I don’t take care of them… Considering both Minis and both Volvos are essentially daily driven, I would hazard a guess that they are well taken care of. Perfect, no. But taken care of, yes.

That was kind of the point of my post though… I don’t mind the maintenance. I love hanging out in the garage, listening to music, sipping on a beer and working on some random tinkering project. I’m relatively competent, atleast I think… in the last year I’ve put a new clutch in a 544, a new center support bearing on the 122s, rebuilt the fuel system on the 544 and 122(I hate ethanol!), done some electrical work to the Minis, done a fair amount of interior work to the Landcruiser in addition to replacing the power steering pump, put a new fuel pump in our Suburban… I’m not great, but I can do it.

It’s only when it comes time to enjoy them do I get nervous. I drive one or the other nearly every day. It’s not like a freak out, but I just don’t feel as comfortable as I feel I should.

Agree with Mcparadise that you don’t fall in love with inanimate objects that can’t love you back. OP can begin by changing his name away from AustinMiniman to something more reliable and up to date. Years ago my wife won a Mini in a draw, but only kept it a few months with no regrets!

The only remotely emotional attachement we had to a vehicle was our 1965 Dodge Dart which faithfully served us for 13 years; it was our honeymoon car and we brought both babies home from the hospital in it. Just the same we scrapped it when it became unsafe (not unreliable!) and went on with life.