Sixteen days ago my wife and I started the week-long process of moving into a new apartment. Fifteen days ago my car died. This is the story of my quest to replace that car.
It's been said that the best place to start is at the beginning, but fuck that, I'll just tell you what happened.
The car in question is a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta GL. It isn't much, but it is mine and until recently it was pretty reliable. On that fateful night about two weeks ago I was getting off I-75 to pick up pizza for my wife, parents, and two of our friends who had been helping us move. It was to be our last night sleeping in the old place and I was feeling good; the new apartment was spacious, affordable, and best of all we had found a moving company whose rates were more than reasonable enough to justify hiring them so we didn't have to carry our heaviest stuff up to the third floor. The air was cool so my windows were down and the stereo was turned up. Life was good. This feeling was to be short-lived.
Anyone who drives a Volkswagen and has had the misfortune of having a dash light pop on knows just how well ze Germans know how to draw a driver's attention to the issue at hand. The piercing, high-pitched, triple beep that accompanied the oil pressure light literally made me jump off of my seat. It was impossible to miss even with Journey pumping through my speakers. Steve Perry's got nothing on VW emergency noises.
Cut to the next day when I ventured forth to AutoZone. On the way my CEL came on and the car died once while flashing the battery light. Great, now I've had the trifecta of pain in the space of twelve hours. I arrive at my destination and hurry inside to ask one of the employees to grab their ODB scanner so they can tell me what my car's dashboard can't. This is the point at which I become glad that my CEL came on because suddenly I start to wonder if the scanners that AutoZone uses can read anything other than CEL errors. Either way at least I'm going to get some information out of this trip.
So our friend (just for grins let's call him Manny) plugs the scanner in and pulls the error code. He's about to go inside to look up the English translation when I ask him if he'd like to hear it. "Sure, couldn't hurt." He replies, so I turn the engine over.
"It's a diesel?" He asks before we pop the hood. No, no Manny, this car is not a diesel.
Oh, I forgot to mention that in conjunction with the oil pressure light the engine started making an unholy racket so loud that Helen Keller would have perked up and asked what the fuck was going on. Anyway, we head inside to one of their registers where he pulls up the error code:
OEM Brand: Volkswagen
"A" camshaft position- timing over-advanced or system performance- bank 1
Open or short circuit condition
1.- Poor electrical connection
2.- Failed camshaft actuator- resistance 10-20 ohms
3.- Blocked oil passage
Fuuuuuuu... Apparently that cacophony under the hood is probably the lifters and is likely terminal. Fantastic. I am now a brand new life form comprised entirely of rage.
I do not have the money to repair this. So what's a guy to do with a car that's only desire is to slowly commit suicide and on which he still owes a not-insignificant amount of money?
Welcome to my hunt for a new ride, a hunt that would quickly take an unexpected turn.