My awful luck with cars (Part 3) - 2004 Dodge Neon

It's been a while since I continued my series on my awful luck with cars. But since I am sick and have the day off, I figured today is as good a day as any to start the series up again!

Seriously, this is long. I apologize in advance for any time I will have wasted for you. I also added a TL;DR at the bottom to quickly summarize it for ya.

This series is devoted to telling you all the fun I get to endure when it comes to every car I've ever owned. I've only been driving for 8 years and already had more car problems than all of my friends combined.

Today's part in the series is going to detail my 2004 Dodge Neon SE. This was my first official car that I owned and paid for by myself. I purchased this one from a local car dealership and paid cash. The car had 92,000 miles when purchased in 2008 (yeah, over 4 years time it had 92,000 miles). According to the CarFax that I received, the car was a fleet vehicle and had no prior accidents. The car was the base model and had no amenities beyond A/C but man was that A/C awesome!

I can honestly attest that this was the most reliable car that I have owned. It didn't have any major problems until later in life and lasted me 4 years with minimal problems. I went through 2 entire sets of tires in 3 years. The original set appeared to be the ORIGINAL tires. I replaced those within the first few months due to the inability to stop in the rain. The next set only lasted me a year but because I purchased a warranty on them through discount tire (Highly recommended!) I got my next set of tires (Pirelli P4) for only $365 total! So in three years time though I spent over $800 on tiny tires for my tiny car.

The first real issue that I ran into in the car was it's inability to accelerate to highway speed without feeling like I was going to be run over like roadkill. Yes, it was a 2.0L I4 with only 132 hp (probably closer to 90 by the time I got it). But when driving to work required the interstate and the semis hogged the merge lane while driving 70 mph, it didn't exactly give me great feelings. Most days it felt like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool and having no idea how to swim. Each day of highway entry was nothing but terror. Once up to highway speed, things were fine and I would get about 27 mpg.

The first mechanical issue happened to be a fun one. It started on a Wal-Mart run with my dorm mate, we were heading down the road when suddenly the car started to throw the revs through the roof and then drop them to the point of killing itself. It did this so randomly that I had a hard time guessing whether I needed to slow the car down or whether I needed to give it more gas to keep it running. I stopped at the nearest gas station and had the car towed to a nearby car repair shop. Within an hour I had the answer, a cam sensor had gone out. With no other options and with the inability to take it elsewhere, I paid the man $365 for a cam sensor replacement. And the problem was solved!

The next mechanical issue that I had happened after my next oil change. I am from Indianapolis and resided at Purdue University during school. For one of the weekends when I was down in Indy, I decided to get my oil changed. No problem right? WRONG. Not only did the car start leaking oil after this (they stripped the drain plug and forced a different threaded drain plug in it...needless to say I didn't go back) but it also developed a fun issue when I made it back to Purdue (1 hour 30 minutes away). It decided that it was going to throw the revs through the roof. It didn't matter what I did, the revs were full bore! I luckily was near a parking lot when it happened but the car was producing so much power that the brakes couldn't hold it and if I threw it in neutral or park the revs would sky rocket to the point of endangering the car further. I unfortunately had to turn the car off in drive and then readjust the shifter to neutral and push it to a parking spot. I called up the place that did the oil change and I made them tow my car back and fix it. They were none to pleased because they ended up towing it 3 hours total for a loose air filter intake. Serves them right though.

My next issue wasn't so much mechanical as it was a product of the environment. It happened not even a week after the previous issue. It happened to snow on campus and I knew I didn't want to be driving in it so I parked the car and left it for the week, just taking buses and walking when necessary. I came to find out that people of the college age are somewhat immature and don't care about other people's things. When I finally decided to drive my car again I saw that some hoodlums had written things on people's car in the snow. Mine looked like it had been written on and wiped out. I didn't think much of it. After getting to my destination, I noticed that the snow had gone away and revealed a secret from the morons. A GIANT DENT. And calling it a dent was putting it mildly. The car had a life sized imprint of a fat man in my hood. The hood went from being bubble shaped to being concave. I was so livid that I called the dorm and told them the issue and they said there wasn't much they could do other than turn the information over to the cops for record keeping. My next step involved a mallet and an open hood. I wailed on that sucker and got most of the hood back into shape except for two 5-inch sections that were inverted over support beams that were unreachable by mallet. Needless to say, I never let snow sit on my car again.

And now that I've realized how much I've mentioned on this subject I feel that I should wrap it up. I will now tell the story that ended my time with my sweet, innocent little Neon. It was an evening in the dead of winter, my soon-to-be wife and I were helping mentor a FIRST robotics team at her school and we had just finished up for the night. We decided we would head back to Indy for a dinner and we would meet there (we both drove separately because she works at the school and I just met her there to help with the mentoring). We left the school with me following her to the restaurant. We made it out of the little town but just barely before my car begins to act up. Not even 2 minutes after leaving the school my car begins to start revving with no reaction from the transmission. I decide to slow down the revs and see if it will catch, nothing. At this point, I'm looking for a place to get off the road and I'm unfortunate enough to be in a stretch of the roadway that is uphill with guardrails and two lane traffic with no space to pull off. I turn on my hazards and watch as my car slows from 45 -> 30 -> 20 -> 10. I'm hearing honking behind me (as if they can't see my hazards and realize I'm having a problem...inconsiderate morons). I finally make it to the top of the hill while only going about 5 mph and I'm able to pull off into a clearing on the side of the road. I immediately call my Ladyfriend...no answer, I call my father...no answer, I call my mother...no answer, and so on and so forth until I've called everyone within a 40 mile radius that I know. Apparently, everything was against me at this point. I get out of my car to see the damage. I pop the hood and smoke billows out. At this point, I'm in a stage of panic because everyone I know didn't answer their phone, my car is unable to move itself, I'm off the edge of a major thoroughfare and my car is officially smoking very badly. I look under my car and it's no better. It appears as though it has flushed the transmission and then some. I can't move my car because the only place to go to is across the busy street to a church parking lot and it's dark out so moving a dead vehicle by myself seems suicidal. Finally, Ladyfriend calls me back and is now concerned for my well-being as well as upset at me because of my terrible luck with cars (as if I had asked for this to happen and sabotaged it myself). Eventually, she and my parents as well as her parents show up. We push the car across the street and park it. We get the flatbed out here and eventually find out that the radiator of the car had sprung a leak and it just so happened to leak into the transmission of the car, thereby nuking all soft parts and making it useless.

I had no money at the time and was forced to sell it with the brand new Pirelli P4's that I'd just purchased not even 2 months earlier, as well as the new HD radio that I'd gotten for my birthday 5 months before. All-in-all this led to a very sad point when I had no car for 3 months. I did however, sell the car for $1900 and made more money off of it than I even thought possible.

I really liked this car but knew that I didn't have the means to fix her problems. This led to a downward spiral over the next 8 months. I ended up with another 3 different cars in 6 months...Not fantastic.

TL;DR - I bought my first car, it worked well, had a lot of miles. Car had bad tires, replaced them twice. Car had general revving issues all not related to each other, all fixed. Moronic college students concaved hood, mostly fixed. Car died on one sad January morning from radiator leak to trans. Generally sad because good car, unfortunate circumstances.

If you read all of this, thank you, but seriously, you should re-evaluate your time spent staring at a screen. If you didn't, I don't blame you and I hope the TL;DR helped somewhat summarize it for ya!

Until next time, this has been another day in the life of Firewrx234!