Today has been a busy day on the phone, dealing with my mother’s car.
The mechanic called me (the first time) about the tires and the noise in the back.
Note that I said “tires” – plural.
The one tire in the front will need to be replaced. The bead didn’t just break. It was gone. Wire was exposed. It cannot be repaired.
While he was looking at the back, however, he noticed air was lealing out the opposite tire in the rear. This is the one that was flat when I picked the car up from the garage. We’d pumped it up and it had been holding air fine ever since. At least it was, while just sitting in the garage.
He checked that one, and the bead was damaged on there. This was the one new tire on my mother’s car, having been replaced last summer after my mother had another one of her incidents. I believe that was the one that finally convinced her to stop driving entirely.
He then asked me how old the tires were. I didn’t know, but I knew my mother would not have replaced them (other than the one she damaged) since she bought the car.
No surprise that he recommended replacing all the tires.
Unfortunately, another thing my mother would not have done was the brakes.
While checking the tires, he saw the brakes were in bad shape. Especially the rear brakes. The front brakes need to be done, too, but they can wait a bit longer. The rear ones shouldn’t.
(Oh, he did find something that he thought might be the cause of the noise in the back I was hearing. The only thing he found that was loose was a heat shield over the muffler. He just took it off.)
He still hadn’t had a chance to hear the noise the engine was making, though. He did look up the parts cost for the rear brakes, at least, before calling me. After we talked for a while, he said he would make some calls to see what he could find for tires, then call me back with some estimates.
That gave him a chance to check the engine.
When I told him about the noise, I’d commented that the sound seemed to be coming from the belt. Based on my description of what I was hearing, he said it sounded like a pulley.
We were both right.
Three pulleys and the serpentine belt need replacing.
To get that, plus the rear brakes, done will cost about $700, including the labour.
He could only find two types of tires in stock anywhere. The total cost to have the new tires installed and balanced, including labour, would be $950 for the mid range quality or $1150 for the higher end tires.
We aren’t in a position to spend that kind of money on repairs. Especially on a car that isn’t even ours, and not when I am sure we’ll need to replace another bearing on our own van.
Time to make a call to my mother.
I also emailed with my brother, who had been trying to help my mother with the car in the years before we moved out here, and filled him in on all this. I could just “hear” his frustration in his responses. My mother has no understanding that you can’t just drive a vehicle and expect it to never need anything done to it. I’ve had a few conversations with her in the past, just in talking about things I’ve needed to do with our own vehicle, trying to explain to her the sorts of maintenance that needs to be done every few years, so that little problems don’t become big problems. I’ve had the same conversation trying to explain maintenance on the house and property, too. She has great difficulty understanding this. My brother is pretty sure my mother’s car still has it’s factory brakes. It’s a 2007, with over 200,000 km on it. That’s a long time for one set of brakes! If the car had ever had any oil changes since my mom bought it, it would have been because my brother arranged it.
Eventually, I got through to my mother and told her about the car, and the estimates to get it repaired. My mother didn’t really comment about the cost (other than to start going on about how garages take advantage of women, so she needed to talk to my brother…), but said that it was time to think about whether the car was worth fixing at all. She started talking about how it has been nothing but trouble for her, and so on. There had been some unusual problems with it, but those turned out to be because it used to be a leased vehicle at some point in its past, and had a security device hidden in it that was sporadically preventing the car from starting. Mostly, though, her expectation was that a car should never, ever, have problems, and if it did, there was something wrong with it. To her, regular maintenance is the same as “something wrong with it”. I had to sort of interject and explain to her that things just wear out over time, and that things like brakes and tires should be replaced every few years anyhow. The car itself checks out as sound. As long as it’s taken care of, it’ll last a good long time.
In the end, she said she would phone my brother and talk to him about it, which was fine by me. I knew she would get good advice from him.
I haven’t heard back from her yet, but I did get a call from my brother. He thinks he has convinced her that yes, the car is worth fixing, and is pretty sure she is willing to pay for it.
Of course, the conversation was not that simple.
After assuring her that it’s a good little car that’s worth fixing, my mom started talking about how she was thinking of giving it to me and maybe paying for the tires, too. My brother pointed out that this doesn’t really help me any. The car would just be left still sitting at the garage, because I can’t afford to fix the rest. I’d already told her earlier that I have to focus on keeping our own vehicle maintained, and that’s why I had to call her about paying for repairs her vehicle. I guess it didn’t stick. Then she talked about giving it to another family member, and my brother pointed out that they don’t need it. I use the vehicle to drive her around, so it’s better if it stays the way things are.
Basically, she was trying to find ways to foist the cost of fixing the vehicle onto others by giving it away, and trying to make out like she was being generous by doing this.
It was a strange call.
Still, it does look like she might be willing to cover the cost of repairs on her car.
One thing my brother recommended that I have to remember to talk to the garage about: moving away from the low profile tires completely. They cost a lot more to repair or replace, are terrible on gravel roads, and get damaged a lot more easily. Even with having to replace the rims, they should be easy to find used, and may end up costing less than getting new of the same tires – and will be less trouble in the future.
Whatever my mom decides, I hope she lets me know soon, so I can have something to tell the garage!