Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.
I drive a seventeen-year-old car that is affectionately named "Old Reliable" on the grounds that at least one of those descriptors is always true. My reason for driving an old, if not entirely reliable, vehicle have been centered around home ownership. I picked this car up almost two years ago with the plan that no car payment and minimal insurance would get me into a home that much faster. Since mortgage payments on the northside are far cheaper than rent, once this car kicks the bucket I'll use that extra cash flow towards New Reliable.
Just before closing on my house, Old Reliable wouldn't start and she was leaking engine coolant like a sieve. So the car sat there until after I closed, and I spent the summer biking. Based on a trusted referral, O.R. limped down to south Minneapolis to Frenz Auto to get back up and running. Battery connections were tightened, some new fuses were put in, and a water pump was replaced. Frenz did great work at reasonable prices, but I felt guilty that I wasn't taking my car to a northside shop.
So when it came time for more work on Old Reliable, I took her down the street to...
...Monte's Auto at 26th and Broadway. Now my car doesn't just let anyone work on her. So for her first date with Monte's it was just an oil change, air filter, and headlight--enough that the shop knew she was interested, while still making it clear she was to be treated with respect.
Then came the kicker. I was taking Old Reliable down Central Avenue NE when the lights flickered and the engine cut out on me. I pulled over and parked, and the car wouldn't start. The battery connections apparently weren't the only problem. Old Reliable needed a new alternator. While I was waiting for the tow, I priced that work out with Frenz. Their quote was certainly reasonable, and about $50 lower than what I was hoping would be the cost. I had some time to kill, so I looked around for the oil change receipt and gave Monte's Auto a call.
Monte had me on hold while he was pricing out the part, and just then the tow truck driver showed up. It was a race against the clock. If Monte could give me a lower price, that's where Old Reliable would go. If not, we'd be back at Frenz. The car was fully hooked up for the tow. I was still on hold. "Where to, pal?" The driver wanted to know. Tow truck drivers are not known for their patience, so I had only seconds to answer. I had a reputable, reasonably-priced location in mind, but could Monte come through in the clutch?
Yes, he did. The quote he gave me was over a hundred dollars cheaper than that of Frenz. As much as I trust Frenz, the price differential was too great to pass up, especially around Christmas. We were off to Monte's. With the new (to me) alternator installed, Old Reliable runs far more smoothly. Since then, O.R. has been back for a new tire and an alignment checkup, with some minor brake work scheduled for the new year.
Probably after another summer of biking, I'll get around to picking up a car that is more reliable for me than for my mechanic. Until then, I'll take this one to Monte's Auto.