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January 3, 2012 / bikesbytesbites

RIP Toyota Tercel 1981-2011

I was driving to my sister’s in Annapolis for Christmas Eve dinner.  When I was about 1/4 mile from her house, the car started to shake uncontrollably.  I slowed down to under 15 mph, and the shaking stopped.  Over 15 mph, shake, rattle and roll.

I parked the car on the street. Out of the question to try to get it fixed then, even if something were open, with dinner waiting. Also out of the question to try to get it fixed on Christmas Day.  So, my sister drove me to the New Carrolton metro, and I schlepped back to Annapolis in the middle of the week (via folding bicycle and Dillon commuter bus). The car started, and drove just fine as long as I stayed under 15 mph.  With my brother-in-law following me, with his hazard lights flashing, we made it the two miles to the service station. A few hours later we had the diagnosis: broken (rusted through) rear left control arm.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the fix, since the part was unobtainable through normal channels. (Last time I had to replace a part on that 1981 Tercel, two years ago, it needed to be fabricated.  The time before that, 10 years ago, it came from a junk yard.)  The guy at the service station urged me to try the find the control arm on the Internet.

However … in the time between driving the car to the station and getting the diagnosis, my brother-in-law and I had searched online for a replacement.  My leading candidate was a Honda Fit.  It just so happens that there is a Honda dealer in Annapolis, so, on our way to the New Carrolton metro, we stopped at the dealer to have a look.  That look spared my brother-in-law a drive to New Carrolton, since I drove home myself in my new Honda Fit.  I think it was the easiest sale that salesman ever made. (In my defense,  I’d been considering buying a Honda Fit for at least eight years, but was waiting for the time when I needed a new car. And my sister and brother-in-law have been urging me to get a new car for at least that long — one with air bags, that wouldn’t crumple on impact.)

Today, I stopped by the service station, to clear my stuff out of the Toyota and tell them they could junk it (boo hoo).  However, it turns out one of their employees would like it!  So, it’s not actually RIP, Tercel, but welcome to your new life, probably better cared for than ever before.  After all, the car only has 56,000 miles on it.  And if a professional can find or fabricate obsolete parts as they fail, or replace them before they fail, it’ll be a great deal.  Now, all I have to do is find the title …

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