When It Rains It Pours…

Rough idling? Check. Flashing check engine light? Also check.

Yeah, that’s bad news alright. Rough idling isn’t good obviously (and to be fair I had noticed a vibration on initial start every driving cycle, but didn’t see anything lighting up until tonight so I dismissed it) but a flashing check engine light? Well, anyone who knows the first thing about cars knows that’s about as bad as it gets. A flashing check engine light is a sign of the dreaded P03XX diagnostic trouble code, which indicates a cylinder misfire.

Of course, this is a highly dangerous situation and one that might not be correctible without sinking a shit ton of money into it and of course being car-less for another couple of weeks probably.

It seems what started off dreamy is quickly turning nightmare-ish. Why a German engineered technolgical marvel of a car is having major problems at only 47,000 miles when my old Ford (with the old backronyms “Found On Road Dead,” “Fix Or Repair Daily,” etc.) had almost 87,000 on it the day it was written off, and not once did I *EVER* see a check engine light on that thing. I mean *NEVER.*

Honestly, I just kind of had a sick feeling about that car over the weekend after what someone told me about VWs not lasting in the heat of southern US climate. My dad was quick to dismiss it and say I should look at it anyway. My gut told me to run, but I had my arm twisted into it by dad who took it for a test drive on Saturday while I was at the IndyCar race. Of course at the moment I test drove it and then subsequently drove it off the lot I was absolutely delighted that I had my arm twisted into it but now I’m not so delightful about it. I knew I should have gone for the 2017 Honda Fit I was looking at and had in my mind as the right choice – with only 3,000 miles on it at less than $15,000!!!! I guess I let the “fun factor” of the beefier and sportier yet four model years older Jetta GLI eclipse pure practicality in my mind and now I’m paying for it. Hard.

Hopefully there’s a way out of this. If it’s a simple fix, as per my extended service plan it’s a $100 deductible and the rest is covered. If it’s something serious and not really worth fixing, maybe I can convince them to take the car back? Who knows, but it looks like my relationship with this car could be very short-lived.

Oh well. I guess I was just meant to drive slow-ass boring cars. Bleh. Just one more shit-tastic piece of my shit-tastic life.

And people wonder why I wish I had never been born…


The Phoenix Rises

Out of the ashes of the tragedy that was the untimely demise of my Fiesta, the Phoenix rises and I am blessed with this gem:


I went backward two model years but way up in bells and whistles and driving experience. Sure it doesn’t have the same fuel mileage but damn it’s got some guts and is just a much more fun drive.

Really, you should have seen the look on my face the first time I gave it the juice and just took off. The clutch is super smooth, very easy on the leg, and engages at just the right point – not too high or too low. Responsive throttle, but the accelerator is floor mounted so you actually press the top of the pedal instead of the bottom. The only thing I don’t like about the car? No blind spot mirrors. I’m sure I can purchase those without too much cost though.

I guess everything does happen for a reason. I cried tears of anguish when I went to collect my things out of the Fiesta and say goodbye one last time. I’m crying as I write this post, but for the total opposite reason. This is a far nicer car than I ever thought I’d be driving in this life.

Sure, there’s still a grieving process, but having this will definitely ease it along and in due time I will be back to normal. In the meantime, I’m going cruising for a bit. Catch you soon.

Rental Car Woes…

Not that I’m complaining about what kind of rental car I have, mind you. It’s actually a really nice rental – a 2017 Ford Focus. Pretty much the same as my Fiesta control-wise but slightly larger so it was nothing to adapt to it. Alas, the problem I have with this rental is the problem I have with every rental: the transmission.

I know this is foreign to most Americans, but my Fiesta has one of these, if anyone even knows what these are anymore: a manual transmission.

Yes, I drive a manual. It’s all I’ve ever really known truth be told. The feeling of clutching and shifting is so natural to me now that I do it without a 2nd thought, and herein lies the problem: since it is 2nd nature to me I attempt to clutch and shift in an automatic even. This has led to me locking up the brakes in my rental THREE TIMES because I’ve reached for an imaginary clutch and clipped the huge brake pedal with my clutch (left) foot. Note that in a manual transmission the brake pedal is much smaller to accommodate the clutch pedal (which is the same size as the brake pedal).

I already miss my manual transmission. I personally will never own anything else. They get better fuel mileage (assuming a skilled driver), last longer and are just plain more fun, not to mention for me it’s a safety factor in that it helps keep me focused on the task at hand vs. drifting off (an autistic thing). I discussed this in a previous post.

I guess I should be glad to be still mobile but it’s driving me crazy in the meantime. It could always be worse I suppose.

Do you prefer an automatic or a manual? Can you even drive a manual? What do you think?

EDIT 1:42 PM CST: Just got a call from Progressive, repairs on my car should be complete a week from today. I can deal with that.



After a long 8 days of separation, I was reunited with my Ford Fiesta at around 7:30 this morning. It’s good as new.

Once again, hat’s off to Progressive for their amazing customer service. Going through their Concierge Service Center made everything as quick and painless as possible. They kept me mobile, kept me updated and got it fixed fast (with the assistance of an in-network body shop that is).

Now if I could ever find the responsible party that would be the icing on the cake but I don’t look for that to happen. It’s too difficult to prove without surveillance footage. Oh well. At least I was only out a $250 uninsured motorist deductible.

A Tale of an Incompetent Driver and Impeccable Customer Service

Everyone who knows me knows I regard my Ford Fiesta as one of my best and most loyal friends. It gets me where I want to go in relatively good style (for a “mini” sized car it actually is quite sleek and stylish) and, with its 1.0L Turbo/Direct Injection I3 EcoBoost engine, with great fuel efficiency and a surprising amount of power. So needless to say whenever something happens to my car I get very upset.

So that’s where this tale gets started. On the evening of Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 sometime between 5:30 PM and 8:00 PM one of the low-life hood rats who lives in the complex (or one of their low-life hood rat friends) backed or side swiped their red car into the driver side front of my parked (completely within the slot) baby. Unfortunately I was not there to see it when it happened but was left to assess the damage after the fact. The low-life hood rat responsible of course didn’t leave a note or anything (not that I expected them to – they don’t know how to behave like decent human beings to begin with and apparently they don’t know how to fucking drive either). This was the result of their idiotic driving:


At first the damage didn’t look all that bad. Just a bit of a dent right? Hah. Wrong. When I attempted to open the driver door I could only budge it maybe an inch. From there it caught on the quarter panel. So I got in on the passenger’s side and took it for a short test drive to evaluate it and that’s when the problems really started showing up – on a big bump the bent panel is catching and squealing the tire. Not a good thing. Oh shit, this is more serious than it looks.

Luckily the courtesy officers were making their rounds while I was evaluating the damage and wrote up an incident report for me, so that was taken care of. As it was a hit-and-run I had no idea who did it other than to know it was a red car from the paint transfer. I inspected the red cars in the lot for similar paint transfer and dent patterns but did not find any. Just my luck right?

So then I report the incident to my insurance company (Progressive) and within two hours of opening for business today I had a claims representative contact me. We went over details and after it was determined that I was not at fault (no surprise there right) I was told this would be covered under uninsured motorist coverage (half the deductible of collision coverage) and that they had a concierge service center within 5 miles of my home address. Makes things so much easier – they handle all the work for me while all I have to do is drop my car off and pick up a rental. I figured it would be a couple of days before I could but no, they got me in same day! I’m getting my rental this afternoon and they’re taking care of the rest for me.

So this sad saga does have a bit of a happy ending. That was some serious customer service right there. Same-day turnaround, minimal deductible and super-efficient claims process. Progressive just completely earned my loyalty with the way they handled this. I should have my car back in fairly short order but in the meantime I will still be mobile and all is included. What more could you ask for?

Well, maybe if I could find the low-life hood rat who made this a necessity that would be nice but I’m not holding my breath. If I do though, oh baby they’ve got another thing coming: criminal charges and I’ll sue them for my deductible (plus I imagine Progressive will go after that person’s ass to recoup what they pay into the claim). I doubt I could get that lucky but who knows?

We shall see. In the meantime, I can rest easy knowing this is being taken care of swiftly.

Hankook Tires: A Horror Story

I’ll be the first to admit I absolutely love my little Ford Fiesta. At just 2,500 pounds and change and 148 lb./ft. of turbocharged direct injection goodness and getting as much as 45 MPG on road trips, it’s probably the best car I’ve ever owned. Yeah, it’s nothing super special but the price was right, it drives well and it’s a manual transmission – what’s not to love?

Well, how about the OEM tires? Seriously. In order to maximize the fuel efficiency of the SFE (Super Fuel Efficiency) model Ford decided to pair the 1.0L I3 engine with low-rolling resistance tires. Well that’s all fine and good – but at least they could have picked something better than the shitty ass Hankook H426s that come stock on the car! At just 26,000 miles, one of the tires was on the brink of catastrophic failure and the other three were starting to head that way.

I was lucky I noticed the one tire that was about to go because if I hadn’t noticed it when I did I might not have a car today. I noticed it in Little Rock. The left front was showing significant tread separation and had I not noticed it when I did I’d have probably had a blowout (on a drive tire no less!) on the way home from Little Rock. Yeah, not good. Luckily I did notice it and got to the nearest tire shop (which happened to be a Firestone – a nice reputable brand) and got that thing replaced.

Well, it wasn’t but a few hundred miles later that the other front tire started really showing signs of impending failure (same thing – tread separation around the entire circumference of the tire) and the two rear tires weren’t that far behind. Not wanting to take a chance, I completed the transition to Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter tires and chucked those Hankooks in the fucking trash!

There is absolutely no reason for a tire to fail at 27,000 miles under normal driving conditions. None. Hell, back when I was a broke college student I put some cheap ass Walmart brand (Douglas Performance) tires on my ’00 Focus ZX3 and even those lasted me nearly 70,000 miles! You mean to tell me cheap ass Walmart tires outlast a big name tire like Hankook? I don’t buy it for a second.

If it is a silver lining out of all this, I noticed impending failure of the tires before they had a chance to fail and I acted accordingly. I won’t say I’m a car nerd or anything, but I do meticulously take care of my vehicles – maintaining the correct tire pressures, checking oil levels regularly and changing engine oil, rotating tires and changing filters as required per the specified maintenance schedule. I’m a big believer in protecting big investments, no matter what they are.

Another silver lining? Ford better fucking reimburse me for the cost of the set of tires. I doubt I’ll get it all back because the Firestones were predictably more expensive than the Hankooks but I’ll be happy if all I’m out of pocket is the difference of what it would cost to do a direct OEM tire replacement. I’ll pay that little extra for a better tire.

Oh, and so far, the Firestones have proven superior – they’re quieter, they handle better and have better wet traction (something that really showed up with the recent deluges we’ve had here). I’ve not had an opportunity to do a direct apples-to-apples comparison of fuel economy but as the tires I opted for are also low rolling resistance I don’t see why it would change those numbers. The only downside is these have a lower speed rating than the Hankooks, but I don’t drive 118 MPH on a consistent basis so that doesn’t affect me at all (even though my car is surprisingly capable of that speed).

Anyway, all I have to say is don’t buy Hankook tires. Just don’t do it. Oh, and Ford, please for the love of everything good switch to a different OEM tire for the Fiesta SFE. It’s too good of a car to put such a terrible tire on.

The Joys of a Manual Transmission

As I was cruising the town this evening and rowing through the gears on my little Ford Fiesta (I know, it ain’t much but it gets me around) it occurred to me just how many North Americans in my age bracket will never experience the joy of driving a vehicle with a manual transmission.

In the words of Bob Seger, “Call me a relic, call me what you will; say I’m old-fashioned say I’m over the hill,” but there’s just something so romantic about a row-your-own gearbox. Whether it’s manipulating the clutch to achieve the right amount of slippage to get going from a standstill or just the feeling you get when the transmission glides fluidly into the next higher gear, nothing connects human to machine like a clutch pedal and a stick or column shifter.

Anyway, not only is a manual transmission vital to my driving experience but also my driving safety. Now how does it affect my safety? Well as a manual requires you to be more engaged while you’re driving, it’s a lot harder to let your mind wander. I’m the typical autistic drifter in that I drift into deep thought even doing everyday tasks and “zone out.” Actually, the only accidents I’ve personally caused came when I was driving an automatic vehicle. I’ve never caused an accident in a manual. Coincidence? I think not.

Alas, if this is one of those “autistic survival” things I’m perfectly OK with that. Due to the relative unpopularity of manual transmission vehicles in North America whenever I’m car shopping I normally find fantastic deals. My Fiesta was brand new but already a year model old when I bought it last January. It had sat on the lot for months because nobody wanted it. As such, I was able to score the vehicle $4,000 off MSRP and put that savings toward an extended warranty. Hell of a score too, it might be a mere subcompact but it has some nice features and the 1.0L turbo/direct injection inline 3-cylinder puts out a lot of power and torque and gets amazing fuel economy – I’ve gotten as high as 44 MPG highway on regular 87 octane Chevron/Texaco gas (compare to 37 EPA for the 1.6L automatic). Oh, and this particular engine is only available with a manual transmission. Sorry passers-up, your loss, my score. 😉

Anyway, I’m weird I know. Comes with the territory. Don’t sue me.