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Transplant Athlete
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
  Requiem For A Cavalier

I was up in New Jersey this weekend for a wedding. On the drive up, my Chevrolet Cavalier rolled through the 200,000 mile mark. I had recently calculated that the car cost me around 20 cents a mile to operate (cost of the car, gas, insurance, repairs, etc). Of all the cars I've ever driven, that Cavalier was my favorite. Sure the BMW M Roadster was a blast to drive and had heated leather seats, but it was expensive to maintain and was prone to problems plus I thought the exterior looked awkward.

The Cavalier was my first new car. I built my first business on the back of that car. I moved my possessions to Virginia in that car. I took my wife to the Drive-In Movies in that car. It lasted 200,000 miles on minimal maintenance and with virtually no rust.

I know what Motor Trend had to say about the Cavaliers - noisy, uncomfortable, plastic, underpowered, etc., and some of those may have even been true. But, there were small details that really stood out to me. The backs of handles were textured, giving them a pleasant feel. The car was reliable, cheap, and got excellent gas mileage (better than most cars today, 13 years later). Sometimes I find myself admiring the curve of the roof line, it's a beautiful arc. There are large radius' in places that let me know the car was designed entirely in a CAD program.

I'm sad to report that on the drive home, as I entered Maryland, the warning lights started to blink on my dashboard, first the little battery, then the brakes, then the airbags. By the time I got to Baltimore, my radio had gone dead. By the time I made it to the DC Beltway, the car was trying to stall on me. I coasted for awhile and the car seemed ok, I drove a little bit further, then coasted for awhile. But it finally died altogether (200,300 miles) at the ramp to 270 North(and I mean on the RAMP to 270 North - If you were stuck in traffic, I apologize). AAA sent a tow truck and dropped the CAV at my house.

In running condition, the blue book on the Cavalier is around $1000. I think the problem is the Alternator, which is a $100 part that I could probably replace myself. If I fix the alternator, I should really fix the Head Gasket. If the cylinder head is warped or cracked, that's a $200 part. The gasket and bolts would run around $40. So, do I dump a couple hundred in to the car and hope the engine holds together for another 100,000 miles? Do I spend $6k - $12k to convert it to electric? Or do I spend $20k+ for a new car?

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Comments:
After charging the battery for three days, it started right up. So, I definitely think it's the alternator.

Lou
 
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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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