Arctic Temperatures and Automotive Aggravation

Anyone who’s watched MTV’s Pimp My Ride before knows that how well a car runs is secondary to how much character it has. While sometimes a vehicle’s engine or maneuverability factors into character, people become just as easily attached to a car because of the tear in the passenger’s seat, the button missing from the stereo dials or the lock in the rear door that needs to be manually opened. Be it swanky or shabby, drivers take great pride in their cars’ perks and quirks. I once had a friend who convinced her father to spray paint the family’s second car, an old CJ7 Jeep, with camouflage colors to make it look like an army vehicle. Her father, having once been a Marine, happily agreed. In the seven years since the spray-painting episode, in spite of changed tastes, the military Jeep has grown to be a great source of pride for the family who fondly refer to it as “Sergeant Patton.” Another friend, the driver of a 1989 black Mercury Grand Marquis, feels an unlikely affinity towards her car. Giant dice and faded, felt interior give her car a retro feel, and riding behind the wheel of (what she refers to as) “the boat,” fills her with delight. I, too, have a deep affection towards my car. My reunion with my 2003 Volkswagen Passat 4-Motion W8 after a semester in Florence was more exciting than I ever imagined. I rode in a Passat when I was in Amsterdam and got a little nostalgic then, but I didn’t realize how much I missed my car while I was away. When I finally laid eyes on it, after many months of separation, my reaction was a m?elange of joy and pity. My Volkswagen was completely covered in snow and ice. I began to brush and scrape until I could finally open the door. When I sunk into the frosty seat and put the key in the ignition, I felt at home. I anxiously turned the key and much to my dismay, I got that awful sound of emptiness: the horrible non-sound of a dead battery. With a feeling of terrible disappointment, I went into the house and recruited my dad to come outside and jump my car. The ride back to school the next day was incredible. With beautiful weather, excellent music and my sister in the passenger’s seat, I took to the road with enthusiasm and pride – more than excited to be back in the driver’s seat. I found myself turning the stereo down at certain moments so that I could hear the engine respond to the directives my foot was giving via the gas pedal: that awesome sound of acceleration like the grunt a tennis player utters when he or she hits a powerful shot. I would throw the gear shift into Tiptronic mode (something I scarcely ever did before I left for Florence) to test the gears, and I accelerated hard on each curve to really test my car’s capacities. What a trip it was: “reunited, and it feels so good” (a lyric from an old Peaches & Herb song comes to mind). Then winter hit. It hit Hamilton particularly hard, as it often does. At first, my Passat handled January well. Its 4-Motion all-wheel-drive system came through like a champ. Two feet of snow? No problem! Then, one Monday, it happened. I went to turn the key…dead. This time it was different. I called Campus Safety but jumping it was not going to work. Volkswagen roadside assistance had to be called, and that was going to mean a tow truck gettting involved. “Are you and your vehicle in a safe location right now?” they asked. “Yes, I’m in the parking lot at my school.”An hour and a half later, a flat-bed truck arrived and my car was suddenly Fayetteville-bound. My stomach knotted and it felt like a friend had just been taken to the hospital. The Volkswagen shop was able to repair the damaged battery and cracked valve-pipe (one of the lines had frozen and cracked) and a week later, I had it back. But I know I’m not alone. Winter can be brutal and quite vengeful to vehicles. One friend of mine needed her car in a flash, only to discover that what she really needed was a jolt of electricity. Campus Safety to the rescue!The morning after a night in which the temperature had reached an obscene -30 degrees, I bumped into another friend who mentioned that the antifreeze in his Xterra had frozen!Just last week I was offered a ride in a car with two out-of-commission rear doors. The culprit? You guessed it – no amount of human force can pry open something that’s been iced shut! Nothing the first day of spring won’t cure.With personal experience and knowledge of a host of other students’ problems, may I suggest: be nice to your car, start it every day, don’t let it sit under snow and ice. That way you won’t lose your buddy or have to call for emergency surgery.