"Well, looks like your oil pump isn't working."
"Ok," I said. "Can you fix that today?"
"Well, looks like it hasn't been working for a while now." The mechanic chuckled dollar signs. "You're gonna need a new engine."
"Oh." I smiled. "Good thing it's still under warranty."
He looked stricken.
It took them two weeks to replace the engine. In the meantime, I still needed to get to work and school and such. My dad said he'd take care of it. There was a place a couple miles away called Rent-A-Cheapie. The guy bought still-drivable heaps from junk yards and rented them for a fraction of what Enterprise and all those guys charged. I got back from work that night to find a battered and rusted VW Bug sitting in front of the house.
"Don't drive it," my mom advised.
My father rolled his eyes. "It's just a little touchy," he said.
I decided to try it out.
So, I forced the door open, managed to coax the seat into something I could fit in, key in ignition, foot on clutch, a pump of gas, and I turned the key. There was a loud explosion, the engine turned over once and died. I tried again. Again the backfire, but this time it turned over a dozen times before it died. Once again: the backfire, the almost catch, and it turned over another dozen times and died. And then started back up. On its own. It hovered in a sort of half-life for a bit, the engine speeding up and slowing down, almost dying, but then coming back to life. After a few minutes it settled into an inconsistent but undeniable idle.
Okay. Here goes. I put it in gear. No. I fought with it, and won, and it went into first gear, and I let up on the clutch. And it died.
But then it came back. And I slowly coaxed the car into motion. We went about 20 feet that way when the gas pedal dropped to the floor, the engine revved to a high-pitched whir, and the car shot off down the street.
Our street is a dead end. There's a 4 foot drop at the end of it, and then a corn field. The clutch was unresponsive, and I stomped on the brake, enough to get the car turned around in the circle at the end of the street and headed back toward the house. As I approached the house, I threw the emergency brake on, tugged at the stick shift until it popped out, and pulled the key out of the ignition.
The car squealed to a halt, but the engine kept going. Spluttering and backfiring.
We towed it back to Rent-A-Cheapie, and he gave me an Audi station wagon. That one ran fine. But the oil light came on the next morning. I took it back to the place, but the guy didn't want to give me a different car.
"Just put a quart of oil in every time the light comes on," he said. "Throw the empties in the back seat, and I'll take the cost of the oil off the rental."
Ok. Well, it took a quart of oil the first day. By the third day, it was taking 2 quarts a day. Soon, I had to put in 3 quarts every time I drove the thing. I just bought a couple cases of Quaker State and kept them in the trunk. And then one day, driving up Rt 202 (not five minutes after filling the damned thing with oil), the oil light came on and the engine stopped abruptly, and I coasted the car onto the shoulder of the highway.
We towed it back to Rent-A-Cheapie. The owner looked at the heap of empties in the back and we decided to just call it even.
My Rabbit was done a couple days later, and it gave me no problems for years. It ran perfectly fine until my dad decided to give it away to my brother's friend's girlfriend, because my mom wanted a new car. I wasn't terribly thrilled to give up my car, but my father was insistent. They'd already started the paperwork before they'd mentioned the plan to me.
Two weeks later, the Rabbit was dead. The brakes gave out suddenly, and Kaj unexpectedly ran a red light through a busy intersection.
Fortunately, the suicide caused no human injuries.