An Automotive New Year   3 comments

We made it to 2013. The beginning of a new age, at least according to the Mayans. I’m biting off quite a bit this year as far as New Year’s resolutions go. I plan to lose about 40 lbs., get my finances in order, get organized, give away some things, sell other things, live more simply, and renovate the bathroom. Most importantly, though, I want to get all of my cars sorted out as best I can.

It’s easy to have a pretty nice car that slowly becomes a beater due to normal wear and tear. All of the small things ad up — every scratch, ding, and stain. As alcoholic/poet Charles Bukowski lamented:

“It’s not the large things that send a man to the madhouse … No it’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to a madhouse, not the death of his love, but a shoelace that snaps”

Well the shoelaces have been snapping and all of our cars now fall somewhere on the shabbiness spectrum. I am good about normal maintenance — oil changes, checking fluids, etc. — but not always so great about fixing those nagging little things that add up.

1972 Saab 96
My current daily driver 1972 Saab 96 — missing a mud flap.

All of this will change this year. How will I do this? By spending at least a couple minutes every day fixing something on one of my cars, no matter how small.

I had an epiphany while driving home from work last night in my 1972 Saab 96. I was thinking of the huge list of things I want to do to this car but how I don’t have much time or the desire to tear it apart completely to do them all. I was also thinking of my weight loss plan, to lose 43 lbs. at a rate of 2 lbs. a week which will put me at my goal in the beginning of June. As wonderful as it would be to lose the weight at once, it’s just not possible, it can only be done gradually, one day at a time. If I apply this same logic to my cars I can set a goal for fixing small things daily which will eventually add up to a much nicer vehicle. Brilliant!

Where to start? As you can see in the photo of the 96 above, it’s missing a rear mud flap on the driver’s side. I have no idea how this happened, it had both when I left for work one morning and by the time I got there half of one was missing. Oh well, they are made of 40+ year old rubber so I can’t expect them to last forever. Not a big deal functionally but it makes the car look kind of crappy and asymmetrical. The solution? Replace it with one from my parts stash. A ratchet, a wrench, two minutes, and voila, it’s done. Other easy fixes that will make this car better? Lubing the driver’s side door lock so I can lock it again, reattaching the passenger’s side mirror (I stole it temporarily for my 1964 96), fixing the interior light, and replacing a piece of missing interior door trim. All of these things add up.

And then there’s the car that’s supposed to my daily driver, a 1986 Saab 9000 Turbo that is currently leaking gearbox oil all over the street in front of my house. Well, this downtime while I wait to fix the leak will give me a chance to address some of the small things that have been bothering me. Overall it’s a pretty nice car for its age with no rust and only 100,000 miles. But the windshield washer nozzles are plugged, the door panel upholstery is sagging, and the plastic radiator end tank has a small crack. These are cheap and easy fixes that will make it so much nicer to drive daily once it goes back into service.

Saab door panel
Sagging door panel cloth in the 1986 9000 Turbo — no big deal but it looks like crap.

Finally, there is my wife’s daily driver, a 2001 Saab 9-5 Aero wagon. This is a bit of a rare car, being an Aero wagon with a 5-speed manual transmission — kind of the holy grail for Saab enthusiasts who have stuff and/or kids and dogs to haul around but still like to drive a fun, fast car. We bought it from a guy who lovingly cared for it with frequent leather treatments to the interior and regular clay bar treatments to the paint. And it was garaged.

Well, it’s been a great car for us and provided many good miles of service with normal maintenance. But it now stays parked on the street. In the city. Below a tree where it gets pooped on by birds. Despite staying on top of most of the mechanicals I’ve not kept up with all of the smaller things. I have managed to piece back the front air dam after it was rammed into a parking barrier one too many times. I replaced the cracked hazard switch. I removed the headlight wipers after they started doing their own thing. Those were nice small victories. But rust has started to take hold in certain areas, like in a quarter-sized spot on the fuel filler door and in the area between the rear wheels and doors (AKA the “dogleg”). The leather is getting worn on both front seats. The “AERO” badging is missing from the driver’s side front fender. And then there are the typical 9-5 HVAC vent issues — these will probably require more than just a few minutes to sort out.

Saab 9-5
The dreaded “dog leg” rust bubbling up on my wife’s 2001 Saab 9-5 Aero.

It’s time to get working on the master list of what needs to be done and start doing it. Tomorrow it begins with a single mud flap. I’ll report back on my progress.

Posted January 4, 2013 by jonathan in Car life, Swedish

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3 responses to “An Automotive New Year

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  1. Park the cars and start riding a bike to and from work. You will save on gas, reduce maintenance, and be working towards your weight loss goal at the same time.

  2. I could do that but I prefer counting calories and nice long walks during my lunch break. I don’t really want to die on my bike being hit by some moron talking on their cell phone. My morning commute is dangerous enough in a car.

  3. This is the kind of post where I tell myself, “Man, Jonathan has all of these cool cars! Why don’t I? Oh yeah. It’s a buttload of work to maintain just the little stuff. God forbid I start having a major problem with one.

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