Congratulations, car buyer. You are now the proud owner of a twenty-year-old Volvo station wagon. It’s rusty, I know. I washed it once in the three years that I’ve owned it. In the right light, I’m sure there is a shine, somewhere, unless you are broken down on the side of the road in the middle of the night during a new moon. If so, check the fuses; they probably blew again.This car has always had a problem with starting and stopping. I’ve sat there for hours at a time turning the key, checking the fuses, jumping the battery, tightening the belts, pulling the spark plugs, tapping on the starter with a hammer, honking the horn, siphoning anti-freeze, rotating the tires.
Despite its depraved sense of humor in must-start situations, I would dare say, to use the Adirondack vernacular, this car runs like a raped ape. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, you should know this is not your average grocery getter. I used this car as one would use a draft horse, except I whipped it more. I loaded the back with lots and lots of fieldstones. I hauled cordwood. I carried eight hundred pounds of cement at a time down fifteen miles of bumpy back roads, periodically bottoming out and giving the muffler a lustrous shine.
By now, you may have noticed a few of the car’s idiosyncrasies and design flaws. For example, if you roll the driver’s side window down past halfway, even by an eighth of an inch, it won’t come back up. Do not muscle it. Instead, completely disassemble the door and place the window back on track. Also, after a heavy downpour, the taillights will fill with rainwater and the bulbs will turn blue and disintegrate. Periodically remove the fixtures, dump them and replace the bulbs if necessary. If you forget, an officer of the law will remind you. Do you smell exhaust? I always did. The only remedy is roll down a few windows. Halfway, of course.
Should something break, and it will, now is the time to learn a thing or two about automotive repair. Have a hammer handy. The hammer is the most misunderstood tool in the craft of mechanics. Many frown upon its use. Contrary to popular belief, a well-placed and properly timed whack can, in fact, fix most things. You tried leverage, you attempted to fight the part free, you cursed the car and its abject existence, and possibly contemplated setting the mass afire. But, wait! Hit it with the hammer. Either it comes free, or you may have caused severe, irreparable damage. As a car owner, you must know that these things happen.
One final precaution: beware of the alternator. It is untrustworthy. I replaced the part on five separate occasions with both new parts and used ones. For whatever reason, the car rejects alternators like the human body rejects pig kidneys. This is why you should always carry an extra alternator, a jump box, a handful of spare bulbs and fuses, a decent plot-driven book, a comfortable stool, a thick blanket, a fishing pole with a quality lure, four gallons of potable water, 3 lemon wedges, an incendiary device, a portable bicycle, and a decent repairman. If the radio cuts off, immediately power down every non-essential electrical component, and step on it. You might have a few miles of juice, you might not. Good luck and Godspeed.
By the way, the emergency brake is broken.