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Car Talk


I came from, among MANY other things, a car family. Before I could talk, I was whisked to the Chicago Auto Show (a yearly tradition in Casa de la Sausage), and one of my earliest memories is of stealing a Sharpee Marker and decorating the inside of my uncle’s painstakingly restored 1969 Stingray with my finest doodles. It’s a wonder I made it past my first birthday.

Let’s pretend that I’m in a car, okay?

To me, there’s nothing more intoxicating than getting out on the open road, shifting seamlessly from fourth to fifth gear and just going. Seeing where the road takes me. Letting my mind crawl alongside the wheels while I roam the roads, my skull cavity blissfully empty and my heart filled with the happiness that only wandering can bring me.

I don’t often get the chance to do that anymore, because my minivan, although practical, doesn’t evoke the same sort of wanderlust that my cherry red sports car does. The gears don’t scream as I red line right before I shift from first to second, the engine doesn’t lurch comfortingly with every shift, and when it comes to gripping the road like a glove, well, the minivan always feels like it’s one toke over the line (sweet Jesus).

Yeah, I’m a wanderer.


I’ve always meant to take a class on car maintenance. I know they offer one at the community college nearby and I’ve always thought that I should know how my car works. Especially since I got ripped off. What, ME bitter?

It’s happened a couple of times, where I’ve been taken for a ride (heh) because I simply didn’t know any better and each time it’s made me Furious George later on.

The first time, I nearly bought a rear-wheel drive sports car to be driven in the Midwest all year round. The car weighed all of 4 pounds, and when I asked the salesman about it, he’s all, “Oh, you’ll be FINE in the winter!! It’s FRONT WHEEL DRIVE.” When I asked my friend’s father about it, he’s all, “I NEVER drive that car in the winter! It’s totally rear-wheel drive.”

When I called to chew out the salesperson to his manager for being a lying douchebag, the manager said, “Well, that’s YOUR fault for not knowing.” That’s a safety issue. And I was lied to. Way to be an upstanding citizen!

The next several times, it was all done at a major oil changing place. I’m sure it’s happened to most of us.

Oil Change Person: “There’s something wrong with xxhasfigbfsdKfg.”

Aunt Becky: “Huh?”

Oil Change Monkey: “I SAID there’s something wrong with wntuifdhsvfdosG.”

Aunt Becky: “..uh, okay.”

Oil Change Guy: “You need this fixed NOW.”

Aunt Becky: “Why?”

Oil Change Dickhead: “If you don’t, your car will EXPLODE and you will DIE!!!!!!!!!”

Aunt Becky: “Holy crap.”

Oil Change Jerk: “Pretty much if you don’t get this done, you’re an idiot and you’re killing yourself and hundreds of innocent children.”

Aunt Becky: “Wow. When you put it that way…”

Oil Change Manipulator: “Give me your credit card now.”

Aunt Becky: “..fine.”

Oil Change Guy: “That will be $4,000.”

Aunt Becky: “WHAT!?!!”

Oil Change Shyster: “Saving the world isn’t cheap, sucker.”


Because I do not want this to happen to any of my Pranksters, I have teamed up with Ford to do a Q and A with Cristina Rodriguez where I can ask her all about Car Maintenance. It’s going to be on Blog Talk Radio, which is pretty much going to win me an Oscar or something.

Ford wanted me to ask YOU (which is the part where YOU become celebrities) what you want to know about car maintenance or repair so that I can ask their expert. Or, if you have no specific questions, just, you know, talk about cars and stuff in the comments. I can totally pull an interview out of stuff you talk about. The more stuff you say, the better.

So pull up a seat next to Your Aunt Becky, I’ll pour you a nice glass of vodka (only if you’re not driving), and tell me what’s on your mind.

48 Comments to

“Car Talk”

  1. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:11 am Margaret Says:

    Night drives have taken me as far South as Mexico and as far North as San Francisco.

    They are also what caused me and my ex boyfriend to spend a night camped out in my car in between a truck stop and a motel six we couldn’t afford.

    The car broke down? Because at 18 I figured oil changes were optional. Had to have that sucker towed to the closest town (40 miles). Then we had to take the train home (10 hours.) Then I had to raise $3000 for a NEW ENGINE.

    And then we broke up, and I went alone to retrieve the car.

    Husband and I, we ALWAYS change the oil.

  2. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:11 am Chris in PHX Says:

    You could start by asking her why my Lincoln LS is such an unreliable PIECE OF SHIT!!!! Oh yeah and SCREW YOU Sanderson Ford/Lincoln/Mercury

  3. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:16 am AmyBlam Says:

    I had an oil change place once purposefully fuck up my car so I HAD to bring it back.
    I have never known anything about cars. Until I went away to college, I had never even pumped gas. My dad always took my car and filled it up.
    Now I make my hubs do car maintenance-I just get so pissed at all the “extra” they try to convince women to buy.

  4. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:17 am Jill Says:

    Oh jeez. I own a car and know the make. That’s about it so I’ll definitely tune in once I figure out what Blog Talk Radio is (sorry, I’m very new).

    If you’re going to review even the super basic stuff…I seriously don’t even know how often to get the oil changed and often worry about it. I usually just wait until my inspection is up.

    Btw, the vintage Aunt Becky pics are too good.

  5. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:20 am Sam Says:

    Is there really a possibility that my tie rods and/or ball joints will fail and cause my wheels to shoot off, probably when I’m driving to church with a car load of sad immigrant children? And if so, what’s the best way to NOT DIE after my wheels fly off? Should I mention that I drive a Ford Exploder (we’ve already replaced an entire ENGINE, yo, because we OWN THAT THING.)? Do failing tie rods and/or ball joints make “clonk-y” noises when I hit pot holes? And finally, will someone send me a nice car that doesn’t make me hope for thieves in the night?

  6. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:21 am trish Says:

    Having taught two boyfriends how to properly look after a car, I always get a kick out of other people’s stories.

    My best one is:

    I had a 10 year old car as my first car. It was my baby, but being a little on the older side, it had a bit of rust. I wanted to get that fixed, and dragged my boyfriend (who incidentally knew nothing about cars) to the body shop with me for quotes. I got nowhere with that, as the idiot salesperson wouldn’t talk to me (even though it was my car, and we had made it clear that the boy was only along for the ride).

    Needless to say they didn’t get my business… If you can’t talk to the owner of the car, then you clearly don;t want my business.

  7. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:33 am The Suburban Housewife Says:

    Wow, what to ask Ford. I want to know why I had to have the transmission rebuilt on my Ford mini van with only 50,000 miles on it. Or why, all their electronic devices on said mini van all randomly stop working. Or, why I can only get 12 miles of gas to the gallon in their van. Sorry, I might just be a little bitter towards Ford after the problems we have had with our last two Ford vehicles.

  8. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:35 am Kelsiesma Says:

    My dad was an auto mechanic, and I’m the oldest of his 5 daughters (and the most ‘tomboy’ of the bunch). Dad taught me how to do an oil change, how to change a tire, replace brake pads and how to do an emergency repair of nearly anything on the road. I had a cool 74 Chevy Nova with a 350 small block that I helped to rebuild the top half of (except the carburetor, which we sent out to a specialist). I love that I have a basic understanding of the inner workings of a car. I don’t have time to do simple car maintenance any more, but I’m glad I know how.

    -oh, and once upon a time (a really long time ago), I did admin work for a creep who owned a local garage. Mechanics who didn’t cross sell and upsell repairs didn’t last long in his shop. Women with children were easy targets. A car seat in the back almost guaranteed that there was an extra and often unnecessary repair to sell. It’s especially important for women to get to know their mechanics, and to learn at least a little about how their car works.

    and, since it’s FORD, you could ask why they discontinued the cute hatchback focus. bummer!

  9. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:37 am a Says:

    What’s the best way to tell if your air conditioner needs a little charge, if it’s just too hot, or if there’s a $5000 repair bill in my future? My 5 year old car didn’t seem to handle being out in the sun for a few hours (it’s delicate and usually stays in the garage or under a tree) and wouldn’t cool down even with the a/c blasting. I haven’t noticed it happening again, but again garage/shade…

    Other than that, my favorite response to mechanics who want to fix my &3847hdk is…”How much is it? I’ll need to talk that over with my husband.” This is because I’ve found it to be pointless to discuss things. Also, I know enough about cars to know what needs to be fixed and what’s optional.

    When I went to buy my little turbo convertible, the salesman wanted to talk only to the boyfriend I had with me. I don’t know why, though – you could actually see the waves of BAD CREDIT surrounding that guy. I still bought the car…

  10. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:39 am Melissa Says:

    Ummm, I know how to use my cell phone, sort of. But I CAN drive a manual, which I take great pride in!

  11. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:45 am Andygirl Says:

    I have a Saturn, which until recently (when they went under), meant that I had no issues with shifty maintenance men. I paid for car care when I bought each car (on my 4th) and they always took very good care of me. Saturn was a good company. But now I have to find a GM shop in a new town with guys I don’t know. Me=scared

    My horrors stories are with tire salesmen. I don’t know ANYTHING about tires and I always feel like I have to take my dad so the tire guy doesn’t try to rip me off.

  12. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:53 am yogurt Says:

    Do cars run better with higher octane fuel? Or, should I say, does the average car, the one we moms drive to get from point A to point B, perform better?

    Also? Husband and I are both Ford owners. Husband has had more than one truck, the working kind, has put many miles on them. Very dependable, low cost maintenance vehicles. Mine? Owned it long enough to be paid for and still no problems.

  13. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:09 pm Lynette Says:

    My dad, for years and years, was a diesel mechanic and maintained all our cars when I was a kid. It makes me less afraid of cars than I otherwise would be.

    I don’t actually have a question – I have a suggestion: If you’re going into a shop (especially if you’re a woman, because most mechanics are male and a lot of them still radiate that “don’t worry your pretty little head” vibe unless you show yourself to be confident and aware): if they want to replace a part, make them show you the parts on your car that need it. Make them prove to you that the parts need replacing.

    I’ve had fairly good luck where I live here in CA with that, and if they won’t show me, I take my business elsewhere. It’s their job to prove to you that your car needs fixing. Make’m show you the diagnostic reports – they’re charging you for it, they can damn well show you the info.

  14. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:09 pm Erin Says:

    I know Ford is designing more fuel efficient vehicles the past couple years (go Ford!), any plans for hybrid or extremely high fuel efficiency minivans in our near future? (Please say yes)

  15. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:14 pm shadowedge Says:

    So, why would I need a fuel flush? I’ve been told just to run high test gasoline, and that cleans things up…

    How about a transmission flush?

    How bad is it if I don’t change the timing belt?

    Why do gaskets start leaking, and why are they so expensive to replace?

    Does letting a car with fuel injectors get really low on fuel screw up the engine?

    Dow using the parking brake (I live in flat Florida, so it is not strictly necessary) make the brakes wear out faster?

    Can my remote entry system be hacked?

    Why is my dash board so dusty?

  16. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:14 pm Melissa Says:

    Oh, Oh, another one. If you use synthetic oil can you really go 12,000 or a year on it?

  17. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:21 pm Mandy Says:

    Oh, I gotta question for ya for Ford…Whose bright idea was it to install A/C vents in the front ONLY in a motherfucking MINIVAN?!?! That shit don’t reach to the back ya know, so in the summer I have to listen to cranky kids being all, “It’s hhhhhaaaawwwttttt. Why’s it so hhhaaawwwwtttttt???” every. mother. fucking. day.

  18. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:26 pm Katie Says:

    Ford. I love that at some point your factory birthed what is now my pride and JOY, my darling little Escape.

    But for the love of God, why do extra keys cost over $100? Can I just get a regular key made? They gave me the car with only one key, and told me to get another one…and I still haven’t because, damned if I get locked out of my car, I still can’t justify spending all that money on a KEY.

  19. On July 13th, 2010 at 4:40 pm Barbara Says:

    THIS!! OMG seriously why are they so much???

  20. On July 15th, 2010 at 10:11 pm Your Aunt Becky Says:

    Dude, seriously.

  21. On July 13th, 2010 at 12:27 pm Poppy Says:

    I really just want to know the bare minimum I can do for my car that is easy on my wallet but takes good care of my car.

    I love my car, but I have other things to pay for… 🙂

  22. On July 13th, 2010 at 1:29 pm Leah Says:

    I would love to know what sort of things I do need to get fixed *immediately* when I’m in a shop and they tell me I should, and what sort of things I can drive on for 30ish miles to get a second opinion!

  23. On July 13th, 2010 at 1:33 pm Kevin Says:

    Hi, I have a penis and I don’t know jackshit about cars. I say this because I have friends who change their own oil, replace their own brakes and weld their own tailpipes out of beer cans, and they think I’m crazy for taking my vehicles to someone else and paying mucho dinero to have them fixed or maintained instead of doing it myself. Of course, I doubt any of them can make penne with swiss chard and toasted pine nuts. When the oil light goes on in my car, I put in a quart, otherwise, I just pray it keeps moving forward.

  24. On July 13th, 2010 at 1:59 pm Kelly Says:

    Your little 13 year old self is looking pretty hawt on that BMW, Aunt Becky! Were you trying to pick up a hottie?

    I don’t usually get screwed around on car stuff. My husband manages an auto parts store, my dad is a master transmission mechanic, and we know a shit ton of other guys that do stuff. If I say my dad’s name in this town, half the mechanics go, Oh, Jim….and bow. They better not be ripping me off. Deals or free, baby.

  25. On July 13th, 2010 at 2:16 pm Becky Mochaface Says:

    Battery maintenance: How to know when to clean the terminals, how to clean it without electrocuting yourself or spill battery acid everywhere.

  26. On July 13th, 2010 at 3:10 pm stacey@Havoc&Mayhem Says:

    The rotars. For the brakes. I’ve been told they can be ‘reversed’ or something rather than replaced. And I;ve been told that only an idiot with a death wish would ask for that.

    I got into an argument with a mechanic once that a cop had to end. He was just there waiting for his car to be fixed, they didn’t call him special for it. I had studded tires on my front wheel drive car. I asked the mechanic to take them off & change them with the normal tires in my trunk. He was too busy flirting with a couple hotties who were just hanging out with him to listen to me, so he ROTATED the tires, putting the studded ones on the BACK tires. I pointed out his mistake & he gets all snotty & says its not his problem I didn’t know what I was asking him to do & claims I asked to have them rotated. I said if he’d been paying attention to me rather than the hotties he’d have heard me say CHANGE THEM with the ones in the trunk. It rapidly deteriorated from there with the cop eventually coming outside to see what the problem was & then FINALLY the manager. They eventually swapped out my tires as I had originally asked since the MALE cop said he heard me say change the tires & never mention rotating.

    I suppose a female cop would have been disbelieved as well

  27. On July 13th, 2010 at 3:11 pm Jennifer Says:

    My question is: will Mike Rowe come to my house and personally consult on my cars needs? Hmmm?

  28. On July 13th, 2010 at 4:12 pm Amanda Says:

    Where is the best place on-line to find reliable information?

  29. On July 13th, 2010 at 4:16 pm Jacquie Says:

    Does that sound mean something bad? Also, were power windows invented with the sole intent of driving me batshit crazy broke?

  30. On July 13th, 2010 at 4:22 pm Fran Says:

    I grew up helpng my Dad work on our trucks and now my hubby and I do all the routine maintenance on our vehicles. We like to get greasy so we can have lots of fun getting clean again 😉

  31. On July 13th, 2010 at 5:05 pm Stacey Says:

    How much does it cost to replace a side mirror if say you were driving down a curvy road and someone left their garbage can way too far in the street and the garbage can is fine but the whole mirror casing cracked right off? I mean, can it just be superglued back on? You know, hypothetically.

  32. On July 13th, 2010 at 8:37 pm michele Says:

    My husband clipped his off on the side of the garage. He was backing out pissed off, I wouldn’t recommend doing that. He tried using that epoxy putty, but it didn’t work for long. The permanent fix – two deck screws. For real.

  33. On July 13th, 2010 at 5:26 pm Becca Says:

    If my car is a newer model ford focus, what will it take to fix my air conditioner??

    Miss Sweating My Fat Butt Off

  34. On July 13th, 2010 at 5:26 pm Becca Says:

    If my car is a newer model ford focus, what will it take to fix my air conditioner??

    Miss Sweating My Fat Butt Off

  35. On July 13th, 2010 at 5:41 pm Christa Says:

    Is there a way to remove a bird from the air intake sucky thing without taking it to the dealership? There COULD always be a next time & that was kinda embarrassing.

    Is it better on your tires to slightly under inflate them? I was once told this by my brother, but he is tricksy.

    If my car is designed for 87 gas, would it hurt or help it to put in higher(more expensive) gas?

    Why do windshield wipers always leave that streak of nasty directly in your line of sight? Can’t we fix that design flaw?

    What is the most often overlooked car maintenance issue? Should I be afraid?

  36. On July 13th, 2010 at 6:54 pm The Sweetest Says:

    Wow- this is a hot topic! I’d love to tune in and learn more about cars but I will first need Blogger Radio for Dummies instructions, as I don’t know how and when to tune in.

  37. On July 13th, 2010 at 7:29 pm vanita Says:

    Non-driver here. Why you ask? Cause I have no eye/hand/foot coordination at all and completely scared of making turns. So me not on the highway is keeping everyone else’s insurance rates down. Seriously. I hope my girls, who do have some type of coordination, grow up to be fearless and love cars the way you do. This way momma can stop paying for cabs. Yep.

  38. On July 13th, 2010 at 7:36 pm Kristin Says:

    Hmmmm…what to ask, what to ask…how about this…

    Oh hell, who am I kidding, my brain is fried and I have no question.

  39. On July 13th, 2010 at 7:51 pm MommyNamedApril Says:

    this is why i REFUSE to take my own car in for service. it’s my husband’s job. it’s also why my oil needed to be changed 2,000 miles ago. :-/

  40. On July 13th, 2010 at 8:50 pm Mommy on the Spot Says:

    First off, I poured myself a bit of rum, is that OK?

    Second, Ford rocks!! (My Dad and half my family worked there).

    Third, car maintenance is like scary to me. All of it. So here’s a question, why doesn’t Ford make a minivan? I totally wanted to buy a Ford minivan, but the only two domestic minivans are made from Chrysler. And although Ford has turned a profit in the last two quarters (don’t quote me on that), I think they need to get the marketing company from Toyota. They are awesome.

    I know none of this is about maintenance, but this is the stuff that is keeping me awake (not really) (or better said, not yet)

  41. On July 13th, 2010 at 10:46 pm Kelley @ Magnetoboldtoo Says:

    You CHANGE THE OIL in your car?


    Wow. I had no idea.

    And apparently it needs water as well.

    So high maintenance. I should get me a driver or something.

  42. On July 13th, 2010 at 10:49 pm lola Says:

    I dunno. How about asking why would I want to buy a Ford in the first place or, if that’s too controversial, how about asking if Henry Ford was gay…

  43. On July 13th, 2010 at 11:14 pm cathyjoy Says:

    OMFG! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, gives me a girlie-boner like red-linin’ the beemer flying up our curvy mountain road. One of the biggest compliments any can ever give me is “You drive like a guy.” That is? After they catch their breath and pry their fingernails outta the dash! Love that shit! And actually? I do drive better than most guys!

  44. On July 14th, 2010 at 1:42 am GingerB Says:

    What is the deal with the recommended schedule of shit to do at an oil change? When do I really need to change the air filter?

  45. On July 14th, 2010 at 8:05 am Alex Says:

    Here’s where someone says “fix or repair daily,” right?

    Have fun… because there’s more hostility over American car manufacturers than ever these days, even though Ford managed itself well enough to avoid bankruptcy. If they don’t get behind an all-electric vehicle soon, they’ll play catch-up until they fail.

    (And although my minivan doesn’t spark the wanderlust like my Chevy Van did, I still dream of road trips. Ones where my kids don’t scream for the last three hours of the drive.

  46. On July 14th, 2010 at 2:21 pm Lesslie Says:

    I had something similar happen to me once, in New Hampshire, of ALL places. (Like I expected assholes in NH to be different from Assholes in Vermont or something) I was 18, so I was pretty naive and stupid. My friend and I went down to check out Cosmetology Colleges. let it be known that I am a “wanderer”, too, Just towards the SIDE of the road instead of towards the middle (what? it’s totally more safe)

    Anyway, so I wandered towards the side of the road and accidentally hit the curb and blew out my tire in my car(except, I totally thought it was an explosion) so I had to like, drive it off the road and park it somewhere and then WALK to find a car place (because I’m 18, I’ve never had to do maintenance on my car. shit, I’m 23 now and STILL do not know how to change a tire correctly). heh.

    I ended up finding some place about not even 2/3s of a mile down the street. so I go in and talk to him..and he agrees to tote my car down to his little shop. and we start talking numbers, and he’s all “it will be 80 dollars” and I was all “For a TIRE? It’s a fucking Chevy Cavalier for fuck sake, they don’t even make them anymore” and he was being all douchecanoodle-y and so my friend and I like put all our money together. which wasn’t much and left NOTHING left over for the whole trip. It was horrid. anyway, we got the car fixed (my dad later told me I was an idiot and that my tire shouldn’t have cost that much money…I replied with “How the fuck was I supposed to know?” ).

    Lesson Learned? My husband takes care of ALLLLL of the car shit now…no way I’m going to let some Greedy Asshole with a No-Customer Resentment complex one up me again. oh no..

  47. On July 14th, 2010 at 9:38 pm mumma boo Says:

    How long can I safely drive it when the “check engine” light comes on? Do I have to do it RIGHT NOW or can I finish grocery shopping and lovin’ on Target first?

  48. On July 15th, 2010 at 2:07 pm Betty M Says:

    I sold my lovely little silver sportscar (a Lotus Elan) to finance IVF no 2. Sniff. I now have a Ford smax. It’s not the same.

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