“It’s the transmission,” my trusty mechanic reported after a test drive. “You can feel it jerking like a fish on a line.” Sure enough, I could feel it – and could feel my wallet becoming much lighter if transmission repairs were to cost more than $2,000, which he said was possible.
“You could always donate it to the fire department for training,” he added, without a wink or smile, which would have meant he was kidding. As the local fire chief, he was always on the lookout for such things. But sacrifice my trusty old Crown Vic to the Jaws of Life, a car so clean I've been known to dry if off after a rainstorm? I’d sooner make a planter out of it. That way, I could still wipe the paint clean after it showers.
All of this got me thinking about buying another car:
On the PLUS side: I enjoy looking around at new cars.
On the MINUS side: I don’t like spending money I don’t have on cars I don’t think I really need.
Truth is, the Crown Vic is getting long in the tooth. The newest of them are 2011s and look pretty much like my ‘98, although mechanical improvements have been made over the years. Should I look at cars with a turning radius less than a small delivery truck? Should I consider something more stylish?
As a friend once told me, “Lookin’ don’t cost nothin’.”
So I headed out in the Crown Vic to see what I could find, with the transmission still jerking like it had a fish on the line. First stop? The local Ford store, where I’d heard they had a slightly newer Crown Vic for sale. Long gone.
“Those Crown Vics sell fast,” said Ed the salesman, who looked every bit the man who’d spent years in sun-soaked car lots talking to people like me. “So why not keep your Crown Vic?” he asked.
“The transmission may be on the way out,” I said, looking as hangdog as possible so Ed would feel sorry for me and cut me a deal on something else. “And my wife says we need a newer, more dependable car to ride our grandchildren around in, since even the closest ones live three hours down the road. And besides, she says, you need to make a more up-to-date appearance.
Right on both counts.
“You don’t need to get rid of that car,” said Ed. Right again -- me and the Crown Vic could keep right on goin’ if it weren't for that pesky transmission problem!
“Maybe it’s something else,” proffered Ed, who had taken an odd tack away from selling me something new in favor of fixing what I was already in.
“Why don’t you go up there to the shop and let them check it out before you make a decision.”
It’s worth a try ... thanks, Ed!
Jarrod the tech no doubt had seen his share of Crown Vics come through the shop, most probably driven by older folks like me who’d grown content with their cars and weren't so easily smitten by curvaceous new sheet metal, and thus appeared to understand where I was coming from.
“Feels more like an ignition issue to me,” he proclaimed during our short test ride. “Transmission’s shifting smoothly. Car runs good. Let’s put it on the analyzer.”
“I’ll have to come back,” I said, rather lamely, sliding back into the driver's seat and heading out the door. Gotta think about this:
* Option 1: Fix it. Maybe get to 400,000 miles before it breaks again.
* Option 2: Sell or trade the car before it breaks (or somebody's ex takes a ball bat to it).
* Option 3: Buy a newer car and KEEP THE CROWN VIC! We could use a spare car, right?
One plus about buying a car is that I get to do business with Ed, a man who defies the car salesman stereotype. His first impulse was to help me make the right decision, not to feather his own nest by pushing me toward an immediate sale, which he said is not unique to him but an extension of his dealership's customer-first philosophy. So let me know if you’re in the market for a new (or newer) car. I’ll be glad to pass Ed's name along to you. Meanwhile, I've got an ignition module to replace on my Crown Vic.
TakeAway: Surprise your prospects with authentic, customer-first sales and service. They’ll come back for more -- and tell their friends about it.
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner