Skip to main content

Gristmill: In the Auto Graveyard

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 17:25

We interrupt the leadup to the Election for the Ages to bring you an update on one man’s vehicular travails.

Let me put it this way: I need wheels to get to the polling station at the North Sea Firehouse come Tuesday, and my groaning Honda Pilot with 214,000 miles and a blown head gasket is limping across the finish line.

It’s been a good run. That odometer reading is a record-setter for me, surpassing one late great hand-me-down Hyundai Tucson, which stood out not only for its incongruous gold paint job but for its 205,000-mile duration, until that final $1,100 repair estimate to get it past one more inspection simply became a catalytic converter too far. Before that, another Honda, a 1984 two-door Accord, bought used from a sculptor in Springs in 1989 when it had 75,000 miles on it, didn’t give up the ghost until 13 years and another 127,000 miles later.

That put-upon old thing was so reliable, its faithfulness so much more than I deserved, that it’s no wonder people grow so attached to their cars. I think now that if only it hadn’t had to endure such extremes, it might still be chugging along. The Alaska Highway, for example, may be entirely paved, but in 1994 long stretches in western Yukon and across the border into southeast Alaska were just dirt and rocks. (And yet only one Bang! of a flat tire.)

In Fairbanks, if you’re going to stick around awhile, what you do is get one electric heating pad glued onto the oil pan, another heater for the engine block, and the plug for both sticks out the grille like a thirsty tongue. Five long winters and a hell of a lot of warm-up idling. When the time came, it was a tough goodbye.

Semi-recently I was reminded of how much I missed that Accord’s stick shift when for a couple of weeks I borrowed another mid-’80s model, my father’s Saab 900 — great shifter, smooth transmission, fun to drive, though, not to sound ungrateful, the torn-up seats, reeking mold, and sun-and-pollution-faded exterior meant the kids were too embarrassed to be seen in it.

Anyway, the master cylinder went.

Back to today and the blown head gasket, I’m feeding it fluids, nursing it down that lonesome road till some higher power comes to claim it, but in the meantime I’m wondering about those bottles of liquid fixit you dump into the radiator. The possibility that it would do anything at all seems remote. Maybe a hefty deposit of oatmeal instead; they say it’ll turn into something like concrete and seal the gaps.

If you have any advice, a message can be left at extension 130 at the Star office. I just might need a ride to check on it.


Thank you for reading . . . 
...Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.