I have so many ‘broken car’ stories, I feel I should chronicle them for all time. The thing about driving old broken cars is that they lead to adventures and stories instead of where you’re trying to go. My first car was a 1994 Honda Civic that I bought from my uncle in New York for $2000. I learned to drive stick in an afternoon in a snowy parking lot, then drove 7 hours back to Maryland. The car had no A/C, the cigarette lighter plug didn’t work, it was very rusty, and it burned oil badly. Also, the door handles were sticking so they wouldn’t snap back when you opened the door. So I had to explain to people that after they smash the door “closed” and it bounces back, they’ll have to push the outside handle closed to actually close the door. Not the most confidence inspiring instruction to give right away.
The good news is, the 1994 Civic had a radio, and a CD player! (Car #5 was the next one with a working radio) so that is actually news. The main problem was that the car burned oil. For those of you that don’t know, this might have been a problem with one of the engine gaskets, piston rings, or something else ruinously expensive. So I decided this fell under the heading of ‘acceptable’ and just added oil when the warning light was on for a few days. The car’s oil burning habit led to really bad smoke from the exhaust. I once had another driver come up to me and complain about getting cancer from all the smoke.
Anyway, the car burned oil but I wasn’t sure when the “low oil pressure- your car is broken” light actually meant it and when it was just making things up. It’s always a good idea to tempt fate and play chicken with the warning lights. So I completely ran out of oil after running the car as usual with the warning light on for about 10 days. This was really bad. The car stalled in the middle of the road, and I was able to get it started again to pull onto the shoulder. I removed the oil cap and steam billowed out. I had heard that if you actually run out of oil, the engine will lock up, and that’s it, I’d need a new car. Thankfully this wasn’t the case (since I was able to restart it). Also, if you’re going to have a breakdown, outside of church is the perfect place. I quickly got 4 quarts of oil donated from passing drivers (who probably take their warning lights more seriously) and got going again.
Towards the end of it’s life, the 1994 Civic started to overheat as well. It was good for about 20 minutes, then the temperature gauge would creep up. Again, instead of actually solving the underlying problem, I just had the heater on full blast to keep it cool enough. Not the most impressive first car, but as the following posts will show, the 1994 Civic was one of the least broken. It might still be running today if it wasn’t stolen on an otherwise agreeable Tuesday morning. So stay tuned for that story probably in another few weeks.