February 24, 2008, Cornwall On Hudson, New York

My car hates it here.

How do I know? Well, take into account that almost every time I arrive at the cottage after driving 400+ miles from Pittsburgh without incident, the “Service Engine Soon” light comes on as soon as I pull onto Bellwood Lane, if not sooner after pulling off of Interstate 84.

I have been chalking it up to the car’s voracious appetite for oil. The 1996 Saturns, as I read when researching them before I bought this one, seem to like to go through oil. It does not burn it, leaving a trail of bluish smoke behind me, or leak it, leaving puddles of black gold wherever I’ve park it for more than 10 minutes. It just goes through it.

One of the last times I came back from Pittsburgh, the light came on when I got to the cottage, after I had checked and filled the oil before leaving home, and I figured it could not be that. Well, before heading back to Pittsburgh at the end of that week I checked and sure enough, the light had been on all week probably because nothing registered on the dipstick. I apologized to the car (yeah, I talk to it) and gave her almost two quarts.

Does not prove that the car hates New York, right, only that it hates not having oil. Wait, there’s more …

Upon arriving back in New York after my week home, again after having checked the oil situation in Pittsburgh, the light promptly came on as I pulled into my parking space near the cottage. “Here we go again,” I muttered as I unloaded the car. The next day I figured I needed to add a quart after the drive back. Well, I was surprised to see that it was only down about a half a quart or three-quarters of one at most. I poured in a little more than what I thought it needed the next day and after checking the dipstick, it was nearly full. I finished off the quart and figured that would do it.

The car basically thumbed its nose at my efforts. The light remained on. Yesterday, I figured it might be something more than an oil deficit – or maybe I had put too much in. I think I remember reading somewhere not to overfill the oil. Anyway, while at the Wal-Mart in New Windsor or Newburgh, not sure where it is actually located, I bought a 92 cent bottle of fuel injection and carburetor cleaner. The shelves were loaded with confusing bottles claiming all kinds of things. To be honest, I am not even sure the car has a carburetor. But the same bottle of fuel injection cleaner that did not boast of cleaning the carburetor, was also 92 cents. I am cheap (big surprise), so I figured I’d get the most for my 92 cents and got the combination bottle.

I always love pouring essential fluids into my car in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart. Oil, windshield washing fluid, fuel additives. Makes me feel like I really belong there. So I opened the gas tank and added the bottle of cleaner to the 4 or 5 gallons of gas I had in there. It is supposed to treat up to 20 gallons, so I figured it would really have a chance to do its thing with significantly less fuel.

Even after driving the rest of the day (OK, only about 8 or 10 miles), the light remained on. Still not proof I suppose of the car’s hatred for its new home away from home.

While at the Wal-Mart yesterday I also bought some Starbucks for my coffee maker. When I got home I realized I had bought whole bean and not ground, which is what I need here. Whole bean is fine for Munhall On Monongahela as I have a grind and brew, but in Cornwall On Hudson, it’s ground only for my caffeine rig. So I had to go back to the Wal-Mart today to exchange it. What a joy, two days in a row to the Wal-Mart.

The light of course was still on when I started out for the Wal-Mart. After getting my refund and deciding I would go to the Target down the road a bit to get the new bag of Starbucks I needed there, I realized that at some point, the light went off.

Now, when I leave here to go back to Pittsburgh, I take the same roads I took yesterday and today. The Target takes me closer to the interchange for I84, which is the first leg of the trip back. It’s my theory, that the car, thinking we were heading back to Pittsburgh as we had gone further than the Wal-Mart, was happy and figured it would drop the charade with the warning light. Yeah, sure, the extra 10 or 15 miles on it with the carburetor cleaner flowing through it could have been the cure, but I have my doubts.

A final word about 1996 Saturns and carburetors. I was serious about not knowing if they have them or not. If anyone knows if they do, pass that along. I say this because I am never afraid to admit if I do not know something about cars or anything else. Anne Marcinko told me once how she was embarrassed when someone told her that even though she had a manual transmission she still needed to check the transmission fluid. I laughed, as she did, but when I checked the manual for the Saturn, I was mortified that you do, in fact need to check the fluid on a manual transmission on a regular basis. The dipstick for them is really hard to get at, but when I checked, I was relieved to find there was enough there and it looked cleaned.

So, in short, my car hates New York, never assume you know everything there is to know about your car and the preventive maintenance you are supposed to do on it, and when you buy Gala apples at Wal-Mart that are $1.94 a pound, and the Fuji apples are selling for $1.38 a pound, go through the self-checkout line and ring the Galas through as Fujis. Until they put scan codes on produce, this will save you a bundle over the long run. I said I was cheap …

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