When the brakes fail…and you buy a new car…

Through the rear-view mirror March 2012

Through the rear-view mirror

Last Wednesday we loaded up the 2015 maroon Chevy Malibu with 79,950 miles with boxes and bags of recycling and returnables. Off we drove toward Houghton for our weekly shopping excursion.

Less than eight miles from home a warning sign flashed on the screen.  The brakes pulsed and stuttered and briefly disappeared, pedal reaching the floor.  The car pulled to the right.  My body pumped with adrenaline as I maneuvered the vehicle off the road. What in the world was going wrong with our trusty car?

We’d just recently purchased new front brakes for our precious darling.  What now?


Our two matching silver Buick Centuries, circa 2013

We turned around and headed back home–husband driving this time–and limped it to the mechanic the next day.  Trusty mechanic advised that the code meant the automatic braking system needed dealer-only repair.  He thought it safe to drive, so we made an appointment up in Houghton with the dealership there.

Then the husband and I got talking.  Might it be time to consider purchasing a new used vehicle?  While the old maroon Malibu still had trade-in value?  She sported some rust due to our winter road salt, and the rust would only get worse.  Her seats were also ripped.  Who knew what else might happen as she approached her 100,000th mile marker?

A little background.  Barry and I have been some of the most frugal car purchasers in the country.  We’ve been known to drive a car into the ground.  Not sure if we ever hit 200,000 miles, but we’ve driven our Fiestas, Buicks, Fords and Chevys until they literally had no ooomph left in ’em.  We’ve bought them cheap, fixed them up, and driven them through ice, snow, rain and woods.  Barry’s got the car-painting touch, and he’s repainted many buggies.  He’s also wrenched over them in the garage, year after married year.


This is how long we usually drive our vehicles.  (Ha ha, just kidding, we never even drove this old Studebaker.  It just sat in the woods looking “pretty” for many years.)

We’ve never bought a brandnew car in our 40-plus years of marriage.  We wouldn’t know what to do with a new car.  Barry agreed that maybe it was time to replace this Chevy Malibu–but not with a new vehicle.  We would look for a 2019.  Something with maybe 30,000 miles.  Yes, that’s what we’d do.

Our appointment at the dealership for repair of the ABS system was scheduled for yesterday at 2 p.m.  We drove both of our cars on the 45 mile trip north.  (He drove the Malibu, in case the brakes caused problem.  He would figure out the downshifting if needed.)

We asked the dealership about a 2019 Chevy Malibu with 30,000 miles.  I insisted upon silver.  The car had to be silver because our dusty and snowy dirt road likes to show off its dirt on red, black, blue or any dark-colored car.  My darling maroon Malibu has looked like an abandoned dirty child during most of its life because of our road.  You wash it and the next day it’s back to ugly. Barry’s silver Equinox doesn’t need to be washed for weeks (or months) and still looks acceptable.


Point in case.

Of course the dealership had no 2019 silver Chevy Malibu with 30,000 miles.

How about you test drive this dark blue 2020 Malibu with ZERO miles?

Barry frowns steadily at me.  I grin back. He must know it’s my secret desire to have a new car for the first time in my life.

We take off for a test drive.  The seats are soft and comfy.  Nice!  A backup camera exists.  What a find!  So few miles.  Dare I even dream??


Dream a little dream for me

To finish off this tale without further ado–we ended up buying a brand-new car!  The first in our married life!  I am the happiest new car owner in the woods.  Because we insisted upon silver, we need to wait until it arrives up in Houghton later this week.  And it didn’t end up costing a small fortune because the errant maroon Malibu did provide some trade-in value. Barry doesn’t even seem TOO perturbed.  ๐Ÿ™‚  After all, he did sign the paperwork without any fussin’ or moanin’.

I promise to show you a picture of the car after it’s settled in to its new home.

In the meantime, I want to show you a picture of a skeleton.  For no reason except that we glimpsed it hanging in a window in Houghton yesterday.  It struck me so strongly.  Perhaps it belongs to a college student no longer on campus.  Don’t you love when random things like this appear in your day?


Finally–we have reached the end of the moving walkway of this blog post.  (My new favorite saying upon bidding goodbye to my mom on our daily phone calls is: “Looks like we’ve reached the end of the moving walkway”.)

Please watch your step, dear reader, as you exit back into your everyday ordinary and precious life.

Love, Kathy

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in July, 2020 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to When the brakes fail…and you buy a new car…

  1. dorannrule says:

    Congratulations on your shiny new car Kathy. Be sure to post pics when it arrives and before the dusty road leaves its marks. Our road is like that too and my old car is red!

    • Kathy says:

      So you understand about “dirty red car syndrome”, Dor, lol! Thank you–will try and remember to take a picture when it first rolls into the driveway.

  2. dawnkinster says:

    I love this. Enjoy your NEW car! Growing up my family never bought new either. Always used, and we kids never knew the difference. I bought used cars too, as a single adult. Once I was married to a GM employee we always bought new with his discount. He said he didn’t want to buy someone else’s problems, but this last purchase was a year old GMC suv. We happened to walk through the lot one night a few days after I told him I wouldn’t drive our Equinox with almost 200,000 miles on it, down to Alabama again. He saw our future ‘new’ car on the lot with just a few miles, I think under 30,000, and the price, and he said it was too good a deal to pass up, so for the first time in HIS life we bought used! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think each situation is different, and I’m glad you got a new car. And I’m also glad it’s silver! I live on a dirt road too, and I know exactly what you’re saying about it always looking filthy. Our current car is maroon. Sigh. I TOLD him I wanted light tan or silver…but the one that was the deal was the same color as our equinox. Sigh. Double sigh. NEXT car will be light!

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, it was fun to read your own car-buying stories. I so get what you mean about not wanting to drive when you have almost 200,000 miles and you’re headed far away. Then a person is much more comfortable with fewer miles. There were times when we had over 150,000 miles on our vehicles and I was headed back downstate…it just didn’t feel safe anymore. Btw, didn’t know you lived on a dirt road, too. I hope they keep yours in good shape!

  3. Congrats. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you so much! We are trying to stay safe and well–as long as the new brakes work well, that will be a step in the right direction.

  4. Carol says:

    Congrats! When I was younger and working, I did buy new cars, although not fancy ones. My current car is a 2005 Buick Rainier, and Iโ€™m hoping it will be the last car I have.

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Carol. I am so impressed when folks can keep an older car running for long periods of time. It takes a certain fortitude…or maybe just not driving too many miles. It’s the trips downstate that tend to wrack up my miles. Otherwise, I don’t go too far each year. Think it’s been about 12,000 a year lately. Before I retired it was 15,000 and when the kids were teenagers and driving it was once 28,000! Crazy times, back then!

      • Carol says:

        My annual mileage is under 5000 miles I think, and that much only if I drive to visit my kids a few times a year.

        • Kathy says:

          Sounds like a wonderful mileage per year. And look at how you’re helping the planet. It would be lovely to live in a place where you didn’t need to drive far. I think this is one disadvantage to living in the woods. You have to drive a lot to get anywhere…

  5. Oh, good for you! I tend toward old, cheap cars that I can drive into their golden years, too. I do believe, though, that when you are struck with an inkling about something, whether it is a brand new car, a pair of boots almost too lovely to be worn, or a rolling pin as beautiful as it is serviceable, you are wise, when you can, to follow that desire. It is more than the object alone. It rearranges the molecules, I think, and makes all of your life fresh and new, full of glowing possibilities. I hope that’s how it works for you!

    • Kathy says:

      There’s something about driving those old cheap cars…it can feel like you’re doing something really positive for the planet. But you are so right. Thank you for that wisdom you’ve shared here. This inkling IS more than the object. Somehow everything is relaxing deeper inside. Not sure what this is all about but it feels delicious. Thank you again!

  6. Larissa says:

    Congratulations on the new car! May it serve you well for a good long time!
    I love random things like that skeleton too ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Barb says:

    I think you and that NEW car deserve each other. We got a new car in the fall and have hardly driven it. It so technologically advanced, I’m sure it’s smarter than we are. I’m a little afraid of it. Enjoy your new ride, Kathy! PS Love the skeleton…

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Barb! I know what you mean about some of these technologically advanced cars. So daunting. This one looks quite similar (even a bit simplified) compared to our 2015 Malibu. Fingers crossed. I hope you will be able to put at least a few more miles on your new car soon, if this virus should ever subside. At least we’re saving on wear and tear, right?

  8. Enjoyed this post. Brakes that are going out is not to be taken lightly and it’s likely that getting a new vehicle was the best decision y’all have made in a long time, especially since each of you drive on icy and or snowy roads in the winter, Frankly I’d be frightened to drive any vehicle that did not have front wheel drive or four wheel drive. But then, Texans always say that only northerners know how to drive on a slick surface, which is probably true for most folks here, excluding those in the Texas panhandle and west Texas.

    I am excited for you and can well imagine the thrill of a new vehicle. I have had one new vehicle in my life time and that was a 78 Ford Bronco that I drove for16 years My husband bought it for me but it was his more than it was mine. I have only had 3 vehicles in my life time plus the one that was my husband’s truck that I have been driving for the past 10 years. It’s a 98 GMC Sierra with four wheel drive and a double cab. I can put 4 dogs or 4 cat carriers in it to take pets to the vet for vaccinations and such. I keep everything repaired on my truck because I really like driving it.

    Looking forward to seeing photos of your new ride. Be safe and well, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Yvonne, I enjoyed reading your comment and imagining you driving that Sierra four wheeler with a double cab. It is making me smile picturing you in such a big vehicle. It’s just so interesting hearing what different people choose to drive. Our cars all have front wheel drive, but not four wheel. Most people around here have four wheel. But we have really never had any trouble these 40-plus years. (Our 49 Studebaker does have four wheel drive, if need be.) Haven’t got the car yet and am hoping they call today or tomorrow.

  9. Congratulations!!! Wishing you many years of happy outings and shopping trips as you drive your NEW car into the ground!

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara–thank you. I am sure Barry would like that idea–he’s still kind of appalled that we have a NEW car. But I keep thinking–what if we trade it in after five years and 60,000 miles? Because that’s hopefully before when it would start rusting. Not sure about this new strategy, but will keep pondering for the next five years. If we live that long. (Yikes, isn’t it weird to say something like that?)

      • Actually, it’s not weird at all. When we got our last new car in 2014 Tim kept saying it was our last car, as if his demise was right around the corner. We almost always bought new cars, but not often, as we do tend to drive them into the ground. A couple of them have made it past 200,000 miles, including a Tercel that was already old when we gave it to Larisa to get her through college. Car memories…

        • Kathy says:

          This has been more fun than I suspected to talk about cars on a blog post! Fascinating how many of us drive cars until the very end.

  10. Ally Bean says:

    A new car and your first one! Aren’t you the wild child? We had a Lexus SUV for 16 years that we finally had to let go at 260,000 miles. It was a sad day, but it had reached the end of the moving walkway, as you might say. Enjoy your new wheels.

    • Kathy says:

      Yep, Ally Bean, feeling like the wild child indeed!!! I love that you had your vehicle for sixteen years and drove it so long. Can imagine your sadness at saying goodbye… What’s hard about driving our vehicles that long is that they rust out due to our hard road salt winters. I would feel so good if we could keep a car for that long–and it stayed pretty, to boot. Thanks for your well wishes.

  11. Reggie says:

    Congratulations on your brand new car, Kathy! Well deserved! We’re driving a 1995 car and a 1998 car. The older one is struggling now because it’s been standing still since the Lockdown started in March. We’ve intermittently driven it around the block just to keep the oil and grease from going solid and seizing up the joints and stuff…. I think old cars in particular don’t like standing still. We’re grateful whenever we can get it moving again. Well done to Barry for mechanicking your cars over the years! Our cars owe their longevity to a wonderful elderly mechanic that we’ve been going to for many years; we really hope that his business has survived Lockdown, as so many businesses have gone bust in the meantime. May you and your new car have lots of exciting adventures and magical trips!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, I so admire that you’re still driving older cars. Good for you guys! If we didn’t have road salt that rusted out our vehicles, we surely would be doing the same. Sorry that your older guy (lady?) is struggling. My mom learned this winter that she needed to keep starting her car or the battery would go bad. Guess you have to keep them moving. Glad to hear about your elderly mechanic. Sounds like he’s really been there for you. I hope that his business survives. And I hope exciting adventures and magical trips for BOTH of us!

  12. jeffstroud says:

    Hey Good for you both! You won’t know what to do with all the gadgets and buttons on a new car. Ha Ha. Best to you!

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, you may be right! Will have to study the manual before driving it too far. When we test drove it on Monday it really didn’t look TOO different from the 2015 Malibu so these fingers are crossed. Thank you so much!

  13. sybil says:

    Whaaaat ? Stepping off the moving walkway ! You produce such wonderful thoughtful blogs that are needed out there in the dwindling blog-o-sphere. I look forward to your return … eventually. Consider yourself hugged. And enjoy your new wheels.

    • Kathy says:

      Dearest Sybil, Noooooooooooooo! I am not leaving the moving walkway of the blogosphere. Not yet. (Although I totally get why you might think that, as I have left so many times before.) I just meant leaving the moving walkway of this current blog post. Kind of like the end of a conversation for the time being. But I will take that hug anyway. And will enjoy the new wheels–IF they ever call and say it’s arrived!

  14. What fun! I don’t think I’ve ever had a brand new car either, starting with the …. gosh I guess married life. My brother (younger than me, mind you) got my parents’ old car when he was in high school. I did not. I was the girl. I didn’t need one because the girl had boyfriends who had their own (old old rusty) cars. So all through college I had no car. But I had several boyfriends (who were not old or rusty). Married life meant used cars. Nice ones, but used. The one I drive now is a 2007 SUV with 110,000 miles. I love this car, but the air conditioner died last summer and we were told the car needed about $6,000 worth of work on it and was on its last legs. Well, I’ve been driving it for 11 months since that prognosis, but dang, we’ve been having 90+ degree weather and high humidity. I think we may be car shopping soon…Silver sounds good. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kathy says:

      Tut, tut, tut! (About your brother getting the family car.) Although I can understand that your parents thought that you & your boyfriends’ cars were more than adequate. I can almost understand. But I do not understand how you’re surviving without your air conditioning! Oh my! Out in your neck of the woods you must be sweltering. Maybe it’s been OK because of COVID and not driving as much. Sigh. Let me know if you get silver–and what you get–when you get it. *smile*

  15. Joanne says:

    How exciting! I’m looking forward to seeing your new car. Mine is seven years old but I bought it new, it still runs well, gets me where I need to go, and it’s silver (so doesn’t show the dirt either). What more could I want? Once you have a brand new car though, you will never want to buy second-hand again!

    • Kathy says:

      The car is in our driveway as of yesterday, Joanne! Your car sounds ideal, especially the silver. As for never wanting to buy second-hand again….I can already feel this coming on! *grin*

  16. Oh congratulations on the new car! Always a first after long years of marriage. I was worried when you mentioned the car problem at the start but I am glad this post has a wonderful ending. Enjoy your new ride!

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Micah! We have the new car home now, and will try to post a photo of it soon. Don’t you love it when things seem to work out? Hoping that so much works out for you and Markus.

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