I Might Need To Break Up With My Car

Volkswagen’s “Drive=Love” campaign is quite well known, and it’s a well-deserved slogan. I know many people who have shared the experience of getting into a Volkswagen for the first time and absolutely loving it.

Jan 12, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

I jokingly refer to my car as my quarter life crisis car, because that’s pretty much exactly what it is. One day I woke up tired of not owning a car, walked to the dealership, and bought one1.

Like any dutiful shopper, I test-drove several cars, wondering how I was really supposed to decide which one I wanted on the basis of a 15-minute spin up Highway One. I did all the things they tell you to do, peered at the undercarriage, stared at the engine and made thoughtful noises, and after sufficiently satisfying my curiosity, I made an offer.

30 minutes later, I was driving away.

Volkswagen’s “Drive=Love” campaign is quite well known, and it’s a well-deserved slogan. I know many people who have shared the experience of getting into a Volkswagen for the first time and absolutely loving it. Some of those people, like my grandmother, go on to drive nothing but Volkswagens for the rest of their lives. They are really, really nice cars to drive. I’m not gonna lie.

My car is quite pleasurable to drive, as I could tell within seconds of taking it on the road the day I bought it. It handled so much more cleanly than the other cars I test drove.

It was comfortable. The controls were ergonomic and logical. It was hard not to fall in love with the car for being pretty much everything I wanted in a car.

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Having owned a Volkswagen for three years now, I’d like to present you with the second half of the slogan, the part they leave out of their promotional materials for some reason:

“Own=Your mechanic will drive it more than you do2.”

My mechanic and I have a great relationship, which is good, because I see him constantly. There was a week when I actually spent more time with my mechanic than mental health professionals, which is highly unusual for me. I bring him cookies on a regular basis. His dog and I are buddies.

It started with little things. Electrical quirks that turned into bigger quirks. The CPU on the air bag controller failing. The rear window on the passenger side vanishing into the door and not returning. The thermostat going out. The CV joints failing long before they should have.

My car has 62,000 miles on it, and it’s already in a state of profound rebellion. I dread to think of how I’m going to make it to 80,000, let alone 100,000. Probably by funneling the bulk of my income into my mechanic’s bank account, because like a lot of people who specialize in European cars, he is not cheap, though he is definitely worth it.

The problem is, I still love my car. A lot. It really is nice to drive. And it’s a shockingly orange convertible with a black top, which makes it pretty much the last car anyone would expect when they think of me. People are often startled when they see my car for the first time.

I delight in the paradoxical and my car is deeply paradoxical; as a friend says, “I have a hard time reconciling my internal image of you, as a 10 -foot-tall green monster breathing fire, with an adorable convertible.”

I suspect they think I’d be driving an old beater or something extremely utilitarian; I seem more like a Toyota Camry type of person than a New Beetle kind of person, apparently. And more of a staid blue or black than Halloween-themed car3.

I like to tell people it matches my sunny personality, smirking in a way that suggests just the opposite.

My mechanic recently suggested that I should perhaps consider getting a different car.

“But I like my car,” I said, defensively.

He shrugged, giving me a look that clearly said “Whatever, I’m happy to keep taking your money if that’s how you want to be.”

Another friend said, quickly and decisively, “Sell it,” when I mentioned that I was bringing my car into the shop “again.” I protested but petered out in the force of his logic -- he really was right, there comes a point when you have to stop sinking money into something, pull out, and move on to something new.

But I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I have formed a deep and irrational attachment to my car that makes it difficult to kick it to the metaphorical curb, even with all its deep-seated problems. I really like driving it. I do. It’s fun, OK?

The obvious solution is just to sell it and buy another Beetle, but this won’t really work out for two reasons. First, of course, any new New Beetle is likely to wind up having similar problems, because Volkswagen is acquiring an absolutely terrible reputation for reliability. Two is, well, have you seen the revised New Beetle body?

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No way am I driving that. I would rather own a PT Cruiser.

So for now, my orange car and I trundle on our merry way back and forth to town occasionally, and I spend the rest of the time dropping it off at the mechanic’s, hoofing it up the hill for home, and waiting to hear back.

I’m pretty sure he put more miles on it in December than I did, between the ignition coils and the thermostat and something else I’m sure I am forgetting.

So, how do you break up with someone you really love who is clearly a destructive influence in your life?

1. This is a not uncommon pattern of behavior in my family. My father and I both brood long and hard but we’re pretty decisive when things get down to brass tacks. Return

2. Part three, of course, is: “This is why mechanics love Volkswagens.” Return

3. I keep thinking I should costume my car as a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, but I am not quite that whimsical. Return