Screw The Moon

One of the characteristics The Mrs. and I shared was that if we liked something a lot, we kept using it: whether it was revisiting a restaurant every other month (or more frequently), or patronizing the same four grocery stores for our supplies, or (in her case) only buying Sony electronics, whatever. If we liked a service, or place, or thing, that kept our loyalty.

That habit extended itself particularly to cars. When we lived in New Jersey, I’d brought to the relationship a VW Jetta, and as The Mrs. worked out of home, we just used the one (she and I were both huge fans of VW cars, from Beetles to Rabbits to Jettas to Passats to Kombi vans). Later on, her job required that she get her own car, so there was really no decision to be made: we went off to the VW dealer and walked around the lot. When we saw one we liked, she pointed at the blue Jetta and said to the bewildered salesman:
“We want that car. How long will it take before we can drive it away?”
“D-don’t you want to test drive it first?”
“Does it drive any differently to the green one we parked out front? No? Then there’s no need to test it, is there?”

Many years passed by, and we’d strayed a little from the VW fold because we had different needs — ergo, a Ford F-150 truck for me, a Chev Suburban for her, etc. — but when the kids grew up and got their own cars, we downsized: back to VW, this time, the weirdly-named Tiguan, which is essentially a slightly-larger Golf with a taller ride height. Then, after a few years of that, of course we got a “new” Tiguan (Carmax-new; we’d never bought new cars except Jetta #2), because the Tiggy fit our needs perfectly, so why change?

Just one little problem: the new Tiguan had a “moonroof”. Now that was fine with The Mrs.: a California girl always, she loved the openness that a moonroof brings to driving — except that, of course, she’d forgotten about Texas summers, where lizards are fried to death on the sidewalks and even a Sahara camel would go, “Enough, already.” And Texas winters, while brief, can be really cold, and rainy — which leaves about three non-consecutive weeks in the year when you can use the damn thing as intended.

Moonroofs also lower the internal dimensions of the car because of the mechanism they require, they’re just one more Thing That Can Go Wrong, and of course they add to the cost. So basically, we ended up with a feature that we used, if memory serves me, about four times in the eighteen months since its purchase.

I’m stuck with the stupid thing now: I owe more than the car’s worth, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get another car because I still like the Tiggy a great deal. And considering that a “career” as an Uber/Lyft driver is probably in my future anyway, the Tiguan is not the worst car to own.

Except for the useless moonroof.

19 comments

  1. You’re not using the moonroof right for Texas.

    When you get in, crank the AC up to max and open the moonroof. Leave it open with the AC blasting for about five minutes, and then close it. A good deal of the hot air has risen out of the car, the cold air generally stays down in the car, and you’re much more comfortable.

    That is the feature I miss most from my Audi. (I agree on the VW thing — they are fantastic cars when newish and running well, but when they go over the hill, the other side of that hill is steep.) I didn’t do much driving around with the moonroof open in the summer, but I used it at the start of the drive every day.

  2. My theory about how different nationalities engineer cars, let’s say for argument’s sake we have two pieces that move against one another (I usually demonstrate in person by putting one fist against my other hand, and moving them ball-and-socket style).

    Americans: Make one part of very good (and expensive) steel, the other out of cheaper steel but make that part easy to replace. It’ll wear out every 30,000 miles (while the other part will last forever) and you’ll have a $500 repair.

    Japanese: Make both parts of very good steel, they’ll last 100K miles, but then you have a $2,500 repair.

    German: Do the same thing with seventeen parts, none of which are available separately, so if any one of them wears out it’ll cost you $4,000 to fix.

    Italian: Screw it, paint the car red and put a beautiful woman in the passenger seat.

    British: Screw it, it’s raining, so you’re not going anywhere anyway.

    1. I have been working for a large German engineering company for over 30 years. Your description of the German ball joint made me laugh out loud because it is so true – with an addendum. The $4000 dollars is only for parts and is only half the cost. The other $4000 is for the labor to practically disassemble the entire front of the car because the failed part can’t be gotten to easily. It seems they hung the damn thing from the factory ceiling and then built the car around it.

      1. I read somewhere that it costs over a thousand dollars just to change the oil in a typical supercar, because in order to do so, the entire engine has to be removed. Put me off ever owning one (even with a lottery win).

    2. During my mechanicing days, I was convinced that Chrysler tried to combine the Germany method of 17 parts in an inaccessible location, but then made those parts from the cheapest materials they could find.
      I wished my shop had a giant trebuchet at times.

  3. I read a story once about Seymour Cray’s (super computer designer) car buying habits that was too good to check. The story goes that every year, he would visit his local Oldsmobile dealer and buy a car in the showroom. It could be a stationwagon, sedan or compact, whatever. He would then drive that car for a year without maintenance when he would visit the dealer again. After a few years, the dealer determined that Mr. Cray was selecting the car directly to the right of the entrance when entering the dealership. The dealer responded by placing Oldsmobile Toronados in that location.

  4. Hmph. There’s something about Uber/Lyft and that hitman vibe you give off that sets my inner capitalist’s spider sense.

    I’m not saying it’s a deficit, it’s more like unexploited opportunity.

    As a dad of young women, I know for a fact that there has to be a legitimate market for dialing up the rapid arrival of protective, scary men with fast cars.

      1. The Geek is making fun of me, riffing off a comment The Mrs. once made (that I look like a hitman when I see something suspicious). I don’t think I look like a hitman, but apparently I can look “scary” at times.

  5. I had to chuckle at “one more Thing That Can Go Wrong.” I think like that.

    Can you get a newer car in America now with manual roll-down windows? My 2004 Honda electric driver-side window stopped working three years ago. A repair estimate was $400.

    I just live with it as is.

    1. I happened to look up for a friend just this week, the cost of a new motor for a Kia Soul: it’s about $50 for the part, and would probably take less than an hour to replace.

  6. I started driving in approximately 1970. I still remember the “One More Thing To Go Wrong” thing, and the “Get Rid Of It at 90,000 Miles” thing. I drove American cars exclusively for years, with an emphasis on Oldsmobile and Chevrolet. I still remember fondly cars with one vacuum line, and one fan belt. I also remember changing points, rebuilding carburetors, and never making payments on my latest purchase. Fast forward a number of years, and I’ve driven a number of “foreign” cars. Check the “List of cars with most American content.” It may surprise you. I now drive a Toyota Tacoma. It has about 140,000 miles on it, and is the one with all the “One More Thing To Go Wrong” options. Power steering, brakes, windows, cruise control, 4×4 (but no moon roof). Built in Kentucky. I bought it “Toyota Certified” with somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 miles on it. That saved me probably $5000 and got me a MUCH better warranty, 7 years/100,000 miles as opposed to new with 3 years/36,000. In all the time I’ve had it, I’ve replaced brakes, tires, the timing belt, and the ball joints. All the bells and whistles still work. I change the oil regularly, and have the wheels aligned when it needs it. Other than that, put gas in it and go. Every time. It’s not exciting to drive, but it is dead reliable. I got tired of working on cars a while back. If/when I retire, I may get a “toy” to fiddle with for fun, and keep a Tacoma for my daily driver. That’s just me, though. No fancy race cars, the toy will be a muscle car, provided I can still find/afford one. No finesse, but (my idea of) a lot of style. ’69 Olds 442, preferably. YMMV.

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