Scarp: Use this column for comparison only; your mileage may vary - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Scarp: Use this column for comparison only; your mileage may vary

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at

Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2013 10:14 am | Updated: 6:25 pm, Fri Mar 8, 2013.

I’m typing this very quietly. I don’t want my car to know I’m talking to you about it.

It’s out there, right now, in front of my living room window, looking to the world like anyone else’s car.

Except, nearly all of you are comfortable with the fact that when you go outside tomorrow morning and turn the ignition key, your car will start.

Me? I’m back to playing solenoid roulette.

But it’s a good car. I mean, in all of its 86,000 miles, nothing else has ever gone wrong with it, other than regular maintenance. I could trade it in with no regrets if it had some sort of history of failure. But it has none. Rats!

Oops, gotta whisper: (Rats.)

For 10 months of last year, my car started every day, until a few days ago, when it didn’t. All power was drained from its battery and it would yield neither a crank nor a click. I turned the key and heard only the sound of a key turning. Nothing worked. No horn. No lights. No motorcar.

It was all too familiar. A couple of years ago that’s how it all started one day, with, well, not starting. A neighbor, the first of many, jump-started my car (it only took one attempt once the jumper cables were attached) and I took it to a local repair shop I trust (and still do).

They checked everything and everything worked. It was probably the battery, they said, in the not-so-early throes of battery malfunction. The manager of the car parts store I often go to, where I bought that battery, felt differently. After testing it, she said her employees found nothing wrong with it, but in the name of customer service, she gave me a new battery.

Things worked fine for quite a while, some months, in fact, when it happened again. But when I took it to the shop, it refused to not start, instead starting up each time my mechanic and his co-workers tried it.

My mechanic sent me and my car on my way. But this time, it was only a matter of days until all life force was once again gone from its body.

But it’s a good car.

So I decided to go to a higher court, that is, the dealership. They had it three or four times. It seems that, parked among so many of its fellows of the same make and grille emblem, my car seemed embarrassed about failing to start, instead roaring to life no matter when the technicians tried the ignition.

Finally I let the dealership have it for nearly a week. It still started for them, every time. I even gave my blessing to the technicians piling into it and taking it to lunch and a few errands, hoping that several starts around town would tire it out enough so that the next morning… no such luck.

But it’s a good car.

With nothing else to lose, I relied on what by about 11 months ago was one of several pieces of advice I was getting from family and friends and drove to a shop that specialized in this kind of thing.

This period is what I refer to as the Month My Car Spent at the Auto Spa, where, yes, it started every time. It was a four-alarm mystery to the guys at this shop, and the head mechanic asked me to get back in touch if I ever learned what the problem really was, more to further their education than anything else.

And yet, after the rest, relaxation and 30 days away from the stress and strain of facing Valley traffic every day, my car came out of the, um, spa seemingly rejuvenated. For 10 months, it started every time, hot mornings or cold.

Until this week. Same symptoms: not a sound, not a volt. I got a jump start, drove it 15 miles to work, charging up the battery, I thought. At quitting time, though, it didn’t start again. First time it failed to start at any time other than first thing in the morning.

I took it back to my original shop, whose mechanics charged up the battery, then declared it and the charging system as working properly. They fixed an oil leak, which helped it all feel worth it. My mechanics aren’t to blame here. It’s just car-ma, I suppose.

So, tomorrow morning, will I be the proud owner of little more than a big four-door sound system that doesn’t play music? I’ll stop here and won’t tell you about why one should never keep jumper cables in one’s trunk if it is only accessible by an electric-powered release switch.

Yes, it’s such a good car. Do you hear me out there?

• Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays.

Reach him at

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