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Timing Belts & Transmissions

I have a rental car I hate with a passion. It is off my list of cars I will ever drive again. The dang thing is a Mazda 3. Very sporty looking and sleek, but looks don’t make a quality car.

This particular car is supposedly an automatic, but after I put it in drive, I still have to shift it from drive one to drive 5. I wasn’t told how to operate the car. No manual came in the glove box. I learned by hit and miss — mostly miss, no dents thank heavens — while jerking around up and down the streets.

My experience with this car reminded me of an adventure a former roommate had with her Honda Accord.  Sue and I shared an apartment in 1978 during the year I lived in L.A.  She headed for San Francisco to her brother’s college graduation.  She took off in her shiny little silver-blue Honda for her very first “road-trip” without her mommy and daddy.  The car was new to her, but it was used and — unbeknown to her — not in as good a shape as it appeared to be.

She said she’d barely cleared the outskirts of L.A. (not a short drive) when the car started lurching and acting up.   She thought it was just the wind and the big trucks on the road.  Then she stopped at a rest area to freshen up, and had a heck of a time starting the car, but it finally did start.

Back on the road she determined not to stop again until she got to S.F., but that just wasn’t realistic.  For one thing she needed gas.  That time when she stopped the car it wouldn’t start again.  She called her daddy.  He called a tow truck to deliver the car to some San Francisco auto repair shop.

Sue’s car was fitted for a new timing belt and she was able to pick it up just in time to drive home. However, about half-way home her carburetor went out. She had that repaired – -again with daddy’s help, only to have the transmission go shortly after she got home.

Now, to tell you the truth, my rental car doesn’t appear to be broken, but the lurching about it did while I was learning to switch gears has linked it forever in my mind with Sue’s blue lemon.


  1. Timing belts are nothing to mess with — we lost ours driving on a big highway in North Texas. It pretty much ruined the afternoon… and the bank account.

    Still, it’s better than the 19yo driving too fast on a wet, curvy country road. Car totalled. Boy is fine, THANK GOD! Trees and other folliage, plus a sign or two, not so fine. Yes, that is why I am up at 2am on Sunday morning.
    Now I’m going to call the insurance company.

    1. Sorry to hear, Karen. May you find sleep and (perhaps more importantly) rest this night. Parents throughout the world are reciting the mantra with you:

      “Son, we’re glad you got through this safe and sound. Now step up here, close to us, so we can kill you.”

      1. Having his life flash before his eyes (and next to his face as the side window shattered) PLUS the loss of a car at his disposal (obviously) PLUS the fact that we will only pay for basic good-student rate, accident-free coverage (the rest is his responsibility)…. I’m pretty sure that adds up to enough punishment. He was issued a summons (court date with an appearance mandatory at trial) so there is probably going to be a fine assessed as well. It’s a good thing he has been saving his money!

        Although I think I might make him attend the EARLY worship service today. 😉

  2. Sue’s car was fitted for a new timing belt and she was able to pick it up just in time to drive home. However, about half-way home her collaborator went out.

    Now that’s a really sad commentary on the human condition. But I have to confess, if I were a passenger in a car that was acting up like that, I’d probably bail too.

    (I changed “collaborator” to “carburetor”.)


  3. LOL! Amanda & Mathew both drive Mazda 3 — it is tricky to get used to their version of an “automatic transmission”! And Hector & Derek both drive Honda Accords! Your roomy must have gotten the ONLY Honda LEMON on the market though — those cars just do NOT wear out! They are amazing….

  4. I had a little Mazda Pick Up for 15 years, It owed me nothing but the Front End eventually went on it. I decided to get the “Car from Hell” and not fix the Mazda, I am now thinking that I should have fixed my Truck.

    You’d would have thought that the Rental Place would have told you about that shifting thing you needed to do. I guess the Car Rental Kid assumed you knew.

    Glad you are having a good time otherwise.

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