Well folks, grab a drink, find a comfy seat and settle in for a little (long) tale:
Pictured below is our "new" (rental) car. Allow me to explain, if you will, just how we arrived at this point.
Last Thursday, it was a bright and sunny day (I think) when I walked out to the mailbox. I took out the various letters and junk mail and political fliers and there, innocently mixed in, was a letter from Ford. The front of the envelope said something to the effect of "Important information regarding a recall of your Ford vehicle". Oh joy.
So, with some minor annoyance, I opened up the envelope and quickly realized that this was a bigger deal than any other recall notice we'd received before. The short version was that our Windstar minivan was being recalled, along with many others, due to a design flaw that caused the rear axle to, in areas where there is heavy road salt useage, collect the salt. The corrosive salt sitting on the metal axle over the course of years apparently results in a corroded (who would have guessed?) rear axle that can crack or completely break in half, with no warning, and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. This has the potential to be very dangerous. Sounds like a good time, right?
Apparently, Ford and the NHTSA have been investigating claims that this was happening for some time, but I had no idea. So I've just been driving my handy minivan, with my two young children strapped into their safe (but huge) carseats, like it was a perfectly safe vehicle, which in fact, it was most definitely not.
Well, I wasn't thrilled with this news, but I decided to go ahead and take the van in to the dealership (but not our convenient normal one because after my last encounter there, I now know I cannot trust them at all) because I know enough about cars to know that I don't want the rear axle to break. So Friday morning, I very carefully drove Emily to school and then Ethan and I headed off to find a Ford dealership.
We dropped the van off at the service department, where we were told that it would only take about 30-45 minutes, and headed into the waiting area (just a bunch of chairs) in the showroom, armed with only a diaper bag, a sippy cup of water and a bag full of Cheerios.
It took longer.
Ethan and I sat for a while, then it became apparent that the boy, who doesn't love to be held still anyhow, was not going to be happy with that arrangement any longer. So we walked. He wandered all around a very small area at first...then got a little bolder....and eventually we wandered the entire showroom. He was especially fascinated by the fall displays of straw bales and pumpkins that were scattered around. I think he thought the straw was a chair, and since he's recently mastered the idea of backing up and sitting down in a chair, he kept trying over and over, but he's not nearly tall enough to sit on the bale...he'd just plop down in front of it.
After about 2 hours of waiting, the service guy that initially took our van came back in and informed us that we couldn't have our van back. It was not safe to drive. The rear axle was indeed already cracked. We were one pothole away from disaster. So he told us that Ford would arrange a rental car for us until the axle could be replaced, which according to the recall letter would be....sometime in the first quarter of 2011!!! The other option, at Ford's discretion, would be a possible buy-back offer, which of course will not be for anything close to what it will cost to replace the van.
Oh, and have I mentioned that the van is finally paid off this month?
So, we waited some more and finally the Enterprise rental car guy came to pick me up. Now understand, when the Ford service guy told me we would be leaving in a rental for at least a few months, I specifically requested a vehicle large enough to accomodate two large carseats (Emily's is the largest carseat made, literally) and a big stroller (which coincidentally was also recalled the day before). So what did the first rental car look like? Well, let me put it this way. There was no trunk. The stroller BARELY fit in the back of the vehicle-that-wasn't-a-car-or-SUV-or-van. The carseats technically fit in the car, but there was absolutely no legroom in either front seat. I mean, the guy and I could get in, but it was in no way safe to drive or ride like that...yet we had no option, we had to take it back to the rental car place to even exchange it.
I have no idea how the guy drove like that.
Anyhow....this Kia Optima was a better option, but we're still feeling like sardines in it. It would fine for a couple of days, or if we didn't need to lug around a stroller and carseats and diaper bag, but it's NOT fine for months on end. Nor is there any extra room to pack, for say, Thanksgiving or a trip anywhere. Yes, plenty of families with two kids make do with a car, but they don't have carseats built to fit in a van or huge strollers. They have things that fit in a car. We don't.
The above picture is from today. Ethan doesn't really care either way, though he will when I finally (and it WILL happen) hit his head on the door frame while putting him in his carseat. Emily has little legroom, but she'll have to deal, just like the rest of us.
I really want Ford to step up and either go ahead and buy back the van ASAP so we can move on, or at least provide a larger rental. I need to take a bunch of stuff to Goodwill/consignment stores, but realized that I can't just put a big Rubbermaid tub into the car. Instead, I'll be making many, many trips. We've had to purchase another garage door opener because I used something built into the van called "Homelink" that opened the door...and then when my paid for van was basically repossessed, I had no way to get in.
Pray for our sanity. I know it's not a big deal. I'm very VERY thankful that the problem was discovered before we were placed in a highly dangerous situation. But it still stinks.
And that, my friends, is why for the foreseeable future we'll be driving a red Kia rental car with Michigan license plates. Wave if you see me!