My Brother the Car

My twin brother, Brent, purchased a used truck a few months back.

Well, it looked like a truck. It turned out to be a very large, very expensive, very ugly garage knick-knack. Once a month, he makes his way through the spider webs, and dusts it with Pledge.

I guess most folks have made stupid automotive decisions at least once in their lives. This is of little comfort to Brent—he has made such decisions four times so far. It’s like he’s one of those pitiful people on Wheel of Fortune who buys a vowel when even Vanna knows the answer.

Brent’s first mistake was the old classic “Toyota of it’s day,” the Studebaker, which got 1.2 miles per gallon, but only if he didn’t use the windshield wipers.

Next came the 1962 Chevy Nova in mustard yellow with red Naugahyde interior. His little beauty had more screws loose than a BP oil well, and, as a result, used to discard vital parts as he drove us to school. The only good thing about this car was that we could always find our way back home by the following the trail of engine components.

Previously last, but not least, on Brent’s list of embarrassing car purchases was the 1973 Pontiac Ventura, nicknamed “The Slug,” because it was regularly left in the dust of small children on Big Wheels

The poor guy. It’s really not his fault. Let’s face it: When it comes to buying a used vehicle, it really doesn’t matter where you graduated in your college class, or how many consumer magazines you’ve read. No, the best way to learn the skills necessary for negotiating these transactions is by learning from other poor suckers like Brent.

Here are some tips:

• Pretend to know more than you do. This is especially true for men. If there’s the slightest hint you don’t know your way around an engine—for example, when the salesman asks if you want a V-8, you answer that you’d prefer orange juice—you will probably be leaving as the proud owner of the car all the salespeople lovingly refer to as “The Money Pit.”

• Bring someone with you. It would be preferable if this person knew a little something about cars, but anyone will do. My theory here is strength in numbers. The more of you there are, the more likely it is that one of you will ask an intelligent question, such as: “Shouldn’t there be a steering wheel here?”

• Check under the hood. Even if you have no idea what an engine should look like, there are certain things even the novice can spot. You want to avoid purchasing a vehicle that has no engine, for example. It’s also a good idea to stay away from cars or trucks that appear to have important stuff held together with bubble gum, duct tape, and/or pantyhose—especially fishnet.

• Look under the vehicle. There are many things you’d prefer not see here. For example, an oil slick that looks like Alfred Hitchcock. On the other hand, if you spot tumbleweeds under the axles, you may want to ask just how long the car has been on the lot.

• Take the car/truck for a spin. Some things you just can’t spot unless you actually go for a drive, such as whether the engine only works with the radio tuned to the classic rock station.

• If you buy a used car or truck via the classified ads, you should be wary of certain types of people:

1. Never purchase a vehicle from anyone who says he or she has to leave town in the next few days because of “minor” legal problems.

2. Avoid people who require payment in Susan B. Anthony dollars.

3. Never ever buy your used vehicle from a man named Junior who: lives in a mobile home; wears an aluminum foil hat; and stops midsentence to cock an ear toward the sky, and mumble something about “the mother ship.”

Well, now it’s up to you. But let me give you one other final piece of advice: When you need to choose a mechanic for your newly purchased used car or truck—which will happen approximately 13.4 minutes after your check clears—never use one with a hand-painted sign in his yard that says: “Bubba’s Lawn Mower Repair, Engine Overhaul, and General Dentistry.”

Consider the source here, and take it from one who knows: Bubba doesn’t know a damned thing about fixing an impacted wisdom tooth.

Tsk. Poor twin brother Brent.

Bye for now.
Kiss, kiss.

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