Ford can suck it

Mrs. A has a 2001 Ford Focus. It's been an okay car for the few months we've had it. It's used so there were some issues at first, but it's been running okay for a while.

Until yesterday.

Last week the family went to check out a Mexican restaurant in our little suburb and then walked across to get ice cream. We hadn't been out as a family in months so it was a little treat. While Mrs. A was in the ice cream parlor, I was in the car with the kids. I reached across with the keys to start the car. I put the key in and it wouldn't turn. I thought the steering wheel had locked so I moved it a bit and tried the key again. Nothing. After a couple minutes of introducing the kids to some new and dangerous sounding words, I was able to He-Man the wheel loose and the key turned.

I chalked it up to an inordinate amount of pressure on the front wheels.

Well, as it turns out, Ford Focuses (Foci?) have a ignition key lock defect caused by crap metal used to make the keys and the design of the barrel lock. Once the key can't properly interface with the tumblers in the lock, the wheel will not move and the car will not start. Even if the car were under warranty, it's up to the dealer to either claim that the issue is not part of the coverage or charge you a deductible and replace it...

...with another defective part.

Most of the heat for this happened years ago, probably as all the 2000-20001 models were passing their 60k mile mark exempting them for anything but extended warranties. But there are listings of recall petitions and class action filings, none of which seem to have gone anywhere. Ford says it's not considered for a recall because it doesn't cause a safety issue. I'm sure those who become stranded in remote stretches, hundreds of miles between towns or in sketchy parts of town will disagree with what passes as "safe" for the execs at Ford.

I bring all this up because guess what happened yesterday? You guessed it. Mrs. A and the kids were returning from a failed trip to the grocery store (thanks Captial One) and were fueling up. She put gas in the car and went to start it and the wheel didn't move. Now, she wasn't in the middle of no where, she was in a grocery store gas station in a suburb, but it was 90 degrees and she had two kids with her. Is that safe? I know people who've been arrested for leaving their kids in hot cars.

Luckily she wasn't far from home and a friend of hers was able to come get the kids and take them home and watch them. I left work to come up and help because as soon as she said what happened, I recalled the ice cream parlor incident and thought I could muscle my way passed it again. Well I was wrong and so were the other dozen or so people who tried. We even jacked the front end up thinking we could relieve any tension on the front wheels. I went over to the store and bought some WD-40 to clean out the lock. The lock is super clean now, but it didn't help.

In the end we called (ironically enough) Ford's roadside assistance and we got a tow to a service station near the house. The tow was $70, the cost to replace the barrel lock is $350. The scary thing is, I don't know that this won't happen again. From the horror stories I've read, people have had to do this several times in just a few years. I'm not looking forward to doing this again. What happens next time Mrs. A is on a shoot 2 hours from home, what kind of tow cost is that going to be? I think it's ridiculous that a known defect doesn't get a recall, safety or not. Cars have always bothered me like that. They're so expensive and yet so frequently if they aren't babied in just the right way they completely go to shit. For the amount you pay for a car, it should be taken car of by the manufacturer for life. And let's face it, even the luckiest of us don't have a 30 year old car unless it's been completely rebuilt and driven only once every year.

So this comes at a time when Mrs. A and I have just started to recover from that horrible real estate investment where we almost lost everything. We still owe a ton to a lot of people but thanks to Mrs. A's efforts we were making some head way. This just set us back a few months and there's really very little we can do about it.

I hate cars the way I hate insurance companies, and I hate insurance companies the way I hate racist bigots and goats. (Square eyed devil beasts.) I think cars are built just well enough to be sold and then fall apart. They aren't hardy, reliant pieces of equipment. They aren't dependable. This is one of those times I wish we could just abandon cars altogether and start riding bikes or taking the train. It's funny that because of the cost of having a car, which should provide someone with an independence you can't get from mass transit, the owner now has the freedom to do whatever they want. But at the price we pay for them, we just don't have the money to do anything.

Plus, Mrs. A met with a couple last night that didn't book for whatever reasons and now she's in a state. She's blaming herself, saying she failed the family. No one blames her, of course, but that feeling just doesn't go away easily. If it were me, I'd curl up into a ball until payday, but knowing Mrs. A, she already has a plan. I don't know what that plan is. Last month the credit company we have the car note through sold the loan to a company in Florida. So now instead of being able to pay in person, we have to mail a check or pay an extra $5 to pay over the phone. It's not a great situation, but what's worse is because of the shift we owe a back payment now. Again, not our fault. We got the paperwork late (which seems to be an issue with our small town post office) and immediately fell behind. So Mrs. A was counting on booking something to cover the car payments but didn't get that.

I fucking hate cars, did I mention that?

This is unusually candid and I apologize. So much happens in our lives that I don't talk about that some times I feel I'm running out of things to write. But I believe this was fair game because it involved one of my least favorite things in the world and I always have to write about when I have car problems.

Carry on.

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