Skip to content

The Smart Car

I have a smart-aleck car.

It’s bad enough I have a smart phone that tries to out-think me. Which it occasionally does.

But my ridiculous car just made a fool out of me. How do you take revenge on an inanimate object?

You all heard the stories last year about our old faithful Suburban finally dying and our trial by fire of car shopping.

We ended up with a small car suitable as a taxi, with enough warranty that the taxi won’t suddenly go out of service.

Only a couple of months in, the unthinkable happened.

It was a dark and stormy night.

My son and I were driving down the freeway, wipers going furiously, when a red light suddenly appeared in the dash panel.

Accompanied by a loud frantically dinging alarm.

Naturally, I calmly and slowly veered across several lanes onto the nearest exit ramp and reminded my son that screaming was not going to help the situation.

“Mom,” he said, “that was you.”


We parked beneath a street light to assess the damages. The red light was a circle around an exclamation point.

That was it.

The car was trying to tell me something. Important.

What? What is it car?!

My son decided to do the intelligent thing and reached into the glovebox for the manual.

What to look up? Alarms? Red light? Circular memo?

We finally narrowed the chapters down to discover that this particular alert indicated a serious issue with the brake system. We were advised to stop immediately and call a tow truck to take the car to the nearest dealership.

Proceeding was sure to lead to certain doom. The manual writers could simply not take the blame if we were foolish enough to proceed.

So you’re telling me that a new car with a fat warranty has decided to suddenly lose it’s brakes?

As I’m not James Bond, I decided that no one (probably) had a contract out on me, and that (possibly) the brakes had just gotten a lot of rain water up inside of them and (maybe) we were going to make it the last two miles home because (darn it) it’s late and I’m tired and we’re just going to address this tomorrow when (very likely) this will all go away by itself.

It’s happened before.

I put on my “I’m smarter than a car manual” face and we crept home and snuck into the garage, leaving it in solitary for the night.

The next morning, Hubby drove everyone to school while I made phone calls. We bought the car in Riverside. But I needed to service it in San Diego. Once I had the proper person on the line, I explained my situation and secured an appointment right away.

They were very concerned. So sorry that a car could have escaped a dealership anywhere with faulty brakes. Understanding that, yes, of course the warranty will apply unless, of course, they discover that perhaps it won’t. I had to make a two hour appointment so they could fully investigate the situation. Please, ma’am, if you really must drive it over here, do be extremely careful.

And I was.

I drove gingerly up into the service bay of the dealership and parked it.

An eager to please service man walked up with his clipboard and pen and wrote down all the pertinent information, including everything from the Riverside people and so forth.

I explained again what had happened. I may have been a little peevish. After all, we’d had quite a little scare. And I had trusted the car salesman in Riverside. I really couldn’t believe that after all our trouble, we ended up with a lemon.

The service man listened carefully, a concerned frowny crease in his forehead and an empathetic look that clearly said, “Well WE would never have done that ma’am. You’ve come to the right place. We’ll just get to the bottom of this, shall we?”

And then he asked me to turn on the engine so he could take a look and a listen.

Immediately the warning light came on. The alarm pinged shrilly across the parking lot.

He stared hard at the whole business and then calmly asked me to turn it back off.

I could see many emotions crossing his face but he obviously hadn’t yet decided which one to go with.

So he said, “Well. The good news is…it’s not your brakes.”

“But,” I said bewildered, “it says right here that it is!” I pulled the manual out of the glovebox and rapidly found the page. “Look! Here’s the symbol and the instructions.”

“If I could ask you to turn to the next page?” he asked.

On the next page was another row of symbols, none of which had I ever seen on my car’s dash.

One was almost identical to the alert from last night. Only there was a tiny gap in the circle at the top. That was it.

“Your tire pressure is low,” stated Mr Helpful.

We stared at each other for a full 30 seconds before I lost it and started laughing.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I gasped, “why in the world would my car fall to pieces because the tire pressure is a little low? It’s ridiculous.”

“Yes,” he replied, “but if you drive with low tire pressure over time, the tires will wear unevenly and that would be dangerous later.”

I just stared at him.

“Well,” he said, “Why don’t I just take it around the back and fill the tires for you?”


My two hour appointment was over in ten minutes.

It was nice to meet him, but I really would prefer not having a reason to see him again for a long time.

If my car has a meltdown over low tire pressure, I just don’t want to know what it does when something important happens.

If I’m driving down the road and the transmission falls out, I don’t care if the car goes into auto-pilot and tries to eject me from the driver’s seat.

I’m going to buckle down and tell the car to man up and keep going.

Big whiner.

Published inLiving Larger


  1. pamela schlottman

    How funny and how true. I have had a red light go on several times in my car and when I take it to the dealer they tell me it could cost hundreds of dollars to turn it off and it could be NOTHING. Since my car was completely tuned up they suggested I just be careful and take it back in if I notice it is driving odd. We finally got rid of our care that we could not turn the “red” light off. Of course it was ten years old. So maybe it was time.

  2. Kiki

    We bought a brand new Ford station wagon and drove to Mammoth. On the way, in Victorville, middle of the desert, our transmission fell out. We coasted off the freeway. and fortunately there was a gas station at the bottom of the offramp. We were shuttled across town to the nearest Ford dealership and received a free rental car for our entire trip and the trip back to San Diego. Such a scary feeling to not be in control of a car…. even low air pressure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *