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Archive for December 5, 2014

But how can I measure Odo now?

December 5, 2014 6 comments

I have an automotive habit that I learned from my father: When I fill up the gas tank, I write down the mileage on the trip odometer and divide it by the number of gallons I buy in order to keep track of the car’s fuel efficiency. When I did so yesterday, I was rather shocked to see that the odometer read only 49 miles and I bought slightly over 7 gallons, giving an apparent fuel efficiency of just under 7 MPG. My first thought was that something was seriously wrong with my engine, or something else that affects fuel efficiency. My second thought was that something was seriously wrong with my odometer. A bit more driving confirmed that the odometer was broken — I’d no doubt driven significantly more than 49 miles since the last fill-up, but they hadn’t been registering. Either way, I needed maintenance, so I made an appointment. (Ironically, the dealer is directly across the street from the gas station I used yesterday — I was in the neighborhood after a dentist appointment — but I didn’t think I could just drop in, and I wasn’t sure what the problem was until I drove home and confirmed it was the odometer. So I had to make a second trip halfway across town in as many days. Just as well my fuel efficiency wasn’t the problem.)

So I went to the dealership and told the guy there about the odometer problem. He advised me that fixing it would probably entail removing the whole speedometer assembly and sending it out to someplace that could repair it, which would be cheaper than replacing the whole schmeer, but would leave me carless for a couple of days. But he said he’d check first during the inspection to see if there was just a blown fuse or something. So I occupied myself with my phone (listening to music to drown out the TV, browsing the web, and playing backgammon) while I waited, and hoped that it would turn out to be just a blown fuse. No such luck — he would have to send the part in for repair, and I’d be without a ride for  couple of days if I agreed to do that.

But then it occurred to me… do I really need a working odometer that badly? It’s handy for tracking my fuel efficiency, but I don’t really use it for anything else. I tend to ignore it except when I’m at the gas station. I suppose it could be useful if you know that a given destination is X miles from a certain intersection, say, but that’s kind of superfluous now that I have a smartphone with GPS navigation. And if the dealership or another garage needs to know how many miles are on the car, they can get that info from its onboard computer (it’s still registering the correct mileage, it’s just not getting to the dashboard display). So I decided that, for now, I’d just make do without an odometer.

Still, it may be a minor inconvenience, but it’s a sign of the car’s age (it’s 13 years old now). And it’s my second minor breakdown this year; last winter, the trunk release button on the dashboard stopped working because a cable came loose. Maybe it’s time I started to think about trading it in. I’m just not sure I could afford the expense of buying a car. But maybe if I get one or two of the extra writing gigs I’m hoping to get in the near future, it’ll be worth further consideration.

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