Grief hard knowing car on its last legs

It doesn’t matter how many cars you buy and sell in your lifetime, parking one for the last time is not easy. You’ve undoubtedly seen many miles together, spent years together … it’s like an old friend.

Maybe letting go is easier when you’re using your car as a trade-in, or selling it to another driver. At least then you know it will be given another chance. It will live to drive another day.

But when you have to sell your car for scrap because it’s too old and broken down to be of any use to anyone, it’s not a pretty sight. It’s like watching that good old friend fade before your eyes: You know what’s coming, but you still go through the five stages of grief.

First stage: Denial.

You hear a strange sound, but you’re convinced it’s coming from another car.

Tick, tick, tick. You turn down the radio to hear it better.

“Poor guy,” you think to yourself, looking at the fellow in the beater next to you. “His car is going to pack it in any day now.”

A few days later, you hear the sound again, but, you think it can’t possibly be your car making that loud, rattling noise: RAP, RAP, RAP … You turn up radio to fool yourself into believing that it’s still another car.

“Man, I would hate to be THAT guy!” you laugh to yourself. You turn the radio up louder to drown out the annoying noise.

Second stage: Anger or resentment.

At this point, there’s no denying that that ticking noise — better known as a death rattle — is coming from your car. And now, it’s accompanied by a burning smell, kind of like the first time you tried pancakes on the barbecue. You swear and curse the day you ever laid eyes on “that” car.

“Piece of junk! You’re always breaking down! I never should have bought you in the first place. If one more thing goes wrong, I’ll have you crushed …”

You don’t want to invest another dime because it has already cost you more than its share in headaches. You continue to ignore the signs.

Third stage: Bargaining.

The sound is louder; so much so that you can hear it over the stereo. The pine-tree shaped air freshener dangling from your rearview mirror is useless against that burnt-barbecued-pancakes smell. And strange puddles of autobodily fluids form under your car.

You know you should have taken better care of the ol’ girl; you should have brought it into the shop with the first faint tick from under the hood since vehicles don’t have the ability to heal themselves like people do. And you promise you will call your mechanic as soon as you get home … as long as you can make it home.

“Please, pleeease, just get me home,” you say as you gently rub the dash. “I promise I will be good to you. Just pleeeeease get me home!”

Fourth stage: Depression.

You have lived up to your end of the bargain. You made it to the garage and your mechanic gives you the bad news: She’s a goner.

Only now does it hit you that you’re going to have to say goodbye … after saying goodbye to plenty of money keeping it going this last while.

It turns out that all those threats about taking the car to the scrap yard were self-fulfilling prophecies you wish you could take back. But it’s too late.

And the fifth stage: Acceptance.

There’s nothing that can be done to save your car. Dropping one more penny on the clunker is futile as the math will just never add up.

You realize that it’s time to move on … literally. You need a new set of wheels. You promise you will take better care of it, so it will last you a little longer … and you can buy more time before you have to go through it all over again.

Rhonda Wheeler is a journalist with Wheelbase Media, a worldwide supplier of automotive news, features and reviews. You can email her by logging on to and clicking the contact link.

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