Friday, July 2, 2010

Toyotas and Me

I've been a Toyota owner pretty much since 1978, when I bought a brand new blue Corolla wagon in Lincoln, Nebraska. I really didn't spend much money on maintenance except for gasoline, oil, and tires. I took an auto mechanics class at South East Community College and learned how to change the oil myself, as well as the PCV valve, fuel filter, and how to flush the radiator and replace the thermostat. That car never let me down. It always started--even in the dead of the coldest winters.

When we moved to Rochester, Minnesota, in 1983, it still looked brand new. We left it in Rochester in 1992, when we moved away. By that time it had 147,000 miles and had been pretty much rusted out by the calcium chloride they put on Minnesota roads to melt the ice. (I've heard that calcium chloride is four times as corrosive as the sodium chloride most other states use.) The car never let me down, and I spent almost no money on the Corolla.

During our last years in Minnesota we purchased a Ford Tempo and a Dodge Maxivan to supplement the Toyota. When we moved, we took the Ford and the Dodge. The Dodge had a habit of stalling in the middle of busy intersections. After having it stall in the middle of the busiest intersection in the state of Utah, I finally had it towed to a garage and gave it to the mechanic.

The Tempo had a habit of killing while driving on the freeway. On numerous occasions it died. After coasting to the side of the freeway and waiting ten minutes, it would start again. I spent thousands of dollars trying to get it fixed, but to no avail. Finally I traded it in on a Geo Prizm--a Toyota Corolla with a different name plate.

Since that time I've owned an additional (Chevy) Prizm as well as a Toyota Tacoma pickup--the two cars I drive now. Both require virtually no money for upkeep. (The Nippon Denso spark plugs are good for 100,000 miles--I've changed them once.) Neither has a PCV valve or a timing belt--they have timing chains, which, I am told, are good for 240,000 miles. That means that I'm still waiting to pass the midpoint in their lives.

I remember when Ford and Firestone were pointing fingers at each other, trying the assign blame for a spate of Ford Bronco rollovers. During that time, I remember reading about an interview with a former Ford engineer who told about the known computer chip problems in Tempos, which caused them to exhibit the same symptoms that had cost me thousands of dollars to try to repair.

Lately Toyotas have been under the magnifying glass because of acceleration problems (within the past year). Then today I heard that Lexuses are being recalled because they have a habit of "stalling while driving." (Hmmm..., I wonder if they ever stall any other time--when stopped, perhaps?)

The media and executives of Government Motors (that's President Obama and the U.S. Congress--who run the former General Motors) have done lots of gasping and shown excessive alarm over the Toyota and Lexus recalls of the past year, hoping to influence people like me to abandon Toyotas and purchase U.S. makes. For me, however, it has made me more loyal to Toyotas than ever.

I trust Toyota to treat me fairly and honestly. Unlike Ford--who didn't bother to even report the computer chip problem mentioned above--Toyota shows honesty and integrity and repairs the vehicles it sells.

I'm thinking I'm due for a new car next year (when my Prizm reaches 120,000 miles--half its life). Guess what kind it will be?