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Posts Tagged ‘sic transit Saturn’

I’ve driven Saturns since shortly after they rolled off the assembly line in Tennessee. The cars did what I wanted them to do, the brand idea was great [for a while], and I didn’t have to argue with the dealership [Just imagine what it’s like when a traditional car salesman clashes with a feminist rhetorician. For 20 years of not having to deal with that sort of garbage, I am still grateful].

But THIS: this is awful.

Saturn LogoI was angry enough when GM killed the brand, but letting people die because it would be too much trouble to admit a problem? There should be some kind of warning stamp, perhaps with the image of the ill-fated Space Shuttle mission of 1986 on it, or even just the words “Challenger, go with throttle up“, that engineers can use as a last mark of dissent, or as a first sign of THIS COULD BE BIG TROUBLE. Or maybe the stamp here: http://geekystamps.weebly.com/

When my car lost power last summer, I was very lucky. Those were moments of panic, but I still had a sense of what I could do to control the car, and my momentum was such that I had time to take those actions.

But luck shouldn’t have been necessary.  Luck shouldn’t be why I’m alive and they are not. (I like being alive, but that is not the point of this particular musing…) (I guess it could be said that I’m alive because I am old enough to know how to drive a car without power steering and power brakes…?)

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Oh, any number of topics have sprung to mind while I’ve been driving: grumbling about GM’s industrial design choices, the quality of local roads, the easily-eroded border between routine and chaos…

And these come together, roughly, when I hit a pothole.

The asphalt mix around here is optimized for milder winters, and the unusual combinations of hard freezes, thaws, and precipitation types have combined to create some truly impressive divots/ruts/axle-breakers.

Saturn LogoI say ‘axle-breakers’, but I am not fearing for my car’s axles. I’m thinking of my Saturn’s ignition cylinder, that inconvenient little part that cost just enough to make GM opt for inaction, prioritizing their bottom line over the lives of drivers, passengers, and innocent bystanders.

For many people, the idea that a bump in the road could disable ones car is conveniently abstract. They’ve hit bumps before while driving their cars, and are none the worse for wear. They might think removing their keyfobs and other janglies from their ignition keys to be overkill.

Not so with me. I haven’t lost a loved one to this engineering fiasco, but I did once clip a curb on a rough patch of road one night when coming up off a highway… and my Ion went dead. An unfamiliar light flashed on the dash as everything went out, my brakes and steering were “gone”…. and I was heading straight towards a corner gas station.

Thank heaven no one else was in the area at the time. Thank heaven I’ve driven cars without power steering, and know that stomping down on the brakes is better than doing nothing. I wrenched the wheel as hard as I could and came to a stop in the lane between the pumps, rather than through one of the pumps.

I turned the car off and sat in the darkness for a while.

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