My car is officially a piece of crap. Granted, it's not a Family Truckster, but I've been fixing my '99 Jetta Macguyver style for a while now. Here's what's been duct-taped, super-glued and simply yanked off after being deemed non-essential so far:

Passenger side window
Diagnosis: F-ed up motor thingy that makes it go up and down
Symptoms: Loud, scary noise when anyone attempts to put it down
Solution: Screaming "Ahhh, don't touch the window button!"

Driver's side door handle
Diagnosis: Broken off
Symptoms: Breaking off
Solution: Super glue for aesthetics, pull door closed some other way.

Ceiling fabric
Diagnosis: The ceiling is falling off my car
Symptoms: Oven-like heat melting German glue, causing fabric to fall in my face and expose asbestos-like grossness underneath
Solution: Super glue, creating classy billows of fabric that give my car a certain circus tent jen ou sais quoi.

Diagnosis: Electrical system completely shot.
Symptoms: Alarm doesn't disengage when door is unlocked, causing it to go off and cause anxiety/embarrassment/rage.
Solution: To disengage, open then close trunk, run and open driver door, turn on car quickly before alarm engages. Do chicken dance for 30 seconds.

Sunroof (this week's crap out)
Diagnosis: My car thought it would be funny when I go to try to close the sunroof in the pouring rain.
Symptoms: When sunroof is almost completely closed, it shoots back open. (Banging on steering wheel doesn't help.)
Solution: Putting sunroof in moonroof mode, then closing all the way from there. Or just not opening it for the next three months while I live in a kiln.

Needless to say, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to "trick" my car. There's more - broken vanity mirror cover, broken keyless entry, projectile foam coming from the a/c vents - but despite all its faults, I still love it. Which is why I refuse to get a new car (that and the fact that not being able to keep a car past 100,000 miles would bring shame to my family). So, for the fourth (fifth?) consecutive month, I brought my car in for a little TLC. I wanted to try a different mechanic, as the one I had been using, a gruff Russian, treated me and my car with the kindness of, well, a Russian. At first I appreciated his no-nonsense, to-the-point demeanor (Your break pads... no good! You take your car home today!). But eventually I began to miss the car-repair-for-dummies explanations of why I needed to fork over $500.

Then I stumbled upon a recommendation for King Auto (260 NW 28th St; 305-576-1309). It was close to my office, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was pleased to see that their motto was "Miles of Smiles" (and a wooden cutout of a bear advertising breaks), and that they were a 42-year-old, family-run business. I gave Gary my car's list of issues and, instead of handing over the keys and getting the "we'll take a look at it and call you" line, Gary invited us to take a ride. We start rolling, and he starts diagnosing. "Feels like you have an air pocket in your back right tire... and the front right tire... the spark plugs need to be replaced... feel that swaying back and forth?" Um, no. He then proceeded to explain the swaying, but I was so in awe of his car whispering skills (and proclaimed him the Car Whisperer), I wasn't even paying attention anymore.

When we returned, he encouraged us to caress the tires and feel for bumps. Despite feeling like I was giving my car a breast exam, I got all giddy when I did, indeed, feel the bump. He pointed out worn tread like David Caruso uncovering clues (Gary: "What happened to the guy who sold you these tires?" Me: "I don't know, maybe he took off." Gary: "Or maybe... you got taken for a ride" [cue The Who's "We Won't Be Fooled Again"]). I was already looking forward to the next time my car had issues, so I could witness Gary bust out his vehicular sixth sense.

That's right: He sees dead spark plugs.

-- miaeditor