Headliner Happiness

When we bought our jeep, the fabric on the headliner was completely gone. The fiberglass was still there, but all of the fabric had been removed. One can only assume that it must have been a saggy, droopy mess, so the old owners just cut it all out.

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For almost two years, every time I got in the vehicle, I would make a mental note to replace the fabric. I had thought that I would have to find the fabric and put the padding on myself, but once I started doing a little research, I learned that that was not the case. You can actually buy replacement headliner fabric. I ordered some in the same light gray that had originally been there, then we set about replacing it.

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Since I was the one who kept whining about the dusty celing, it was my job to scrape off all the old foam. It was so old and worn that it came off super easy. I then wiped it clean and Nathan helped me vacuum it to make sure we had gotten all of the dust off.

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Rob and I worked together to apply the spray glue and then lay down the fabric. The whole goal, of course, was to avoid any wrinkles in the fabric, because once they dried, they were not coming out. After a couple of days in the warm shop to dry, Rob reinstalled the headliner. (I was actually working at the school that day, so it was a surprise when he came to pick us up!) It looked amazing!

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The center lighting was a little more of a challenge. I took all the pieces apart to recover the outside, then Rob had fun putting it all back together. Except for one burnt out light, it went back in beautifully. I washed the sun visors to get all the old foam dust off of them, and you can hardly tell that they were not replaced with the rest of it. And just like that, our dusty old ceiling looked brand new. I love projects where you can see such an amazing difference when you are done. I guess now we just have to decide what to work on next!

Battle Axle!

Perhaps one of the most exciting (or not) things about owning an older car is that you know eventually something will break, you just never know when or where it will choose to do so. Take, for example, our ignition switch. Our dear, sweet old jeep decided to wait until we were all the way over in West Yellowstone (on vacation!) before it so kindly let us know that we needed a new one. Exciting, right? So when the same dear, sweet old jeep started making horrible noises in her rear end, we braced ourselves for more… excitement. Only, as it turns out, this noise was not a simple repair. So, instead of paying the repair shop a small fortune, we decided to tackle this one ourselves.

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For those of you who have never had the pleasure of searching online for a rear axle for an 18 year old car, let me tell you, you are missing out, because that is some fun stuff. We located one at a salvage yard in Spokane, ordered it with our fingers crossed that it was in good shape, paid some freight, and waited for it to arrive. Meanwhile, every time we drove our jeep into town, we were silently chanting please don’t break, please don’t break… Apparently begging your car not to break while petting the steering wheel really does work. Who knew?

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The differential didn’t look like much on the outside, but everything on the inside seemed in tip-top shape. Let the repairs begin! Due to a gravel driveway and lack of garage, we had to jack up our jeep on the basketball court. We didn’t get very far the first weekend before we realized they had cut a brake line, so the race was on to find replacement parts. Once we figured out what to do with that little issue, it was too late to start on the axle, so it had to wait until the next weekend.

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So last Sunday we spent the entire day outside, tackling an axle. The stress level of this project was actually pretty high. There was the fear that the new axle would not work, or would be broken in one way or another. What if we could not get it back together properly, or broke something else? Not to mention that our car was now missing an important part, so if we needed anything from town (25 miles away…) we had no way to get there.

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Luckily, Rob and I work well together, so really, it was sort of like a date day. A really cold, dirty, uncomfortable date day. Okay, maybe not… But things did go relatively smooth. It wasn’t until we were almost finished when I learned that I have super human-strength. How else could you explain the bolt that I snapped in half while trying to get the nut off? (Oopsie.) Apparently stabilizer bar links are kind of important, so we had the pleasure of ordering them next day air.

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There was a lot of rolling around on the ground, a good deal of grunting (that thing was heavy!) and perhaps even a swear word or two… or three… (hundred), but in the end, everything went back together the way it was supposed to. The poor jeep had to spend another two nights jacked up while waiting for those overnight parts to come, but we were able to finish her up yesterday afternoon. Our first test drive required some tweaking. Our second test drive required a little more tweaking. Our third test drive: Success! No more grinding sound in the rear end, no more horrible noise when we hit the brakes. Silence. Well, as silent as an 18 year old car can be anyway. What a relief to have successfully replaced our rear end! We celebrated with corn dogs and ice cream sandwiches, because we are that kind of wild.

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Now, when I look outside, I see Peej (yes, that is her name) sitting in her own parking space, all four wheels safely on the ground, and I am pretty sure she is happy. I can almost hear her plotting her next move. Bring it on, Peej! With Rob’s knowledge, my super-human strength, and about 200 YouTube videos, we can fix just about…. No, I am just kidding. Please don’t break, please don’t break, please don’t break…

Decisions, Decisions…

Last week the transmission in our beloved minivan began to slip. After having it inspected, it was determined that certain parts needed to be replaced, with an estimated cost of $3000. Rob contacted the Honda dealer for a second opinion and they would not be able to simply repair our current tranny, they would have to replace it with a factory refurbished one, running $4500.

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These repairs were a little too steep for us, and with 252,000+ miles on our van, we were nervous about putting so much money into it. The fear was that more things were going to begin breaking. So we had a decision to make. There were a few options to choose from:

  1. Repair the van and hope that nothing else broke anytime soon.
  2. Take out a small loan to fix all the things that needed tending to. (There were several.)
  3. Buy a new car.
  4. Go without a car for a while.
  5. Buy a new-to-us used car that was less expensive than repairing the van.

Taking out a loan was not something we even wanted to consider, so that ruled out buying a new car and a loan to fix more repairs on the van. We also decided that replacing the tranny was a no-go. Going without a chaser vehicle was considered for a bit, but in all honesty, we love to drive, to explore, to go the grocery store without having to unhook Waldo. While that would have been our cheapest solution, it was not the most desirable. So we decided to look into the new-to-us used car idea. I thought it was a long shot, but it was worth a look.

We stumbled upon something most intriguing, so we drove down the road to Salvo to check it out. It just so happened that a family of six was moving to Texas and had too many vehicles. They were selling their Cherokee because it only seated five. (On a side note, Rob and I had a Jeep Wrangler once-upon-a-time that we thoroughly enjoyed, but it only seated four, so we ended up selling it for the very same reason.) This Jeep had been maintained very well and had lots of recent updates and repairs, including a new transmission. Rob, being much more mechanical than I, checked it out and felt like it was a good solid car.

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Needless to say, we decided to buy the Jeep. It was less than repairing our van and has less miles, even though it is two years older. The fact that it is a Jeep is simply a bonus. We have always loved Jeeps and have often talked about getting another one.

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We cannot drive it yet since we do not have plates, but we can register it through our mailing service in South Dakota. It should only take a couple of weeks to get it licensed. We are continuing to drive the van for now, only as little as possible. The Odyssey (Dory) has been a great van for us over the last six years. We drive a lot and we ask a lot of our cars. The van definitely has not let us down. It will be strange not driving her anymore, but she has earned her retirement. We will have to leave her here when we leave North Carolina in a few weeks.

Why is it that sometimes cars feel less like cars and more like a part of the family? Is it because of all the places they take us? Or the memories we make while in them? I have no idea. What I do know, though, is that while getting a new car is exciting, leaving one behind is not always easily done…