RSS Feed

Tag Archives: 2004

R.I.P. Baby Car (2003-2014)

Bad Ass Forever

Bad Ass Forever

My 2004 Pontiac Aztek, sometimes affectionately called Baby Car, was officially put to rest today, with an odometer reading of 226,793. My Aztek was purchased on September 22, 2003 from Underwood Chevrolet Buick Pontiac Oldsmobile in Clinton, Michigan. All my miles.

I sold it to someone for a rock bottom price, as the cost of towing and repairs to get it running again will be steep.

My Aztek has served me well. It never left me on the side of the road (although once the battery did die in the insurance agency’s parking lot. But at least I was within walking distance of home.)

My Aztek once held my husband, myself, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my dog, a wheelchair, and all the supplies my MIL was taking home from her camper for the season. It is a feat other, larger SUVs could not handle.

I loved that the rear seats could be removed completely. My Aztek was once loaded floor to ceiling with 25 years of my crap as I took it to my sister-in-law’s garage sale.

We once took a trip and camped back there, using the optional tent package. On another trip, we were able to take 2 bicycles along with us by just taking off the front tire and popping them in the back.

My Aztek hauled our belongings to our first and (so far) only house. It carried drywall to redo our ceilings. It carried our first dog, then our second dog as well. It has carried my mother and MIL to many doctor appointments and grocery stores. It hauled me to all my doctor’s appointments when I was pregnant with my son, then hauled him to his many doctor appointments for his first year, everywhere from Toledo to Ann Arbor.

Note the black duct tape on the window.  I used blue until I could no longer find it in my house.

Note the black duct tape. I used blue until I could no longer find it in my house.

The Aztek has been a wonderful car for me. Sure, things started to break off or stop lighting up in the past few years. And there was the recent issue of having to duct tape the passenger window shut. But, I rode it hard for a lot of years. (Huh-huh. That sounds dirty.) It drove a daily commute of 74 miles for most of its lifetime. Never had a tune-up, because, well, when you get to a certain point, you have to go with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I was so proud when I reached 200,000 miles. My new goal instantly became to take it to 300,000 miles. Plus, well, it would be good for my wallet to not have a car payment for a few more years.

But, alas, it began to overheat on the 2 minute drive home from the grocery store, with all signs pointing to a blown head gasket. You have to love a car that waits till you pull in the driveway to heave its last sigh.

While I am happy that it did not go to the junk yard to rot and rust, it is almost as painful to think of someone else owning my baby.

The Aztek will never be forgotten. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

The End

The End

Has my 2004 Pontiac Aztek reached the end of the road?

Posted on
My Aztek

My Aztek

Tuesday morning I drove my car to work. Tuesday evening I stopped off at the grocery store before I came home.

When I started my car at the store, it started rough. I gave it a “What the hell.” I looked at the temperature gauge, and it was all the way at “Hot”, which never happens. I only had 2 minutes to go down the road to head home. In that time, the fan came on and the needle went lower down. When the fan turned off, it would pop back up to “Hot” again. The car was still running rough, which I would later learn is due to that it automatically reduces how many cylinders it is running on when gets too hot.

My husband and I checked the coolant. There was very little in it, and it was way gross looking, so we took his car to Walmart and bought some more coolant. When we got home, he headed out to add it to the car. It was very low. He added it straight to the radiator, and then the reservoir. By this time it was getting dark, but he started it and drove it around the block anyway. He said that the temperature gauge headed right back up to “Hot”, and it was, quote, “douching white smoke out the tailpipe.”

I haven’t had a professional look at it, because I am afraid it may overheat before I get there and get stuck. I don’t really want to pay the price of a tow if I don’t have to, as now the car sits in my own driveway.

Maybe Dave could help...

Maybe Dave could help…

And, I have little hope of reviving Baby Car from the dead. It still starts and runs. But the most likely internal coolant leak, rim of milkiness inside the oil cap, overheating, and white smoke from the tail pipe all lead me to believe that I have a bad head gasket. At over 10 years and 226,000 miles, I don’t think anyone would be surprised by this. I have talked to my pseudo dad, Mr. Goodwrench, on the phone about this twice. His questions and advice kind of lead me to the same conclusion. I tried researching on the Car Talk website, but that just sort of overwhelmed me with information.

I am wondering at this point if my husband might want to do a compression test on it. I also read where I could try adding sodium silicate to the coolant to seal the leak. But this would require changing the oil and filter and flushing the coolant system. All things that my husband would have to do. I don’t see where throwing money at it with professional labor would be of much benefit to me. At this point, if it can’t be fixed, the only monetary value of my car would be for a push/pull trade-in offer.

Baby Car has been a good car. I will compose a full obituary and post at a future date.

Believe it or not, I actually had other events going on this week that were stressing me out even worse than an end to my car that I have probably spent around 6,000 hours of my life bonding with. I can’t even let myself begin to think about my uncertain transportation future. I would just curl up in a ball on the floor and never get up.

Even if we do find a short-term fix, I don’t think it will see 300,000 miles, which was the new goal after I hit 200,000 miles.

What I Learned This Week – 1/12/14


It is not what I learned this week, but knowledge that I learned over working for the past 17 years that I put to good use this week.

There has never been a day that I stayed home from work where I wished that I had gone in.

The tree and the ground do not usually meet each other.

The tree and the ground do not usually meet each other.

Sunday and Monday Michigan was hit by the snowpocalypse and the polar vortex. (Wow, that sounds like a blockbuster double-feature for the SYFY channel.) I was due to work 37 miles away at 5:00PM on Monday. My main route had reports of being impassable with 3 to 4 foot drifts by the Sheriff’s department just 12 hours prior. Add to that the fact that:

1. I do not have 4-wheel drive.
2. I would have to expose my son to the deadly windchills.
3. If I got stuck on the road, I would be killed by the deadly windchills (great name for a band, by the way).
4. If I didn’t go into work, my husband could take my car that handles better than his. (He did. And it always started. Even when it was like -25 degrees outside, my 2004 Pontiac Aztek with the 218,500 miles always started. I ❤ my Aztek!)
5. My best friend had already forbid me from traveling.
6. My mom had forbade me from traveling.

Add to that that I would be spending roughly 4 hours roundtrip on travel to work a 4 hour shift. I would spend more on gas than I would make.

Azteks rule!

Azteks rule!

Some people were mad that my employer was open at all.

Business is business. As an employee, you are just a cog in the machine to make money. Your employer is not going to look out for your best interest. They want to be open to make money. I don’t blame them. If I had a business, I would want to be open to make money too.

So YOU can be the only one to decide if the roads are safe enough to travel on to get to your job or not. I know that decision is harder for some than others. My husband did go into work, because his is the higher paying job in our household. (I only work part-time.) Plus, he had a shorter distance to travel.

I know what you are thinking:

But a single mother who has to support her kids can’t lose her job, she has to get to work.

I then play Devil’s advocate:

But those kids will be even worse off if she ends up dead in a ditch.

Ohio has a great thing called “snow emergencies.” (We do not have that system in Michigan.)

When you get up to Level 3, any non-essential personnel (essential personnel being firemen, police, doctors, semi trucks delivering more road salt, etc.) caught traveling on the roads will be subject to arrest. It cuts down on the traffic (and, in turn, the stuck cars) on the road to speed up the time it takes to clear the snow off the road. Actually, in the case of this past week, they could not clear the road at all because it was too cold for the salt to melt the ice.

So, to sum up, the eight or so Ohio counties right below me were ARRESTING people for leaving their houses, while Michigan residents struggled to go on with “business as usual”.

Does anyone see the disparity there besides me?

Now understand, the snow emergencies encourage businesses to close, but it is not mandatory. Then people are torn between:

1. Go to work, get paid, maybe die, or get arrested on the way.

2. Stay home, lose money, risk getting fired and losing future money, but you are safe.

My asbestos friend’s husband actually faced this dilemma. He went in, only to arrive at his work and be sent back home again. But at least it clarifies the line. If you are willing to go out when it is against the law, then yes, you are crazy for being on the roads.

Now, there was one time that I DO wish I had gone to school when I did not. (If you said “Field Day”, wash your mouth out with soap.)

In Kindergarten, we were going to have an “Indian Dance”. We worked all week on making headdresses out of construction paper and vests out of brown paper bags. On Friday we were to get to wear everything we made and dance around. But my mom kept me home because I have diarrhea.

I am still mad at her for making me miss the Indian dance. If I had been there, it probably would have been forgotten with all the other activities we did in Kindergarten. But because I was kept home, in my head it has become legen–wait-for-it–dary.

Barney Rocks

Barney Rocks

Wait…I just realized that sounds very politically incorrect.

Maybe my son and I will have to stage our own dance in the living room, where we can’t offend anyone.

Thankful (Thanksgiving 2013)

My two favorite guys

My two favorite guys

I am thankful for my healthy, talkative son. I am thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my 100+ year old house that keeps us dry. I am thankful for our 3 year old furnace that keeps us warm. I am thankful we did not lose any of these things during our extended periods of unemployment. I am thankful my husband and I are both employed at this time. I am thankful that the aforementioned jobs allow us to pay all our bills, put food in our cupboards, and have a little entertainment as well. I am thankful for Dave, who brings joy to my life every day I look into her little puppy eyes and calm every time I pet her furry, shedding orange coat. I am thankful Parker has not peed on the floor yet today. I am thankful for my in-laws, who are going to feed us Thanksgiving dinner today. I am also thankful that they take my individualism in stride. I am thankful for my mom who babysits in trade for taking her to the store. I am thankful for my asbestos friend and her family, who are like family to me. She is definitely an emotional anchor for me. I am thankful for my S.A.D. light. I am thankful for making big strides in my book writing this year. I am thankful for those who have stuck with my blog, even though I have written less due to work and book writing.

2004 Pontiac Aztek, before all the hail damage

2004 Pontiac Aztek, before all the hail damage

I am thankful for my Pontiac Aztek sitting in the driveway with 216,000 miles on it, that I know will start up as soon as I need it to (and I will give it a courtesy warm up period, since Baby is a senior citizen). I am thankful that my car allows me to get to work, go to the store to buy food, to take my mom to the store to buy food, to take my puppies to vet appointments, to take my mother-in-law to medical appointments, to take us to the zoo, and overall make our life a 1000 times easier than if it were not functioning. (Maybe you need context to know that while we live in a town with daytime bus service Monday through Friday and a number of major name restaurants and grocery stores, 80% of what we do during a week requires us to drive 30-60 minutes away. And my husband and I often head in opposite directions on the same day, at the same time. And his truck only seats two.) I am thankful that I am a practical Capricorn, because my train of thought makes sense to me, even if it does not to everyone else.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

A Long Line of Blue Pontiacs

My car did it!  My 2004 Pontiac Aztek made it to 200,000 miles!

My odometer hitting 200,000 miles at 10:51AM EST on 11/19/2012!

When I was driving 25,000 miles annually, I calculated that this event would happen a lot sooner, such as in September of 2011.  But since I lost my job with the long commute, that postponed this milestone a little.  I also fantasized that I would have been able to trade in my Aztek for a Jeep Wrangler (my dream car) by now.  No such luck.

I bought my 2004 Pontiac Aztek brand new, so all those miles are from my household.  Every car I have ever owned myself was blue and a Pontiac.  In doing a quick calculation, I would say I have racked up 303,000 miles in blue Pontiacs since the summer of 1997. That works out to a 15 year average of 20,200 miles a year.

Man, I am a girl on the go.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I was a college commuter with no car.  The worst species on the planet to be.

Then my best friend helped me get a job at the gas station where she worked.  I worried how I would be able to travel the 20 minutes/14 miles between college and the village where my home and job were.  But my friend said she would give me a ride and that worked out well for that spring of 1997.

When summer came, we got into some sort of fight.  As much as I love her, she was a person who loved to be surrounded by drama, and sometimes instigated it from me as well.  Long story short, I told my mom my best friend was giving me rides home from work at 12:30AM, when in reality I was walking the 20 minutes/1.3 miles across town.  Luckily the town I lived in was so small that the only person who ever harassed me that whole summer while walking was the Chief of Police.

I loved my low paying retail job, but I knew I needed a car if I wanted to keep it once college classes started again.  All summer as I worked, I studied the Auto Trader to figure out what I could expect for my limited funds.

Oh no. I am wearing my unlucky shirt in that picture. It is unlucky because I was wearing it when that car died.

1989 Pontiac Grand Am LE

(racked up 23,000 miles)

I purchased this car with almost 143,000 miles on it from the side of the road for $2,000.  And I loved it.  I still do.

I bought it from a chick that had used it as her college car.  Now she had moved out of her parent’s house and was about to get married and had a new car.  I was too chicken to call about it, so I made my boyfriend-now-husband call.  Who then spoke with the chick’s little brother.  So, two parties who were not involved at all were discussing this potential future huge transaction in my life.  When I bought it, the chick said,” I am so glad that you are the one who bought it.”

Ya, I’m pretty sure that kind of car sale only happens between two chicks.

The chick had stuffed the center console with perfectly flattened candy bar wrappers.  They would not be the last candy wrappers to populate that vehicle.

I bought it while my boyfriend-now-husband was out of town at Disney World.  He came back and didn’t seem to think a thing that I had bought a car in his absence.  He had seen it parked in front of my friend’s house, and just figured I must have bought it.  Looking back, I can’t believe I made such a big purchase without his support.

So then it became my run-around get-to-college-car.  It had a luggage rack on the trunk.  As I was into NASCAR racing at the time, I referred to it as my spoiler.

I had a guy come into the gas station where I worked.  He told me he had had two Grand Ams, and that they were only good until 167,000 miles and then they always died on him (more on that later).

It was an uber rust-bucket, but I loved it.  In the two years I had the car, I put 4 new tires on it, some sort of wheel joint thing, the trunk rusted out and the shocks went into the trunk—that required some body work to fix it, a new muffler, a heater core (more on that later).

I had that car when I graduated college and when I got my first real job.  I totally would still have that car and be using it as a flower planter in my yard (Ya, I am sure the city would LOVE that!) if it hadn’t have died up in Sterling Heights while I was visiting my best friend.  On the way home, it died on the side of the road.  The garage it was towed to said it had a blown head gasket and possible cracked head.  My mom had to drive all the way up to get me while she was fighting off a nasty bought of diarrhea.  I left my car at my friend’s apartment where it was eventually towed as an abandoned vehicle.  Such a sad ending for my favorite car:(

The mileage when it died?  167,000-something.

The kid at the gas station spoke the truth!

My second Grand Am

1994 Pontiac Grand AM

(racked up 80,000 miles)

After my 1989 Grand Am died, I test drove cars that I could afford to buy with the cash I had saved up.  I quickly learned I had more expensive tastes.

The 1994 Pontiac Grand Am was the first car I ever bought from a car dealership and the first I ever had a car loan on.  I bought it used, with 81,488 miles on it.  It was teal, and had a red stripe down the side for style (if style was achieved by the stripe is questionable).  It had an actual spoiler.  To open the gas tank, you had to push a button inside.

I felt like I had arrived.

While this car had way more style than my last car and was in way better shape, it still always felt like what my mom would refer to as “My Temporary Car.”  She once bought a Ford Escort after an accident, when she needed transportation ASAP and just bought what would do right then.  And that is how my 1994 Grand Am always felt to me.

I got sick of it quickly, and yearned for a new car.  I made a few repairs on it as well, such as wheel joint things, EGR valve, etc.  But mostly I remember when the heater core went.  We were on our way home from Toledo when I smelled tell-tale aroma of antifreeze. A lot of it.  Leaking from my car as I drove. Hitting other hot parts and turning to stinky steam.  My husband thought I was crazy.

When we got to the gas station where I had previously worked, I stopped to check. Sure enough.  I bought some anti-freeze and stopped every so often to fill my quickly leaking reservoir as my mom followed me up to the dealership where I always got my work done.  Sure enough, heater core.

With a heater core replaced and 167,000 miles quickly approaching, I was itching for a new car.  I wanted either a Pontiac Aztek (which I thought looked totally awesome and no one else thought so) or a Jeep Wrangler.  As I was soon to be married and my husband could get me a discount on an Aztek, that is what I bought.

I traded in my 1989 Pontiac Grand Am at 161,036 miles. I had avoided the 167,000 mile Grand Am curse.

The Aztek when it was brand new…and a lil’ dirty.

2004 Pontiac Aztek

(racked up 200,000 miles)

On our honeymoon, we ran into people staying at the same bed & breakfast we were (Big Bay Lighthouse—eat that, suckers!) who had a blue Aztek. They loved it.  I think they even had leased one previously before buying the one they currently were driving.  That was the beginning of us realizing that while the world didn’t have enough bad things to say about the Aztek (including Pontiac itself); those who owned them loved them.

My husband knew I had my eye on the blue Aztek at the local dealership.  While we were waiting for his supplier discount from work to come though, he snuck down there and test drove it without me.  He fell in love with it.  So, I guess it is good he did, although I would have liked to have driven it first.

The Aztek was my first brand new car I ever owned.  I do not have enough nice things to say about my Aztek!  It has tons of interior room!  I once hauled all my belonging from the first 25 years of my life to a garage sale at my sister-in-law’s.  I removed the rear seats and filled that sucker from floor to ceiling, but it all fit.

It has ACTUAL floor space in the back seat!  On one occasion, we got 4 adults, one large canine, and a wheelchair all into the Aztek semi-comfortably.  My in-laws were not able to claim the same with their Trailblazer—the height of the wheelchair required them to fold down a seat to get it to fit.  Now we occasionally fit 2 adults, a toddler in a car seat, 2 large dogs, and a stroller in the Aztek with room leftover.

My husband and I took it on a trip out to Mt. Rushmore and camped in it every other night with the optional tent package (sans rear seats).  We really haven’t used the tent that much other than that one trip, but it was still awesome to tent camp without having to sleep on the ground.

It does wonderful in a crash!  I had only had it for just over a year, when I turned left in front of someone and caused $8000 worth of damage to the passenger side.  I wasn’t even sore.

The Aztek had among the highest CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) scores in its class, and won the appellation of “Most Appealing Entry Sport Utility Vehicle” in 2001 from J.D. Power and Associates, an independent consumer survey organization who noted: “The Aztek scores highest or second highest in every APEAL component measure except exterior styling.”


The only time my Aztek has left me stranded where the 2 times my battery died—once in my own driveway, once within a 10 minute walk from my home.  I have had various wheel hub joint things replaced (as I have done on all my Pontiacs), 2 new sets of tires (I am in dire need of another set), brakes, wires in the gear shifter, and there was a recall on the ignition system.

I have a theory that Pontiac only engineered the parts to last for 8 years, because once we hit the 8 year mark, things like the seat adjustment, dashboard lights, automatic windows, started to give out.  But it is a car we have used to DEATH for 8 years.

Some negatives are that the rear hatch doesn’t unlatch properly in cold Michigan weather.

After riding in my in-law’s quiet Trailblazer, I realized that the Aztek lets in lots of road noise.  Pontiac obviously knew this, which is why they equipped it with the radio that gets louder the faster that you drive.

If you set up the Aztek with the tent, you can’t really run out and buy a pizza and/or beer after that.  You have to be settled for the night, or have access to an additional vehicle.

The worst thing about the Aztek is what also makes it so stylish (shut up!)—the rear window.  Originally, they were made with rounded glass, which distorted everything.  Then there was just a black strip where the two windows joined.  Then to add style, they added the spoiler.  The spoiler looks wonderful from the outside, but is miserable to try and look out of, especially when changing lanes on an expressway.

My husband used to work on encapsulation for the rear window of the Aztek.   On two occasions, he even got to travel to the assembly plant in Mexico for work.

My husband complains about the Aztek needing lots of repairs, but I think his Ford Ranger is made much crappier.  He hasn’t had air conditioning since the truck was like 2 years old, and he had to get the throttle body fixed, the differential, other stuff I don’t remember, etc.

The Aztek was rarely ever featured on TV shows, the rare exception being Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly.  As the show took place in the future, someone must have thought the Aztek looked like a futuristic car.  I also spotted one parked on the street in the background on Hart of Dixie.

I read on Wikipedia that the Aztek was marketed to Gen Xer’s with active lifestyles, such as camping, snowboarding, biking, etc.  I guess my husband and I fell for that, because we would have been the target audience at that time.  But I have to tell you, it also works well for hauling dogs.  Or for a child’s car seat.  And I know three older women with knee/hip/mobility issues who find the Aztek a very good height to get in and out of.  The Aztek doesn’t make you feel like you are in a hole you have to climb out of like a car, and you don’t need a step stool to get up into it.

Matthew DeBord of The Big Money argued that despite its poor reviews and sales, the Aztek was the car that, in the long run, could save GM. He praised GM for being daring and trying to create an entirely new market in vehicles, rather than simply copying successful formulas. He argued that the Aztek’s failure is similar to the failure of the Apple’s Newton and Mac Portable – two failed products that revolutionized the computer industry and became the basis for later successful products made by Apple.


The Aztek, she is my baby.  She still goes, even with duct tape on the passenger window, massive hail (& fist) damage to the sheet metal, a mark from a construction barrel that jumped out in front of me, a driver’s seat that no longer can be adjusted vertically.  She has never had a tune-up (hmmm, I wonder if my GM dealership will recommend one when they hear the mileage!).  AND THE AIR CONDITIONING STILL WORKS, WITH ZERO MAINTENANCE!

I am so glad I bought my Pontiac Aztek when I did.  I believe 2005 was the last year the Aztek was available.  And now, well, now even the Pontiac nameplate is R.I.P.

Maybe next I will go for cheapness and buy me a Kia.  (Sister-in-Law, don’t tell your husband that.)

Even my lil’ boy knows blue cars are best.

%d bloggers like this: