Do I bike the 16-mile round trip to the next town for groceries, or spend the afternoon trying to get the car running right? I got a diagnosis from the shop that it’s a gummed-up EGR valve. Fortunately, I have the skills and, in theory, the time to repair it myself; but what if I didn’t? I’d be on the hook for a big bill, or on my bike, or on the bus.
UPDATE: This is a typical trade-off we face down in this level of income. Fortunately, I’ve developed resources over the years to muddle through these types of situations. First of all, we’re not so low on food that I had to grocery-shop today. Second, the repair shop is close to home, so it didn’t take long to retrieve the car. Third, it was running, an underrated advantage in such a situation; I got it home without cost or incident. Fourth, I’m fairly good with fixing things and have some tools available. Fifth, we have a second vehicle, which is also currently running (though not very well). Sixth, I had the time to study the situation and think about what to do. And this is what I did: I drove to the auto parts store and bought a can of brake parts cleaner; came home and had lunch while waiting for the engine to cool down; got out my tool kit and removed the dirty valve; gave it a good cleaning with the solvent; re-installed and test-drove. Guess what? The car runs GREAT! I can’t wait to see if the gas mileage improves. And all in less than an hour, not counting lunch.
It’s all normal enough for someone like me in my situation, but I can’t help but wonder what someone without the time, talent, or resources I have would have done, having found themselves low on food with a malfunctioning car.