News from Vermont #393 They Just Don’t Make’em Like They Use To!

February 14, 2018

Hello again Maple People,
I just returned from having my car inspected and, whew, it passed. Sure brings back memories of sweating out test scores back in my school days! I’ve always driven “elderly” cars which, due to all of our salty, winter roads here in Vermont, age a bit out of proportion. That’s never been a huge problem for this old guy. It’s kind of fun, in fact, to age right along with your trusty motor vehicle and finally win…graveyard trumps scrapyard, yea!
We’ve all seen the quintessential “bucket o’ bolts” pull up beside us at the convenience store or the gas station. Usually the person is driving it because he or she simply can’t afford anything better. It seems, though, our state leaders, in their infinite wisdom, have made a giant move to place these beaters on the endangered species list or condemn them as fodder for the scrap yard.
We’ve been accepting tougher inspection standards like strict emissions tests for years. In fact “check engine” lights, aka “idiot lights” now come on at the drop of a hat. Very few trouble-free miles are ever driven in any modern vehicle before one of those cussed things lights up. They are truly mosquito’s of the auto world. Used to be, a well-tuned car was our friend…we’d drive and drive, feeling free as a bird. But now, just about the time that euphoric feeling settles in, BANG, there goes an idiot light and it’s off to the repair shop once again!
Proof of insurance is always another source of aggravation. Those little perforated cards sent annually by our insurance company have a habit of getting lost, ignored, or immediately round-filed but on inspection day, they become the Holy Grail of requirements…once again, proof positive that in this day and age, one’s word cannot be trusted. When all that stands between the inspection’s triumph passage or embarrassing failure is that tiny piece of paper, it usually can be magically produced via fax between insurance agent and sticker-holding mechanic.
And now rust has become the true deal breaker. A tad of surface rust is still allowed but beware; one single place where rust has eaten a hole through your car draws a loud and clear “you flunk!”. This determination, I found on a recent fact finding trip to my friendly neighborhood mechanic, is still at the inspector’s discretion but when it comes to an active idiot light, the inspector’s hands are tied; the vehicle’s computer sends this information directly to DMV computers for a automatic failure…Big Brother’s alive and well right here in Vermont!
Sometimes it seems the most reasonable answer to modern car inspection is to treat vehicles as disposable, like razor blades or dirty Pampers. Simply walk to the nearest dealer and sign up for a new one but what do we do with the growing collection of rejects? I once witnessed an old Vermonter who filled a ’53 GMC truck cab with rocks, buried it, and used it as his leach field. As far as I know, it’s still functioning 50 years later (however illegal it is!) and, by golly, maybe that’s the answer; after all, there are two things none of us can live without: cars and leach fields.

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