The Saga of a Dying Car
Melinda’s story about living in Singapore, or anywhere really, with an ‘unsupportive’ car continues.
On the day we had it scrapped, my kids were singing, “Ding dong, the car is dead”
My car was possessed. No, seriously: I’m sure it was possessed. I named it “Evil Dr Lemon”.
How else would the car know to spite me, to rub my face in a story I wrote about how crappy it was, by once again breaking down the very same day the story was published in Expat Living (January 2018)?
It was as though it said, “Oh yeah? Take this!” And with that, my battery died, needing to be replaced just six weeks before the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) was up. I had to call a battery dude to come replace it. Oh, believe me, I tried not to do that. First, I got a jump, but the very next morning it was dead again so I shelled out the cash for a new one.
It didn’t stop there. After driving scratch-free for years up and down those terrifying corkscrew parking ramps in all the Singaporean malls, I finally hit a wall. True, some fella on the other side of the ramp almost hit me as he was coming into the lot so I swerved, but I’m pretty sure Evil Dr Lemon pulled the steering wheel harder than I did. We limped home with a new, giant green battle scar down the side.
Bad to worse
The final insult was a blowout on the CTE, one week to the day before the car was euthanised. The Peugeot must have known what we had planned and it wanted to get me back on a day when it was 40 degrees outside. Because Evil Dr Lemon had no air-con, it was probably 50 inside the car. We were on the way home from camp. My son had been playing soccer all day so he was already worn out from the heat. I’ve never seen anybody sweating more in my life than he was in the backseat of that car. My daughter? She’d been at drama camp and her performance that day required long black pants and a long-sleeve black shirt. Once again, she had to peel off her shirt to tolerate the car. (The last time she took of her shirt in the car was so I had something with which to wipe our foggy windows.)
Here’s a fun fact: if your car breaks down on one of the expressways, the LTA must tow it – for free! I spent 25 minutes on the hotline waiting to tell somebody, but I’ve since learnt that the expressways also have cameras so the LTA will just come on their own. I dunno; I still think it’s good to call.
The heroes arrived maybe 20 minutes after I reached somebody on the phone. I have never been happier than I was seeing that big orange tow truck come over the hill. It was as though I was surrounded by the enemy, and the cavalry was riding in on white horses. My kids let out a weak cheer, the best their heat-ravaged bodies could muster.
But there’s a catch: the LTA only tows your car to the nearest safe spot, usually a parking lot. Then you have to call another tow truck, which was hard to find. Nobody wanted to simply just put on my spare. Where’s the money in that? It took me many calls to find some kind soul to come rescue me. Turned out, one of my bolts was rusted tight, so in the end we were towed after all – to a place on Sin Ming Drive so our new hero could use a machine to get the tyre off. I’d never been in that part of Singapore and it must have – oh, I dunno – a thousand car shops.
It was a three-hour ordeal.
The family was naturally excited when it was time to turn the car back into the government. The day we scrapped it, my kids were singing, “Ding dong, the car is dead”.
In Singapore, cars are typically returned when they turn ten years old. This is to limit the number of cars on the road, to keep the air clean and to keep old jalopies like mine from breaking down constantly. The good news is that you get a big chunk of change back when you turn it in. Somebody asked me why we didn’t return it earlier and the answer is, I’m not quite sure. Maybe it was just plain stubbornness, wanting to see it through to the bitter end. Maybe we’re just cheap. The car was paid for so, why not use it till the end?
It’s a fairly simple process, as most things with the Singaporean government are, but it was still a bit of a pain. My husband and I drove Evil Dr Lemon one last time to the LTA headquarters, also on Sin Ming Drive, just a stone’s throw from where I’d had my tyre fixed.
We practically skipped to the counter, where we filled out some papers and got a pin number. Then we took our pin number and headed to one of the scrapyards here in Singapore, which, as you might expect, are on the edges of the country. The scrapyard gives you $150 cash on the spot. The PARF (Preferential Additional Registration Fee) is sent to you by the government, so make sure your info is correct on the onemotoring.com.sg website.
End of an era
I was so hoping to see the car smashed to bits, but that didn’t happen. The scrapper will first take out all the usable stuff: tyres, radios and more. Won’t he be disappointed when he realises very little works on that car? Then, at long last, it’ll be smashed. I felt a bit robbed not getting to see the end of Evil Dr Lemon.
I took a taxi home and got out and felt a bit sad. What will I complain about now? Plus, there’s no car in our future so life got harder. Or did it? Thank goodness for taxis. They don’t break down – and they have air-con.
Next time? I think we’ll rent. With a rental, a breakdown is somebody else’s problem and you get a replacement car while yours is in the shop. Gosh, that sounds nice.
-If you don’t want the hassle or responsibility of buying, look at renting.
Rent from a market leader who manages one of the largest and young automobile fleets in Singapore.
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