The first of two cars I've owned in my entire life

Most items I buy are pretty easy to find locally. The one exception would be auto parts. I’m now pushing 160,000 miles on my Jeep Grand Cherokee which I purchased brand new back in February 2000.

One of the upsides of owning a car for a long time is not having loan payments. One of the downsides? Lots of routine maintenance kicks in after a while. Right now my Jeep is in need of quite a bit of this work: brakes (still unchanged after this infamous post), suspension, and tires just to name a few.

The Grand Cherokee has been rock solid* with only a couple of annoyances, the largest of which was a leaky axle seal which I had repaired several times before finally replacing the entire axle. I don’t believe this was as much the fault of the vehicle as it was the approach of the repair shops I used. The other problem I’ve noticed over the past five or six years is that the vehicle burns off coolant and I need to refill the reservoir every three or four weeks.

At this point, I don’t want a different car. I also don’t want to put a lot of money into the Grand Cherokee if something major is uncovered. I don’t get stellar gas mileage (high teens in the city, mid twenties on the highway), but I’m also utilizing the car in a way that is more environmentally friendly than upgrading to a different vehicle every two or three years. Thankfully, planned obsolescence hasn’t quite found its way to the auto manufacturers like it has to consumer electronics.

I’d been driving on pretty old tires most of the winter–and my car is already slightly handicapped in this area by being two-wheel drive. When I purchased the car, I didn’t need the four-wheel drive capability as I was driving in Texas climate. Here in Wisconsin, snow is another story. Even a slight dusting can become potentially debilitating for my car, but with careful driving and route choices, I’ve managed to avoid anything serious other than having friends push me out of icy patches.

First day in the driveway some ten years ago

First day in the driveway some ten years ago

So it’s comical that I chose to replace my tires in April, after the winter season had come to an end. I’d probably have gone longer, but the 2/32″ tread left on my tires plus the blowout Marcus experienced on the highway were two major factors in the decision. I stopped in at one of the two places I use now for local auto parts, Mills Fleet Farm. I was in Manitowoc for a weekend event and dropped the car off for the new tires, which they installed quickly along with performing a front-end aligment.

I’d also have purchased brake parts, but Fleet Farm didn’t have my brake pads, so I decided I’d wait to checkĀ Blain’s Farm & Fleet in Milwaukee. Farm & Fleet is based in Janesville, so it’s even more local than Fleet Farm (based in Brainerd, Minnesota). Both companies are still owned by the original founding families (which are not related), which makes them old-school throwbacks of a sort. The stores have that “feel” about them that you’d recognize as soon as you walked in. In a way that is very anti-Target, stores and weekly ads prominently feature work boots, Carhartt farmĀ apparel, poultry feed, and teat dip.

The best part of this story? The tires I purchased went on sale the next week (buy three, get one free). I took my sales receipt from Manitowoc over to the Germantown store and they happily refunded me the difference.

I love my Fleet Farm.

* Knock on wood.