Chatter #40: September 7, 2001

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM


Hit & Run Aftermath

More than two months have passed, and it's now pretty clear that whoever hit my car (see the July 2nd entry) has gotten away with it—with the apparent help of the bastards at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a company that I will never do business with again (not that they care, I'm sure). Geico sent us a check, but we've been unsure what to do about it. The car is totally functional, after all; the damage was mostly cosmetic, and functionality was only mildly impaired (the mirror and door). I just need it to pass inspection. So I talked to my father about it, to see what he thought.

I should explain that my father is quite handy, as well as one of the most intelligent people I know (he got his Ph.D. from MIT). His instinct is to do most repairs and such himself. I, however, did not inherit much of his handiness; I'm not knowledgeable about car repair, and my first reaction is to buy a replacement for a broken thing or have it professionally repaired. About all I can do is build a decent bookshelf, and sometimes do minor repairs if they involve hammering in some nails. Oh, and I can usually follow instructions to put things together, although often there are a few bumps and mistakes along the way. In short, I'm not the sort of man who gets a lot of respect from the tough guys with power tools who like to whip up a credenza from scratch on a lazy afternoon. In other words, I'm a geek.

So when Dad insisted that we should not spend $1,200, but do some good-enough repairs ourselves I agreed, and last week we got together.

This was the damage: The driver's-side side-view mirror was smashed, although the mechanism to move it was working perfectly and the housing was virtually untouched (got to give Honda credit for making a hell of a car). The driver's-side door was bashed in somewhat (although the power window and locks were still fine), and the area in front of the door next to the front left tire was smashed in rather heavily. About two feet of the horizontal rubber side-stripe that ran along the sides of the car was detached and sticking out on the driver's-side door. The door itself would only open about two feet, which was a little bit of a squeeze for me. The top of the door was bent out a bit, so that there was about a one-inch gap where the window frame met the frame of the car. The rubber gaskets filled the gap, but I could hear and feel wind blowing when I drove, and if the car sat in a heavy rain some water would get inside.

Repairing the mirror: My father cut a piece of mirror into the shape of the old one, and we picked out all the broken shards off of the sticky tar-paper backing. Then we used heavy double-sided tape to secure the new mirror to the tar-paper. It attached well, and stuck on nicely. The new mirror wasn't exactly the same size, so we found a little black electrical tape and put it on the corners. Since the housing was also black, the tape hardly showed.

Whoops! I should note here that when I say we I should say my father. The ideas were all his, and I was just trying to help.

Dad's power drill battery had died, so we used a long screw and hammer to make a small hole in the car body underneath the end of the rubber strip. We then took a screw, put it through the end of the strip, and screwed it into the sheet-metal of the car. Then we stuck a piece of electrical tape over the screw head. It was firm and looked great.

Finally, I grabbed the top of the window-frame of the car door and bent it back. It now fit back into the frame almost perfectly; eventually I'll get a 2x4 and lever it back another quarter inch or so, but in the meantime I don't have to worry about wind or rain. The gap is basically undetectable.

And that was about it! On the way home I bought a fresh roll of all-weather electrical tape (the tape we'd used had been very old, and peeled off on the road). I taped neatly around the perimeter of the mirror, trimming away a bit of excess, and put a new piece of tape over the screw-head in the rubber strip. Finally, I took the claw-end of a hammer and pulled out the small bashed-in section of the body in front of the door; it didn't look like new, but at least it was pretty much curved out instead of in. And when I'd finished, I found that I could open and close the driver's-side door all the way, with no squeaking or effort!

So tomorrow I take the car to see if it will pass inspection. The body really doesn't look bad at all—you might not even notice the damage if I were to drive past you. It still might fail on emissions, but that's a different story. We'll see.

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[email protected] Copyright 2001 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 14, 2001. version 1.0