Hey, let me show you my Probe in the parking lot.


When my last pickup started really dying in late 1999, I started looking rather seriously at a new car. Not really new, but a new car for me. I checked the newspaper, visited a few lots, and eventually ended up at CarMax looking at a 1995 Ford Probe SE. The interior had had a hard life. It looked (and smelled, a little) like the previous owner had dogs. Dogs tend to fuck up car interiors (and everything else. It's like having a semi-permanent 2-year old).

Still, the car only had 60,000 miles on it (or so). It was cheap, and they'd allegedly given it their whatever-point checklist; so I figured the car would be more or less hassle free to buy and own. For the most part, that's been true. I still wonder why it took six hours to buy the thing when I was paying cash and there was no price to haggle over.

This is not a picture of my car; just one that looks like my car did, because (yet again) I forgot to take a picture of my car before it got wrecked.

A few problems I had with CarMax:

They broke my oil dipstick, and didn't tell me. It happened early on, before my first oil change, and they were the only ones under the hood besides me, and I didn't do it. I'd taken it in to get the serpentine belt tightened, and the dipstick handle is right where someone could break it off if their hand slipped off the wrench while tightening the serpentine belt. This is apparently pretty common, because it happened on the second probe, too.

They lost the endcaps that go over the nuts that hold the wheel on. Again, they were the only ones who messed with that. Again, I found out when I took the wheels off when I got new wheels. Again, I wasn't told.

They messed up the wheel alignment. Again, I found this out while working on the back brakes. There's a few screws that hold a shroud on over the rear brake drums. They're only needed for assembly, since when the wheels are on they're held in place just fine. If someone was checking the brakes (which were done in the whatever point check, presumably) and didn't tighten the screw back on all the way, you wouldn't be able to put the wheel on correctly. When this was found the tread wear pattern on my back tires was explained, and the high speed interior rattling went away for good.

They tuned up with the wrong spark plugs. I never touched them until a breakdown in July where I had to get the plugs and wires replaced (glad that was all it was). One of the things on the repair bill mentioned "wrong spark plugs". I'll admit I was confused (wouldn't wrong spark plugs simply not fit?), until I found out that the Probe requires "High Temperature" spark plugs. Apparently those either: a) replaced wrong by the previous owner and not checked, or b) replaced wrong by CarMax. It looked bad either way.

In the grand scheme of things, these are nitpicky points. It shows a lack of attention, rather than a lack of skill. To be fair, nothing I suspect them for has caused me to be stranded, or caused something major to break (unless that rear wheel spins out a bearing). Still, it's made me double, and triple check repairs done to my car now. This wouldn't stop me from buying another car there (I like the hassle free nature, even though it still took all morning to do the paperwork, even when I was paying in cash), but I'd go over it very carefully before buying. I guess that's a good thing.

Nitpicking aside, I really dig the car. It's a hoot to drive, gets good gas mileage, can carry uncanny amounts of cargo, and is a constant source of seventh-grade class jokes about lavender probes. What more could one ask for? To date, I've gotten over 60,000 more miles out of it, and it shows no signs of fading (as I replace things, I tend to replace them with better things, so the entropy of the car tends to go down). Once the car was out of warranty, I started working on it more. Some of the mods are below. If I do something really cool with it, I document it. Most recent stuff at the bottom.

Lighted Ford Badge

My wife says "This is how it begins.", but I've no desire to put any other "style accessories" on my car. The badge replaces the one on the front bumper and it wired into the fog light circuit (not the relay, just the button circuit), which was set now to come on with the parking lights.

It was a total bitch to install, because I didn't want to pull the bumper (if I replace the parking lights, I may have to do that). Once I got the logo on the bumper, the rest of it was a breeze.

It's very geeky in a cool way, but since it's Indiglo you can only see it really well at night. If you're interested, you can get them here.

Kosei Wheels

After the big snowstorm in early 2002 stranded me in another town, I realized I needed new tires and possibly some chains. Additionally, I'd been thinking about replacing the original wheels. The alloy wheels that came with the Ford probe had little plastic covers in the middle that covered the lug nuts. Each time I took the car autocrossing, I had to pry those covers off, and then hammer them back on (since they might fly off during a run and create a hazard for another car). It was kind of a pain in the butt. I was thinking about the Koesi K1 as a cool replacement.

Once I got unstuck, I got on Tire Rack and got a set with tires. At the end of the week, all I had to do was bolt them on and let a little air out. The tires came mounted, balanced, and inflated on the wheels. Those guys rock!

R.I.P. October, 2003

Regrettably, just a week or so ago, I got rear-ended in the Probe. The damage was light, but the car had 160,000 miles on it, and was a 1995 car, and it really would have needed to go on a frame straightener. The Blue Book said $2400, which was easily eclipsed by the cost of repair. Verdict: Totaled.

So, I bought another probe.

I go two places for Internet Probe Information...