Renewed Love For My Little Car

Toyota Matrix

My little tank, my Matrix!

This past Monday I took my 2006 Toyota Matrix to a transmission clinic for transmission work. I’d known the transmission was having issues since late last summer when the much louder aspect of driving it was narrowed down to “something inside the transmission” by my local garage. I hadn’t really noticed the noise getting louder, but it was loud enough where I had to turn my radio up to drive in relative peace and I knew transmission noise couldn’t be a good thing.

So having booked a rental car for the week, I dropped my car off at the transmission clinic pickup location and my mom was nice enough to drive me to the rental place. I’d reserved an economy car for the week, but they were all out of them, so I was given a Nissan Murano. Compared to my little Matrix, the Murano seemed huge! It was a very nice looking car in a deep red color with beige upholstery inside. It was a 2017 model so had all the bells and whistles including a huge front display that had a navigation map and displayed the backup camera. It was a free upgrade from economy to what I consider luxury and I felt I’d be content with it for the week.

Nissan Murano

My rental car, a Nissan Murano

Nissan Murano

Interior of the Murano. Very fancy!

Like most of the cars I’ve owned, my Matrix is a stick shift. Stick shifts are a dying breed these days, which is sad because I find driving standard so much more fun! The Murano of course was an automatic transmission and it rode nice enough, but I missed my clutch and the ability to shift as needed. Plus, the Murano felt so much larger and higher up than my little car that I was afraid I was going to run into things. My little Matrix is small, low, and maneuverable and the Murano seemed like a tank in comparison.

While driving the Murano was an interesting change at first, I quickly began missing my Matrix. I didn’t feel at home in a rental car because it’s not mine so I had to be careful to keep it clean and I was worried about people banging doors into it. My Matrix is scratched, dinged, a little rusty, and has a “lived in” interior. My little car has gotten me through a lot, including some rather scary and unpleasant winter driving. Despite it all, my car kept chugging along, but I knew the transmission had given me all it could and it was only a matter of time before it gave up on me.

I don’t consider myself a materialistic person, but wow did I miss my car this week! Although I had the rental to drive, it just wasn’t the same and I didn’t feel at home in it. I was hoping my car would be done earlier than later, but it took until Friday afternoon for it to be totally fixed. The rental car sat in my driveway without going anywhere for two days and whenever I’d look out the window, I’d be taken aback by the red instead of white.

Another thing I learned during all this aside from how much I miss my car when it’s gone, is how anxious I get when my fate is in someone else’s hands. Having to wait for the garage to fix my car so I could resume my usual routine was very uncomfortable to me. I may not have the most exciting life, but I like being able to hop in my little car and go wherever, whenever. I didn’t feel the need or desire to do that with the rental. Especially since I couldn’t have animals in it, so that meant no little trips with Jazzmin into town. By Thursday I was chomping at the bit to get my car back and when they called me Friday to say it was done, I nearly whooped with joy! My mom was once again nice enough to get me from one place to the next and I owe her for being my chauffeur this week.

I love my Toyota Matrix and I tell it that pretty much every time I get in it. It’s been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned and until this transmission issue, had needed only usual maintenance like oil changes, brakes, and some exhaust work. I call it my little tank for good reason and I foresee it getting myself and/or my daughters through many more years of driving. While I already appreciated my Matrix immensely, I love and appreciate it even more now. With the new transmission, it’s so quiet and shifts so nice and it’s like having a brand new, broken in, and well-loved tiny tank!

So much more

woman wearing carhartt jacket

Proper car repair attire. My oldest brother’s Carhartt coat.

Last week I received another remind that I’m capable of so much more than I give myself credit for sometimes. It was another cold winter morning when I started my car to warm it up, turned on the defroster and cranked the blower to melt the ice on the windshield. Much to my dismay, I discovered that the blower wasn’t working. The heater was still making heat, but the fan wasn’t blowing it out.

I’d planned to visit my mom that day and I continued with the plan even though it meant driving a car with minimal heat. When I was moving, the air would flow through and heat came out the vents, but when I stopped, it became very cold in my car.

On the drive to my mom’s, I worried about how much it would cost to get the blower fixed in my car. My Matrix is far more reliable than my old Explorer was, but having something repaired in it was money I wasn’t planning to spend at that point.

By the time I reached my mom’s house, I was ecstatic to get inside where there was heat. As soon as my fingers thawed, I texted my close friend and told him my blower stopped working. He responded by suggesting I check the fuse because my car wasn’t that old and the blower shouldn’t be broken. I’d never thought about checking the fuse. In fact, I’d forgotten my car had fuses because I’d never dealt with fuses in any of my vehicles before.

My friend texted me a link to some videos that explained how to find and replace the fuses in my car and I realized it was something I could at least try to do. I donned my oldest brother’s old Carhartt jacket because it was more appropriate for car work that involved crawling around on my floor. My brother is over 6 feet tall and I’m only 5’5” so it was a bit large on me, but I knew I’d still be able to work in it.

Now in more appropriate car repair attire, I headed out to my car as it sat parked in my mom’s snowy driveway. I crawled onto the floor of the driver’s side and had to twist over onto my back to find the fuse box mounted up underneath the plastic overhang below the steering wheel. I had to lay completely on my back and cram my hands up under the dash to pull the fuse box cover off. I wondered how someone bigger than I would’ve accomplished such a task without becoming stuck on the car floor!

Once I had the fuse box cover off, I went back inside the warm house and had to decipher what the guide on it was telling me so I could find the location of the blower fuse. After much studying, I finally found the right spot, and headed back out with a pair of my small jewelry pliers in hand so I could pull out the fuse. I crawled back into my car, laid on my back, reached my hands up under the dash…and realized I couldn’t get the right angle on the fuse to yank it out with the pliers.

Refusing to give up when I’d gone that far, I went back inside, fetched my bent nose jewelry pliers and contorted my body into position again on the floor. That time I was able to get a hold of the tiny fuse and pull it free to examine it. I’d seen in the video what a blown fuse looked like and the fuse I pulled out was in perfect condition. Dismayed by the discover that it apparently wasn’t a fuse problem with my blower, I put the fuse back in its spot, snapped the fuse box cover back on and moved to sit in the driver’s seat.

On a whim, I put the car in accessory mode and turned the blower dial. Much to my delight, air started blowing out! The fuse wasn’t blown but somehow my tinkering with it had fixed the issue and the blower worked again! I was so proud of myself I almost squealed with delight, but I decided that might’ve been a bit over the top and instead did a little happy car seat dance.

That’s the first time I’ve done more to my car than fill it with gas, top off the washer fluid, or get it washed and it showed me that I’m capable of so much more than I believe sometimes. Now that I know where that fuse box is and how to replace fuses, that knowledge can save me money and frustration in the future, which is always a good thing! Not only that, but I upped my cool chick points too.


If you found this post helpful, check out my furnace troubleshooting post about when my unit wasn’t producing heat.