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Latarski: The heartache of rattle and roll
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It's one of those things that makes you go, "Ah shucks," or something similar.

You hear the rattle and know it is coming from somewhere under the car. Your first thoughts are that the engine will blow up or the car will just shudder and die, right in the middle of rush hour on a cold rainy day.

You quickly check the gauges and everything looks fine. In fact, the car is running just as it should.
At this point my reaction to said rattle was what I believe is a completely realistic and logical one: I turn up the volume on the radio.

But the ominous rattle lingers like a head cold and with each bump I fear the noise is a harbinger of evil events to come.

There was a time you could simply crawl under the car with a wrench and bang on things until you found the source of the noise. Those days are gone because if you bang on a car now you could very well dislodge a computer chip and your car will require major heart surgery.
And modern vehicles are not made to be worked on by the legendary shadetree mechanic.

Years ago I was traveling the back roads and my car started to lose water and overheat because of a faulty gasket around the water hose.

I pulled into a gas station/barbeque shack and after explaining my problem a fellow came out, wiped barbeque sauce on the rag hanging out of his back pocket and in 15 minutes installed an emergency gasket he had hammered out of a Coke carton. It worked just fine and got me safely home. In fact, I drove with it for two months before finally getting a real gasket.

But those days are pretty much gone and you need real professionals and people with words like "certified" and "authorized" on their shirt over their name.

I know in my heart if I take the rattle to the dealer I can expect to pay about $498.23 for the repair, no matter what the cause. If parts are called for, like nuts and bolts, the final bill will be around $798.34.

Many of us, given the state of the economy and the desire to avoid car payments, will doggedly hang on to our rattletraps, telling ourselves we have a sentimental attachment to the old beast. The truth is the old beast probably should be put out of its misery.

In reality this can be difficult to do because an old car can fit you like an old pair of jeans. The driver's seat you've been sitting in for years is like the old easy chair in the living room and will probably never be comfortable for anyone else.

If no one else drives your car but you the mirrors are in exactly the right place and they haven't been moved for years, and if you try to adjust them they will probably fall off in your hand.

The carpet is worn in exactly the right place where you put your feet to be comfortable.

And depending upon your friends there may even be a stain here or there from that friend who told you he never got sick from too much pizza and beer.

A new car is a wonderful thing and a joy but the old rattletrap does have value, sometimes in more ways than one.

So right now the gauges are looking good and the car is running fine. The rattle is there, no better or worse than when first detected.

In a day or so I'll convince myself to get it checked to make certain the noise does not foretell a pending disaster and tell the man to make the repairs.

But for now, it may just be time put on some old time rock n' roll and turn up the volume.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at