"At This Point, I'm Not Exactly Enthused With My Choice In Cars"S

Welcome back to Garage of Horror, where we share your worst wheeled experiences. Today's installment: Is it really wise to put all your automotive eggs in the same brand basket?

Here's one very near and dear to my own automotive heart. You see, I myself come from a Ford family. We own Fords. We have always owned Fords. The only reason I could justify owning my Mazdas was though tortured logic involving their relationship with Ford. But by extension, we have also owned Pintos, Mavericks, Mustang IIs, late-70s trucks whose gray paint actually incited rust, and F-150s with the classic chronic unfixable front-end alignment problem. But even my evidently accursed bloodline has never had a Tempo inflicted upon it.

Well, enter teenage Conor, who has two First Bush-era Tempii, despite being young enough to make his own mistakes without the help of earlier generations. Oh, and a self-immolating F-150. Is God punishing him for enjoying high school, instead of hating it like a decent human being? Or is Ford?

Here is my story as the owner of a 1989 Ford Tempo AWD, a 1990 Ford F-150 XLT Lariat, and a 1990 Ford Tempo GL.

This past week has been my high school's Homecoming week, and it was a fantastic one. Couldn't have been any better. But Saturday rolled around and as I was on my way to the big football game in my freshly washed, waxed, and tagged '90 F-150 something funny happened.

The first noticeable sign of impending doom was the voltage-based battery gauge plummeting to one tick above the red zone. Not in the red zone, mind you. My first course of action was to pull a u-turn and retreat to headquarters, all the while hoping and praying it would make it. It was like watching a mighty ship slowly sink into the depths of an all-consuming ocean of troubles. At this point, the gauge was fluctuating between the green and the red. Two miles to go. I can do this. I shut off my radio, but it is intermittently chiming when the battery doesn't even have enough juice to register that the truck is running. The running lights go next. Then the fuel injectors. By the time I'm crawling into my driveway, I must have been running at half-power. As you probably guessed already, the alternator was to blame in this situation. But it was unlike anything I'd ever seen when I popped the hood. The damn thing was actually smoking. So much so, it had begun melting the connecting wires. Great.

But no biggy. I'll swap in a new alternator and wires later. Now, its game time. I jump in the trusty '89 Tempo, turn the key, and: crank, crank, crank, crank, crank. No firing action whatsoever, just a continuous (and surprisingly vigorous) cranking. No idea what this is. But no matter, there is hope!

My '90 Tempo hadn't been started in almost three months, but is still (theoretically) operable! I hop in, expecting immediate problems. It fires up like its a brand new car, and the tach sits at 1,100RPM without fluctuation. I let it warm up, and even go so far as to turn on the A/C. I was feeling confident. And sure enough, it brought me to the football game on time and in smooth, comfortable travel.

The game was great. We won by a large margin, so everyone was in good spirits. But after the game, as I'm walking to the Tempo I notice a large pool of what appears to be radiator fluid. I was half right. It was radiator fluid, transmission fluid, and oil. Good thing I brought enough of each to refill them all. I even brought along a fire extinguisher, should something else catch fire. I refill the Tempo's vital fluids, and turn they key. It turns over once, and than shorts out. The battery is fine, but the battery cables were basically made of wheat. In a last ditch effort I flag down a friend in her Dodge Caravan to try to force-start the ailing Tempo. Said friend gives me the jump, but not without the inevitable barrage of insults at the expense of Ford Motor Company, its popular Tempo model, and myself. The Tempo cranks up like a dream, all the while spilling radiator fluid all over itself (this turned out to be a cracked thermostat gasket).

This is where I make yet another bone head move. I let the Tempo run for ten or so minutes, and feeling confident, I turn it off. Big mistake. Sure enough, it won't start again. At this point, I'm not exactly enthused with my choice in cars. So I get a ride home from another friend in her Ford Focus. There were no mechanical failures on said ride home.

Let the record show, however, that I got all three of my fine Ford cars running by Sunday evening. The '90 Tempo made it home, the F-150 got its new alternator, and the '89 Tempo inexplicably started up later that evening.

Such is the life and times of the Ford Tempo Fan.

Wait, the what? the what? Sorry, Conor. I may be from a Ford family, but there are limits.

Garage of Horror is a recurring feature where we share your automotive nightmares. Some are mild, some are wild, but all are moments - some funny, some painful, some outlandish - that you'd rather not repeat. Have your own Garage of Horror story? Email it here with the subject line "Garage of Horror."