by Jessica Eustice
To Ricky Haston, the sole owner of a 1995 Dodge Intrepid with 550,000 miles on it, an automobile is a tool.
Fifty years old now, having grown up on a farm, Haston has done most of his own auto maintenance since he was 13 or 14 years old. He believes in maintaining and using equipment until it is worn out — a relative term to Haston. While he has never had to go into the engine, he does say that the transmissions in the ’95 Intrepids were weak, and he has replaced two of those. Other repairs Haston has completed include the brakes, the air conditioner compressor at 175,000 miles, water pump at 225,000 miles, the starter at 340,000 miles, and the alternator at 358,000 miles. The car has never been in a wreck, although there was one incident with a deer when the hood and a fender had to be replaced.
Ricky Haston lives in central Tennessee. Until Daimler took over Chrysler, he worked at the Chrysler Electronics factory in Huntsville, Alabama, which built electronics for the cars and at one time was a supplier to the space and defense industries. At his plant they built body controllers, engine controllers, and transmission controllers. Haston was an electrician and is very familiar with the electronics in the newer vehicles.
Haston bought a 1995 Dodge Intrepid to drive, and he did all of his commuting on back roads, driving through little towns and villages. He counted 16 stoplights on his routine commute. After Daimler gained Chrysler, they closed the plant in Huntsville and Haston began commuting to the truck plant in St. Louis, Missouri. After Fiat bought Chrysler, the truck plant in St. Louis was closed, and Haston did not want to move to Detroit or Mexico with the work, so he took early retirement and returned to his home in Tennessee.
He says the Intrepid is an easy car to work on. He can fix it on the road if he has to. He keeps his tools in the car, and just finds the nearest AutoZone where he can buy the parts he needs. One time when he was one and a half of the way home, he knew from the symptoms that the battery and the alternator had gone out. They were both AutoZone parts, so when Haston found the nearest AutoZone, they were able to look up the parts and honor his warranty right then. He replaced the parts in the parking lot. Since he knows this car so well, he wants to keep it as long as possible.
Haston remembers another time at about 390 miles, when the plastic bushings on the wind shield wipers went out. It was raining, and he was at the St. Louis Arch, at the Mississippi river. He went to a truck stop and bought some Rainex that he put on the windshield. He drove in the rain back to Tennessee that way.
Asked how he has kept it going so long, Haston shared his method: he drove it 60,000 miles using Pennzoil 10-W-40. Then after 60,000 miles, he added Dura-Lube to it, on the recommendation of friends who race at the dirt track near his home. Haston says it could just be the regular maintenance, but he’s not taking any chances.
Haston says the only thing his Intrepid really needs now is a new paint job.
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