To Mordor and back: The Curse of the Nissan Versa
Don't you wish your car was hot like this? No, you don't.
Did you know that combining a trash car with the volcano-like heat of California summers could result in a near disaster? I found out a few years ago...the hard way.
One of my friends has always had the unfortunate pleasure of owning cars that are either trash from the beginning or get trashed by his brother. One of these examples of museum-worthy heaps of scrap was a 2012 Nissan Versa hatchback.
When I say museum-worthy, I don't mean that in the slightest bit. This thing was missing its hubcaps all the way around, the headlights looked a bit like dried cheddar and every panel looked like it had spent its entire life around shopping carts in a store parking lot.
Please forgive the lack of actual pictures of the car. None of us thought it was worthy of a photograph and when I asked for pictures, my friend said it was a stain on his life that he hopes to forget. He really "loved" that car. To rectify this, I found pictures of a similar car that used to be for sale. Just take those images I used, add a few dings to them, remove the hubcaps and you get a spitting image of the cursed Versa.
Now if my dad's Kia was cursed to always get in minor crashes, this car was cursed to act like Mordor at all times. It kept overheating regardless of what they did to it. He even said they swapped the engine and while I don't have any concrete proof of that happening, I'll believe him just for the sake of laughing at the car some more.
One day, our group of friends decided we should go out across town to this new shopping complex that had just recently opened up. I rode with the other friend in their Mazda and the friend with the Versa, after some serious deliberation, took the Versa as that was his only car.
As luck would have it, he made it there in one piece. Well, one sweaty piece because he couldn't have the AC on or the car would overheat. We did our shopping, with the highlight of the trip being a Japanese store called Daiso, and we decided it was time to go back before the sun made us one with the pavement. As we approached the cars, Versa Friend asked if I wanted to drive his feat of Nissan engineering. Any person in their right mind would have said "no are you crazy it's 100+ degrees, you have no AC and the car could break down at any second" which is exactly what I didn't say.
So I got in and was greeted to a bright red, warning sign of an OBD reader on the driver's seat. This is always something you want to see when you get into a car you've never driven before.
"That stays plugged in so I can see the temperature of the engine," he said to me.
"Great!" I said and then began praying to all known deities that this hunk of silver plastic wouldn't leave us on the side of some sunny California highway.
To make matters even better, our friend with the real car decided to go ahead of us by a few minutes so if something did happen, we would be stranded at least until the next exit.
Off we went, with fear in our hearts and sweat on our shirts down that big vroom vroom road. As I'm driving along I notice that the car wouldn't go past 60 and the tachometer was pretty high at around 4,000 RPM. I looked down at the OBD reader and the temperature was somewhere between really hot and Death Valley. Naturally we start panicking and wonder what we did wrong before we notice the culprit; I accidentally put the car in third gear instead of drive.
To this day, I still firmly believe that this was only half my fault. I was used to my Corolla where I just slam the shifter all the way back and that's drive. No sir, not on the Versa. On this thing, the drive gear was in the middle so you either had to remember where it was through trial and error or you had to look down when you started driving. Needless to say, I did neither and drove the car for about 15 minutes in third gear.
That four cylinder timebomb was not pleased with the constant high revs and decided to show us what a moving jacuzzi would feel like. To fix this, we put it in drive and drove the rest of the way home with the windows down and the heat on. Did I mention it was 100+ degrees outside?
All in all, it was a wonderful driving experience. I learned how it feels to drive in constant fear of the car breaking down and how much my body can sweat in a 30 minute period. Thankfully he ended up getting rid of the Versa and I sincerely hope it has since rotted away in an unmarked scrapyard far away from innocent drivers.
Have any of you been in a similar situation? Did you almost break a car that deserved to be broken? Tell your story in the comments below!