Research by Christine Duncan

Recently my husband and I have been researching 8 passenger vehicles. There is no blinking it. We need a bigger car. The research has been interesting in its way. We spent a lot of time online, but I really like to hear what people who own them think so anytime we see someone parking a big SUV or minivan, we stop and chat.

It was the chatting that really helped us whittle things down. Someone gave us a heads up on a well respected minivan. She had owned one for a while and had trouble with it starting. She had gone through the whole starting system, replacing the alternator, the starter and the battery and the problem persisted. Still, figuring maybe it was something this lady did, and responding to the many good things I’d read online about this minivan, my husband and I went to test drive one. After all, there were no recalls or Technical service bulletins that I could see on a starting problem for this vehicle.

The dealership was great, I got some coffee to sip while they brought the minivan around. But the coffee was long gone before they brought us the darn thing. The salesperson was non-committal. “Sometimes,” she said, “Vehicles sit out in the heat for a week or so without being started and of course, then they have to be recharged.” The van drove well; but I remembered what I’d heard from that owner, so I requested the Carfax. Lo and behold! The van had been in the shop six times in the previous two years while they examined the starting systems.

Needless to say, we didn’t buy it. Later, I discover other vehicles from the same manufacturer built on the same platform and those also had Carfaxes with lots of service stops for–you guessed it–starting systems.

All of this is the long way around of saying, don’t believe everything you read. If you are researching the period of World War II in America for instance, with the idea of writing a book set in that era, try to talk to someone who lived it and dealt with the ration coupons. Listen to your grandmother’s tales of her father’s dealings on the black market. Try to find someone who lived on the coast and have him tell you what he remembers of black out curtains and how authorities enforced their use. No matter how much we think it’s all been said before and documented well, there is nothing like someone who has lived it to give you the real scoop.

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