Having to get one's car worked on is one of the most annoying things about owning them. Even having resigned oneself to the inevitable surprise -- "They used a special veeblefletzer in this model, and they're hard to get. So the part alone is $500 instead of the usual $50, and where it's mounted, well, we'll have to pull the engine...."
Okay, fine. The bill will be high. It will be high everywhere, and about the same, since they're generally ordering from the same wholesaler and calculating labor from the same how-long-should-it-take reference (and hoping to beat the actual times listed, getting more work done in eight hours than the mythical average mechanic). One grants these things.
One of the best compensations for them is getting a loaner vehicle. I take in a defective car, and drive one that works while mine gets fixed, heck of a deal.
--Until the shop reneges. My car's in the shop now; the air-conditioning hasn't worked this year and after six weeks of highs in the upper eighties to low nineties, I can no longer ignore it. They called me yesterday afternoon:
"Hey, your air-conditioning compressor is locked up bad. It killed the engine when we tried it!* It'll have to be replaced, and we'd better do the belt. It dumped all your refrigerant. It's gonna be $XXXX.XX to fix."
The number was in the low four digits. Painful but worth it. "Okay."
"You asked us to look at the water pump, and it isn't any worse than last time. That's still $XXX.XX. But the timing chain cover? There's a little drip there, it's not much but you'll want to keep an eye on it. That's $XXXX.XX if we replace it, 'cos we do have have to pull the engine...."
The price quoted for that last was a little over half what I paid for the car. "Look, let's just do the oil change and get the AC working, okay?"
"Okay. We'll have to order parts for the air conditioning, be three, four days. How soon can you get that loaner back to us?"
Utter confusion on my part. "You want it back?"
"Yeah, we're open 'til five-thirty, could you get it up here? I have it assigned to somebody else tomorrow."
"I'm downtown and I'm on until at least six-thirty." It's over a dozen miles from my work to the garage, on one of the most crowded commuter routes in the metro.
"Oh, we can leave your car out for you."
"I only have the one key."
"Oh, we leave 'em out like that all the time."
"Not my car, you don't. I'll get the loaner back to you in the morning."
Deep unhappiness from the mechanic. Yeah, well, sucks to be him. Sucks worse to get back into my saunamobile for three or four more days -- make that six, with the weekend.
* It was enough for me to turn it on and hear the engine falter; letting it kill the engine seemed like a step too far. Clearly, I lack the investigative finesse of a trained mechanic. Also, I know who burned the belt they're telling me needs replaced, and it wasn't me. Worth the extra $45 to not bust my own knuckles but blow me no smoke, pal.
5 weeks ago