Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Annoyances Of Car Ownership

     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:

     "Miz Ecks?"


     "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.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I decided to keep a spare vehicle for these circumstances. Well used with over 100,000 miles, we switch to it when one of the primaries is feeling under the weather.

Repair costs for us - longer times between parts failure - replacement but the bill is pretty much double what it used to be. Pretty much washes out. Our insurance has no loaner so the spare vehicle helps in that regard.

I hope your vehicle woes end soon.

RandyGC said...

Times like those I spend some time looking at new cars to remind me how much more that option would cost over repairing my current ride. Heck even looking at used car prices is usually enough to get me over the initial "it's how much? Junk it!" reaction to some high end repairs.

I'm sure some day that process will end up with me in an updated vehicle, but it hasn't so far in the past 13 years.

Course I lucked into a good shop that says things like "we'd really like to tell you the dealer was right about that large repair bill, but we can't find anything wrong". That was 4 years or so ago and the impending disaster predicted by the dealer still hasn't happened.

Good luck with this mechanic or in finding a new one.

pigpen51 said...

I felt myself getting smarter when I realized that if I had to spend 5 hours working on something on my car to fix it, but could work 2 hours of overtime and pay a mechanic to fix it, I was ahead, and didn't have to mess with possibly breaking another part on my car.
Now, the problem is that just changing an alternator on your car can cost upwards of 300$. I used to be able to do it for 50 bucks and a half an hours worth of time.
One thing that I really must say, is that cars are truly better designed and built then they were 30 years ago. Back then, a car got close to 100,000 miles on it, and you started to worry about it nickle and dime costs until you could not afford to keep it. Now, 100K miles is just getting broken in. Most of the modern cars made today, you can expect them to go 200,000 miles, easily. And you don't have to get them tuned up every 10-15,000 miles. I have learned that I am very religious about changing the oil very often, even if the manual says every 7500 miles. I have had a car go to heck because of not changing the oil enough, when I was a younger man. Now, 3,000 miles and I get it changed without fail.