Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Car Trouble

      It started last Wednesday.  I was sitting in my car at a stoplight, in one of two left-turn lanes where two major streets intersect, traffic zooming by on my right and someone with a pretty powerful car stereo thumping on my left.

      I had the local NPR station (the hub of a massive multi-station operation that covers much of the state) droning away; it's one of the few stations that still has top-of-the-hour newscasts.  I usually alternate between them and the Jazz/Classical station from the University of Indianapolis.  Suddenly, there was another visceral "thump," off the rhythm of whatever was playing in the car next to me. Odd.

      The light changed and I started my turn.  My car -- a Lexus RX350, a fourteen-year-old mini RV in decent shape -- was running rough, almost hesitating.  As I finished the turn and accelerated, I looked down at the dash instruments and there were new idiot lights lit up, "VSC" and a flashing "CHECK ENGINE" symbol.  Uh-oh.

      Work was about a mile and a half away, so I drove carefully the rest of the way there. parked and texted Tam.

     She replied in a few minutes: THE INTERNET SAYS IT'S PROBABLY A LOOSE GAS CAP.  CHECK IT.

      There's a relief!  I checked it, loosened and retightened it, and started the car.  No lights.  Whew!

      Then they came back on.  Uh-oh, again.

      Long story short, I drove home that evening with trepidation, found no good news online, and spent Monday morning finding a shop that would look at my car before the end of the week.  A lot of places don't like fiddling with Lexuses (Lexi?  Lexopodes?); the vehicles are like Toyotas except where they're not, and they're not in many ways and parts that are apparently irritating.  Tam likes an import specialists up by Castleton and I have been happy with their work -- but so are a lot of other people; they were booked up.  There's a well-regarded boat and high-end car mechanic not too far from us, the kind of place that thinks of a Lexus the way most shops think of a Chevy, but they were booked up, too.  That left the dealer, and yes, they could get the car in in a couple of days and provide a loaner for the duration.  Well, it's overdue for some depot-level looking-after anyway, so I scheduled that--

      In the scheduling, they run through the signs and symptoms. 
      Dealer:  "A what light?"
      Bobbi: "It says VSC, Victor Sierra Charlie.  And a 'Check Engine' light."
      Dealer: "And you made sure the gas cap was on tight.  H'mm, I need to check something."  Click.
      (A minute later) Dealer: "Is it flashing?  The Check Engine light, I mean."
      B: "Yes."
      D: "Do not drive the car."

      Yes, they wanted me to have it towed. 

      After more calls, I have a wrecker scheduled, a rental car for a couple of days, and a service appointment.

      The replacement dishwasher and kitchen range just got a few more months away.

      The good news: The rental is nice!  Some kind of little VW small-SUV, which turned out to have a third row of seats (small size) hiding when I moved over my bug-out bag and suchlike to the space inside the rear hatch.  The steering ratio is higher than I'm used to and the cockpit is seriously high-tech, but it has that VW characteristic of being pleasant to operate without any serious quirks.

      Next up, meeting the tow truck tomorrow.


Glypto Dropem said...

Those emission system problems suck. I have Toyotas, so I can only imagine that having a Lexus means same problems, just more $$$ to fix. I recently started my Tundra to head home from work (less than 2 miles) and the dash lit up like a Christmas tree and it went into limp mode. I made it home, put my code reader on, read the codes and tried to clear them. No dice. I had a solid bad secondary air sensor on bank 1 (there are two on a V-8). Unfortunately, the $3 sensor is an integral part of the $207 secondary air switch valve. I got an OEM one from the local Toyota dealer and swapped it out in less than an hour. I then had to do the full vehicle reset where you disconnect the battery and short the cables together for 30 seconds. It's been a couple of weeks and so far so good. I hope for your sake it isn't too expensive. Keep us wrench turning types posted.

Rob K said...

I bought one of these several years ago and it's really saved me a lot. There's a free phone app that goes with it. You connect it to the ODB2 port, connect to the dongle with bluetooth, and it'll scan the error codes and tell you what they are, as well as look up further info on the internet.


Roberta X said...

Rob, I own an ODB reader, but I am not much good with modern cars. I am generally better off throwing money at professionals if it's anything besides topping up fluids or changing filters.

The MGB was the last car I owned that I was comfortable working on -- and even with it, I'd usually hire expert help for engine problems. There are places where experience counts, and that's one of them.

Rob K said...

Oh, I never do any work myself other than clear a transitory code. It's just handy to know is this something I can defer or is this something where I need to pull over and shut the car off and call a tow truck. And it goes a bit quicker when you call the repair shop and you can tell them you need an O2 sensor replaced.

Mike V said...

I hope it turns out not to be a major thing. Dealerships aren't inexpensive no matter what they do it seems.