September 15, 2012

Car Troubles

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I lost use of my car for 11 days. Here's the blow-by-blow.

My Check Engine light has been lit for, well, months. No excuses there - I needed to get it in, but the time and money never coincided, and the car continued to run. A bit roughly, but it never conked out, never stranded me. I assumed it was a bad spark pug or something.

So when I got some money and the end of the summer rolled around, I took it in. I've been meaning to find a regular, independent mechanic and garage, but never got that sorted out. So, needing to get the brakes checked out, and having had the brakes done in the past (with a lifetime warranty) at Pep Boys, I took it there. Mistake #1.

I took the car in late in the day on Wednesday. Waited around for it - by diner time, they had gotten stuck (Cylinder #3 was not firing and had low compression) and were dialoging with a national specialist. They took me home, and I started figuring out options. Thursday morning the diagnosis came in - bad ECM (computer). Bad computer = big money ($1200) but what are you going to do. The problem was, with Saturn out of bizness, parts were not easy to come by, and the Pep Boys folks could not program (or "flash") the computer. So I'd have to wait over the Labor Day weekend. They hustled to get a computer on Friday, but when they replaced it, the new one was dead out of the box. So I waited until Tuesday.

Tuesday, the call came - the computer was replaced. The problem was still there. Upon further inspection, it turns out that here was a bent valve, it had damaged the #3 spark plug, coil, and head. They *said* that had damaged the computer (I remain dubious, think they were just throwing parts at it, and one of the parts they threw was the computer). Nevertheless - big job. To make a long story short, they ended up remachining the head,  which took until Saturday). $2900 later, my car runs great.

I'm going to write a couple of letters. Pep Boys gets a letter- both for the length of repair (11 days? really?) and the computer (which as I noted, I do not feel was bad). And Saturn / GM gets a letter, since th Pep Boys folks feel (based on the engine head damage) that the net valve may have been there from the get go (the car has 80K on it, but never really ran smoothly,  and the first tank of gas post repair got 4 MPG more than any previous tankful, and I monitor that fairly closely)

While the car was out of commission, I ended up riding my bike a bit - mostly back and froth to the studio (15 miles round trip). But I only rode up to teach (15 miles bike ride PLUS a hot / power practice would have been too much) so my own practice, as well as my social life, suffered.

On the up side, being home alone gave me the time to clean - and that has precipitated an amazing life change here, to be blogged next!

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