Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Car Trouble

Generally, when I lock my car with the key fob, the car sounds like this:  thunk (doors locking), hmm (alarm system doing its thing), arf (horn sounding).

The other day, when I locked my car with the key fob, it went:  thunk, hum, hum, hum.

I thought, "That's odd."  I locked and unlocked it a few times.  I opened the car door and sounded the horn to make sure that was working.  Eventually, locking the car, I got:  thunk, hmm, hmm, tiny arf.

I resolved to take the car in, but since this was just the alarm, I figured it could wait.  Until maybe next weekend.  Indeed, the next day, when I locked it after driving to work, it went thunk, hmm, arf, just like the good old days.

The following day -- yesterday -- I get in the car to drive to work.  Upon turning the key in the ignition, the car (which usually goes click click click VROOM), went click click click click click click vroom??  This was not good.  Realizing the stupidity of the move while I did it, I turned the car off and restarted.  Again, click click click click click click vroom??  

Shit.  I had to take the car in.

I called the one Ford dealer which had replaced the battery before, but their service department didn't even answer the phone.  I called the other one where I had previously serviced my car, and Nelson over there told me to bring the car right in.  I did.  The car seemed oddly sluggish on the drive, but that could have been my imagination.

Drove the car in.  Pulled up in the line at service, where one Tommy asked me what was wrong with the car.  I explained the situation with the alarm and the starting.  Tommy told me to turn off the car and restart it.  I did.  Car went click click click click click click vroom??   Tommy said, "Starts fine."

I decided Tommy was a moron.  I said, "I hope you're kidding."

Tommy walks me inside and starts to write up a service ticket.  It'll take him an hour and $27 to run a diagnostic on the car.  OK.  When Tommy puts me in the computer, he realizes that I have an appointment with Nelson.  He now no longer has any interest in me or my car.  (Do they pay the service guys on commission?)  He tells me to wait in the lounge.  (The "lounge" is six chairs facing a wall-mounted TV, and a coffee maker sitting atop a small fridge with water bottles.)  I ask Tommy if I'm going to get a copy of the service order.  He says Nelson will bring it to me and to go to the lounge.

I go to the lounge.  Time passes.  A lot of it.  More than an hour, in fact.  I go back to the service desk, say I'd like to know what's up with my car, and why didn't I even get a copy of my paperwork.

Tommy comes out to see what the trouble is, and then says I'm Nelson's customer.

Nelson comes out (hooray!) and I tell him what's going on.  He apologizes, makes a note to yell at Tommy for not even giving me a copy of the service order (which Nelson finally does -- and I note it says nothing about the problem with the alarm) and says the tech has finished with my car so let's ask him what's up.

(I tell Nelson that I'm not at all amused that, if I hadn't taken the initiative to find him, I would still be sitting in the lounge for HOURS with nobody bothering to alert me to the status of my car.  Nelson half apologizes (and calls me "mija") and talks to the tech.)

The tech says he's decided the problem is electrical.  He knows this because the lights dim when he starts the car.  Beyond that, he can't find it.  He needs to do a full electric investigation of the car -- tear the car down and check out every connection (did I mention it's a hybrid? -- so I expect it has more electrical connections than your standard vehicle).  This will take three to four hours and cost over $300.  And he doesn't even know if he'll be able to fix the problem today -- as it could be something for which he'd have to order a part.  Nelson asks if I want a ride home a rental car.

Rental car please.

Nelson calls Enterprise and says they'll send someone right over.

I realize there's stuff I'll need from my car.  Nelson escorts me over to my car (where it is waiting with six other cars, on which nobody is working), and I take out the car cradle for my cell phone. (Mandatory so I can use the phone's gps).  I go back and wait for Enterprise.  Then I realize that I'm going to drive to work, and I'll need my parking garage card.  I go back into the service bay and retrieve the parking garage card.  Realizing, also, that they might have the car for a couple days (what with it being July 3), I also take the remote for my garage at home.  I am very proud of myself for this.

Enterprise eventually comes (about 25 minutes after they've been called).  She doesn't so much apologize as explain that they've only got two people working and they're slammed.  She drives me over to the place, fills out my paperwork, and offers me a choice of cars.

They're out of compacts and subcompacts, so they'll offer me a "free upgrade" to a Mitsubishi Eclipse.  That's a sports coupe.  I normally drive a small SUV, because I like the height of it, and they're offering me a car that's about three feet tall.  My other option (since she knows I like to drive "a taller car") is a Ford F-150.  It's rather large -- taking up a parking space and a half in the Enterprise lot.

Thinking I would never be able to park the F-150, I take the Eclipse.  I crank the seat up all the way in it, and I still can't see over the hood as much as I'd like.  I very nearly ask the Enterprise woman for a phone book to sit on, but eventually just roll up my jacket underneath me.  I can see out this thing, but I'm so low, I'm actually looking up at VW Beetles.

It as at this point that I realize -- despite my two trips to take necessary contents out of my car -- that the mechanic still has my entire key ring, and wouldn't it be nice to have my house keys?  So, I drive the Eclipse (which I desperately want to call a Mitsubishi POS, but having previously rented a Diamante, I know that name is already taken) back to the Ford dealer, and reclaim my keys.  I note that they still haven't started on my car.

I drive the Eclipse to work (on a freeway! the damn thing does 0-60 in about ... a week, and it corners so badly I nearly flew off a cloverleaf, which I was taking at speeds slower than I usually do.  Think about that -- this thing has a center of gravity outrageously low to the ground, but an SUV can handle corners better.)  Anyway, I get to the office (it is so low that, in order to get into the parking garage, I have to hold the parking card out the window straight up in the air) and put in a few hours of work.  (Before that, I got in the elevator to get out of the parking garage.  The elevator went all the way down to the first floor exit, but the doors didn't open, and it then decided to turn around and take me for an unplanned ride to the top floor.  This seemed representative of the way the day was going.)

Around 4:00, I call Nelson to get a status update on my car.  He isn't in, so I leave a message.  About a half hour later, he calls me back -- saying it's a "courtesy call" to let me know how my car is.  (Dude, when I called you a half hour ago asking the question, calling me back isn't a courtesy; it's your damn job.)  And, my car is, as yet, still undiagnosed.  I am told the tech is still checking it over one connection at a time, and he hasn't found the problem.  (I'm guessing this is probably because he just started.)  So Nelson will get back to me Thursday morning.  Happy Fourth of July.  Enjoy the Eclipse.

The funny thing is, I'd just been investigating replacing my car.  I drive an Escape hybrid, which Ford has discontinued.  In Ford's infinite wisdom, they are replacing it with their C-Max Energi, which hasn't been released yet.  So, I mean, while I'm used to service departments telling me to go stroll around the showroom while I'm waiting for my car, there's no point in Ford doing this, because they really have no car to sell me, and they know it.  (I can't tell you how stupid Ford is being with discontinuing the Eclipse hybrid -- because, honestly, there is NO compact hybrid SUV in that price range in the market now.)  It sounds like the best bet out there for me is the Prius V (the "crossover" Prius -- the actual sticker refers to it as a "wagon," but the advertising avoids the word).  I'm not entirely sure it's tall enough for me, though.  I'm thinking of taking one on a test drive today, but since I'll be coming from the Eclipse, I imagine I'll love anything I don't need a ladder to climb out of.

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