A Car Adventure Chapter 2

You may have noticed I’ve been pretty inactive lately. I’ve been super busy. In part because I have still been dealing with automobile troubles!

If you have read chapter 1 you know that I was in a car accident not long ago. My car was totaled, it was a disaster, I had to buy a new car. Spoilers, it’s a 2011 Ford Fiesta. This is the second installment of all the exciting car troubles that have happened after that.

An Unfortunate Start

The continuation of this story happens not even a week after I bought my 2011 Ford Fiesta. I will set the stage. I had just gotten my new car and was getting to know her. I named her Pepper because she is peppy. I was driving to work, moving slowly in bumper to bumper traffic. There was an unusual amount of traffic due to the CU college crowd flooding the town.

A couple cars ahead of me, I see a car pull out, trying to turn left onto the road that I am on. The side I was on was moving slowly enough at the time that our lane stopped while they made room for the car to go forward. That car, unfortunately did not look right before completing their left turn. I was going west, and the car turning collided with a car going east. The car going east swerved, and came towards my car, stuck in traffic.

They swerved again, and rammed into my driver’s side mirror, but otherwise, left my car unscathed. I heaved a sob of relief, as my sudden fear was replaced by the realization that I was ok. I pulled into a side street. I walked over and met the kids involved in the rest of the accident. The one who’d been turning left was just a 16 year old kid driving a van. The one he had collided with was a girl of 19, both born this side of 2000. This made me feel old.

Neither had any idea what to do. Since I had just recently been through an accident, I knew the drill. I made sure they were both ok, no one was hurt. We called 911 and reported the accident. I coordinated the exchanging of numbers, and information. I encouraged them to take pictures to document the scene.

Fun with Paperwork

There was only one wrinkle, where I discovered I was not yet a car accident veteran. When I called 911, I was standing on the side of a busy road. I could barely hear the person on the other side of the phone. I asked her to repeat herself many times. Before the call ended, she tried to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand what it was. I assumed since no one was hurt, and that all the cars were drive-able, and no airbags had been deployed, that this situation was similar to the other car accident I was in. In that accident, the police didn’t come out since it was so minor, and told us to file a report online.

So, I left and went to work. Not to long after, I got a call from the police officer who had arrived at the scene. I told him where I worked. Not long after he arrived. He explained to me that for car accidents within city limits, the police always come out. The only time they don’t is if you are outside city limits, in state patrol jurisdiction, because they have less manpower than the police. So, I shouldn’t have left the site of the accident. I assume this was what the person on the other end of the 911 call was trying to tell me.

This misunderstanding aside, he asked to see my paperwork. He asked me first for my address. Fun story, in that same week of having purchased a new car, just before this accident, I moved to a new apartment. My life was in absolute chaos. And I couldn’t tell the man something as simple as my address, because I couldn’t remember my new one. I this, and asked him to wait while I looked up my new address.

Then he asked for my registration. Well, I had just the week prior bought the car, I had not yet had time to go to the DMV to get the new registration. So he asked me for the dealer registration. I was lucky that I still had my folder of important car purchase related documents in the car.

Then, he asked me for my insurance. This, I have to explain again, I have not had time to update, because, unsurprisingly, I had just bought my new car. I gave him the insurance for Mort, my previous car. It had my policy number so that was all he really needed.

Then he asked me for my driver’s licence. Thank goodness, I thought, a document I won’t need to make excuses for. Little did I know, that you are supposed to update your address for your licence every time you move. You don’t necessarily get a new card, they just update their records. So when he goes to look up my address, it doesn’t match.

Regardless, we got it all sorted. He took my statement, and concluded that the party at fault was the kid with the van, and that I would likely go through his insurance when filing a claim. I did so, and was told that someone would be in contact with me shortly.

Insurance, Gotta Love It

I was in no hurry, my car drove completely fine. Even the mirror the person had hit was still 95% usable. So, it was half a week before I called them back to let them know that no one had been in contact with me. I got the number of the person on my account. I called her, no answer. So I called the insurance company again and let them know I couldn’t get in touch with her. They put me through to her manager. He also did not answer.

I don’t get good reception at my work, so by the end of the day when I was leaving work, I saw that they had each left me a message. After that, I finally got in touch with the person on my account. She told me I would need to take the car to the repair shop of my choice, and get an estimate.

Well, I was still moving the last of my stuff after the move. I was crazy busy at work with overtime and projects everywhere. My cousin’s wedding happened. A lot of stuff went down in that time, and so it was a couple weeks until I was able to get Pepper to a repair shop for an estimate.

They concluded that she would need to get the whole mirror replaced, even though it was barely damaged. They gave me the estimate, almost $1200. The insurance company only gave me $600. That was a fun time.

They also gave me an estimate for a leak in the wind shield wiper reservoir, $150.

Fuck Dealers

Now, a month or so after I bought Pepper, her check engine light came on. I had also had trouble filling up the ‘E-Z fill’ gas. I would try to pump, and the pump would stop after 20 seconds. I’d have to wait a few seconds before I could do it again. It took forever to fill up.

Overall, I was very frustrated. The issues with my new car were stacking up.

I took Pepper to the Ford dealer nearby, called the Sil-Ter-Har. They charged me $170 just to take a look. I later learned (from the Meineke) that you can get the check engine light diagnosed for free at most car places. A service I have utilized now a few times at my local Firestone near my house. But back then I didn’t know that, and Sil-Ter-Har were not inclined to illuminate me, so I paid the ridiculous up front fee.

They quoted me an arm and a leg to fix the issue, $840. They also quoted me $275 to fix the wind shield wiper reservoir. Which was insane, because the place I got the quote from in the first place was associated with the Sil-Ter-Har.

I declined to have them do anything, they told me the quote was good for 30 days. in the meantime, on the advice of my dads, I went around to try and get a second opinion. I took it to a nearby Meineke. They drove my car around a bit, but they were really busy so they asked me to come back again some other time. They did however, fix my windshield wiper reservoir. Apparently, the hose had just come unplugged, so they plugged it back in. No charge. That was my first ‘fuck Sil-Ter-Har’ moment.

They also told me about the check engine light service, and told me it was a 420 code. (Many jokes were made about a 420 code in Colorado). A 420 code I have since learned is associated with fuel emission. It is generally linked to issues with the catalytic converter.

I went back to the Meineke, and they took another look, but they still couldn’t tell me what was wrong with the car. They apologized, and didn’t charge me a single cent for either visit. They were very classy, and very transparent with me. But because they couldn’t figure it out, I felt I had no choice but to go back to the Sil-Ter-Har.

I painfully coughed up that $850 arm and leg. Afterwards, my car ran fine, the check engine light was off, and I could fill up the gas fine without having to start and stop every 20 seconds. It was awesome. I thought all my troubles were over with.

Then the check engine light came on again. I went back to the Sil-Ter-Har to complain. That was when they told me about a ‘second’ issue, that I needed a new catalytic converter, and I needed to fix this issue if I wanted to pass emissions tests. They said they had to fix the first issue before fixing the second issue. And apologized for neglecting to even MENTION this bullshit second issue the last time I was there. I asked them what they had even fixed, if what I had paid them for was to fix the check engine light. They gave me excuses about how one issue affected the other. While I don’t doubt that one issue caused the other, this was the first time I was hearing about it. I had already shelled out hundreds of dollars, and they hadn’t even told me about any further repairs they thought would be needed. They wanted to charge me a couple thousand dollars to fix this ‘second issue’. I told them to fuck right off.

While I admit that they did fix the issue with filling up my gas tank, despite them ‘trying to explain’ things to me, I still have no idea what they actually did. The Sil-Ter-Har is the worst customer service I have ever experienced. They made me feel stupid and helpless. Never ever ever trust a dealer. They are lying and obfuscating the truth so they can take your money. I think back on all the people I saw in the lobby, and a nice old man I talked to while I waited, and I cannot help but feel such anger that the Sil-Ter-Har swindles its customers like that.

Thank God for Mom and Pop Shops

My car was still not fixed, and I was at my wits end. My parents were angry at the Hauser and Son, who sold me the car I was having so many issues with. But I remembered them being pretty awesome people. So I called them. Admittedly I cried at them. I told them I was at my financial limit (true), and I just didn’t know what to do. They told me that it was impossible that I needed a new catalytic converter. They had just had the car emission tested. They told me to bring it in, that they would try a few things, and wouldn’t charge me.

So I brought it to them. They changed out an O2 filter, free of charge, and told me to try driving it around. I did. A couple weeks later the check engine light came on again, 420 code. So they wanted to try replacing the second O2. I took it in again, but they couldn’t replace the second one, they couldn’t reach it without a car lift. So they gave me an O2 sensor, and told me what to tell a mechanic.

I went back to the Meineke, and asked them to replace the O2 sensor. They told me that in their experience, the 420 code I was dealing with was generally not an O2 sensor, but a catalytic converter. I thanked them for their transparency, and asked them to replace the second O2 sensor anyway. They did. It was screwed on so tight, it took them 5 hours to get the old one off. They had to remove the whole exhaust. But being the classy gentlemen that they were, they only charged me for 2 hours because that was what they quoted. They told me if the light came on again, they would be happy to replace the catalytic converter, and they could do it for a few hundred bucks. Much cheaper than the Evil Sil-Ter-Har.

Everything was fine for a while, but then a couple weeks later, again, the check engine light. 420. I called Hauser and Son. They said, unfortunately, at that point, they had to agree, it was probably the catalytic converter. They told me they would look for one for me on the cheap.

Its All About the Gas

During that time, my aunt, my mom, and my cousin visited me. One of them mentioned offhand that they had had car issues, and just switching the type of gas they used to the slightly higher quality had fixed it. I didn’t have much hope, but I tried it anyway. At first it didn’t seem to do anything, but a little while later, the light went off on its own.

The light came on again a little while later. But the next time I needed gas I filled it up again with the higher grade gas again. It was a little while before the light went off again. But it hasn’t been back on since, and it has been several weeks.

The End!?!

All in all, 4 months after the problems started, they seem to finally be solved. A problem that was originally quoted at a couple thousand dollars turned out to be fixed by nothing more than changing the gas I used. Since then not only is the light off, but the car runs so much smoother.

I learned from this experience that dealers are pure evil scumbags. And while Meineke didn’t solve my problem either, they at least were so much better at informing me, educating me, and keeping me in the loop about what was going on with my car. I feel like I know a lot more now about the fuel and exhaust system in general, and its all thanks to Meineke, and of course Hauser and Son. I am so glad I called them, because while I could have just been angry at them for selling me a lemon, once I called them they were more than happy to help me figure out the problem. Up and up, super classy people.

I still haven’t gotten Pepper’s driver’s side mirror fixed. I have the pieces all super-glued together, I just need a way to attach them. I’ll probably go to the Meineke.

Thus concludes my exciting new car adventure, for now.

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