Well, I’m sitting here at work, my brain totally fried with 2 1/2 hours to go, and I thought to myself, “Self, why don’t you go and see how long it’s been since you updated your diary?” So I did, and much to my dismay, it has been yet another month of no writing activity!
I think I’m gonna sue my mechanic. I’m not sure how this continuing saga has managed to escape these pages, but here’s our story so far:
My car had been leaking oil since about March. I didn’t worry too much about it, since I was poor and the expense of fixing an oil leak was considerably more than a quart of oil every couple weeks (or so I thought). One day, after having the oil changed and the head cover bolts tightened, I was driving home, and all of a sudden my car’s heat gauge red-lined, and smoke started pouring out from the hood!
After having the dealership take a look at it, I found out that the engine had basically blown up, destroying the cylinder heads and rings, making my car a real jalopy. I was sorely tempted to junk it and buy a new car, but I still had not found a new job. On the recommendation of some of my Dad’s co-workers, we hired Havana Machine Shop to rebuild the engine.
The rebuild took three weeks longer and cost $2000 dollars more than the original estimate (Strike 1). Needless to say, I was already unhappy. This one repair had cost almost half again what the car’s market value is. The only advantage was a 5-year warranty on the engine and turbo.
Frustrated, but at least happy to have my car back, I happily took to the roads. It was less than two days before the heat gauge stopped registering. I had no idea how hot the car was at any time. It took them over a week before they got it into the garage to check on it. It turned out the brand-new radiator had a hole in it, and so much of my radiator fluid had drained out that the heat sensor wasn’t submerged properly. Great, huh? I might’ve smoked the car again, within a week!
They fixed the problem, and I was off and running again. Except, within a week again, the car overheated, nearly setting me back to square one. Once again, it took them the better part of a week to even get the car in, and another 3 days to fix it. This time, the thermostat had gone bad.
But just wait, boys and girls, because we haven’t even gotten warmed up yet! A couple weeks went by, and the car was running pretty well, except that it was billowing a disturbing cloud of smoke when it started cold. I started to get a little concerned, but I figured it was probably okay. Then one day, I was driving, and sure enough, the heat gauge started going out of control again! In the next two days, I had to add 2 quarts of oil and almost a gallon of radiator fluid. Did they get my car in on a timely basis? Hell, no. It was undriveable, and yet it had to sit in their parking lot from Monday evening until Friday morning.
We’re just getting started! They finally got the car in on Friday, and they called me that afternoon. Kurt, the garage manager, told me that the head-cover gasket needed replaced. Keep in mind, the car had not even had it’s first oil change since the engine rebuild, and the head-cover gasket was ruined. Then he tells me he can’t even get to it until Tuesday, and it won’t be ready until Thursday! Frustration was mounting (they don’t even provide a replacement car during repairs, so it’s basically “tough shit”), but what could I do? I acquiesced, and told him to go ahead – I certainly couldn’t drive the car spewing oil and antifreeze like a fountain.
Thursday came, and my dad called to see if the car was ready. “Oh, not yet,” Kurt told him, “It’ll probably be Monday.” Great, huh? On Monday, “No, it’s not ready yet, we haven’t gotten the head put back on.” Tuesday: “Oh, sorry, not done yet. Should be tomorrow.” Keep in mind, they haven’t told us a thing about what’s taking so long, why our car seems to be such a low priority, or anything. We have had to call them every single day to get a status update. In addition, my dad and I are carpooling in the morning, and he’s making arrangements every afternoon to get a ride to the shop to pick up the car. Finally, Wednesday. Dad calls them about 3:00pm, and Kurt tells him, “Yeah, it’ll be ready about 5:30 this afternoon.” So Dad gets a ride over, gets dropped off, walks in, and surprise, surprise, the car’s not ready!
So Dad calls me on my cell phone after I’ve left the office for the day, and says, “You’d better come by and pick me up.” I ask him if the car’s ready, and he tells me, “No, and Kurt threw me out of his office.” Apparently, Kurt was making lame excuses about how he doesn’t know everything that’s going on with the car, and we can’t expect him to, and it’s costing him money, and my dad told him, “Yeah, and it’s causing me a hell of a lot of fucking inconvenience.” Not unreasonable words, I don’t think. Kurt threw him out of the garage, and he waited outside in the 30-degree air for me for over a half-hour.
Finally, Kurt calls my dad on Friday and tells him the car is ready – thirteen working days after it first had trouble. It turns out that the blown-out head gasket had caused a bunch of collateral damage – the heads had to be re-machined again, and a whole lot of other hassles. Had they told us any of this, it would not have been a big deal, right? But instead, they gave us the run-around for a solid week, continually telling us it would be the next day. Dad contacted the credit card company, and formally disputed the charge for the original repairs. We haven’t yet decided whether we’re gonna initiate a full investigation or not.
It’s not over yet. By the next Tuesday (which was last Tuesday, by the way), the car was smoking from the tailpipe again, and now it’s smoking from inside the engine compartment. I called and got an appointment for this coming Monday – almost 2 weeks from when I called. Then, on Saturday, the car wouldn’t start. I wasn’t immediately suspicious – the battery was sort of old, after all. After replacing the battery ($55), I had the electrical system checked, and they told me at Checker that the charging system had a problem, likely the alternator. They also said if I didn’t have it fixed right away, my brand new battery would likely be dead by Tuesday or Wednesday. So I took the car in to another mechanic whom I trust a hell of a lot more to have the alternator replaced. Guess what? The alternator was fine! The incompetent assholes at Havana Machine had cut a wire to the alternator, and it cost me $65 to get it fixed. I called Kurt today, and he was unapologetic as usual – “Well, if you’d brought it in to us, it would have been under warranty” – like I can afford to have the car sit there another week before they get to it.
So I figure they’ve cost me the following:
- Price gouging on original repairs – $2000
- Loss of use from delays – approx. 40 days at $20 car rental per day plus $25 under-25 fee per day – $1800
- Cost of repairs at another garage to fix their mistakes – $115
- Cost of additional year’s registration (couldn’t sell car by end of tag year) – $35
- Grand total: $3950 (Call it $4000 for convenience’s sake)
What do you think, faithful readers? Do I have a lawsuit or what? I’ll keep you posted.