Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perhaps I'm losing my touch

We took Laura's car to the garage to get it inspected on Friday. We can't go to our regular garage for this because our regular garage does not do inspections. We bought it from him back in November. Nice car, Ford Crown Victoria, drives like a hearse. Big, bad, smooth ride, nice crushed velvet seats, power windows, looks like a cruiser. Guy said it was a solid car. His daughter used it that summer, but he wanted something with all-wheel drive for her in the coming winter. Whatever. It seemed like a nice car. Famous last words.

We paid a couple grand for the car, and then a week later had to dump another three hundred into it for a new alternator. Well, those things happen, we figured. It was still a pretty good car. Then Laura hit a christly frost heave and separated the exhaust, and then something happened to the ignition and it wouldn't start. Back it went to the mechanic, and six hundred later it worked. Only it needed a new power steering line right after that. Well, we bought a used car, you have to expect stuff like that, I guess.

So we brought the Crown Vic to the other side of the island to the other garage. This is the place we had my truck towed to when the wheel bearings went on my way back from Massachusetts back in January. The guys looked under it and saw some stuff that didn't look quite right, so they put it up on the lift.

Holy shit.

First, the original fuel lines had rusted out, so it looks like the first mechanic, we'll call him BH for now, replaced the metal line with a rubber one. Now there is some discussion about whether there is an appropriate high-pressure rubber fuel line for this application (BH says there is such a thing, the other guy says there is not) but what is NOT in question is the fact that the line was run along the frame on the underside of the car not SIX INCHES FROM THE EXHAUST. Yeah. High pressure or not, no rubber hose should be that close to the very hot exhaust. In fact, the hose was LAYING AGAINST THE CATALYTIC CONVERTER. It was actually burned. Not to the point of leaking, but that was only a matter of time. So: hot exhaust, rubber hose filled with pressurised extremely flammable fuel, all adds up to a rolling Molotov Cocktail.

They took some zip ties and secured the thing away from the hottest part of the exhaust.

Well, we decided then that we needed to change mechanics. But the new guy, we'll call him G for now, kept poking around. Uh-oh. Game over, he said. Huh? We looked up as he took the shop light, one of those things with a light bulb in a cage with a hook at one end and the cord at the other, and hung it in A HUGE HOLE IN THE FRAME. Rusted straight through. In two places.

No way did that hole develop in the six months that we have owned this vehicle. We bought a piece of junk that was not safe back then.

And now there is no way that car is ever going to pass an inspection. The fuel lines could be replaced with metal, but there is no way to repair that frame. It's shot. Instead of a car, we now have a boat mooring.

So we're out something like three thousand dollars over six months and a car. If we had an extra five hundred dollars a month, trust me, we'd have a much nicer car than that used one. But we don't. This is what life is like when you live close to the poverty line. We have no cushion. We operate very close to broke most of the time.

Saving money is an interesting theory. It would be nice, but every bit of income seems to go toward getting us something close to caught up. Getting ahead? That's pie in the sky stuff.

So Monday morning we arranged for Laura to borrow a vehicle for the day and I brought the Crown Vic back to BH. I explained my dissatisfaction to him in calm tones and without shouting or threatening. I said I wanted him to buy it back. He refused. He offered to leave it on the lot and try to sell it for me. I said OK. I said I wouldn't be back. He said to have the car out of there within a week.

Friday, I was ready to go in there loaded for bear. I wanted to jump up and down and scream. I had fantastic visions of repeatedly driving my truck through Bar Harbor Auto Repair's office window for putting my sweetie in that kind of danger. I was wild.

But I have been trying to work on my anger. Yes, I know it may come as a surprise to some, but I have anger issues (who knew?). So I did not have a fit. I did not shout or scream or threaten. I did not pound the counter, nor did I drive my truck through the window. Such tactics do not work on mechanics as far as I can tell. They remind me a lot of George W. Bush - incapable of admitting error - and this guy is no different. I went in, said my piece, got NOTHING in the way of satisfaction, and left. Truly, it was all I could do and what I expected to happen.

I have no idea what we might do with that rolling death trap. We cannot afford to go to a dealer and get a car, so we cannot trade it in. I suppose we'll just have it hauled off for a proper burial. That's too bad. It has a nice 5.0 litre engine in it that could make something else run really nice, but the rest of the thing is a safety hazard.

So now we are pinching our pennies and trying to find something within our budget that will not explode or fall apart as we drive it down the road. We're looking at a couple of things, but we're trying really hard not to buy out of a panic mode. It will be tough operating with one vehicle for a few days, but we need to look around and figure out what's best, not just what is the first thing we find that runs.

Am I losing my touch with my negotiating/fit-throwing skills? I don't know. I think I have probably mellowed over the years. I don't think any sized fit would have got what I wanted in the way of satisfaction out of Bar Harbor Auto. We won't be back there. And that's too bad. I liked the young guy who works there. He explained a lot of things to me about my truck. Like how to do a brake job. How to replace the cap and rotor. Cool stuff.

Oh well. If he goes to another shop, maybe I'll go there. But for now I am going to drive to the other side of MDI (30 minutes, easy) to the place that starts with a G to have my work done.


Mel said...

Document everything, take photos of everything, and file a complaint with the BBB. It will likely go nowhere, but bad reports from the BBB do negatively affect a business. If they're intent on building bad karma, then you should do everything you can to help them put it out there.

laughingatchaos said...

What Mel said.
Can you sell the car for parts? If the engine is in good shape, you should be able to list it on Craigslist and get something for it.
This sucks.

Sarah P-H said...

Mel and laughingatchaos are both right. File a complaint and try to sell the heap on craigslist. Any cash you get for it will be a step in the right direction. One of my neighbors sold two old cars to a scrap dealer who pays for them by weight.

Th' Rev said...

Doe's your state have a lemon law?

Anonymous said...


Contact the Attorney General's office, the whole thing stinks. He defrauded you from the get-go, and I am sure he knew it. Fraud in used car sales is not acceptable.