Sunday, April 12, 2009

Car De-stress, also Happy Easter

Taking your car in for repairs is a harrowing experience. At least it is for me. My last car was good, and ran solid until I hit a deer. After that it had constant weird electrical things wrong with it. Since it broke down in my small hometown over the summer we had only one choice of repair place. They took months to fix it, then it still wasn't fixed and we repeated that process a couple times. Also at some point during their 'repairs' they broke the lock on the trunk. Still not sure why they were even in the trunk.

After that the car continued to have weird stuff wrong with it every few months. The acceleration cut out on the highway, all the lights and dials on the dash would blink off and then refuse to come back on. The horn would blare for no reason. It happened once in the middle of the afternoon, then it began happening more and more frequently until I got a call from campus security at 5 am telling me that it was going off and that there had been quite a few complaints. I solved that problem by yanking the fuse to the horn.

But it jut kept coming. The alternator, then the breaks. It would be something serious enough that the car either wasn't working at all, or wasn't safe to drive. A couple times my only option was to take it to the closest repair place because that's as far as AAA will tow you. Every time they would tell me it was something dire that would cost a lot. I know that I got screwed repeatedly, and that some of these places made things worse. I finally sold the car after I took it in for an oil change and the guys at the garage told me it was leaking transmission fluid and that it was not safe to even drive it the couple miles home. I hadn't noticed a leak, but I had also felt that these guys were trustworthy. I talked to my grandfather about it and he said there was nothing wrong with the car and it was fine. After I got home I kept watching for the leak and it did leak a little bit like one time.  I just was done. I spent so much money that I didn't really have to spare trying to keep that car alive and I couldn't find anyone trustworthy to help me.

I love my new car. It is beautiful and fun to drive and awesome. I'm something of a petrol head despite knowing next to nothing about cars. I love them. My new (used) car has had a couple issues, but they have all been quickly and painlessly resolved by either the dealership where we bought it, or the Seattle dealership. So when I moved to Portland I did not worry. I figured I'd take it to the local dealership and things would be fine.

Of course as soon as I get to Portland some weird stuff goes wrong for no apparent reason. I can't afford costly repairs right now since I have just moved and have not yet found a job so I called the dealership and asked what it would cost to just get an estimate and whether or not they could do billing. The guy seemed irritated that I had called and irritated at my questions. I made an appointment anyway, but I couldn't shake the bad feeling so I went online to look up reviews of the place. They were almost entirely bad. The repairs tended to be dodgy and the customer service was incredibly poor. I was discouraged to say the least. So I googled around for a place that had good reviews, and I found one that had 5 out of 5 stars from almost everyone, except one guy who had called to make an appointment but was put on hold for too long and decided not to go there. I think somebody else didn't like their waiting room. 

Taking your car for repairs is like going in for surgery. Except if the doctor tells you that you need an expensive operation to fix your broken arm but nothing has happened to your arm and it works and feels fine and you came to the doctor in the first place because you had a stomach ache, you can be reasonably sure he's a quack. Not so with cars. 

So I decided to go ahead and make an appointment at the other place. They specialize in VWs and do performance alterations. It was worse than I thought, but they explained what was wrong and what they were doing and they prioritized the repairs. There's an issue with one of the front headlights that requires unsightly duct tape across the front of my car. One of the car's previous owners tried to change the headlight and broke the assembly, now it needs to be replaced and it's an expensive part. They discovered another similar issue, but they acknowledged that neither is an immediate problem. They also had to order a part and I was thinking that I'd be without my car for a week at the least, but I took it in Thursday and Friday morning about a half hour after they opened they called and told me it was finished. They had washed the car and thoroughly vacuumed the inside, and they left candy in my cup holder. 

I realize that candy in the cup holder does not equate to ability to fix my car, but it was quite charming anyway. I like this place. I feel like they were straight with me. I feel like they are trustworthy. They have excellent customer service, and I feel like I can take my car back there again with confidence. And that is a heck of a relief.

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