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Firecat's less than excellent adventure

On Sunday afternoon I was driving along I-880 with the OH, heading to wild_irises's and alanbostick's place. I glanced down at my instrument panel and said "OH FUCK." The speedometer and tachometer were both reading "zero" even though I had been doing 75 last I checked, and although the engine was revving, the acceleration wasn't working properly.

I was in the left lane. I managed to get off at the Hegenberger exit and pull into a Motel 6 parking lot. As I was trying to pull into a parking spot, the power steering died and then the car stopped running completely.

I had been relatively calm up until that point, but I more or less shut down then. The OH called Triple-A and we found out that with our cheapo basic service they would tow us only 5 miles without charge, and after 5 miles towing was $10 per mile. So getting the car towed back to where we live across the San Mateo Bridge wasn't a very good option.

We called wild_irises and she looked up for us the address of a reliable mechanic near here, but they were closed because it was Sunday. We didn't relish the prospect of leaving the car overnight at a strange mechanic across the bay and having to go home on public transit. Next we called leandra333. She and her partner were home, and they suggested we tow the car to their place.

Someone from Triple-A arrived in a small truck. The car jump-started OK, but the electrical system was still acting funny (wipers dragging and so forth), and the mechanic was not guaranteeing we could drive it very far. So we opted for a tow.

Half an hour later, an enormous tow truck arrived, the kind where the car gets carried on the back rather than dragged along behind. The operator was able to drive the car onto the back of the truck and off the back of the truck into a parking spot at leandra333's, but after he left and we tried to turn on the car, it wouldn't start.

Oh, I'll mention at this point that I had the car in for its 60K service last week,, and the service advisor said the battery was due to be replaced within the next six months but didn't need to be replaced now. So I was pretty peeved about these troubles, because I thought he had just been lazy about replacing the battery when it did actually need replacing.

So since the battery was old, leandra333's partner thought that replacing the battery would be a useful start to the troubleshooting process. He and the OH went off to get a battery and leandra333 sat inside with me and listened to me whinge, and we geeked about yarn.

With the battery replaced, the car started up, but the battery indicator remained lit, so we knew something was still wrong, and now we suspected the alternator. leandra333's partner assured us that even if there was something wrong with the alternator, the new battery would let us get across the bridge without the car's dying. So we headed home, and he was right.

I took the car in to the dealership this morning, and they called later to tell me that the alternator was faulty; they had replaced the alternator a year and a half ago due to a recall, but the part must have been defective; so they were replacing it again and charging me only for labor and not parts.

I don't think I should have been charged for labor either if they gave me a dud part that failed in a dangerous way, but I didn't feel like arguing. However, I expect Subaru will get a whiny letter from me soon.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2004 01:30 pm (UTC)
i was going to say alternator since this sounded exactly like what happened to me when i met dave, the creepy tow truck driver. i'm glad that you're okay. i got charged for parts and labor, if it makes you feel better. *hug*
Jun. 14th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC)
O the glorious world of alternator failures. My car eats alternators. I'm glad you were near a friend's place.
Jun. 14th, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC)
Glad you guys were able to get off the freeway safely! *hug*
Jun. 14th, 2004 01:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Just to be different
When my car did that a couple of months ago, it was because the oxygen sensor had died, taking down the entire computer.

I'm glad you were able to stop safely, and were near a friend's house, and such. I think Subaru should get, not a whiny letter, but a polite letter of complaint. They might well refund the labor charges. Or not, of course.
Jun. 14th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC)
The thing is, the parts come from the manufacturer (sometimes the automobile company, sometimes a subcontractor) and it can be difficult or impossible to tell they're faulty till they fail. The labor, on the other hand, is performed by the local dealer/shop, which often has little more than a franchise relationship with the automaker. So it kind of makes sense to me that they'd charge you labor if it was the part that failed; they have to pay their mechanics in either case, and I doubt the parts supplier is going to refund them the labor costs.

When the CD drive on my computer failed after just a few months use, I asked the manufactrer to make good on its warranty, but I didn't expect the guy who installed it to refund his labor fees.
Jun. 14th, 2004 04:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that is how the shop explained it to me. So my complaint is going to be about feeling unsafe in the car if the factory is sending out faulty replacement parts for recall repairs for petes sake.
Jun. 14th, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC)
Absolutely complaint-worthy. (And don't get me started about quality control in American manufacturing these days ...)
Jun. 14th, 2004 02:01 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that you got through that without any injuries or anything and that it's more or less worked out alright. I know what you mean about sometimes just not wanting to argue.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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