AGH. Car Repairs That Weren’t Expected. You Know It.

That’s how it usually ends up, isn’t it? Car repairs come when you simply aren’t expecting them and they can wipe out a respectable emergency fund in no time flat.

I mentioned last week that I had to get the air conditioning fixed on my vehicle and it was going to cost $250, then it turned out to be $800. Well, the good news is that the cost for repairing it did stay at $800.

The bad news is, something funny went on while my vehicle was in the shop 18 days. Yes, 18 days.

I drove it home and it seemed to be driving just fine. But when I got out to open the gate and let myself into the yard, I noticed an unfamiliar clicking sound that I had not heard from my vehicle before. When Mr. A got home, I told him the news. We went out together with a flash light and I started the engine. He could hear the clicking sound. He started looking around and the more he looked, the more upset he got.

He told me to turn off the engine and he continued to examine the engine.  Hoses and screws were not connected and caps had fallen down into the engine compartment.  Then he decided to check the oil, and to our horror, it was two quarts low!

The engine only holds 3.75 quarts, so that is more than half of the oil missing.

Here’s the thing… my vehicle doesn’t leak. I park on cement at work, and I would have seen if I’d been losing oil.

And Mr. A checks my oil regularly, because I put so many miles on my vehicle, and because it does have so many miles on it, he wants to make sure it is running optimally.  Not to mention when you drive 25 miles with half the oil missing you could ruin your engine!!

The next day Mr. A called the shop and got several versions of what might have happened, to the point where he started smelling a cover up.  The mechanic said to bring the car back down and he would fix everything.  I wasn’t comfortable driving it with all the pieces dangling around, yeah, I know I drove it home that way, but I don’t like to tempt fate! So we had it towed in. Thank goodness for AAA.

They ended up keeping my vehicle for three more days.

They continued to come up with stories.  For example, apparently the guy they had working on my vehicle was let go. But then, no, that’s not what happened. Another guy that still worked there was actually the one working on it.  They called my husband to come down to see where the leak was.  The vehicle was on the lift and my husband looked at the little bit of oil there and said that was no leak. If my vehicle had leaked out two quarts of oil in three weeks time, there wouldn’t be a small drop of oil where the supposed leak was at. If you have ever seen the bottom of a car that leaks, it is saturated with oil and gunked up all over the place.

I guess we’ll never know how my vehicle lost two quarts of oil when it’s never had a leak.

Mr. A and my son AJ went to pick up my car and AJ drove it home. I took it for a test drive, and it seems to be driving just fine.

Only… that clicking is still there.

So now we wait for the other shoe to drop.  A fifteen year old engine with over 330,000 miles on it cannot withstand that kind of abuse, so there is probably an internal problem.

I guess I better start trying to figure out where to get some money to buy a used vehicle pretty soon. And I better drive in the slow lane in case something blows…

Have you had any auto repair nightmares lately?

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17 comments to AGH. Car Repairs That Weren’t Expected. You Know It.

  • Rona

    To be honest I was always scared to take my old car (a 1993 Nissan Sentra with 228,000 miles…just bought a new one last week) into the shop it never failed that it came out with something additional wtong that I never had a problem with in the past. I feel that they mess up things when they are in there and just because you have an older car your supposed to take what they say at face value. The only problem is it never did it until it was in there possession! really makes you feel taken advantage of.

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Rona, yes, I agree with that. Sometimes it is hard to trust. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

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  • Wow! I’d complain to the BBB about this outfit if I were you, and also post the story on Yelp.

    Sorry you don’t live in the central part of town. I have a mechanic who’s actually honest (can you imagine??). Not only that, but he does a darned good job.

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Funny about Money, good idea. Yes, wish we were closer to the big city. I actually have a place I go for alignments when I get new tires but it is inconvenient for any other repairs since they usually can’t be done in one day while I’m at work. I’m glad you found a good guy! These guys kept exclaiming, “We’re an honest shop! We’re an honest shop!” like we were trying to pull one over on them. Frustrating!

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  • I would find a new mechanic stat! If your engine didn’t come in with a tick. It shouldn’t leave with one.

    I don’t know if this was something they discussed, but when we had to have our top block rebuilt, our lifters went bad. (It’s a long story.) The point is my car now has a ticking sound just short of making it sound like a diesel. It’s not hurting anything so I don’t panic, so there is a possibility that your noise could actually be something minor that sounds frightening. But I know when you start hitting those big mileage numbers it’s easy to get nervous.

    I started amortizing out the cost of the car and repairs since we’ve had it. I could get really freaked out about the little things it needs, but instead I just appreciate that the entire cost of owning our car from purchase on down the line has been $90/month. Even new cars can have scary mechanical issues, but they have scary financial issues too. Just breathe easy, know that you have AAA, and somehow you’ll be fine. 🙂

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Andi B., yes, I agree. We are going to have to find another shop. It just sucks because we have used these guys quite a number of times and it was nice to have someplace to go without having to worry. Too darned bad. Like you, I think it’s worth it to keep an older vehicle. Especially when you amortize it out like that! And yes, I am very glad to have AAA.

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  • Brandy

    I once had the mechanic not put all the nuts back on my tire. Im not too car literate and really wasnt then (i was young). I didnt think i had to check that, now i check everything. drove it 50 miles to work and on the way home i hit a pothole and made it waver. i was only half way home. i got off the interstate and took the back way home. i saw people staring at my tire (i assume it was wavering). got home and drove around the cul du sac for my mom to witness (im an exaggerator) and we took it right down to the mechanic. “oh yeah heres half your nuts”. i havent used them since.

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Brandy, I don’t blame you! I wouldn’t have used them again either. We put our lives into these guys’ hands and they need to be more diligent when working on our vehicles, that is for sure! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

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  • kh

    Ouch. My sympathies. I got hit by $3000 in car expenses last year and wound up selling my car for a loss just to get out from under it (blown head gaskets, etc.). I’ve been car free for a year now and I’m desperate to go pick up my new (to me) one next month. Having a car is simply necessary for where I live and what I do … but overall I think cars just suck! 🙂

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @kh, yeah I know that feeling. We went without a vehicle three years one time, but that was when we lived in the big city. Now we could not manage without a car we are too far from everything. And the prices of gasoline are just going higher… agh

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  • At least it seems like Mr. A knows a bit about cars! I hate dealing with mechanics I feel like they are always trying to rip people off…and who the hell knows if they are right or wrong.

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Evan, yes he does, thank goodness. The irony of this situation is he knows how to change out the compressor and he wanted to do this job himself. I talked him into letting the shop do it, since my vehicle was already there. Mr. A is scrambling trying to stay busy bringing money in and I did not foresee him having the time to fix my vehicle AND keep customers satisfied. We have used this shop before, numerous times and we are very disappointed. It’s too bad it has to be this way, but it seems we always have to be on guard for auto mechanics.

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  • Alice

    I have a 2003 Buick Rendesvouz with 171K miles on it. About six months ago I was on the interstate when it started making a funny sound and not accelerating at all. Took it to two transmission shops for opinions and finally decided on a shop that came highly recommended from two friends who do other car work. (One was a body shop and the other smaller repairs)

    The estimate they gave me was “Best case, it’ll be around $1,000 and worst case it’ll be $1,600. We really can’t know until we get it apart.” Well, what do you know, it was worst case and cost me $1,595. However, I don’t feel like he got one over on me. This type of thing is a known problem with this type of vehicle. I think the best lesson I learned is that when you’re in the market for a vehicle, always be sure to search for those known problems.

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  • I definitely would think about using that mechanic again! Did they give you the estimate of $250 on the A/C repair? It always makes me uncomfortable when estimates are not close to the actual cost.

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @krantcents, did you mean to say you would NOT think about using them again? Yes, I was at the shop having driven there to take my son to pick up his vehicle, and I asked the mechanic about my air conditioning. He took a look under my hood right then. He asked me to turn on the air conditioner and he heard the compressor kick on so he assumed it was okay, and that is when he said about $250 to find the leak and recharge with freon. Once they got my car in the shop, they said they tested the compressor and some thing was weak. I didn’t think that seemed to unreasonable, given the vehicle is 15 years old. I don’t expect an air conditioner to last forever. So that is where the extra cost came in. $450 for the compressor, I think $40 for some piece called a dryer and I think $30 for freon, I don’t have the bill here with me but I think they only charged $240 for labor. Anyway… we’re not sure what we will do in the future. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

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  • Wow, I’m pretty sure they ought to be paying for any necessary repairs due to the clicking — repairs that are done at the shop of your choice, ideally! I bet an honest shop would be be happy to work with you until you’re satisfied. Or there’s always the Arizona Attorney General’s office…

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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Jackie, yeah… my husband is not happy at all about this situation. The mechanic kept saying they were an honest shop and he had worked in Phoenix at shops where he had been told to do things to vehicles and that was why he wasn’t in the big city. I’m not sure what we will do, but we should do something! My car’s engine light came on yesterday for about half an hour. It is running okay, but the engine is surging, which is not normal. Temperature is okay, and my gas mileage is right on target at 18.8mpg. Just that tapping/clicking sound. Agh. Auto mechanics, can’t live with them, can’t live without them, eh?

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