- Car Care & Maintenance
Getting Rid Of The Nightmare Of Car Repair
How many different cars have you owned?
Experience Through Variety
Its no secret that most garages and mechanics take advantage of women. Even those professing Christ are sometimes not above misleading women customers. I've had good mechanics and bad mechanics. So after several years of experiencing this, and several different cars I experienced it with; and having learned quite a bit about certain car issues, I have recently had a change in my mindset.
To explain this, I have to go back in history a bit. In thinking about it, I realize that I've had quite a few different vehicles. I started out with an Oldsmobile Firenza years ago, which I purchased new, and that was wrecked by a former boyfriend. Then there was even an old Datsun and two vehicles that were stolen, a Toyota Tercel and a Nissan Sentra. I also went through a few American classics; two Cameros and a Monte Carlo. I had a Ford Probe for a while, a Mercury Sable, and then my first Mercury Grand Marquis. The engine blew on that one last year, and I was given a Dodge Intrepid, a former police car.
The Worst Designed Car
I don't know what genius came up with the design, but the Dodge Intrepid was by far, the stupidest engine design I've ever seen. The engine was built on the top, and all the basic easier things were put underneath it. For example, to change the battery, you had to remove the passenger side tire and go up under the car to reach the battery. Stupid, stupid design. It looked all neat and nice, but what a pain it was.
For the most minor repairs, the engine would have to be removed at a cheap minimum of $400, and that did not include any other work, just removing the engine to get to whatever was wrong. This car had a myriad of problems too. I had to get the whole front end redone because there was too much wobbling of the tires. It had no ac, a leak in the transmission, and an even worse oil leak.
In addition to that, it had an electrical problem, so there were times when the car wouldn't start. Knowing what I did about what was already wrong with that car when I got it, I determined that it was just an in-between temporary solution until I could get another car. After all, you get what you pay for, right? I got this for free, so obviously, it had to come with problems. Most people don't give away something that has value to them; something that is good. They give away something that is meaningless, or no longer has any value to them.
The One Car I Really Wanted
The car I really valued, surprisingly enough to me, was the Grand Marquis. I never figured that I'd like such a big car, but that car is so comfortable and drives so beautifully; so smooth, with great power and pick up. So I fell in love with this car, and then lost it, and was stuck with a real nightmare of a car.
But I wanted another Grand Marquis, and by God's grace I got another one. The previous one had been a '96. The current one is a '94, but its actually got more and better features than the '96 had; with a digital dashboard telling me how many miles I had left to travel before running out of gas, and so on.
My street mechanic first found me a buyer for the Intrepid, so I sold that one for $500. Then, after a failed attempt to get an Explorer, he promised me that we would find a car that day, and we did. We kept driving through these neighborhoods where he said he comes to whenever he's looking for a car. We passed by two that were for sale, but he advised me not to bother with those, due to parts being hard to come by.
Then we rounded this one corner, and there it was, a Grand Marquis for sale. My mechanic took it for a test drive and talked the guy down from $1500 to $800, and I had my car. Of course, I paid my mechanic a finder's fee of $100 each for both the sale of the Intrepid, and for finding me the Grand Marquis. So in all, I paid $500 for the car if you subtract what I got paid for the Intrepid, and add the $200 I gave my mechanic for setting up both deals. Not bad.
Fixing Up The Car
I knew there would be a few things I needed to fix right away to bring the car up to a good drivable level. FIrst thing was to fix the brakes, so I had both the front and back brakes replaced. Spark plugs were changed. Fluids checked. An alignment was done and the two rear tires changed, but the alignment doesn't feel any different. I've been having an ongoing problem with the electrical windows, which don't work at all in the back, and stick upon occasion on one side or the other in the front. The ac does not work; apparently there is a leak, because my mechanic put freon in it, and it worked for about 1 week.
Additionally, the front end is having some issues. I don't have solid control of the steering wheel. It feels like it is switching from side to side as I drive, and the slightest turn causes over correction in the car. It could be the bushings, the tire rods, the upper and lower arms ( I think those are the Idler and Adler arms), or even the control box.
Then the rear end is also having some issues. My antilock brake light stays on. The check engine light comes on as well. The car has, on occasion, lost power and I had to pull over, shut it off, and turn it back on. It would come back on right away, thankfully, but it still needs checking. So there is an obvious ABS issue, and possibly something to do with some sensors. I really don't believe there is an electrical problem, because every thing else is working just fine.
What Do You Value?
Would you be willing to pay more to get a concrete answer on the cause of problems in your vehicle?
My street mechanic sent me to another guy he knows to check out the problem under the car. The problem with this is that none of these guys know exactly. Everyone is telling me that they either can't see the issue I'm presenting, or what they "think" the issue might be. None of them know for sure, and I feel like I'm going to be wasting a lot of money while they try to figure out what is happening.
I decided to try a place that is allegedly reputable - Firestone. Now, while I appreciated the attention and respect the clerk gave me; he still tried to play me. I asked him to give me an estimate on the front end, the back end, and not only did he come back with a very padded estimate, but he included new tires, which I didn't ask him for. By the time he finished, he had that bill up to almost $2000.00. There was no way that was happening, especially after he said that he drove the car and could not feel the pulling I described.
The first garage had done one thing though. The mechanic had put the car up on the rack. After I described the sound and the pulling, whereas the car feels like it is struggling to move in the rear end, and makes a sound, like its stuck and is fighting to move. When he put the car on the rack, he had a small associate climb in and start the car.
As soon as he told the guy to put the car in drive, the problem was visible. All the tires except the rear driver's side tire moved and rotated, but the rear driver's side tire struggled to move, like something was holding it back, preventing movement. I knew it had be the cause of the noise and struggling I had felt pulling on that tire and hindering the full movement and pickup of the car.
I also visited two dealerships just to check them out. The one west of my residence charges $130 per issue to give an estimate on. I gave them 4 issues of concern, so that would cost me over $500. The one in the east side, would do all four estimates for $240. Why the difference? The dealership in the west is connected to Autonation. The guy in the east is not, so it will be a bit cheaper; obviously so I'm thinking about going there.
How Important Is Longevity and Staying Power To You?
Would you prefer to pay a higher price for a solid name brand like Lincoln/Mercury?
Why Deal With The Dealership
I had never thought that I'd ever be willing to take one of my cars to a dealership, but I am reconsidering now for the following reasons:
- When I considered the fact that many of the mechanics I went to told me only what they "think" could be the problem. However, none of them "know" exactly what is wrong.
- The car is an older vehicle that does not have a computer in it.
- The dealership stated that they only use Ford parts because they are made for these vehicles and are a better fit and functionality is better. Other places use aftermarket parts that are not an exact fit, and the function is inhibited as a result.
- Despite having to pay for each estimate, and an overall higher price for the repairs, the dealership has technicians with experience with these specific types of cars.
- The dealership does take the price of the estimate out of the repair if done at the dealership.
- The dealership on the east side of town that is not associated with Autonation, offers a shuttle to my house when I drop off the car, and pick up when the vehicle is repaired.
- Lincoln/Mercury is a well branded vehicle with staying power. They have changed very little in the style of these vehicles, because they are such good cars and excellently made. These are not popcorn vehicles that are here today, gone tomorrow with the next biggest, or newest, updated or different model coming on line from automakers. This is a rock solid line of cars.
I figure if these guys, who are the suppliers of these vehicles, can't get a clue on what's wrong with my vehicle, who can. So I may take the car there at least for the estimate. I don't mind paying a little for that if they can pinpoint the problem correctly the first time. Cutting out the guessing games might actually end up saving me money in the long run.