Several weeks ago, I got an oil change in my car. This car, I inherited from my wife when she got her new Jeep. She had paid for this oil change in advance so I didn’t have to lay out any money. The Saturn is the one that we drove cross country from New Jersey. It had lost its air conditioning in the summer, and since it was old, we added a new car to the family, but kept the Saturn for me.
After getting my oil changed, I had an occasion to park the car in the garage. When I pulled it out, I noticed oil had leaked on the ground. I then checked my parking space which is outside of the garage and it too had oil stains on the asphalt. I was irritated over this since I had just had the oil changed. I have been planning a long ride in this car for some time and leaving it in the outdoor parking area where it is subject to daily sprinkling on the passenger side and the occasional dust storm, the car was filthy. I waited for the sale date on the car wash and I paid $3 for the Premium Manager’s special at the local gas station. This is where all the trouble started.
After purchasing the gas, I realized that there was no purchase necessary and you had to pay for the wash in the convenience store that was conveniently located across the 100 degree parking lot. Well I paid after over paying for gas, and proceeded to the car wash. Now, I had gotten one here before but it was paid for at the pump. This one was not. I guess it was more thorough.
After watching the car get scrubbed and rinsed, I watched the process go again and spraying my car one more time. This didn’t happen before. Here is where I noticed that I was getting hot. I put on the non air conditioned blower. The fan started to pummel me with water through the vents. At the same time, I started getting rained on through the now saturated ceiling. I was aggravated and I couldn’t wait for the wash to be over. When I finally got the green light, I put it in gear hit the gas and got nothing…nothing that is except for two engine lights. Both were orange, but I still was concerned because the one with the downward arrow in it…well, I never saw that one before. Since the car wouldn’t move and there was a guy behind me, I opened my window to yell out. I was still stuck in the garage with the dryer blowing. I couldn’t hear. Since my car wasn’t moving anyway…I decided to turn it off. After waiting and praying for several seconds, I turned it back on. I hit the gas…alarms went off in the Car Wash as I proceeded too fast, so I hit the brakes to go slowly through the dryer. I forgot one thing though…I had the windows down. I was hit with 100 degree air from both sides of my face as I panicked again, and struggled to get the windows up. Thank God that their electronics worked because the dashboard was once again ablaze with warnings. I inched out onto the road and got as far as the first traffic light before I once again lost power. I had to turn the car off and on again several times to get it to the car dealer that had done the oil change just a couple of weeks earlier.
My discussion with the man at the dealership shop is where my $3 car wash really began to get, well, out of the realm of a bargain. I told him what happened in the car wash. As he was listening and asking about the car I told him that it had been serviced there before for an oil change and had subsequently developed a leak. He added that to the service slip and told me that the diagnostic fee was $130. I jokingly told him that he was going to charge me that to plug in a little device. (I have the device back in NJ and have used it to save on the diagnostic fee before with a “trusted” mechanic. He said that the code still wouldn’t tell you what is wrong and that was the reason for the fee. I didn’t argue. I just signed the form as the cost of the car wash…including the gas was now up to $169.
Later that day, a call came in to tell me that the accelerator pedal assembly failed and needed to be replaced. She said that the entire bill, including the diagnostic fee was going to be $330. Now my car wash including the gas and repair was up to $369. I had to wait for a delivery of a bath tub at my house (this requires a blog post by itself…) so I couldn’t leave my house until after 3pm. I took my bicycle out and pedaled the two miles in 104 degree heat. When I arrived, I was told that the oil leak was not resolved as I had refused the work. They told me that if I wanted it fixed it would cost an additional $160. Now, we are up to $529 for the car wash!!! First of all, I brought the oil leak to their attention!! I had not refused the work. Second of all, they got me to agree to the repair for $330. They were “sorry for the confusion” but if I wanted the oil leak fixed it would be more time and more money.
In New Jersey, where I am from, there is a place called Bob’s Garage. Not surprisingly, it was run by Bob! When we had trouble with our 1985 Ford Escort that was barely a year old and was seen by the dealer several times, we were just about at the end of our rope. We were close to filing a Lemon Law claim. Friends of ours recommended Bob. We took it to him. He had it for a day and then called us. We came over and met Bob and he talked to us about the car. He said simply, “idle control circuit…it’s hard to tell with these new cars…if you have any more trouble, bring it right in…otherwise…”-and then he extended his hand…not palms up for money, but a handshake. I said, “What do we owe?” He kept his hand out. I shook it…said goodbye…and was his customer for life.
Before moving to California in 2016, Bob fixed that same 2005 Saturn up for the cross country trip. That was 31 years after we met him. He has worked on every car that we own. When the work was done…if we weren’t happy, he stood behind his work. He has taken hundreds of dollars off of our repairs over the years and once even bought a car that he couldn’t fix. Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe he’s a dying breed. Maybe I just didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.
I am sure that the people at the Cheverolet of La Quinta didn’t know this story. I am sure that there are people there who would do what Bob did if they had the power. I am also keenly aware of bogus auto repairs at major dealerships that have been repeatedly exposed on the news just so that they can sell a new car. This oil leak “snafu” is just the kind of setup that would be featured on one of these programs and since I have recently joined the ranks of the fixed income retiree (yes I played that card), my scam filter went to high alert.
I sometimes wonder about Bob. He has seven bays, always full, minimum two week wait for appointments, but will still tow you in and have you out in a matter of days for emergency. He doesn’t do the repairs anymore but has a staff. He holds himself accountable for their work. That’s why he has customers. He provides value and quality. He’s the In-n-Out Burger of auto mechanics. Just imagine if he sold cars to this 31 year customer.
I think that this is an important story. That’s why I wrote it. That’s why I intend to share it. I hope to find that Diamond in the Rough auto mechanic here in the Coachella Valley. I doubt very much is will be Chevrolet of La Quinta. Still, before I add SEO links and share it on Nextdoor, I will give them an opportunity to read it. I will also share it with Bob Holshue and his son. I believe that we can all learn to do better. I believe that we should all want to do better.
I hope we do.
BTW…my car was supposed to be done this morning…but the part, apparently is in Tennessee. Maybe I should have moved there.