19 January 2011
Since the dawn of 2011, I have taken my 1997 Ford Taurus to a shop on six separate occasions. It’s been a bit of a saga.
Shortly before the New Year, I was visiting a friend in the Twin Cities. I was parked head-in at the end of the cul-de-sac instead of parallel, but it was a very big cul-de-sac. Then a 16-year old girl driving an Explorer backs out of a driveway on the side of the cul-de-sac and somehow manages to back into my parked car. She was really apologetic, but it still left a nice dent right above my left rear wheel. It was drivable, but if I hit a big bump or put a lot of weight in the car (which I needed to do to drive back to Colorado), the dent would’ve cut the tire. Here are a couple photos:
A few days later I negotiated a reasonable, small cash settlement with the girl’s father. I didn’t want the hassle of going through insurance (even though I wasn’t going to pay anything), and I didn’t want the girl’s insurance premiums to skyrocket for such a small incident. I just wanted a little compensation for my car having been backed into.
Shop #1: The Ford dealer in hometown Cumberland gave me an estimate of $1200 to fix the dent and make it look like nothing happened. I decided that was ludicrous, especially for a car with 222,000 miles that I’m only keeping for another year.
Shop #2: The day after that, I went to a rural body shop outside of Chetek and only a couple miles from where my dad works. They spent 20 minutes pulling out the dent (it’s not perfect, but it won’t cut my tire anymore), and let’s just say I had more than enough cash in my wallet to pay what they charged me, without my having been to an ATM recently. It wasn’t much!
After getting the dent pulled out, I went home to Cumberland, loaded up everything into my car (including the car-load of stuff that I dropped off at Thanksgiving), hung out with Wicklands for the night in White Bear Lake, and drove from there to Colorado the next day. That weekend I got my oil changed at Valvoline in Longmont, and they told me that I was badly leaking brake fluid.
Shop #3: I drove over to the Ford dealer in Longmont, and while their service shop was open, their brake guy wasn’t in (it was a Saturday afternoon). They told me I could drop it off on Monday, though, and that they’d give me a ride to work in Boulder. Maybe this shouldn’t count as a shop, but between stopping at Valvoline and this Ford dealer, I’ll count it. My blog, my rules.
Shop #4: Instead of taking it to Longmont Ford last Monday, I took it to a shop just a mile down Lookout Rd in Gunbarrel, partly because I could walk to/from there, and partly because my roommate recommended it. They were extremely pleasant, and even gave me a ride back home. (That’s the morning I took all the snowy mountain pictures from the top of Lookout Rd in my previous post.) They found the problem: one brake line was rusted through, and the other was about to go. Here’s the catch: due to liability concerns, they were only willing to replace the brake lines with OEM factory-direct parts from Detroit for $750 (!!). I told them no thank you. Even so, I totally understand their position, and I liked the service I did get there enough that I’ll probably go back there again if I have non-brake-related car problems.
I have no idea when my brake fluid leak started, but I probably had about-to-fail brakes for most or all of the 7,000 miles I drove in the six weeks from Thanksgiving to early January. Thank you God for keeping me safe on the roads!
For the next several days, I drove basically to and from work in northeast Boulder, by taking back roads and not exceeding about 40 mph. After all, if my brakes could give out at any moment, I wanted to minimize the risks of a catastrophic accident by not going highway speeds. Basically, I wasn’t driving it more or further than necessary, just in case. Also, by only going between Gunbarrel and Boulder, if anything were to happen, I wouldn’t ever be very far from home.
With the $750 estimate from the last place, I called a Napa parts store, and they recommended a different shop in eastern Boulder, to which I could take back roads and avoid the Diagonal Hwy. I told the guy on the phone what the problem was, and he asked where the car’s been. I answered Minnesota, Wisconsin, & Pennsylvania, to which he replied, “Oh, so it’s a rust-bucket.” Statement, not question. Then when he asked how many miles it had (223,000), he said, “Get a different car.” Eventually I persuaded him to look at my car, and he said he could fix it for $250. We arranged that I’d drop it off this past Monday morning.
Shop #5a: I dropped off my car on Monday morning like we’d agreed, but perhaps kinda late at 9:30am (we hadn’t set a time, but I was slow getting up). He said he thought I wasn’t coming, so he’d booked over me, so he’d “try” to look at my car that day. Then he asked for my phone number, and proceeded to complain that it wasn’t a local number. I told him that I’d lived in Pennsylvania for five and a half years, and that I’d just moved to Boulder six weeks ago. Then he said, “It’s probably time to get a different car, too.” And he hadn’t even looked at my car yet! I was annoyed at how rude he was, but left my car with him and walked the two miles to work from there. Mid-afternoon he called back and was much more pleasant. He said he definitely could repair my brake lines, but that a couple bolts wouldn’t come off. So he sprayed something on them, but said I needed to come back on Wednesday morning after the spray had had a chance to act. In the meantime, while the car was still on the hoist, he wanted to point out to me how rusty the frame is. That makes two cars in a row for me, yippee. The joy of having consecutive cars with over 220,000 miles.
Shop #5b: So I took it back to that shop this morning (Wednesday) at 8am. I hadn’t heard from the shop, so I called at 5pm to check on the status. He said it was fixed, but that the junction of two of the new parts were leaking, so he sent another guy to a parts shop a few blocks away for a new part. He said to call back at 5:30pm. I did, and he said the guy still wasn’t back yet. The shop called me back at 6pm to say that the guy still wasn’t back yet, but had to be getting close, and that I may as well start heading down there. Sue gave me a ride from NCAR to the shop, but because of 3-4″ of fresh snow (which was still coming down) on top of a solid coating of glaze ice, all streets in Boulder were pretty much a parking lot. It took 15 minutes to go one mile on Valmont Rd, ugh. The snow and ice is why it took the guy so long to get to the parts store and back. He was driving, but decided to park halfway there and walk, because he could walk faster than cars were going. On the way back, he could still walk faster, so he decided to walk all the way back to the shop. By the time I got to the shop, the guy had gotten back from the parts store, and they’d finished fixing my car.
So that’s my old car saga for this month. I’m really looking forward to getting a newer, more reliable car when I graduate and get a “real job” of some sort.
Here’s one really interesting thing to come out of this that I noticed: the amount of money for which the girl’s father settled with me after she backed into me was very close to the total combined amount that I spent on getting my brakes repaired and getting the dent pulled out. Clearly God knew that I needed to get my brakes repaired soon. Did He orchestrate that the right amount of money be provided for me through the circumstances of the girl backing into my car and causing a small but fixable dent? That’s how I’m choosing to look at it, partly because there are a few other things that have happened to me recently that I also attribute to God working and/or answering prayer. God works in things both big and small, and we might not always see it right away, but He’s there.