January 10, 2007

'scuse me while I vent a little

Last Friday Ms. P left at 6 am to catch a plane. At noon Mr. Shove came to stay. Mr. Shove is the founder/creative director of a physical theatre group in Rochester. For the past five days he and I have worked almost 'round the clock to try to get his website updated. Last night I was up long enough to walk the dog in the morning and then collapse for two hours. We didn't get the site done, but we're well on the way.

I tell you that to tell you this. When I'm tired, I cry about anything. Anything.

When I called* the mechanic today and he told me they'd put the whole car back together and THEN tested to see if the head gaskets had been warped when the car overheated, I just about died. After maintaining composure long enough to ask how much more THAT might cost (at $95/hr labor) to fix, I lost it. Now we're at least $1000 over the reimbursement check we just received. It wouldn't be so bad except he mentioned that if a Subaru gets so hot it overheats and shuts itself off, head warpage is a common occurance. When I brought the car in I told him I'd driven to San Jose where the car just stopped at a light. No, there was no smoke, but it completely stopped. He said I hadn't told him that (lie!) or he'd have checked this earlier.

I've always taken the Subaru to a dealer and felt maybe I was being overcharged for the privilege. Maybe I have been, but I've never seen this kind of (lack-of) response rate. A week and a half in the shop and now you want to add this?! I don't think so. We'll pick up the car tomorrow and find another place. Anyone know a good mechanic?

note: the guy has only called me twice, otherwise I've been calling him.


punkassjim said...

If there is only one piece of advice I can give you about cars, maintenance, repairs, and handling catastrophic failures...it is this:

Go to the dealer.

Simple. But I'll tell you why.
a) they are over-priced (we all knew this, but never bad to state the obvious), and not justifiably so
b) they generally employ folks who are, at best, barely qualified to LIFT a wrench, let alone turn one
c) they're required (by policy) to replace parts that don't need replacing, but could actually be fixed...a policy that's driven solely by a) and b).
And of course, the more they exercise c), the more truth there is to b). It's a nice, perfect circle of ineptitude, incompetence and greed.

Subarus in particular are kinda odd...they're reliable as hell, until one day they just fail catastrophically. Overheating (if indeed that's what happened to your car) can quickly cause the cylinder heads to warp, head gaskets to blow, and various other problems in the "pretty bad" category. But as with many makes (such as VW and Honda), there are tons of competent folks out there who actually love the cars enough to learn them like the back of their hand, and work on them for pennies on the dollar, in comparison. I'm always quick to find the little mom 'n' pop VW shop wherever I go, and we found a great Honda repair guy up in Burlingame for L just as soon as we got to CA.

All I'd do in your shoes is look in the yellow pages for the SMALLEST entry (read: didn't have a huge bankroll for advertising) that says "subaru." I guarantee you'll find something. When I found the Honda guy, he was one of three places I called. The other places' phones were answered blasé losers, but the one we chose sounded about about as genuine and straight-talkin' as they come. That goes a loooong way with me, and ultimately I was not let down (my bullshit detector is second to none).

Anyway, if you don't find anything, let me know...our Honda guy has been seen working on a Subaru once, so perhaps he wouldn't be a bad guy to go to in a pinch. And I can't stress to you enough: ANYTHING. IS BETTER. THAN THE DEALER. :-(

OTRgirl said...

Thanks, paj! Your comments were really helpful. The thing is, these guys were the small print Subaru specialists. All they do are Subarus and Jeeps. Last night we checked Better Business Bureau and on line and there are no complaints about the shop.

I called the Subaru Dealer and they charge $130/hr vs this shop at $95. I priced the repairs so far and the shop has been in the right ballpark. The main issue is that they didn't do a diagnostic test when they had the timing belt off to change it. Plus the guy is not great at proactive customer service. We're going to see if they will work with us in terms of labor costs or whatever. If not, we'll go elsewhere. Craziness!

Snickollet said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I hate dealing with car stuff. If you were in Boston, I'd know just where to send you, but in your area I'm at a loss.

Ugh. Good luck. I wish I could do more.

Beloved said...

That stinks. I take my cars (ha ha--I've had a total of one new car in my life!)to the dealer until they're no longer under warranty.

I think what I've learned from your experience is to start putting information on paper when I bring my vehicle in. I can't believe he denied that you told him what had happened with the car and how it had happened!