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Mechanics...

I’ve complained about cars a lot lately… both the concept of cars in general and my own car (although I may not have explicitly pointed out that last bit). I feel an explanation is in order. I’ve just been waiting to, ideally, ensure that it’s all over before I dug myself in for the post.

I’ll warn you now, this is a long one. Get a stiff drink.

Part the First:

Back in September, I took my car in to the Hyundai dealer service center to get some recall work done. There were four recalls active for my vehicle, generally speaking, only two of which they actually discovered were necessary. One was for my steering column. When you turned the steering wheel, there was a clicking noise. Or so they claimed. I couldn’t hear it. But, hey, it’s free recall work, right? Well, it was free for cars under 100,000 miles and I was at 96,000ish. So it was free for me.

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A bunch of other stuff was found at the same time and my “free” recall trip cost me $1,200. But, hey, according to him, I was lucky because this was the last day their scab mechanics would be on the job before flying home to Florida. You see, for a couple months leading up to that point, all union mechanics in the State of Illinois were on strike. After enough time, dealers started bringing in scabs from out of state.

I’m sure these guys were sooooo motivated to do their best work. The day before going home.

Part the First (+ one day):

I looked down at my dashboard to the lower left of my steering wheel and noticed that the panel that contained the buttons to open my gas door and trunk was hanging from its socket. Since the panel had snap locks on it, I simply pushed it back in place. However, when I tried to use the buttons, neither worked. Hmmmm…

Went back to the dealer and he said it was a blown fuse. Weird, don’cha think?

Part the Second:

In late March, I took my Sonata back to the dealer service center for a coupon cheapened lube-oil-filter change and another recall that cropped up. When I brought my car in, the service assistant turned my steering wheel and said “do you hear that?” I said no and said it didn’t matter anyway because they did the recall work on that already. He said that sometimes the recall doesn’t cover it and more work could be necessary.

I went to work and they called me an hour later to tell me that my $25 oil change and free recall would now be $1,450 for rear brake pads and rotor grinding and two new tie rods on my steering column. They were, apparently, on the verge of breaking and would pose a great threat to my safety if they broke while I was driving.

I argued that this should have been covered in the recall work I had done in September. My rationale was that they did the recall work and should have noticed that there was still more that needed to be done when they tested my car after finishing. My car would’ve been under 100,000 miles (by this time, it was 103,000) and the work would be covered by warranty. He said that it was damage that probably happened in between both visits. I call bullshit. That level of rust and wear doesn’t happen in five months.

As I did not have that much money and I was fuming, I authorized the brake work and said I’d wait on the tie rods. I spent about $450.

Part the Third:

Nearly a month later, I took my Sonata to a non-Hyundai mechanic and gave him the lowdown on what was going on. I also told him that I thought this should have been covered by warranty 6,000 miles previously and said that I was going to use his word against the dealer to try to get the work done for free. However, if the dealer wouldn’t do it, I would be bringing it back to the mechanic to have the work done, so, please, also give me a quote on it.

[As a note, my family has been using this auto shop for many years for cars that were outside warranty. Both my truck and Katie’s old Stratus came here many times for anything from suspension work to simple oil changes.]

He called me at work an hour later and said he could find absolutely nothing wrong with my car. He said he went so far as to physically hold the tie rods while another guy turned the wheel. He also did a full safety inspection of the entire vehicle and went on to say that he would have no qualms driving my car cross country that day. They wanted to charge me $1,000 for work I didn’t need.

He also said that he wasn’t charging me anything for the inspection. I thanked him and picked up my car. I then went to a local craft brewery to pick up some beer to give them as thanks.

Part the Third (+ one hour):

I brought the beer back out to my car and went to start my car. It wouldn’t. All I could hear was a spinning when I turned the key. No clicking at all.

I called State Farm to get a tow. They informed me that I did not have roadside assistance on my policy. I argued I had always had RSA back as far as my truck, which I’d had towed free of charge at least once, maybe twice. And, when I got my Sonata, my instructions to State Farm were to simply swap the vehicles listed and not to change any aspect of my policy whatsoever. Bear in mind this was done with a different agent who retired in about 2013. They said there was nothing they could do to comp me my tow and they would work to get RSA back on my policy.

I had my car towed the 2.5 miles back to the mechanic, not the dealer service center. A guy from the shop drove me back to work. Katie came down and picked me up about two hours after I got off work because it was her late night and she had to pick up Nathan since I was unable to. We work in opposite directions. A little more than an hour apart.

Turns out it was a lever in my starter that pushes out the starter into the transmission and it had broken. It was nothing they could have found during a safety inspection as it either works or it does not. There is no in between. But since my Sonata was the first model year of the massive redesign they began on all their vehicle lines, they noted that Hyundai had cheaped out and used a plastic lever. Starting a couple years later, they reverted back to metal. I still had the plastic one.

They got the part the next day and fixed my car for $450ish. I had to take Katie to work that day, take Nathan to school and daycare, go to the shop to pay for the work, go home without my car because I was solo, pick up Katie and Nathan after work/daycare, come get my car, and drive home. A lot of time, miles, and money were spent.

Part the Fourth:

The following Monday, I went to pick up Nathan from my parents’ house after work. We came out and got in the car and… it wouldn’t start. The shop was closed by this time and I was just mentally drained. My mom, however, came to our rescue and let us use her car to get home.

The next morning, I got another tow and State Farm still didn’t get RSA back on my policy. So, as of this time, there are two towings that I’m paying out of pocket.

The shop had a backlog of cars so they weren’t able to get to mine until Wednesday at which time they discovered that a “pigtail clip” had fallen off the wires on the starter and on top of something else and melted. So the wires weren’t making a reliable connection to the starter? I don’t understand it all. But they had to order the clip from Hyundai and they wouldn’t have it until Friday. But, if I was okay with waiting, they would pay for the part and labor. My mom agreed to let us keep her car for the remainder of the week and I finally got my car last Friday.

Part the Conclusion:

Cars sucks. Insurance sucks. Dealership service centers suck. Independent mechanics rock even if I had to go back there a few times before it was all TCO. 

My wife is amazingly patient with all the rearranging of our lives we had to do. Thank you, hon!

My parents came through in a big way in our time of need even though it put them out. So thank you to both of them.

My job was insanely flexible with all the time I had to flip around my schedule or work from home. Thank you to Dennis and all my coworkers!

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