Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Manny, Moe, and Jackass

I know nothing about cars. Nada. I can put gas in the tank, check the air pressure in the tires, and that's pretty much it. My dad and brother are mechanical geniuses, but apparently that strand of DNA just flew right past me.

My lack of automotive knowledge is rarely an issue. But sometimes . . .

I was driving along the 15 freeway last Friday afternoon. Oh, by the way, here's one of the many differences between California (where I live) and New Jersey (where I grew up). In California, the highways and freeway numbers are always said with the article "the" in front of them. For example, "You go south on the 15, head west on the 10, south on the 405, and get off at Century Blvd." In Jersey, it's just the number. "Go east on 22, that'll take you to 78, and you cross the bridge into Pennsylvania." Just one of the many differences between our two sub-cultures.

Okay, so anyway, I was driving along the 15 in my Ford Taurus, and as usual, Friday night traffic was a complete fustercluck. Whenever I came to a stop (which was every ten feet or so) all the dashboard lights would come on and the engine would die. I could start it up again, and as long as I was revving the engine it was fine, but as soon as I stopped . . . kaput.

Let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with dashboard lights. I don't like them. They're fairly useless, in my opinion. Take, for example, the "check engine" light. The last car I owned, a Mazda 626, lasted for 270,000 miles, the last 150,000 or so with the "check engine" light glowing in all its glory.

When the light first came on, I panicked. I pulled the car to the side of the road, opened the hood, and checked the engine.

It was still there. Now, how do I get the light to go off?

When I got home, I called the local Pep Boys store (more on these guys later).

"Pep Boys."

"Yeah, my check engine light is on. What's up with that?"

"Did you check the gas cap?"

"Uh, no, is there a check gas cap light, too?"

"No, but if the gas cap is loose, the check engine light comes on."

"Excuse me?"

"The check engine light will come on if the gas cap isn't on properly."

"What if I have a flat tire, will the oil light come on?"

"Why would the oil light come on for a flat tire?"

"Exactly my point."

Manny (or maybe it was Moe) didn't get it. I went and checked the gas cap. It was fine. Mr. Pep ran through a list of things that could cause the engine light to come on, but he may as well have been reading from a Portuguese recipe book for all the sense it made to me. Sensor this, emissions that, blah blah blah.

I ignored him. The car lasted another several years. Engine light, schmengine light.

So I'm stalling out on the southbound 15, and I figure I better get off the freeway at the next exit. Engine dying, lights a-flickering, radio going full blast so I don't have to hear the sound of the sputtering machinery under the hood, I finally pull over on a side street. And now the engine won't even start. It just makes a weird grinding and clicking noise.

Well, shit.

I call the Pep Boys' 800 number, and get towed to their nearest shop. It's about 6 PM, so Moe (or maybe Jack) tells me that they won't get to my car until the next morning. Fine.

The next morning, I get the call and Jack informs me that the battery is good, but I need a new alternator, whatever the hell that is. I also need plugs, a vacuum hose, and it looks like it's time for an oil change. Total damage, just over $700.

Manny, Moe, and Jacked.

I wish this were the end of the story, but it isn't. I pick up the car on Saturday morning, and everything seems fine. Car starts, no Disneyland electric light parade on my dashboard, we're good to go.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I'm driving to work and my battery light comes on. I didn't even know there WAS a battery light, but there you have it. I take the car to my local Pep Boys (not the same one that I was at on Friday) to find out what the hell's going on. Their version of Moe tells me that the battery is dead.

"Um, the guy at the other Pep Boys checked it Friday, and said it tested fine," I informed him.

"Well, it isn't. Let me check something else."

The "something else" turned out to be the alternator. I explained that the other Pep Boys had just put in that alternator. Well, it was a bad alternator, and because it was bad, it killed my battery.  Bad, bad alternator.

So now I need a new battery. Another hundred bucks. They go to the back to get a new alternator from the shelf to replace the crappy one (free of charge, thank God), and wouldn't you know it, the new one tests bad right out of the box. So they send a guy to another store to get me a new alternator, one that actually works. They install it, I drive home, everything is A-OK.

Until Wednesday afternoon.

I get a call from my lovely Theresa. "Um, did you notice that your car is leaking something all over the driveway?"

"No, I did not."

"Well, you might want to get it looked at."

I go out to my car in the parking lot at work, and there's a huge puddle under it. Oil, I suppose, but for all I know it could be maple syrup. I drive back to my friends at Pep Boys.

"Yeah, I was in here yesterday, and now my car's leaking."

Moe checks it out. Apparently, when the Keystone Karguys at the other store had done the oil change, they also checked all the other fluids.


So my car had been spouting transmission fluid for a couple days. They topped off the fluid, and I was on my way.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who doesn't know Jack (or maybe Manny) about cars. And some of us are actually working as professional mechanics.


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JohnnyB said...

Funny! I mean, a long as it didn't happen to me. I am not mechanically inclined either.

As for freewayss:
I grew up in L.A. so "The 5" and "The 405" etc. made sense to me. When I moved to Ohio, they put the "I" in front of them: "I-75", "I-71", like a bingo game. But we have all since evolved and now just say the number.

CatLadyLarew said...

But wait! There's good news... My Knucklehead refrigerator magnet just arrived in the mail! Much better than a Pep Boys magnet! Thanks, Knucklehead! And good luck with the car... might I suggest using it to run down Pep Boys "mechanics".

Ice Queen said...

I hung out with mostly guys in college (that sounds a lot worse than what it actually was)...anywho, I learned a lot about cars. The alternator is what charges your battery while the car is running. Mine went kaput a few months ago.

My check engine light has also been on for about 7 months and I haven't had any problems. Glad it all worked out. said...

LOL ....Funny stuff.

True story - Pep Boys placed a tire on my car. I drive away...i notice the car wobbling...they never BOLTED THE THING ON....It could of been Manny, Moe and Kev if i would of sued.

PS - Screw the Yankees - you best from Northern jersey.

- Charlie

Sandee said...

Good grief. I would suggest that you just buy a new car, but it appears you've dumped too much money into your recent repairs. Just saying. Bwahahahahahaha.

Have a terrific day. :)

Pollyanna said...

Not to make you feel bad, but even I could deduce from your description that your alternator was bad. And I'm a girl (it would be weird if a guy went by the name Pollyanna)!

I don't think we have Pep Boys, but we've got Jiffy Lube and they suck just as badly at car repairs. They "replaced" a serpentine belt (it's really long and connects a whole bunch of moving parts). Less than six months later the "new" belt snapped and ruined my alternator & battery. The non-Jiffy Lube mechanic ultimately fixing this problem said the belt looked to be about three years old based on the wear. Now, I always ask to see the old parts, and make them point out the new part in my car (within reason) to make sure they actually replaced what they said they did.

Judge Fudge said...

You know, a friend of mine had a similar bad experience at our local Pep Boys. Apparently, they'll hire anyone.

Jenn Thorson said...

Sounds to me like you were dealing with more than one dipstick there. :)

Quirkyloon said...

hee hee hee

I always rejoice at the suffering of others.

Well, not always.

But this time? Oh yes, most definitely.

hee hee hee hee

~jill said...

time for a new mechanic?

my dad wouldn't let me drive until i could name all the parts of the engine and explain what they did. i hated him then but totally appreciate it now.

Swami Dil said...

Ah........gas caps and dipsticks!!! Brings back such not-so-fond memories.......

Grumpy, M.D. said...

In my language you need to find a new internist. Preferably one who went to med school.

Samsmama said...

My very first car had a Check Engine light that never turned off. My dad deduced everything was fine but the light, so he put electrical tape over it and told me to ignore it. So when the Oil light came on I did the same. That didn't end well.

otin said...

I am not much of a mechanic either!

True story- I traded in a car one time because it needed four tires. That is pretty bad! LOL

KaLynn said...

I soo understand! I am with you NO MORE PEP BOYS!
I had been using the same oil change place for years. Until now. The last THREE changes, I have had problems. First, 7 weeks after I had the oil changed, I'm out of oil. My car send message via odometer: SHUT CAR OFF IMMEDIATELY. OUT OF OIL. I rush to the oil change place. There is no oil. PERIOD. Nexttime I had to add oil before 6 weeks were up. I cannot ANY leaks! The LAST time, it was a WEEK after that I had a message that I had 1% life remaining in my oil. I check, IT WAS A QUART LOW!! I take it back. They forgot to reset my oil change. I have now been running on the same oil change for 6000 miles. Yes I know it is time to change the oil but it is just now 3 months. I

Mr. Condescending said...

I hate mechanics. I bought a honda civic at 18 years old, and drove it 303,000 miles while I worked in sales, so I can relate to your mazda experience. One time my exhaust pipe fell off and I was like 100 miles from home. I stopped at some hillbilly garage and crossed my fingers. These huckleberry's all started to weld the sh*t out of it, and only charged me $20!

Hey, thanks for the post of the week last week, ill put the badge up ASAP, it made my week! I did update you on my blogroll too.

Moooooog35 said...

Pssst. Dude.

Your vagina is showing.

Funnyrunner said...

LLOL! That just sucks. I'm with you on the lights. We had a Nissan Maxima that went its last 100,000 miles with the "check engine" light on. (maybe I needed gas).

When I was a kid, we were driving cross country (chicago to the east coast) in our Oldsmobile station wagon - 2 kids and a big German shepherd dog... and the car died about 20 miles from the nearest Ohio rest stop. Long story... but what a memory. It was the alternator.

Uncle Skip, said...

Your discourse regarding highway nomenclature may be true for the part of California where you reside. Way up here where I hang out there are no articles in front of the highway. It's just plain I-5 (eye five), 299, 44, 36, 32, 20, 273, 99 and 97. Occasionally we'll precede the state highway number with the word highway so folks will know we're not talking about someone's IQ.

Beth said...

Oh my gosh! Those Pep Boys just made me feel like a mechan-i-genius!

Suldog said...

I'm somewhat similarly dopey when it comes to cars. When I had a 1965 Ford Falcon, I could do just about everything. There were only something like five moving parts under the hood. Now, on some cars, I don't even know to OPEN the hood.

joan said...

Funny! I remember my daughter having her radio going full blast so she wouldn't hear the "not good" noises coming from her car.

nonamedufus said...

Why do they call them Pep boys? They should call their stores Dipsticks, huh?

Pearl said...

A comedy of errors.

I managed to buy a dead battery (brand new) on the coldest day of the year (which is saying something in Minnesota!).

Doesn't compare, but it's all I've got.


Jules said...

So, from what you're saying, it sounds like anyone could have a future in automechanics? That comes as a huge and comforting relief in this kind of economy!

Jules said...

So, from what you're saying, it sounds like anyone could have a future in automechanics? That comes as a huge and comforting relief in this kind of economy!

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