Daisy Bateman

Whinesday: There Ain’t Nothing Wrong With the Radio*

Buckle up, guys; we’re getting extra-whiney this week.

As a Californian, I have a special bond with my car. It’s part of my life, a constant that I can turn to that helps me and helps to define me.

It keeps me from having to take public transportation.

But all that has been lost to me for the past two weeks, as my car– the nice reliable little Japanese compact I got after my ever-so-cool but entirely unreliable old Porsche finally gave up the ghost five years ago and I vowed that this time I would get something that didn’t give me that kind of trouble, even if I had to take a major hit in the cool department– that car is in the shop getting the second new engine of its young life.

I will admit, the first one was kind of my fault. Not entirely, because I couldn’t have known about the fault in the engine that was making it burn oil, or the fact that the oil light would never turn on, no matter how bone-dry the crankcase. But partially, because by not getting regular oil changes I violated the warranty, allowing Mazda to take no responsibility for the cost of replacing the engine after I drove it with no oil in it at all, causing it to make some truly unpleasant noises before dying in a very final way. Which is why, to save money, I took it to a shop in Berkeley to get a used replacement engine, rather than blowing the money on a new one and dealer service prices.

My first clue that this was not the greatest-ever idea was the number of issuesI had with the car after I got it back from the shop. Check engine lights, timing problems– I finally got fed up with hauling it over the bay to have them fail to fix it and took it to the dealer in Burlingame, where they actually (miracle of miracles!) fixed it so it would run well.

But it was still going through oil.

The oil thing was a concern, but I was being good now and checking it every time I got gas, and since it was a carryover from before the engine was replaced I figured it had to be something like a small leak in a line somewhere; big enough to be noticeable but too small to leave puddles when I parked it. After all, what else could it be? I had just replaced the entire engine!

As per my usual style, I ignored and avoided the problem as long as possible, until it got to the point where I was putting a quart of oil every time I got gas, and even I had to admit that this was the sort of problem that wasn’t going to go away on its own.

So I took it back to my good friends at the dealership, who I had gotten to know pretty well by now, and left them to figure it out. I’ll spare you the technical details, because I don’t entirely remember them, but I’m pretty sure the words “bad seal**” and “engine blow-by” came up, and I’m definitely sure that the sentence, “You need a new engine” entered into the conversation.

And since even the guys at the dealership didn’t think it was worth paying what it would cost to have them do it, I was left looking for a mechanic again. I wasn’t very inclined to go back to the previous shop, given the experiences I’d had, and that opinion was confirmed by a conversation I had with the owner.

Me: “[Describes the problem.] So apparently I need a new engine.”
Owner: “Hm. Well, if it’s running now I’d recommend that you just sell it.”
Me: (Thinking, not saying.) “So you’re telling me to be dishonest and sell someone something I know is seriously defective? Gee, I wonder how you handle your business dealings.”

So now I needed a new mechanic.

(To Be Continued. . .)

*Yet. As far as I know.
**No fish for you!

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