Elizabeth (greyautumnrain) wrote,

Taking the mechanic for a ride

Midnight's check engine light had been on for a couple of weeks and she'd been making a noise during hard accelerations, but I decided not to have an appointment really close to my surgery (not wanting us both to be in hosiptal at the same time), so I took her in and left her at Boston Volkswagon on Friday after work. The service department at the dealership is open until midnight on weekdays. Sadly, when they finally called at 11pm I was two-thirds of the way through a raid of Zul'Gurrub that I was co-leading, so my only real option was to wait for Monday to pick her up.

Bright and early monday morning I went in and picked up my beloved car. The dealership said they'd had to change the mass air filter, and that was what was causing the problem. I paid for the oil change that I'd also had them do and drove off. I had stuff to do at work. I'm not sure when it happened, but it was on the communte back home I noticed that the check engine light was back on. Darn.

Seeing as how Tuesday was a holiday, I figured that it was best to call Wednesday morning (yesterday). This I did from work, which allowed me to discover on the morning commute that the noise when I accelerated rapidly was still there. When I called the guy who answered the phone happened to be the very same one who had sold me Midnight -- he seemed to have moved from sales guy to service department manager. He said to bring it in that afternoon or evening so he could have the same tech look at it. That seemed a fine plan to me. I'd come armed with a book, so this time I could wait while they fixed whatever it was.

On the way home from work I experimented a bit with the sound. It only happened during hard accelerations, most often when going up a hill, around a curve, or when merging onto an expressway. Hmm. It might be when the turbo-charger kicked in.

I brought Midnight in and described the noise in more detail to the guy behind the counter. I told him the guy needs to do a hard acceleration when he does the road test. I shared my turbo-charger suspicion. He seemed to take me seriously, asked good questions, and wrote more detail about the noise down on my sheet. I then repaired to the waiting area with my book.

Nearly two hours later they told me my car was ready. It was a loose air intake hose that caused the engine light to come on. I was a little surprised because I didn't think that matched up with the noise, but I'd seen the tech get into my car and leave the lot on a road test. What mattered was that my car was fixed and I could get home.

On my way back home I chanced to pull up directly behind a black Honda S2000. Warren's car is a Honda S2000, its a cute little sports car. One of the things I like about Midnight is that if I push her she can keep up with Warren's car, as long as he's not trying to go extra-fast. So there we are by the Harvard boathouse about to make a left turn onto Mem. Drive. True to form, the S2000 is off like a shot when the light turns. I hit the gas and take the turn sharply, enjoying the fact that my practical-looking sedan can perform almost as well as a true sports car... and then I hear the noise again.

I continue on Mem. Drive because there is no good place to turn around, trying to figure out what I want to do. Maybe the noise isn't really a problem? The engine light is still off. Do I want to turn around? What I want is to go home and have some quiet, private time. I'm an intervert who hasn't been alone all day, darnit. On the other hand, I want Midnight to be well. The noise happens again a few times just negotiating Cambridge traffic and that makes my mind up. When I hit the first rotary near Fresh Pond I use it to do a 180 and head back to the dealership. I form the plan.

When I get back to the dealership I hold my still-tagged key up to the large friendly guy behind the counter. He immediately guesses that the light is back on. I tell him its not the light, its the noise. "Is the tech who worked on my car still here? I'd like to take him for a ride." Large friendly guy acts as if this is the best idea he's heard all day and pages the tech.

You see, it has become obvious to me that tech did not accelerate hard enough to hear the noise in either road test. My theory is that in spite of being a young man who looks to be under 25 he drives the customers cars during road tests very slowly and carefully. Now, this is a fine thing from the standpoint of not crashing cars that don't belong to you, but its not so good from the diagnostics point of view. Its clear to me that if Midnight is going to be pushed in a road test its going to have to be me behind the wheel. So I take the tech for a drive. On getting into the car he opines that perhaps its the water pump, which might make noise just because the car is getting older. I don't think so. I accelerate towards Harvard square, making the noise again. The tech agrees that there is something there, but its hard to hear over the rumble of the pot-holed road. It also wasn't a particularly clear manifestation. We stop at a light. He asks me to put the car in nuetral, and rev the engine. He listens. I don't hear the noise I'm complaining about, but he hears something. Then we go to the turn onto Mem. Drive, and I take it like a mad woman. Now he hears the noise for sure. I make the noise a few more time until we get to the rotary, where he assures me a little two quickly that he's heard it enough by now. This is probably to cue me that now is the time quit driving like a crazy lady.

After another wait at the dealership I discover that I am vindicated. There is a loose bolt on the turbo-charger. The good news is that its just a bolt and is easy to fix. The bad news is that its too hot to fix in now, they need to wait a couple of hours for it to cool down. Sigh. I have Warren pick me up.

Midnight seems fine this morning. There is now no noise. I guess I can't blame Boston VW. Given how complex cars are these days I'm sure that fixing a car is more like debugging code than not. They were also pretty good about taking me seriously and being good humored about it, unlike some places that are more prone to brush off their clients suspicions, especially their female clients. Still, a lot of time could have been saved it they'd been a bit more serious about my turbo-charger suspicions earlier.
Tags: cars

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