Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chuck The Writer Wants His Car Back

So here's the story. Those who know me know that outside of my wife and daughter, there's only one love in my life. That's my car. A 1991 Pontiac 6000 that I commandeered from my grandmother because there's no reason that a 92-year-old woman with cataracts and a valid Massachusetts driver's license should be behind the wheel of anything mobile.

So while I was at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions last week, I had to drive one of the inductees (Gretchen Christopher of the Fleetwoods) from the hotel to the performance venue. First off, this was way cool for me, as I had always enjoyed the music of the Fleetwoods ("Come Softly To Me," "Mr. Blue", "Tragedy," etc.). After dropping Gretchen off at the venue, I returned to the hotel.

Or, more accurately, I was on my way back to the venue - when suddenly I lost power in the car. I could step on the gas, but the car was not receiving the signal to accelerate.

I coasted and parked safely to the side of the road, then called for a tow truck to drive me to the nearest Pep Boys. Meanwhile, on the way there, the tow truck driver heard my description of what happened, and immediately said "Alternator. It's the alternator."

Well, it wasn't the alternator. Pep Boys in Ohio spent 36 hours diagnosing the problem, and came up with this - the car's ignition module burned out, which in turn burned out the electronic control module (the car's internal computer). So after they got it all working again that Sunday (somehow I was able to continue photographing and hanging out with the inductees while my car was being repaired), I got in the car on Monday morning and drove back from Ohio to Albany.

After about 400 miles of driving, I stopped for a rest at Turning Stone Casino (hey, I turned $60 into $92 there), got back in the car - and it wouldn't turn over. This required tow truck call #2, to a Pep Boys in New Hartford, N.Y. (outside of Utica), where the car spent three more days until they replaced another electronic control unit.

Meanwhile, my wife had to come 100 miles to get me so that I could take care of my day job that next morning. Friday night, she and I drove back out to New Hartford to get the car. And sure enough, it started up again. We drove back on the New York State Thruway, then stopped at the Mohawk rest area for bathroom breaks.

I got back in my car.

Guess what happened. Same damn thing. Car wouldn't turn over.

Today the car's at least in Albany, at the Pep Boys on Central Avenue, where the guys there are now diagnosing the issue as NOT an electronic control module issue, but actually an issue with the fuel injectors. In other words, the first two Pep Boys' didn't solve the problem, they simply put in new parts and once the car turned over (which happened after the car was left to sit for a couple of days while the fuel injectors or fuel conduits cleared up via non-use), the car was repaired as far as they were concerned.

Now as you can imagine, this is turning into a heartbreak situation for me. To their credit, Pep Boys is now making sure to get this fixed, and because I wasn't 100% satisfied with the original repairs, I'm going to get a massive discount on the repair bills.

Hopefully at some point my car will be back to normal, and this can be put behind me. I've got 127,000 miles on this bad boy, which makes it halfway to my hopeful goal of reaching 240,000 miles - the distance from the earth to the Moon.

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