Yeah, yeah, yeah… “Aaron, where have you been? I can’t believe it’s really you. Come in. Have a seat. You want some tea? I know the apartment’s small, I don’t need much space. Let me show you some of my paintings, I think it’s some of my best work ever…”
Just stop it! I haven’t blogged in a long time. I’m not sure anyone actually cares. Maybe I’m back. Maybe I’m not.
What follows is a blog post. And it’s the true story of all that’s been wrong with my car since… let’s say January.
Fiona is the name of my 2009 Toyota Corolla. I named her that mostly because she’s green. If you get the reference, great. I’m very proud of you.
Back in January, I took my car in for a regular oil change and asked them to take a look at something else that could possibly be wrong. She wasn’t running strangely or anything, but the check engine light would occasionally come on. It would stay on for a day or so, but then it would go back off. It was unpredictable.
Well, without the light being on, I was told they couldn’t really diagnose any particular issue. Thing is, I couldn’t schedule another time to drop my car off in a couple weeks and just hope that the check engine light happened to be on at that point.
So they did a thing with the ignition coils. Swapping one out for another but not replacing any of them with new coils… I don’t know. It sounded very professional and technical and I felt incredibly inadequate as they explained the fix to me.
Since then, the check engine light has not come on again. That’s great, right?
Around the end of March, I began noticing that Fiona would idle a little roughly. And she felt like she was dragging when I got going at an intersection. And when I was driving on the interstate (which is a lot, considering my daily commute), she felt like she was working a little too hard while going up those inclines. No check engine light, but I was noticing all these red flags.
So I scheduled my next oil change and informed them of all the issues I’d been noticing. They changed the oil. They test drove the car and confirmed that, sure enough, Fiona is doing all the things I described. Could they diagnose the problem? Of course not. You know why? Because the freakin’ check engine light wasn’t coming on.
All I was told was that they cleaned a thing (I really can’t remember what it was because I am a moron when it comes to car parts, we’ve covered this already). And they reset the system. The hope was that this would do something helpful.
It didn’t help. In fact, it only got worse.
As the following weeks passed, I noticed more and more that my car would act like it wanted to shut off whenever I was stopped and I allowed the engine to idle. Eventually, it did shut off. The first time it happened, I got Fiona started up just fine. Then I put her into reverse so I could back out of my parking spot and… klunk… (this is, I’m certain, a technical term used whenever a car inexplicably turns off).
There was no warning. It just shut off. It was at that point that the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. But that’s just what happens when everything shuts off.
I don’t know much about cars, but I knew for sure that it wasn’t an issue with the battery. Because even though the engine shut off, the radio continued playing and the A/C continued blowing. Oh, and all those lights on the dashboard.
I panicked a little, but I turned the key once more and she started right back up. No more issues as I drove to school. Then, at the end of my school/work day, same issue. I put the car into drive and… klunk…
This went on for a few days. I only had the problem when I first started her up, so I wasn’t too stressed about it. It’s not like the car just shut off when I sat at a stop light. Yet.
It was Memorial Day weekend when I decided it was time to get the car into the shop. I figured I could make an appointment, but get it to them as soon as possible, once the holiday weekend was over. That Sunday morning, she did her normal thing… start up fine, put it in drive, klunk. But this time, Fiona wouldn’t start up again.
I tried to start the car again and again for about 20 minutes. Finally she got going and I was able to drive into Salem for that time when I sang the National Anthem at a minor league baseball game. Once that was over, I had no problem getting back home (other than shutting off at a stop light for the first time ever).
Monday was Memorial Day, so my plan was to get back to Roanoke on Tuesday, get the car to the shop, and stay with my mom through the end of the school year, which was only a week away. But Tuesday morning, she wouldn’t start at all. Not even the first time only to disappoint me when I threw it into reverse.
So I had it towed to a place in Blacksburg. They weren’t able to tell me anything new. But they replaced the spark plugs, a fairly expensive quick fix. That allowed them to get it started up again. This was now Tuesday evening (the day after Memorial Day), so I drove straight to Roanoke. I didn’t want to miss another day of work. I figured, if I could get the car to mom’s, I could bum a ride to work.
On Wednesday I called the shop that had been working with me for the last few months and explained my plight. The reset they did at the beginning of May did nothing and my issues have only gotten worse. Their next opening was a week from Thursday, a full eight days later.
That’s fine, but I refused to drive that car again until I knew I was driving it and dropping it off with them and I didn’t want it back until it was working properly again. New plan: drive it to the shop and let it sit with them until they could get around to it. I knew I’d be without my own car for a while. But, thankfully, I have a mom who has been willing to let me crash at her house in Roanoke while I worked out the rest of the school year and who has been willing to give me a ride to and from Blacksburg as needed.
But here’s the thing… As grateful as I am for this familial provision, I miss my car. I miss being at home.
Oh, I forgot… When I went to start the car and drive it over to the shop, it wouldn’t start. So we had to have it towed. Again. And Fiona has been in the shop now for 13 days.
I called them last Thursday (the day when they would have had that first opening) to see if they had managed to get around to my car. I was informed that they were on the right track with the reset that they did last time. The technician did some research and found that people with the same make and model who had the same unsolved mystery of a problem had to completely disconnect the battery and let it sit for an hour or so.
In theory, they could then reconnect the battery and everything would run smoothly. And, according to the research, anyone who had tried this fix had no further issues with the car stopping again.
Of course, while the technician was giving Fiona the once over once more, he found something else that needed to be repaired. It was explained that it wasn’t something that would be a problem right now, but it could be a serious issue down the road. Don’t ask me what this issue is… something to do with a vacuum something or other… I don’t know.
I told them to keep it until it’s 100% fixed, that way I wouldn’t have to worry about this thing later. I was told that it should be ready by Monday at the latest. That would have been yesterday, for those keeping count.
I called yesterday afternoon to see about the status of the car. The technician was working on it at that very moment, but he probably wouldn’t be finished until this morning. Okay, great… call me in the morning when it’s done.
This morning came and went. I received no phone call. So I called around lunchtime. At this point, the technician was done repairing my car and wanted to give it a few hours to cool off before taking it out for one more test drive. Fine… call me when that happens.
Around 3:00 p.m., I finally got the call. He tried starting it up and it was slow to start.
At this point, I didn’t hear any explanation for why it could be slow to start. All I heard was, “Your car won’t be ready today. Maybe tomorrow.”
I feel like I’ve done fairly well not getting angry throughout this whole thing. I know, I’m the guy who road rages like it’s my job. But, I figure, what’s the point of getting mad over this thing that I really can’t control? Everyone has car trouble from time to time. It is what it is.
As of now, I’m officially beyond pissed. I’m officially over not having my car. If I don’t have my car back in my possession tomorrow, I’m going to lose it.
TL;DR – The moral of the story is… My car has problems that no one, not even the Toyota certified technicians at the Toyota dealership, can diagnose and I have been unable to drive my car for two weeks. I am infuriated. But hey, at least it’s summer now and I don’t have to work until mid-August when school starts back up.