Time to Vent

Right, Maddy is back in the hospital again because she got a virus and it wiped her out. As if that is not bad enough my life seems to have a desire to unravel while she is in there! This blog entry is going to be a whiny rant about how unfair life is and how it is choosing to beat up on me at the moment. If you don't like listening to whiny rants don't read it!

I have been having problems with the check engine light on my Jeep for about two months now. It's an emission problem and my little shop had been having problems figuring out exactly what is causing the problem. It starts with just the light being on and nothing really running badly on the Jeep. Eventually it starts running rich and rough. The little Jeep place thought I had a leak in the evap emission lines so they wanted to drop the fuel tank and inspect the lines. They did that and no luck, the lines were fine. But in the mean time the rich running condition had wiped out my oxygen sensor. I replaced that sensor back in November so I really didn't want to pay for another one. But it worked out OK that time because the guy who owns the shop felt bad that they couldn't find the real problem and only charged me an hour labor and the cost of the sensor, instead of the three hours labor he was supposed to charge me for dropping the tank and inspecting the lines. Not to mention all the other time they spent on it that day trying to figure the problem out. What it came down to at that time was I had to keep driving it and wait for the check engine light to come back on so I could take it to a dealership and have them run the computer test on the system to find out which hose or sensor was not working right.

Unfortunately the check engine light came back on again just as Maddy needed to go into the hospital. Which meant instead of taking it in right away I had to drive it to St. Pete and back for 4 days while the light was on. Needless to say the problem increased more quickly this time and before I had time to work out a way to borrow a car so I could take mine in it was running rich again. Running so rich I was getting a migraine headache from the fumes every time I had to drive it. And drive it I had too because Maddy was in the hospital and I still had to work. Time for a side tantrum.

Monday is when the Jeep started getting bad. It's also the day I had to go home after work to do Maddy and my laundry for our next few days in the hospital. Just to keep things fresh life decides to break my dryer while I was trying to do two loads of laundry. So I had to pack it all up and take it to Stephanie's to finish drying and pack up. Thankfully Stephanie was sweet enough to offer the use of her dryer! What I should have had done by 7 in the evening so I could go back to the hospital to be with Maddy took until 10:30! On the way back to the hospital that night was when the Jeep decided to start running rich.

Back to the Jeep, by Tuesday I had a headache that would not go away at all. I decided I would bite the bullet and try to get financed for another car. It would be worth having a car payment again if I didn't have to deal with this kind of thing while my kid was in the hospital. No luck! But it took them a full day to decide I was not worthy of their money! I finally got the Jeep into the dealership on Thursday afternoon. The problem is with the charcoal canister purge solenoid. The dealer tried to sell me the solenoid and a new charcoal canister and of course told me that the oxygen sensor is reading incorrectly again. Remember I was a service advisor at a car dealership for over 6 years so I know how this is supposed to work. Time for another side rant.

When I worked at a dealership we charged a half hour labor to diagnose a problem with a car. I think that is fair because with the computer control systems these days the guy usually just has to plug it into a computer and press a few buttons to see whats wrong. Then he does a quick visual inspection to see if there is anything else he can sell the customer and brings the advisor an estimate. This rarely takes more than 30 minutes of a techs time. If the customer buys the repairs we usually did not charge the diagnostic fee. Let me explain quickly how car techs get paid. There is a book that has a list of every repair that could need to be done to your car. There is a time associated with each repair, this time is how long it should take an average tech to do the repair. If you are good it will probably take less time and if you are a rookie it will take you a little longer. These repair times in the book ALREADY include the time it takes to determine the repair that needs to be done, the diagnostic time. Therefore shops should not be charging diagnostic time ON TOP OF the repair time. There are of course exceptions to this rule but overall it is a given that the book time will be sufficient to pay any decent tech for diagnosing and repairing any given problem with a car.

This is apparently not how Jerry Ulm Dodge works. They charge an hour diagnostic fee. PERIOD. You pay that ON TOP OF the repair. BULLSHIT! I know it did not take that guy one hour to plug my jeep in, read those codes, run the computer test to check the evap purge solenoid, which means he pushed a button on the screen when it prompted him to, and look under my hood at the oil leaks from the engine. I explained to the service advisor that I did the same job for 6 years. I knew what all the systems he was trying to explain to me were. He was doing a crappy job of explaining it by the way. I told him I didn't need a new O2 sensor and asked the price of the evap solenoid and canister. He quoted me $280.00! Really! This is when I found out he was going to charge me for the diagnostic time even if I bought the repair. I asked the book time on the repair items and he told me .5 hours for the solenoid and .5 hours for the canister. I know exactally where both of these items are on my Jeep. Mostly because I was sure that was the problem from the beginning so I looked for them months ago. But that is another rant altogether! So I know it's not gonna take the guy another hour to change these two parts out. Seeing as I'm not gonna get my car out of there without paying $70.00 in labor for the diagnostic I decide to cut my losses and do the repair myself. Which is what I was figuring I was gonna have to do anyway.

That was Thursday evening. I know there is no way I'm going to be able to get this done that night anyway so I make arrangements to borrow the station van for another night and call NAPA to make sure they have my solenoid. No luck there but they can have one for me Friday morning, which is when I was planning to get it anyway. Friday morning rolls around and my plan falls to pieces!

The plan was to go into work and have someone drive me up to get the jeep at lunch time. Pick up the part from NAPA on my way back. Let the Jeep cool off while I finish my shift. Then replace the solenoid and remove and clean the O2 sensor in the parking lot before I go back to the hospital in the afternoon. $70.00 for the diagnostic, $35.00 for the solenoid from NAPA and maybe $5.00 for a can of carburetor cleaner to clean the sensor. Much less than $280.00. However it takes money to do all that and when I walked into my favorite Starbucks to get my coffee on the way into the station I reached for my wallet and realized I left it across the bay in Maddy's hospital room! OK, I figure I will voice track my morning and run back to the hospital to get my wallet. No such luck, they need the station van to go to a meeting. Instead I have to wait until 2:00 before I can go back to the hospital for my wallet. Which puts me getting the Jeep at 4:00 or later. That is smack dab in the middle of the afternoon thunderstorm window which makes repairing the jeep in the parking lot of the station very shaky. So I decide to use Stephanie's carport to do the repair. That also means I have to wait about two hours before I can clean the O2 senson which will put me back to Maddy sometime after 7pm. Total bummer!

Oh yeah, when I got to work Friday morning I found out I forgot to load the commercial logs for the day. Lucky for me I showed Carlos where I keep the logs and he was able to load them during the morning show. Just one example of all the little things life is throwing at me to keep my moral down!

There is no way to shorten this rant at this point. I got the solenoid replaced, in less than two minutes not a half hour, BY THE WAY! I didn't even need a tool for that repair, it has one wire, two hoses and clips onto the engine compartment for goodness sake! Cleaned the O2 sensor, disconnected my battery to reset the computer and prayed. There is no way for me to know if I damaged the O2 sensor until I drive it back to St. Pete so off I went. I used one quarter of a tank of gas getting back to the hospital! Looks like I still need an O2 sensor. At least the check engine light is not back on yet. I will try to get someone to bring me a new sensor, Stephanie, or at lease take me to the auto parts store to get one, and replace it in the parking garage so I don't have to drive it back over the bridge again like this. I hope that finally fixes the problem and I don't burn out any more of these stupid sensors!


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