Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My new - all in all - $400+ starter motor...

... or how to be taken to the cleaners (twice???) by car mechanics in PR.

In my last post - from less then two weeks ago (I know, I have been neglecting this blog) I wrote about the troubles my starter motor caused me... and that I had it fixed after a couple of hours of wasted time and a $ 130 in towing ($45) and parts and labor for the starter.

I thought the problem was fixed. But no... yesterday I went to the airport in San Juan to drop in my daughter, who was leaving after her long weekend visit. Parked the car... but when I was ready to drive back, the car would not start. The airport security came to help, noticed there was electricity: sound signals worked, lights worked, radio worked... but the car would not start.

They tried to bust it anyway, but to no effect. They said it was my starter. Whaaat? Said I?
I had it fixed less than two weeks ago!!!!

They shook their heads... So I called AAA, now knowing it offered services in PR.

A towing truck came in less than half an hour. The towing guy tried to bust it, also, not trusting the security people... and the same no result. Starter, he said. I repeated that I had it fixed less than two weeks ago. He, too, shook his head and towed me to the nearest Western Auto in Carolina.

"You need a new starter" - they told me. "It will be $ 170".

I reapeated that I had it fixed recently.

"He rebuilt your starter" they told me. "But it did not work. You need a new one. $ 170, will be ready in 45 minutes".

So there I was : 120 miles away from home, two deadlines looming and I have already taken too much time to entertain my daughter during the weekend and driving her to San Juan.

"OK", I said.

But after half an hour the guy, Carmelo, calls me back:

"We have a problem" he says." This is not the part you need. The regular starter won't work in your car". He did not explained why. He only shook his head, when I asked and continued: You need a special starter. There is one in Lakeland, Texas, which we can get here in one and a half weeks (he knows I am 120 miles from home, before he askem me that previously) ... and there is one on the island, which I can get in about half an hour, but it will be that much" and he shows me a price on the computer of $ 296.

I had a distinct feeling I was being taken advantage of ( you know , the Blink factor), but... what was I to do: renting a car, driving to Cabo Rojo and driving back in one and half a week would cost me more that the difference (of about $ 100) in quoted starter prices, so I agreed.

The part arrived within the half hour as promised and the car was fixed within a bit more than an hour. But the final bill did not show the price of the starter as previously quoted at the computer screen. It was the same as Lakeland price - if I remember correctly. Only a few other parts and services were suddenly added to come to a definitively not cool $301.

I have been taken to the cleaners: twice, presumably... though the first time might have been in a misguided wellmeaning....

Handy men and car mechanics - two groups I have very bad experiences with ... almast always trying to take advantage of single old ladies. That was the reason I sold my house in Texas when my spouse died and swore never to buy another one, so I would not have to be at handyman's mercy - or bother my neighbors every time I got a repair quote to verify just how badly they want to rob me.

But how WHERE can I live without a car, to be able not to be at mercy of car mechanics????

1 comment:

zooms said...

Ah, yes, been there, done that and got the T shirt, no matter where in the world, bar taking a crash, ha ha, course in mechanics, there really is no alternative. Mechanics have everyone over the proverbial barrel. Our vehicle has had so many bearings, bushes and rubbers replaced, I can't imagine where they put them all.