Dealing with car issues in a Pandemic

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash
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We’re not traveling as much as we used to, though I’m sure we all want to. Unfortunately, grocery stores aren’t always next door and if you’re buying for a week or two you still need that car. Probably more considering you want to get as much at once as possible. Naturally this is the perfect time for the car to breakdown, which is exactly what mine decided to do. 

This started a couple weeks ago when I went to the grocery store. I got our groceries and the way back out I noticed that one of the rear lights was on. As I got closer to the car it turned out it was just a rear blinker light. The car wasn’t on, none of the other lights were on just one lowly light. 

I was a little surprised but not shocked, as it had happened before in the winter in January/February but went away on its own. We got a new RV last year and had done some work to the car to be able to tow the trailer so naturally, I thought that was where the problem was going to be. That is where I hoped the problem was going to be, otherwise, it could get ugly. I should also add here that the car was just recently out of warranty. 

At the end of the day, this wasn’t a huge deal, the short-term fix was to unplug the battery so it wouldn’t drain when the car wasn’t going to be used. Not a big deal but this was going to get annoying really fast, the saving grace was that we weren’t driving a lot 

Between car trips I had a very big expensive metal brick in the driveway. 

Topping off the issue with the light, over the past few months the car had started to develop a little bit of a wobble. Nothing drastic but as you drove you could feel the car wobbling back and forth. Initially I didn’t think anything of it but it was becoming more pronounced.

Around the same time that this happened was when they started to open things up a little and after being cooped up for weeks, we wanted to get out a little. Even short road trips to go for a hike somewhere other than our neighborhood. 

I decided ‘OK I’ll call the mechanic’ while my wallet whimpered at the prospect, it needed to get done.

In speaking with my mechanic his comments for the electrical issue was to take the car to his electrical specialist (we both thought it had something to do with the trailer connection, but they would find the issue faster). When it came to the wobble his comment was it was most likely a bad tire (a belt had shifted) and to avoid driving on the highway. Considering the age of the tires and wear, very reasonable.

The conversation started off with two minor annoying issues and now I was told I shouldn’t drive on the highway. The issues were starting to become more of a problem. Yes, a problem that we could workaround in the short term but not one we could leave for weeks on end.  

For the electrical issue I took the car to my mechanic’s electrical specialists and it turned out just as we thought the connection for the trailer. It was actually fairly minor and they fixed the issue in the short term while I get a replacement part. Overall the fix is going to be maybe $300 which isn’t horrible, not great but it definitely could have been worse. 

I figured I might as well take care of the tires because I still wanted to drive on the highway, I called up a few places and managed to find a set of pretty good condition used tires for less than half the price of brand-new ones. While this is a temporary solution, but it gets me at least partway there. Talking to the tire guys they said the used tires probably good for a few more years (I don’t drive a lot). I learned very quickly that SUV tires aren’t very cheap especially if you want them to stand up to towing a trailer.

How was my experience with dealing with these issues in a pandemic?  

Surprisingly easy to be honest, the electrical specialist was able to see me the very next morning after I called them. When I got there, they started looking at it right away and I had my car back in an hour. For the tire shop they were able to accommodate me again the very next day after my call and while they were busy, they were able to take me in fairly quickly and the whole trip took maybe an hour and a half. 

What did I do differently (compared to pre-pandemic)?

  • called head made sure I had appointments booked 
  • made sure I was on time 
  • followed all best distancing practices I could 
  • did more research in advance

Aside from being a little expensive (which we know cars are) the process absolutely painless. 

A couple of observations:

  • In both cases, the mechanics weren’t as concerned with the social interaction as say people in a grocery store 
  • Both were conscious of the situation and had hand sanitizer, but they weren’t wearing face Shields or being overly cautious (at least that was the impression)
  • What surprised me the most is the other customers; they completely didn’t care about what was going on or practice any social distancing measures. 

What this pandemic forced me to call around and do a little bit of research before committing and to book appointments. In the past, with the electrical issue I may have driven into my dealership or to my mechanic and just left the car there. Because I wanted to be more careful, I called ahead to have the appointment and did my own research and that made the process that much more painless. 

Going forward when it comes to dealing with cars or bigger purchases, I expect appointments and research in advance are going to be more than the norm. Research, phone calls, checking inventories before showing up at the store. At least for me. 

Have you had any big purchases or had to get something like a car fixed? What was your experience?

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

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