Early this month, I noticed my car started being slow to turn on. The engine would eventually turn on, but it was slow or sluggish to do so. Then one particularly chilly morning it wouldn’t. I got the dreaded click-click-click that signified a dead battery. THANK GOODNESS this happened on a morning when the girls were with their Dad so I wasn’t rushing to try to get them to school.
I honestly didn’t know quite how to handle it. I’ve met both of my new neighbors but we hardly know each other. I don’t own any jumper cables (mental note: should probably buy a cheap pair!). I have a tough time asking people for help, in general. Soooooo I did the “mature” thing and did nothing. I went back inside and left it alone.
THANKFULLY when I went back out again a couple hours later, it turned on. I think the cold morning air was just a bit more than the battery could take.
So I drove straight to Walmart’s auto center to have them assess the situation. THANKFULLY (my third “thankful” in this post so far), the mechanic was an honest one! He took a reading on the battery and determined it needed to be replaced, but he told me the battery said it was under warranty. Based on the battery brand (Bosch), I determined it had come from a local Pep Boys. Without turning my car off (I was scared it wouldn’t start again!), I drove straight there. When I pulled up, one of the mechanics (a 19-year-old kid) tried to turn me away, saying their “machine” was broken so they couldn’t do battery work. I started to drive off frustrated, about to head to another Pep Boys location way across town.
THANKFULLY I had a little inner voice tell me to call the shop. I did and a manager happened to answer. I explained the situation (I needed a new battery, it was under warranty through their shop, could they not do that work???) and was basically told I’d been blatantly lied to. They have a machine that tests whether a battery needs to be recharged or replaced (and it was broken) but that has nothing to do with their ability to actually replace a battery. Since mine was covered under warranty, I’d be getting a replacement anyway (not a recharge), so it didn’t really matter what the machine said (plus, I’d already had it tested at Walmart and determined it needed to be replaced).
So before getting too far down the road, I turned around and headed back. I was frustrated at first – not only because I’d been lied to, but also because I was told it would be a 3-hour wait. I’d brought my laptop so I walked into the waiting room and plopped down, starting to work. THANKFULLY, less than 45 minutes later, the manager popped his head in and said my car was ready! I don’t know if they pushed it up given the situation or if they were hoping I’d leave and come back (no choice – I don’t have any alternative transportation!). But regardless, they got it done quickly.
There is one problem though….. in looking at my vehicle history, they determined this is the THIRD battery replacement they’ve done for me in just 3-years time. I’m averaging about one battery every 10-12 months. That’s not normal, so he started looking into it more and realized I have one (or two) actuators that are broken inside my car. Apparently it’s a super common part to break on Ford Explorers. It causes a clicking noise anytime the AC and/or heat is turned on/off and it’s been draining the batteries when I turn my car off. It’s not emergent, but they need to be replaced.
Here’s the shocker…..the actual part is only about 50 bucks. But it’s VERY difficult to get to. They said its about a 4-hour job that requires completely taking apart the dash. Due to the labor involved, the quote was for $600!!! Holy Hell! I’m all “single woman power” over here with my side-view mirror, but I don’t think I could do this type of labor. And I hate to pay so much money for something that literally only requires a $50 part. But I don’t know any other options. I can call around town and try to find cheaper quotes, but a quick google search confirmed that then actuator is a pain-in-the-butt to get to and it is, indeed, a very labor-intensive job.
Soooooo, this month’s budget includes a couple hundred bucks put into my “Car Savings” for this upcoming repair. I’ll save another couple hundred in December and another couple hundred in January and hopefully by that point I’ll have enough to get the actuator(s) replaced. It’s not killing my battery overnight (it’s been taking a year, on average), so I think waiting 3 months should be okay. But I was warned my front tires are also looking pretty bald, too. I swear, if it’s not one thing its another. So the whole “Car Savings” thing will likely be making a comeback into my monthly budget (I’d cut it out for a long time because I needed the money elsewhere). I just keep reminding myself that saving a couple hundred for repairs here and there is a heck of a lot cheaper than a $350+/month car payment would be for a new vehicle.
Any auto-mechanics among the readers? Any tips for getting the actuator replaced for cheaper?