Have you ever realized just how hard it can be to find a good mechanic? Thankfully I have had good luck with cars most of the time -- except for the nightmare with the rebuilt engine that exploded on I-5 while heading to a performance in downtown Los Angeles -- but I'll save that story for another time. In the past month, I have had to put my car in the shop for some body work and general maintenance. To put it simply, it is probably one of the most frustrating things I ever have to deal with.
I consider myself very intelligent. There aren't many things that I can't figure out if I put my mind to it. Auto mechanics, however, is equivalent to nuclear science to me! I just don't get how everything works together. I suppose part of the confusion is that it's a discipline that requires lots of hands-on attention and I don't touch things that might get my hands dirty. It's just that simple! It was tough enough for me to get over the sensation of touching raw food....but greasy, filthy machinery is not going to happen.
My knowledge of how a car works under the hood is limited to knowing that I have to keep gas, water, and oil in it. Many of those lessons I have learned because I have experienced what happens when I let one (or all of them) run out. Being stranded in rural Arkansas is a great teacher! Gauges and lights work great for me. If there's a ding that's not normally there, I know something needs attention.
I know that tune-ups are needed, tires must be rotated, and filters have to be replaced. My problem is understanding WHEN these things need to happen. I have gotten the oil change routine down since a wonderful college roommate (thank Heaven for Power!) explained the 3,000 mile rule and showed me how to add water when I am in a pinch. I've asked for similar mileage rules for these other recurring maintenances, but the answer I get is that you just "know" when it's needed based upon the car's response. Last time I checked, my car didn't give a "verbal response" that it needed help, so I'm pretty clueless to listening to it talk!
A very helpful friend suggested that I simply schedule my maintenance along with someone else's trips to the garage that I could easily observe. That sounded like a perfect idea and an easy solution. I would just send my car to the mechanic every time my dad sent his in. Then I came to a horrible realization....my dad doesn't maintain ANYTHING! He reacts to problems rather than having regular, preventative maintenance done. (Sadly, this applies to all areas of his life and is becoming a major source of frustration for me as he ages and needs more health check-ups than he wants to handle. Again, another topic for another day!)
So I continue to search for a reliable mechanic. What do I want? I am hoping beyond hope to find someone who will communicate with me about my car without using lots of terms that mean nothing to me. I would love to develop a relationship of trust with him, knowing that he is going to recommend maintenance that is necessary and provide the service at a price that is sufficient for his professional knowledge without ripping me off just because he can!
As you can see, I have had really bad experiences with mechanics. The local shop that I used stopped servicing cars, so I've been on the hunt for what feels like an eternity. The local Goodyear seemed to be promising until I took the car in repeatedly with the "Check engine" light coming on. After running tests, nothing could be found. The mechanic's advice? Ignore the indicator. Not an answer that I can live with since that indicator light is the only thing that gives me any clue that it's time to get to the garage. After lots of prayers and an expensive trip back to the dealer, the engine light problem has been solved, but now I'm constantly getting messages about low tire pressure. Why not just fill them up with air? The tire gauge indicates that they are at capacity (I did learn how to do SOME things in college, after all!)
So now I'm back to the drawing board, looking for someone to help me maintain my car. Since my mom and I are the ones who try to take care of the cars (more frustration should be heard in that statement), when these types of issues begin to occur, we both get frustrated and start shopping for a new vehicle. That's an entirely different problem that I really don't want to start dealing with at the moment!