This Impossible LifeThis Impossible RV Life

My Car Passed Away…Life on Hold Part III


Doh! I didn’t realize what life on hold was all this time until I ended up without wheels. At least before, I was able to get out shopping and what-not. Also I was able to drive to my storage unit and go through my stuff, re-organizing, deciding what to keep etc., and check in on the motorhome’s non-progress. I was in the (bad) habit of taking a nice leisurely drive every night after dinner, usually through the nearby state forest. It was so nice, and I took it for granted. I was going to cut back on that though, because of all the gas I was using. It’s not the first time something I was “gonna do” was forced on me.

No more of that stuff though. On the way out of the state forest one evening, the Driver Information Center said “Fuck It, I’m done”. Stalled out in a not very good place to be stalled out, but walking distance to…basically nothing. Just woods, a dump, cranberry bogs. I tried to start the car and it would just click. One key turn equaled one click. After several of those clicks, a bunch of smoke came from under the hood. I thought there was going to be a fire but when I stopped turning the key, it quit smoking.

It was towed to a local garage and the driver allowed me to go with, but he said he couldn’t (pronounced, wouldn’t?) give me a ride home. He left me with the car but at least it was in a much safer place than before.

My slightly old fashioned mind was stuck in a time when there was at least one cab company in every town. Remember that? Apparently that is no longer the case. I had never used Uber or Lyft or anything similar but now I had no choice but to try it. But I was having no luck with using their websites. One of them kept saying there was nothing available. The other kept acting like I had a ride coming, only to reset after awhile. I figured out much later that the credit card rejected the charge as suspicious, but I didn’t get the email telling me that until the next day.

After awhile my phone went dead but luckily I had a charger (similar to Pocket Juice) and plugged it in. The car seemed to have power but I didn’t want to mess with it. After the phone had a decent charge I tried a little more to figure out a way home with no luck. Then since it was getting late, which I guessed might be why there seemed to be no rides available, I just reclined the seat and spent the night in the shop’s parking lot. I didn’t have the key so the windows were closed, but with the door partly open there was a very nice breeze. It was probably the most pleasant part of the night. With the door open, the interior lights turn off automatically after awhile to save the battery. I later figured out I could turn them off manually as well.

The next morning, after still having no luck with Uber, I decided to try installing their app. After installing it and finally getting logged in, and letting the credit card company know it wasn’t a fraudulent charge, the app worked flawlessly and I finally got a ride home.

The breakdown occurred on a Friday evening. The shop, unfortunately, was closed for the weekend. I’m going to long-story-short this part. That garage couldn’t figure out the problem (after about a week of “tinkering with it”) but suspected it was an internal engine issue, so I had it towed to another garage who was even more sure it was an engine issue, but they “don’t do that kind of work” there. I’m pretty sure I asked them before I had the car towed there and they said they do.

Before the second one decided it was probably the engine, he called and said it was the starter. I was happy to hear that, but as I thought about it I realized that was probably not right. I told him about it stalling and the smoke and he said “I’ll look into it some more” and that he was just told it was a no-start. He replaced the starter and the engine started to turn but then it wouldn’t, and he said the original starter was melted. That would explain the smoke I guess.

Both shops recommended a garage in the area but the guy there said he wouldn’t be able to do it. He recommended another garage in the area and then said “but nobody else, in this town”. Well, it’s Sunday and I think tomorrow I’ll call my old mechanic and if he can take it on, I’ll spend the bucks to have it towed to him. This is insano! (see Updates). I will admit they all had helpful advice and were fairly helpful in general. Still, that didn’t get the car fixed.

Next problem, because it’s never easy in this impossible life of mine: I can’t find any of the paperwork from when I purchased this car. That includes the extended warranty. If I can’t find that, this is going to be very costly. I’ve looked everywhere in the house. I borrowed a car to go to where mine currently is and looked through that. I can only guess it was in the car at one point and while at storage I moved it out of the way, or more likely I had it all in the motorhome, which is also in the shop (see Updates). The car I borrowed has an intermittent overheating problem and for that reason, I didn’t dare take it that far.

I tried calling the dealership where I bought it to see if they could supply me with the warranty info, but the two numbers I found online for them were not working, and their website was down. My son who lives in that town, went by and sure enough, he said they have a big Clearance banner and an empty lot. Figures, right?

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m thinking of buying an inexpensive car to get around in the meantime and then just sell it afterwards. It seems like a good idea, possibly cheaper than renting a car in the long run (unless I have some kind of rental coverage in the warranty or my insurance), but I’ll have to look into it more. Before I do either, I’ll talk to my mechanic and see what kind of time frame we’ll be looking at. I hate being stranded.

On a hopeful note, I called the RV dealer and my roof and awning was next. He said hopefully in a couple weeks they would have some good news for me. I’ll believe it when I see it though. Besides, that was about two weeks ago. Sorry to be so skeptical, but can you blame me really? (see Updates)

Obviously this is a part one kinda post as I’ve left the reader seriously hanging. I hope in the update/followup, I’ll have lots of good news.

Updates (if you want to save some time, the next post starts out with all the updates below):

Update 1 (7/13): I borrowed a car yesterday and first I checked my storage unit and found nothing. I got excited when I found a warranty until I looked closer and saw it was for my previous car. Then I was given access to the shop where the motorhome is actually being worked on! I looked all through it and didn’t find the car paperwork. 🙁 Today I had the car towed to my mechanic near where I used to live and I feel confident that they’ll find out what the problem is and actually be able to fix it instead of sending me somewhere else for that. Things are looking up! More updates to follow.

Update 1.1 (un-dated): I finally found the warranty and other car related paperwork! Woohoo!

Update 1.2 (un-dated): The car needs an engine 🙁

Update 2 (8/3): It’s been a good news-bad news-iffy news-who knows news-we’ll see news kinda day.

First, the garage called and said I was supposed to have had my car towed to the dealer where I bought it according to the warranty. I told him the dealer was gone and he said I need to call the warranty people. Thinking I probably blew it by having it towed to the wrong place, I called them and they were much nicer than the warranty makes them seem, and they said to have the garage call in and make a claim. They (actually, she) said I can use any shop I want.

Then the RV shop called and said my motorhome was ready except for the inspection sticker I had requested they get. Do I still want them to do that? Yes.

On my way to do some errands (in a car I borrowed), they called again and said the registration they have is expired. They need the current registration to get the sticker. Since I was going by the shop where my car is, I figured I’d rule out the possibility of the renewed reg being in the car and then I’d search at home when I get there. Ruled it out.

While I was at the garage, the mechanic said he heard back from the warranty people and they said they need my maintenance records. I told him there was just the one oil change that he did. Problem is, the contract requires me to get an oil change every 4000 miles and unfortunately I went a bit over that (in a surprisingly short time), so now I’m hoping they don’t deny coverage on my new engine based on that. I feel like they probably will.

Update 2.1 (8/4): They didn’t deny it. See update 3 below.

I searched for the motorhome registration when I got home but couldn’t find it. I figured it must be in the motorhome but after doing some detective work, I realized I renewed the reg after the MH was brought to the shop so it’s very unlikely to be there. I checked the RMV online and confirmed that I definitely had renewed and the reg is active. So I ordered a new copy and sent a pdf of it to the shop. It was after closing time by then so I’m sure I’ll hear from them tomorrow.

It’s going on six weeks since the car broke down. More waiting. But at least it’s nice that the RV is finally done. They’ve had it for almost nine months.

Update 3 (8/5): The warranty is covering the engine, but the coverage is capped at $3000. This engine, new with 3 year/100,000 mile (I think) parts and labor warranty, will be $7600-ish installed. So it’s still gonna cost me. Even though the car is older, it’s in decent shape (other than the engine), so I hope I made the right decision to get a new engine instead of a used one that could already be on it’s way out. No word from the RV people since I emailed the registration. If I don’t hear from them by this afternoon I’ll call to make sure they got the email.

Update 4 (8/6): The motor home is home again! I’m happy about that but not too happy that my CD collection is gone, and that the registration was sitting right on the passenger seat. Grrr.

Update 4.1 (8/7ish): I found the CD case. I hate when I do that but it was due to an optical illusion that I didn’t see it. I did tell them it was missing but stopped short of accusing them of anything, so I don’t feel too bad, but a little bit.
Update 4.11 (8/9): It’s going to roughly 2 – 3 weeks before my car is fixed.

More updates to come.

Happy Everything!

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