Column by Kay Frances
I have never had an aptitude for understanding what is going on under the hood of a car. Nor am I remotely interested in learning. So, I have to rely on those with more expertise than me.
I’ve been fortunate to have had wonderful mechanics over the years, but I’ve also had a few that took advantage of my ignorance. With my current car, I get “free oil changes for life.” Every 10,000 miles, I take it to the Big City dealer and they always manage to find something wrong with my car. They have a big, spacious waiting room where there are usually 30 other people with that forlorn look. When your car is ready, someone will come into the room and crouch down next to the person to deliver the verdict on their car. They don’t need to speak in hushed tones since there is no Auto Privacy Law which would prevent everyone from hearing the diagnosis. However, when they come deliver the bad news to me, they always whisk me away to a private room like they are going to announce that my car has cancer. I suspect that the real reason for this is because they don’t want the other customers guffawing as they tell me that I desperately need windshield wipers to the tune of $44.95.
Last time I was in there, the guy pulled me into the private room, feigned a sympathetic look and said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this but you need an engine filter.” I swear he had tears in his eyes. Even I know this isn’t a life-threatening issue but I played along. I plastered a wide-eyed, fearful look on my face and asked, “Do you think I can make it home?” He said, “How far do you live?” I told him I was a risk taker.
I’m not without sympathy for mechanics. It can’t be easy dealing with consumers. I’ve tried bluffing, but they can spot that in a second. One time, I told one to “check my points and plugs.” I had heard that phrase and felt quite smug throwing it around. The mechanic looked puzzled and said, “But, your car doesn’t have points and plugs.” Not to be deterred I said, “Well, you’d better put some in!”
And, who among us hasn’t told a mechanic that our car is making a “funny” noise. Just how funny is it? Funny like raucous laughter? Funny like the noise you make when you slide across a vinyl chair? How are they supposed to diagnose that?
Sometimes, I wish we could go back to the days of horses and buggies. But I don’t know much about horses or buggies, so that wouldn’t solve my problem of having to rely on those with more knowledge. I’d probably be pulled into a special stall in the barn and told I had “lost horsepower.” I’d just smugly tell them that a new set of points and plugs ought to do the trick.