Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Santa left a broken axle for Christmas

It all started a few weeks ago, with a slight tapping sound when I turned left, and sometimes when I turned right. It happened for a day or two and then stopped and, because it coincided with the eight inches of snow that we got, I figured some snow or ice got up there and just needed to be knocked loose, and when the tapping stopped I figured the snow and or ice did just that.  Fast forward to Sunday, I was driving on a stretch of highway around these parts and my car suddenly jerked slightly to the and began to wobble a bit.  I thought Murphy had gotten the best of me and that I had a flat tire as I made my way to an appointment that I already had to arrive 30 minutes early for, but when I checked, the tired was inflated and confirmed to be in operable condition by the pressure gauge.  No big deal, all is well, and I could go about my day...until I left the meeting about 90 minutes later.

As I pulled out of the parking space of the lot and turned my car let out a horrible scraping/tapping noise from the front left side, and stopped when I put the car straight.  Every time I turned I could feel that something was wrong; vibrations coming up through the floor and steering wheel and still the wobbling.  Monday morning and I called the mechanic, a guy whom I think over charges on everything, but my wife's family loves him and he does excellent work.  Monday afternoon and he calls to give me the damage, a broken axle, the repair will cost $275.  Not too bad, but more then I could afford and I still had a feeling that this guy charges more then necessary.  We all know of mechanics who charge more than any other place around, and sometimes read you the riot act of things wrong with your car and how much it is going to cost.  I am not sure which is more mind numbing, listening to some of these guys or trying to read the promissory notes of my student loans.  What really burned my ass was that this guy charged me $40 bucks for "30 minutes of labor and diagnostics".  I almost told him to kiss my ass, but he knows my father-in-law and I like and respect my father-in-law.

I picked up my car and drove that poor girl home (yes my car is a girl.  Much like boat and planes, men also name their cars, usually female.  This car had a name before I got it, and it coincidentally was a girl so I kept it.) clunking and scraping and rattling and wobbling and parked her in the lot of my apartment.  I got on the horn, sent up the bat signal, put out an all points bulletin; I needed a good mechanic, fast and cheap.  I called dad, dad called his mechanic and his mechanic said he was on medical leave, but apparently dad's mechanic has a mechanic!  EUREKA!  Now I really trust my dad's mechanic, he will give you a fair shake and he will let you get your own part if you want.  He typically will not charge to tell you what is wrong with the car so long as he doesn't have to dismantle the thing to figure it out.  Dad's mechanic is a good guy trying to make a living and not trying to rip you off, he is one of the guys, and he and his garage is perpetually dirty.

Well if my dad's mechanic tells me that he knows of a good guy, I am going to give it a shot.  I called up Tommy from AC Auto Repair and told him the problem and he quoted a damn good price for the part and the labor, more than half the price of what the other guy wanted to charge. The best part about the quote is that when he called me to pick the car up, it only cost me $5 more than the quote.  Now I knew as soon as I walked in this place that I liked this guy.  I could tell he was a straight shooter, a no bullshit mechanic that wanted to get me in and out and not charge me my first born.  He is in the business of fixing my car and keeping me as a long time customer.  I walked into the garage and it was dirty, his mechanics were dirty, and he was dirty.  His hair was long and bushy and protruding from under his hat and he shook my hand, asked me the problem and told me he could have it fixed in an hour.  The office had one chair and a space heater and you could tell that he did not spend much time there.  Why is all this important?  Simply put, he looked like a worker, a guy you might find in your local diner, a guy who might have a beer with you at the local watering hole after working hard.  My mechanic should be dirty because he is working, and, in my opinion a garage should not be clean.  I feel that a dirty garage is a well used garage.  Once I got the bill I knew he was a stand up guy.

Today I found a mechanic of my own, and every man needs a mechanic of his own.  I walked away upset that I had a car bill, but very happy that I got it at a fair price and that I now have a life long mechanic that I can trust.

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