Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I finally had a blog worthy customer encounter, rather than the hum-drum business as usual stuff. A guy drove up in an old Cad with the 4.6L Northstar engine, a notorious cooling system disaster vehicle – in that GM at one point was issuing directives to put cooling system sealing tablets in them once a year. You can imagine the great customer relations they received over that. These engines also break head bolts and a myriad of other costly repairs. Anyway, Mr. & Mrs. Eldorado brought in their 1995 Cad with over two hundred thousand miles because someone had already changed the radiator, and when it still overheated they were told they needed a water pump, which the radiator replacer wouldn’t do. I noticed when they left after making the appointment they left a big puddle of coolant where the overflow was. I promised to look it over and give them an estimate for free; because it doesn’t take me long to examine these monsters, and the estimate is usually so far in excess of the car’s worth I immediately advise dumping it.
Mr. E leaves it off the next morning with the added clip note that the Cad hesitates badly with no power. I say goodbye to him and get in the beast. The engine roars but creeps forward. Uh oh… cooling system is only one thing wrong. I do a quick visual – tires bald in front, brakes at the sensors in front, trans oil up but setting codes related to major overhaul needed. I hear a major vacuum leak hissing noisily under the engine cover which I remove and repair. It’s a simple fix and I don’t want that distracting me. The water pump isn’t leaking and there’s circulation, but the Cad overheats when run unless the AC is put on so both cooling fans run continuously. The vacuum leak has been leaning out a couple cylinders for so long I know the rough miss in the engine is related to burnt valves. I could confirm this but not without a compression check which would cost a couple hundred dollars. Seeing as how I’d determined repairs on it would be in the thousands of dollars that would have been beating a dead horse. I call up Mr. E and explain my findings in detail for twenty minutes along with my advice to get another vehicle.
The Eldorados show up, get out of another clunker and I greet them. Mr. E points at the Cad and says, “so, what’s wrong with the car?”
To which my annoyance meter blows through the top of the tube. “Are you not the man I talked to a half hour ago on the phone for twenty minutes explaining what’s wrong with the Cad?”
He didn’t expect to get that response. “Uh… yeah… I forget what you said.”
I can tell by the way he keeps glancing at Mrs. E that she wasn’t buying what he’d told her. I again explained in detail how much maintenance had been overlooked, coupled with the cooling system problems, and trans failure while she stared at me like I’d just dropped in from The Red Planet. I kept it simple – repair cost outweighs worth of vehicle.
“So, what can you do to keep it running,” Mrs. E asks bluntly as if I hadn’t been speaking for the last fifteen minutes.
This was becoming a costly freebie. “I can’t patch it if that’s what you mean. The transmission overhaul will cost you in the neighborhood of two grand by itself and I would have to refer you to a trans shop I know of. The engine repair would be astronomical because it’s way past the mileage for stop gap repairs. It also needs tires and brakes. My advice is get another vehicle.”
“So, you can’t fix it?”
Wow, this is fun. “I can fix it if you don’t mind spending as much to repair this as you would to nearly buy a brand new vehicle.”
Mrs. E looks at her husband and says, “ask him about fixing the 240SX,” as if I wasn’t standing right in front of her.
“I already know that needs an engine,” Mr. E replies, looking at me as if I were going to contradict him. “It’s an old Nissan 240SX with a blown engine but it has sentimental value.”
“Never think of a vehicle as having sentimental value.” I’m thinking, because if you do they’ll break your heart like a 2 bit hooker. “That is a sure way to get rid of tens of thousands of dollars and still have nothing when you get done. Dump both vehicles and get a reliable one for transportation. Take care of it and don’t ever get romantic about it.”
Mr. E laughed but Mrs. E gave me the scowl.
“C’mon, maybe we can find someone to fix it. You drive the Cad.”
Mr. E thanked me for my time after Mrs. E turned away and got into their other junker without another word. She drove off and I backed the Cad out for Mr. E to drive away in. I wished him good luck and watched him drive away, hoping he could prevail in reasoning with Mrs. E. Better him than me. :)