Search This Blog

Thursday, December 22, 2011

P2A00 Nissan Code

It was Wednesday. My eye’s basketball game encounter with an elbow has been getting some laughs at the shop, because I can play it out pretty well. It’s not the first one or double one I’ve had to show off for the customers with. For those who don’t know, elbows in the nose give you double black eyes along with a nice speed bump on your beak. Anyway, my motion detector heralds the arrival of someone new. I glanced out from under the 1992 Chevy truck I’m working on and see a Texas license plate. I leapt off the creeper (yeah, right) and went to meet my out of state stop in. She has exited the driver’s side of her 2006 Nissan Sentra, and is standing with her arms folded over her chest while leaning on her car. She’s beautiful – probably early thirties, a few inches shorter than me in her heels, auburn hair, great figure, wearing some kind of dark tan sweater dress, with a leather coat for the chill. She has a smirk on her face as if she knows something no one else does… and it works for her. The smirk disappears when she sees my shiner, which has turned even more colorful since I posted the picture on Monday. She straightens away from her Sentra, and seems to be contemplating getting back in. My new Texas visitor will be known as Grace Grande for my post.

“Hi, can I help you?”

“What happened to your face?”

“I blocked an elbow with my eye playing basketball on Sunday. It looks worse than it actually is,” I replied.

“Good, because it looks horrible. You look a little old for playing basketball.”

I laugh. Good one, Grace. “I see you’re from Texas. How can I help you?”

“I’m staying in Piedmont with family. A neighbor of theirs recommended you. My check engine light came on while I was coming up the coast. It runs fine but I thought I’d better get it checked out.” Grace tells me the name of her family’s friend that recommended me. Good customer.

“Let me do a quick scan and see what’s causing the light. Have you had any work done lately?”

Grace goes around to the passenger side, and gets a folder out which contains a full dossier on her maintenance. I quickly riff through it and see the only out of the ordinary thing she’s had done is the Nissan dealer had replaced the front air/fuel ratio sensor. I hand back her folder and go get my portable scanner. She hovers right over me as I’m hunched down plugging in my scanner to her OBDII universal connector (On Board Diagnostics II). I don’t mind. I get a P2A00 code, which I’ve only encountered once before. I thought it was some kind of oxygen sensor code (or air/fuel ratio sensor). That encounter had been on a late model Nissan truck. Sure enough, my scanner explains it’s for a slow Bank 1, Sensor 1, which I already know her dealer replaced. The scanner data shows the sensor varying normally. I’m thinking it’s time for a more in depth look at the Sentra with my notebook computer scanner software. I slowly unhook and straighten, giving Ms. Grande enough time to avoid contact.

“You have a P2A00 front air/fuel ratio sensor code, but it’s reading correctly and you’ve already had it replaced six months ago. I can do a more in depth computer check or I can erase it and you can probably go back home when you’re ready without doing anything until you get to your dealer even if it comes back on.”

Grace steps towards me and puts a hand on my arm. “I’d rather you check it out.”

Well okay. They seem to like the personal touch down in Texas. “I’ll get an estimate ready. Excuse me for just a minute. Can I take one of your invoices? I’ll copy your address info from it.”

Ms. Grande releases my arm and sifts through her folder to hand me an invoice. I return from the office moments later with a fully filled out invoice. I add the mileage and license plate number along with her cell-phone number. She signs the estimate with barely a glance at the money figure. I tear out her copy which she accepts.

“My ride’s outside. Call me on my cell when you know what’s wrong.”

“I’ll have something for you in the next hour.”

She starts out my shop door and turns toward me once more. “Did you make up the basketball story?”

I laugh again, thinking maybe I should use my friend Charles Gramlich’s suggestion about coming up with a story as colorful as my eye. “No, but I can come up with a more exciting one if you like.”

She smiles and waves on her way out. On to work. I finish up the 92 Chevy truck and then hook up the Sentra. My notebook computer software comes up with some fail data in the ‘Mode 6’ category which I won’t bore anyone with. I decide it’s the rear oxygen sensor screwing up and causing a front sensor code, because it does its computations based on data from the rear sensor in a roundabout way. I then erase the code and take the Sentra for a test drive to see if the code comes back on. Just as I’m getting off the freeway exit to head back, the check engine light blinks back on. After confirming the same P2A00 code I call Ms. Grande to give her an estimate for my educated guess.

“You mean you’re guessing for that amount of money?” Grace sounds confused. I don’t blame her.

“Sometimes it comes down to that. I know now the light will return, and I also know you won’t have any trouble getting back to Texas because the rear sensor will only affect the gas mileage imperceptibly.”


“Maybe I should get a second opinion.”

“I’ll tell you what. If you want a second opinion I’ll let you take the Sentra and I won’t charge you for the check. I know how this must seem to you.”

She mulls that over and promises to call me back which she does ten minutes later to confirm the repair. It takes a while to get an OEM sensor from Nissan, but I have it in and test driven before the end of the day. No light return, and I drove it twice as far. The ‘Mode 6’ data after the drive is all green pass so I’m sure the rear oxygen sensor caused the problem. That’s something worth filing away and noting here in the blogosphere. Grace arrives before closing to pick up the Sentra. She checks out my family photo wall while I run her credit card. She seems amused while signing the credit slip.

I hand her the keys. We exchange thank yous and Merry Christmas’s.

She pauses at the office door. “I saw your English Degree on the wall. How has that helped you fix cars?”

“It doesn’t but I write up a hell of an invoice.”

Grace laughs and nods on her way out which sounds like little silver chimes. :)

That’s all for this update from Nilson Brothers Garage, but if you’re appreciative of the information, here is a link to my new novel COLD BLOODED for Nook and Kindle. If you’re kind enough to read it and like it, please review it on the site you purchase it from. Thank You! Every little bit helps my writing gig. :)


raine said...

You seem quite impressed with the lady. And I like her curiosity about other people and their lives.
I expect to see her in a manuscript, very soon, lol. :)

BernardL said...

Since 1976 when I first started working at my shop, I've had many out of state vehicles, driven by people I never see again, Raine. It kind of makes me the gatekeeper at the House of Mystery... sorry... that's the imagination going around the bend for a moment. :) Anyway, only a few come recommended by a customer I know. The rest of the travelers drive in with shields up, broken vehicle, and suspicions I will rip them off no matter how I explain their problem.

This lady had no preconceptions and didn't mind firing off a couple nice shots. I was impressed. She spent a lot of time checking out my wall of wonder with my family, certifications, diplomas, and honorable discharge. Although I didn't mention it, she got a kick out of the Presidential form letter thanking me for my service from 1972 that had Richard Nixon's signature. :) I'll never see her again... except of course as you point out - in my personal Twilight Zone of fiction. :)

whydibuy said...

You can't blame travelers for being suspicious, Bernard.

Its common knowledge that out of state customers are " marks " for unscrupulous garages.

Knowing that this person will never be encountered again or has much local roots to spread a bad experience, garages will soak a out of state person.

You are probably the 1 out of 40 in the field that wouldn't take a out of stater to the cleaners.

BernardL said...

I really don't believe that, whydibuy. I've met so many techs and shop owners just like me over the decades through my International Automotive Technicians Network (iATN) that I believe the opposite is true. You are right that it is perfectly natural to be suspicious when you're having vehicle problems out of state though. You may even be right about out-of-stater ripoffs but I hope you're wrong.

I believe the perception of being ripped off comes from the escalating prices in shop overhead, labor and parts. Combined with the less frequent breakdowns with newer vehicles, people are usually stunned when they eyeball an estimate given them by a shop - after their vehicle they haven't done anything but oil and filter changes on needs a more major repair.