Saturday, April 7, 2012
2005 Smokin' Subaru
Since it has only been in the high fifties out here in weather wonderland, I’ve needed to keep my back door pulled down because it sets up a nice cooling breeze through the shop – great in summer… not so good in winter... or early spring. I was underneath a 2001 Ford Ranger attaching the last harness connector for one of the front oxygen sensors. I heard someone drive in, looked out from under toward the front and smoke is billowing in a cloud around my entrance way. I’ve had customers with overly rich, misfiring vehicles drive in with their catalytic converters on fire twice. I keep a fire extinguisher on the outside office wall location for just such an instance. Those folks got out of their vehicles with me pulling the pin on my extinguisher while shouting for them to turn off the engines. Very exciting. With that in mind I whipped my creeper out, banged my knee on Mr. Ranger’s frame and limped quickly to the front.
A young tattooed guy was standing in a cloud of smoke next to a late model Subaru. There weren’t any flames. It was all coming out of the tailpipe. He smiled at me, gesturing with one of his fully tatted arms toward the car. He rattled off a string of lingo I couldn’t understand, but by then I was by him and into his driver’s side door to turn off the engine. My eyes were watering while I’m wondering how the hell he could be oblivious to the cloud. I held up a hand, wheezing something about staying in place for a moment. I limped to the back door feeling a familiar wet spot inside my pants leg. Mr. Knee was missing some skin and leaking. After getting the roll up backdoor open, a nice April breeze cleared my eyes and nasal passages. It also began the task of clearing the shop of the ominous gray cloud of vehicular despair. Jimmy Tattoo was sitting partway on his hood with tattooed arms folded casually over his chest. His underwear was visible from under his pullover shirt to where the low hung pants started halfway down his butt. His shoes were invisible because of the pants. He’d have to get the pants cleaned after leaving. Although I do keep a clean shop, it’s not good to drag clothing across my shop floor.
“Sorry ‘bout ‘dat.”
I shrugged. “It happens. I bet they can see you moving around in this from space.”
Blank look. Never mind the witticisms, Bennie.
“How can I help you?”
He fires off another barrage of part mumble, part pieces of words, and all of it unintelligible to me. Yep, I know I’m old but my hearing is still very good. It’s my mind that can’t decipher either rap songs or street short hand. I gesture my confusion with a cautioning hand wave.
“Please, start over slowly. I’m a geezer so have a little compassion.”
Jimmy laughs, and nods his head, standing up away from the Subaru. At least he enjoyed my pulling the geezer card on him. “I bought this a couple months back. Couple days ago it started smokin’. Got a estimate for an engine. Man, it’s twice what I paid for the damn thing. Thought I’d get a second estimate. You do engines?”
“Yes.” I’m circling the Subaru by then, and gathering info while I pop the hood. It’s a 2005 Subaru Forester. I see it only has a little over 80,000 miles on it. “Did it pass smog?”
“Yeah… no problem with smog. It runs good.”
I nod and open up the hood. Checking it with my handy dandy Maglite, I see it has a turbocharged 2.5L four cylinder. Looking closer I see the telltale signs of a turbo leaking oil (when they go south as bad as this one they’re usually coated in oil residue like this one was). “I don’t think it’s the engine. I think your turbo went out. It’s oil cooled and when the seals go they’ll dump oil into the exhaust. Let me do a quick scan on it for codes and make sure the oil hasn’t wrecked the converters yet.”
“Okay by me… thanks.”
I scan the vehicle with engine off, ignition on. No codes. Jimmy may be able to avoid replacing the very expensive cats on his chariot. “Clear so far. Even after you get the turbo repaired it will smoke for a time until the exhaust burns out the oil.”
I gesture him into my office. “It won’t be the sticker shock of an engine but the turbo’s run around a thousand for these. Let me find out for sure.”
Jimmy didn’t even like the part price though, and he’s swearing to himself while twisting around in a little semi-circle. When I hand him a printed estimate copy, he’s really annoyed. “Man… can’t you cut me some slack on ‘dis.”
“No, but take it with you.” I hand him a business card. “See if you can get it done cheaper somewhere else. If not, give me a call. Don’t drive it anymore than is necessary though because that raw oil will burn out your very expensive catalytic converter.”
This news doesn’t help either. “You take credit cards?”
Jimmy hesitates a moment longer before signing the estimate. “Just do it.” He hands the paper back to me and I give him a copy.
I lucked out and a rebuilt turbo was available on a Good Friday. It took less time than I figured to clear the exhaust too. A sullen Jimmy Tattoo arrived to pay and pick up his Subaru. I don’t blame him. I’d be upset about throwing a bunch more money into a vehicle I’d just bought too, but at least it wasn’t the engine. Mr. Knee did not hurt so bad once it was bandaged. Just another day in Bennie Geezer land.