The Difference…

workOver the last week, my Honda CR-V (aka The Excelsior) had been starting up just a little more sluggishly with each trip.  Eventually, it got to the point where it just barely started, but as is human nature, I figured that it would last just long enough to get to get the battery looked at.

Of course, I waited one trip too many and eventually it didn’t start at all one night.  Click-click-click-click-click was all I heard.

After getting a jump-start from a neighbor (always have cables in your vehicle, folks) I went to the auto parts store where I had replaced the original battery a few years prior.  I had a strong suspicion that the battery was dead, but when the gentleman asked if I would like to have it tested, it placed just enough doubt in my mind to make me think that might not be the case.  I didn’t want it to be something else, because as far as car repairs go, replacing a battery is on the fairly inexpensive scale, and it can be done by one’s self, assuming the vehicle can be taken to a good battery or vice-versa.

The gentleman grabbed a tester and followed me out to my noble (if not currently unreliable) steed.  I popped the hood and proceeded to let the gentleman do his job.  He attached the clips to the battery terminals and proceeded to push some buttons on the device.  After a few moments he told me the battery was good and asked if I wanted him to test other ‘start the car’ parts.  I said yes, and he asked me to start the vehicle.  I made a crack about ‘I hope it starts,’ but much to my surprise, it started with no hesitation.  A few moments and button presses later, the man told me that the alternator and starter were probably okay, too.  I thanked him for his time and went on my merry (if slightly worried) way to the grocery store, where the car started again without issue.  What the heck was wrong with my car?

As folks are oft to do these days, I went onto social media to share my ambivalence over the situation.  Friends offered advice and their own tales of automotive experiences, both good and bad.  One friend mentioned that a similar problem had been caused by loose terminal connectors.  This idea sounded intriguing to me, as I had recalled my interior lights flashing during the process of having it jumped, and so I resolved to investigate them come the morning.  I didn’t park the Excelsior in the garage because I had a feeling I was going to need another jump-start.

The next morning, I hopped into my trusty steed to go have some breakfast and was greeted by the clicking noise again.  No big deal, it’s the terminals, right?  Wrong.  Nothing was loose and there was no corrosion to be found.  It has to be the battery, I thought, but what the guy last night told me it was good.  I frumped for a while as I searched for nearby mechanics and groused over the pile of money I anticipated I was going to have to spend.

Finally, I decided to get a second opinion.

I got a jump-start from a different neighbor, and observed that both times we had to let my vehicle sit for a while and charge up.  The thought of it has to be the battery kept bouncing in my head as I drove to a different auto parts store.  I walked inside and asked to have my battery checked.  This time around, the tech got a frumpy look on her face when she saw my terminals.  The connectors to the Excelsior’s battery have these plastic covers that were getting in the way of the clips, meaning she could only reliably attach the clips to the screws that kept the connectors attached.  “I don’t like taking a reading from the screws, the reading is sometimes wrong,” She said.  The tech did her best to adjust the tester clip, but was not completely satisfied with the result: “I’m not getting a good reading, can you take the battery out?” She asked.

I said sure, and proceeded to do so, with the tools I keep inside the vehicle.  I also had to borrow a pair of pliers, but eventually dislodged the battery and took it inside the store.  The tech did her thing, and sure enough, the battery was bad.  Fortunately, I had purchased the ‘three-year replacement’ battery the last time and I received a new one free of charge.  I installed it myself, which was only fair since I had taken the old one out, and now my trusty steed is trusty once again.

I figured that it would be a good idea to let the tech know about my experience the night before.  We both agreed that the other guy just didn’t know about the screws providing unreliable readings.

And thus we have the difference between somebody who only knows how to follow instructions, and somebody that actually knows what they are doing because they have learned how things really work.

Whether they are fixing cars or computers, a good tech will have more in-depth knowledge about the things that they repair than someone who is only taught how to fix things or is working off a script.  When the ‘usual steps’ don’t work, a good tech can think things though and improvise to find a solution.  A bad tech only knows how to follow instructions, and when those instructions don’t do the job, they’re stuck, and so are you.

37 Things I Noticed After Having a Fender-Bender

My trusty CR-V (the “Excelsior,” because I name my cars after spaceships) recently got dinged in the back.  The damage isn’t too terrible but it’s in a lousy spot.  Thus, I had to deal with my insurance company (Progressive) and rent a car.  Along the way, I noticed a few things:

  1. ding
    #5. *Angry Bear Noises*

    The lady that hit me seemed to be pretty impatient while I got Progressive on the phone.  MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T CAUSE AN ACCIDENT IF YOU’RE IN A HURRY, LADY.

  2. I didn’t even think about calling the police. This was a low speed accident and not worth their time.
  3. She eventually gave me her info and drove off in a huff because “I have kids in the car.”  I don’t know about y’all but I tend to drive extra-careful whenever I have passengers…just saying.
  4. Insurance company Ding #1: To be fair, I was getting impatient with Progressive too.  Pick up the phone, guys!
  5. It wasn’t a bad dent, but in just the right spot for water to get into the hatch.
  6. I’ll get a call back in 24 hours. Cool.
  7. Ding #2: The claims rep was supposed to call me ‘within 24 hours.’  2 days later and still no call.
  8. I posted an angry tweet about that lack of communication and got a response within a few hours. Modern times and all that.
  9. Lady’s insurance is taking full responsibility (as well they should) Woo-hoo!
  10. Stuffed a plastic bag into the hole to keep water out. Lucky it hasn’t been raining lately.
  11. I was initially going to pick a shop to take it, but decided to punt and the insurance guys handle it. I have other things to worry about.
  12. Ding #3: The last time this happened, I got to pick a rental.  This go-round they threw me into a Toyota Corolla. :/
  13. I got everything I needed from the CR-V…except for the garage door opener. >.<
  14. The heck with giving me both car keys on a key ring that I can’t remove them from?
  15. It’s a little bit of an adjustment going from a small SUV to a car, but I’m (mostly) handling it. Lucky for me I don’t have any long trips coming up.
  16. When did car air conditioners get so complicated?
  17. tennycar
    15. Me in the rental

    This is a newer vehicle, yet the backup camera looks terrible compared to my 2012 CR-V.

  18. Having an in-car touch screen does not work very well. At the risk of getting technical: The user interface is poop.
  19. Ding #4: The repair guy was supposed to call me ‘tomorrow’  Didn’t happen.
  20. Yeah, it’s probably time to start looking for a new insurance company.
  21. Thing I miss most about my CR-V? Legroom.
  22. I’ve given up on getting any calls from my insurance company at this point, just going to check their website every so often.
  23. If you are going to tell somebody you are going to call them and you don’t, that is rude and unprofessional.
  24. Unless you’re a recruiter, then it’s par for the course. (obligatory job-related item)
  25. Auto headlights should NEVER turn on the high beams…just sayin’
  26. Had a funny moment when it rained and I tried to turn on the rear wiper that wasn’t there.
  27. Also, the ‘beep’ it makes when I turn on the alarm can barely be heard.
  28. The day before the repair is due to be completed, the app says “2 days left until repaired.” Huh?
  29. (Finally) Got a call that afternoon saying it will be ready when scheduled, woo-hoo!
  30. 4pm and the app now says ‘Repairs complete.’ Maybe I’ll get lucky and get my ride back a day early?’
  31. Ding #5: Of course they call me 15 minutes before they close (and I’m already at home from work) to schedule the pickup the next day, grr.
  32. Since the lady’s insurance is taking full responsibility, this little adventure isn’t going to cost me any money, just a little time and aggravation.
  33. I also got a blog post out of the deal, too 😀

    newcar
    35. Looking good!
  34. Ding #6: Scheduled the appointment for 1230, get there at 1231 and I have to wait 😛
  35. Holy cats, the Excelsior looks good when it’s cleaned up.
  36. Feels good to be in my own vehicle again. I had to re-learn some habits, like having cruise control settings on my steering wheel instead of on a stick thingie.
  37. Time to shop for new car insurance!

10 Things I Noticed About Getting A New Car

Old car next to new car
Upgrade!

My 2005 Dodge Neon, lovingly referred to as the “Reliant,” has been a pretty dependable vehicle since I bought it back in 2006.  Recently, the only issue I’ve had with it is that well, its a Neon.  As I’ve been taking more trips to Dallas and Houston going to conventions and events, I’m finding that a Neon isn’t a very comfortable place to be for an extended period of time.

Thus, I began looking for a new vehicle in earnest. I didn’t need a “urban assault vehicle” as I like to call them, instead I wanted something just a bit bigger and more comfortable than a compact car.  I ended up buying a new 2012 Honda CR-V (pictured at right next to the Reliant and dubbed the “Excelsior”) and noticed just a few things during the process:

  1. As I mentioned previously, car shopping has changed just a bit since I bought the Reliant in 2006, and I think for the better.
  2. “Base model” doesn’t mean what it used to.  The base model CR-V includes Bluetooth, USB, rear-view camera, and automatic transmission.  Wow.
  3. The hardest part of getting a CR-V was well…getting one, as they are quite popular.
  4. Used cars are also popular; the Reliant was worth quite a bit more than I had expected.
  5. Of course, all I was going to get for it on the trade-in was some magic beans.
  6. Its good to have a man on the inside, hopefully my friend that sold me the CR-V stays at the dealership for at least a few years 😉
  7. Actual conversation with my friend: “Its not my car yet.” “Of course not, you haven’t paid for it.” “No, I haven’t farted in it yet.”
  8. I’ve barely had the Excelsior a month and its already been called ‘cute’ a few times. Here we go again.
  9. Having a camera in the back that turns on while I’m in reverse makes backing into parking spots like a videogame.  If I ‘lose’ its going to cost me more than a quarter, though!
  10. Hooray for modern engineering: despite being larger, the Excelsior gets at least as good gas mileage as the Reliant did and over 30mpg on long trips.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: First Accident

Just after the accident
Ouch!

Well, there goes that bragging right.  Up until Monday, I was one the few people in my circle of friends to have never been involved in a car accident.  That proud status changed after I was involved in a fender-bender this past Monday.  I hit another car that was pulling out of a parking lot just down the road from my apartment. I then spent the next three hours in the misty afternoon directing traffic, and talking with the lady I hit, the police, the people at my insurance company, the folks at the rental car company, the tow truck guy and most of my immediate family.

It was my day off too  :/

The good thing is that nobody got hurt, but both of our vehicles are a bit worse for wear.  I hit the other vechicle square in the driver’s side wheel (as you can see in the pic), which is going to cost a few beans to fix, and while the body damage on the Reliant is limited to the front bumper, it wouldn’t start at all, so there’s that.  The lady I hit was actually pretty cool about it, as was I, so I at least didn’t have to deal with some mad-as-hell person jumping and screaming at me.  Before the fire department and police showed up to direct traffic, I was directing people to get out of my lane with my Flashlight of Smiting.  Even though we didn’t hit hard enough for either of our airbags to deploy, I was a bit discombobulated after the fact.

Dealing with my insurance company (Progressive) wasn’t too bad, not too long after everything was hauled away, I was picked up by the rental car company and am now riding about in a Hyundai Santa Fe.  I was considering a small SUV before this and now that I have had a chance to drive one, I am sold on the vehicle type.  I may not get a Santa Fe for my next vehicle, but will definitely consider something like it once all this hash is settled.

If there is one thing that does bother me about the whole thing, its that there were NO witnesses.  The accident happened just in front of a bus stop, and of course, those folks hopped onto the next bus that stopped by.  I don’t blame them, I’m sure they had work or other places to be, but the fact that no one that driving around stopped AT ALL kinda sucked.  I’ve witnessed an accident myself, and I made sure I stuck around to see if they needed assistance or witnesses.

Now I get to wait for the insurance guys and repair guys to get everything figured out.  I’ll probably be out some cash when its all said and done, but in the bigger scheme of things, everything turned out as well as could be.

Un-Reliant

Well, the Reliant now has over 36,000 miles on it. It went over the hump while I was driving down to my parents’ on Saturday. I guess this is where it starts to fall apart. Granted, I wouldn’t have gotten there so quickly (27 months) if it hadn’t been for my crappy job in New Braunfels, but that’s neither here nor there. Time to start thinking about that next vehicle. 🙂

I’m Walkin’

Its been an interesting week, and its barely Tuesday!

I dropped my car off at the dealership this morning to get some work done; new brake pads for the front wheels, an oil change, and this year’s inspection sticker. The dealer’s shuttle then dropped me off at work. The original plan was to hitch a ride in the afternoon to pick it up, and be on my merry way knowing the Reliant would stop when I wanted it to.

Needless to say, The Plan got thrown out the window at about 4:45…

I get a call at about that time from the guy from the service department. I figured it was good news, my car was ready to go…BUT as it turns out, while changing the oil, they found a transmission fluid leak. Well, nuts. The good news was that since the car is still under warranty, the fix will not cost me anything. The bad news? No car until tomorrow. Crap.

I leave the dealer with my apartment keys instead of my car (note to self, give them the spare key next time) and I decided that I would walk to work tomorrow morning. I probably could call in a favor and get a lift, but I’ve actually thought about doing this before, especially since its not too too far away. According to Google Maps, its about .83 miles, so I’ll be getting up bright and early tomorrow. If all goes well, I’ll get there before it gets too warm out, and I’ll hit up a coworker for a lift to pick up the Reliant hopefully during lunch or after work.

Should be fun!

At The Car Wash

Identifying people by something they do (or don’t do) is just one of those things that people tend to do, and I’m no different. Instead of their names, I could identify close friends as Wrestling Fan, Mini Driver, World of Warcraft Player, Quiet Guy, and Dude That Enjoys Killing People In Videogames Just A Little Too Much. You know who you are.

One unfortunate habit that I have acquired is that I do not wash my car on a regular basis. When your friends constantly see the layers of dust covering your vehicle, you soon become known as “Guy Who Never Washes His Car.” This has been my moniker for years back home, however I didn’t realize that it had followed me up to my new home until last Saturday.

A friend of mine was coming over to visit for the first time, and I provided directions. The last instruction being: “Look for my red Dodge Neon.” I figured this was simple enough, at least in the first month of living there, I had never seen another red Dodge Neon. The apartment was stuffy, so I decided to open the balcony door to let some air in while I did some vacuuming.

As I am doing this, I look outside and see my friend parking his truck just outside of the building. Great, I think, he’ll be knocking on the door pretty soon. I continue cleaning but hear no knock on the door. “Why hasn’t he knocked yet?” I wonder. I check outside and see the truck is no longer there. As I am pondering this turn of events, my cell phone rings, its my friend: “Hey, did you wash your car?” he asks, to which I reply yes.

I then asked if he had parked a few minutes earlier. He said yes, but he had decided that apparently the Neon was SO clean he assumed it was not mine and kept on looking for a red “covered in dirt” Neon which he did not find. Jerk.

It is now official, I am now “Guy Who Never Washes His Car.” Again.