Back in the winter, on a skiing road trip, our car ran into a problem. The power steering pump was making a loud noise. The power steering fluid tank was overflowing. We were in a very small town, without much of a choice in repair shops. We found a random shop. The guy there said we needed a new power steering pump.
$600 later we had the pump replaced. We continued our trip, but we realized the next day the new pump wasn’t working quite right either. Although it didn’t make the noise, steering was very hard at low speed. By that time we were already hundreds of miles away from that repair shop.
We lived with it until we were back home. We went to our trusted mechanic. He said the original problem was likely caused by a cracked O-ring due to cold weather, which sucked air into the pump. Replacing the O-ring would’ve fixed it. The new problem, however, was directly caused by the “reman” after-market pump the other guy put in. If we had the original pump, we could’ve had it put back in, but we didn’t know to ask for the old part, and the other guy didn’t offer to give it to us either. Now we really needed a new pump.
Instead of ordering a new pump and putting it in for us, our mechanic suggested that we contact the shop that replaced the pump to see if they had any warranty from wherever they ordered the part. If so he could try to get it covered under warranty.
We called and we were surprised to learn that the other shop was part of a national repair shop network — the Goodyear Tire & Service Network. Work done at one participating shop carries a warranty good at any other shop in the network. Participating shops include both Goodyear company-owned shops and independent shops doing business under their own names.
We went to a participating shop near us that had good Yelp reviews. The service at this shop was much better than the one we ran into out of town. Although it took them two tries to have it fixed right, we didn’t have to pay anything. I imagine they are reimbursed by the Goodyear network.
In the end, we still overpaid for something that could’ve been fixed by simply replacing an O-ring. The silver lining was that by dumb luck we didn’t have to pay again to correct a bad fix. By directing us to contact the shop that did the original work, our trusted mechanic gave up a job that could be his. He’s in it for a long-term trusting relationship.
We learned that if we need car repair out of town again we should ask to have the replaced parts returned. Those parts may not be faulty. The replacement parts may be worse than the original. We also learned if possible we should choose a shop in a national chain or in a national network. That way at least we will have warranty when we go back home.
Have you run into car problems on the road? How did you resolve it? Any lessons to share?
[Photo credit: Flickr user Thomas Leth-Olsen]
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Sam Seattle says
This is useful tip. I also like national-chain stores, like Walmart, for the same reason.
Yes, useful post. I had a similar experience out of town once, except getting the issue fixed properly the second time.
If it’s not against your policy or intent, could you share the name of your trusted mechanic shop? Those are not easy to find. I am in the San Jose area.
Same question as #2.
But also, is there a way to be notified of follow-up comments in a thread without posting a comment of my own? Actually, I would like to subscribe to all comments across this entire site.
Harry Sit says
Car Talk has a listing of mechanics recommended by other members: http://www.cartalk.com/mechanics-files
The RSS feed for comments is http://thefinancebuff.com/comments/feed There are some “subscribe to RSS feed by email” solutions, such as:
Thanks Harry! I already used feedly to subscribe to your articles, but did not know there was an RSS for comments too. Added that to feedly now and it works great!
We moved a car across country, and one tire got damaged at our new location. We had tire warranty from a chain in our old state but which didn’t exist in our new state. We ended up mailing the tire via USPS for about $30, and received a $90 check a few weeks later.
Cars are a very interesting and ingenious engineering design. Most of the car will run forever barring mishap, and some tiny fraction of the components are sacrificial lambs. Think pumps, plugs, fluids, belts, and rubber. These are the parts that conscientious manufacturers include in ‘routine maintenance.’ A well designed (for access) car like a Honda or Toyota makes routine maintenance a swap in/swap out routine that just about anybody can do with a couple of hours, a nice youtube video, and some shade.
I buy all the maintenance parts online at about 5-10% of the cost of going to the mechanic and replace them *while they are still operating fine* either according to the manufacturer recommendation or sometimes earlier out of convenience or a conviction that more frequent is better. Transmission fluid, for example.
I am not a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination. This approach has worked great: I keep my cars 10 – 20 years and cannot remember the last time a car of mine broke down or saw a mechanic. Running costs over years for all maintenance (and no repairs) excluding tyres has been about one US penny per two miles or ~ $5 a month.