Tuesday, September 18, 2007

2 shops, 2 comebacks, 2 weeks: My Life

In the past month, I've had more than $5,000 worth of repair work done to my vehicle. About $4,600 of it was due to a collision with an uninsured motorist. Fortunately my insurance company picked up the entire bill, less the deductible. I had the work done at a shop that was associated with a local dealership, because they have some sort of deal with my insurance company, AND they were conveniently located 50 feet away from the appraiser. When I picked up my car (earlier than they predicted - YAY!), I looked at it in dismay. What had been a 6-year-old Toyota front-end, had become a new-looking front-end, but something was not right. The missing license plate? The color? No, they did a great job matching the color. The headlights? Yes. They looked funny, and once I drove around in the dark, I found out they lit funny too! We looked under the hood - Mr. Polite Service Writer speaking slowly and evenly as he described how they replaced this, recreated that, and re-arranged the other, using some new, some re-furbed, and some parts from the local salvage yard (I am opposed to none of these - they all have their place in repair work). I asked about the cut-outs in the felt under my hood, "why are these spaces cut out?" "Oh, there should be information stickers there, I'll check on that for you." Hmmmmm. I was surprised they were able to make that hood look as beautiful as they did. Besides having left it looking like a wrecking ball had been dropped on it, late last year I blew a psiton through my engine, which shot like a bullet into the hood. The hole in the felt was still there, but the hood was as beautiful as the day it was born. Yet, even though I did a cursory walk-around with the service writer, and nodded as he told me the work that had been done, I was not happy and felt a slight sour feeling deep in my gut. My 6-year-old baby was no longer mine - it had become this re-habbed, re-furbed something other. The lines betwen the pieces and parts of the front end of my car were no longer parallel. One side had a slightly bigger gap than the other side. At another point, the lines widened - the fit and finish that Toyota is known for, was no more.
And yet I drove it home.

As I pulled in to my driveway, headlights askew, I bravely honked my horn to announce my arrival to the family and dog. Instead of that Asian two-tone horn I've grown accustomed to, I heard a weak single-tone bleat - as tho someone had stepped on a cheap red bicycle horn. That was truly the last straw.

The second bit of work (in my $5,000+ 2-week span)was to repair my front brakes, for a mere $500 or so. I had them repaired because after the accident, even tho the insurance company approved a "visual" of the brakes and the collision center reported them "ok", I didn't feel they had the same stopping power as they did the minute before the accident.

Short Story, Part One: Took the car back for additional bodywork. They fixed the horn, showed me where to find the stickers on the inside of my hood if I ever needed to read them, and re-pointed the headlights. Nonetheless, I can still put all the fingers from one hand through the gap between one of my headlights and the body of my car - NOT a Toyota finish, but because my insurance company and the shop guarantee the work for the time I own the car, I'm not going back a third time to complain. I am left wondering about the effect of additional exposure on my engine and all things under the hood that those extra spaces will make possible. But that's not all, the more I look at the way the hood and the front-end lies in relationship to the body of the car - it's just a case of hurry up and get it out the door. I am disappointed in the quality of their work, to say the very least. Very nice people, but.

On to the brake job.

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