Stuff Happened

Saturday, 22 January 2011. Despite how I mistreated it, my car brought me safely home Thursday night.

It knew I had implicitly made us a Friday morning date with Firestone, where I usually buy tires.

I knew the least I could get away with was the nominal labor and materials charges to install the new tire I already had onto the rim of the one I’d blown. When I buy new tires, I seem to end up with an extra tire that still has good tread. So it resides in my trunk, until the next time I go curb-hopping. Yes, this was not an isolated occurrence, but it was the worst. Curbs are not my friends.

Obviously, an alignment was also in order, but I long ago purchased a lifetime alignment. There would be no charge for that.

Still, I wanted to be prepared in case of much worse news, so I went to Firestone armed with the coupons I’d just received from them. How did they know? When the service advisor greeted me, I waved the coupons saying, “Did you all know I was about to do something stupid?” Wasn’t it nice of them to anticipate my mistake and the fact that it might be costly. That’s customer service.

With the paperwork in process, I sat in the waiting area and began to read the book I’d brought. By 10:30 the first hour had gone quickly. In another 30 minutes I was called to the desk to receive the good news. The left rear tire was also damaged by the curb’s impact and was not safe to continue driving on. Always skeptical of anyone who tries to sell me anything, I asked to see the tire. Donning safety glasses, I was escorted to the shop floor. OK, even I could see the impact mark and the bulging bubble in the sidewall. Add one brand new tire to the cost-of-mis-maneuvering-in-the-dark, and there went the $20 coupon, thank you.

The best was yet to come. By 11:30 I thought surely the technician was done with the alignment. But I was told that the equipment had just become available so he could start diagnostics on my car. I wondered whether I should go across the street for some lunch at Subway? No, surely he’ll be done in another half-hour.

12:00… 12:30… 1:00 and then the technician who’d been working on my car came into the store to talk to the service advisor. Something about he couldn’t get one of the wheels into spec, but from what I could hear, it didn’t sound like a big deal. I thought I was about to be on my way, but the advisor didn’t call me to the desk. He seemed involved in something on the computer. Maybe it wasn’t my car they were talking about after all? Finally, he called my name.

“Is there a problem?” I asked innocently. Showing me the results of the alignment test, he mumbled something about this one is OK and this one is between this number and that, this one is pink and this one is blue, all of which sounded pretty bad to me. Was he stalling or making excuses or just trying to break the news gently? Regardless, he was wasting his breath until he got around to saying that, though the technician adjusted the left rear toe as much as possible, it was still out of spec. Then more beating around the bush over another visual aid—the ominously labeled, “Exploded View of Rear Suspension.”

It seems that the left rear wheel banged the curb so hard that it bent the “bolt” (that’s my technical term for it) of the trailing arm—the bolt that the wheel hub mounts to. If left that way, the tire would wear unevenly, rather quickly and rather badly. So, a new trailing arm runs about $380, and labor for the 2.2-hour job is $220. And aren’t we glad we still have the 10% off coupon to play this round!

Another bonus was the fact that a purchase of this amount qualified for six months’ deferred interest on my Firestone card. I get to pay for my mistake in installments without interest. It could have been worse. …

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    • Techquestioner
    • February 21st, 2011

    $600 plus two new tires, but at least you were able to drive it home and to Firestone. Having to have it towed would have been another expense, and even more aggravation.

    The one thing I can say about blowing tires in the South: Almost every time I’ve needed to change a tire, some chivalrous Southern gentleman has insisted I let him change the tire for me. I can’t complain about that!

    • Tim
    • February 20th, 2011

    Ouch. No coupons for all of that. You know, my problems with coupons is that either I forget that I have them or they are already expired. That or they are for things i never need. You partially lucked out.

      • Paula Robertson
      • February 20th, 2011

      Haha! Hey there, Tim. Yeah, ya just gotta be thankful for the breaks you do get. 🙂

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