Chair Force Engineer

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Blood for Oilpan

Back on January 28, I took my car to the Firestone on Central avenue for an oil change. I had never been raped in the face (figuratively) prior to that point.

I guess things got started on the wrong foot when I brought my car in at 3 PM (on the dot) for my oil change appointment. Much to my chagrin, it was another hour before they started work on my car. I whittled the time away by watching a Spanish-language dubbing of Memphis Belle on Telemundo and reading the story of President Reagan's shooting and recovery in Readers' Digest.

When they finally got my "White Knight" up on the jacks, they only made matters worse. Les, the mechanic whose facial hair resembled the fur on Robin Williams's back, informed me that most of the threads on the oil pan for the drain plug had been stripped. He didn't take responsibility for it and tried to blame it on an overtightening by the people at Kirtland's auto shop who did my last oil change. He told me that I'd have to have the hole drilled and retapped for a larger plug, but he told me that he'd sell me an extra-long plug as a quick fix. He gave me some bullshit about the oilpan being from a junkyard due to some writing that's allegedly on the bottom. (The original owner of my car told me about a replacement bumper, but nothing about the oilpan.) Seeing no alternative to this auto equivalent of sexual assault, I relented just so I could get my car back.

A while later, I bought a third drain plug from Auto Zone for a whopping $2.12 (compared to the >$40 cost of having a machinist redrill and retap the hole.) Slightly larger in diameter than the original plug, it's self-tapping and has no need to drill out the original threads in the oil pan. Next time my oil is changed, I'll take it to a competent shop and have this self-tapping plug put in.

The unfortunate experience left me with the impression that the Firestone station on Central is a bush-league outfit that doesn't honor its appointment times, doesn't carry self-tapping plugs, and doesn't have competent mechanics. I harbor a lot of anger towards Les, who wouldn't take the hit for his screwup and wanted to sell me on a high-cost solution to the problem.

Nevertheless, there may be a happy solution to this auto malfeasance. I recently received an unexpected phone call from Firestone's customer service department. Calmly and assertively, I explained to the service rep how badly I was raped by the Firestone station. The rep seemed very apologetic. Hopefully I'll be hearing back from Firestone on their plans for atonement. If not, they'll be hearing from me when I get the "extra long plug" back from my next oil change. I'll make sure to check the plug length and see if Les was blowing smoke up my tailpipe.

The moral of the story is to do as much auto maintenance by yourself as possible. If not possible, find a competent and honest mechanic. I can honestly say that I enjoy getting my hands dirty and tearing the car apart, assuming that I have the right tools for the job and I am sure that I'm not going to screw anything up. Don't get suckered in by the Chilton guides because they're worthless. Make friends with the sales associates at Auto Zone, Checkers, and Pep Boys; they can often be very helpful. Invest in the special tools you will need to work on modern cars.