Tuesday, May 8, 2018

On the costliness off bad timing

For those of you that don't know, and after a cursory look at the demographics of RoundSeventeen readers, I'm gonna assume that's 99.9% of you, that is a timing belt.

More specifically, it's the timing belt on a 3.5 liter V6 engine strapped inside my wife's 2009 Acura MDX.

I know this because last year, March of 2017, the silvery/grey beast, which had given us 90,000 not so carefree miles, required a new one. I also know, or have to come to assume, that replacing a timing belt is not like putting a slipped chain back on a bicycle, though the mechanical similarities are hard to ignore.

Indeed the process involves hydroponic remanipulation, extreme modification of the dorsal tachyon flow valve and of course, the tricky uncoupling of the aft trans-dimensional phaser shaft.

In English, that translates to $1957.83 worth of labor.

Writing out checks like that are always hard. But they're even harder when they're payable to car dealership service departments. Let's face the facts, these are not boy scouts (see yesterday's post.) When a car salesman on the showroom knocks $500 off the MSRP, the service manager's job, mission, really, is to recoup that $500 in lost profit any way they can.

I know this from experience. And I know it from working with car people in the ad business for more than 20 years, ever since I was 24.

Last week, I thought I'd seen it all.
But, of course, I hadn't.

The MDX was at the shop (Nissani Bros. Acura in Culver City), again. This time, for one of those merciful minor $119 service appointments. Imagine my surprise when the "service" technician called to tell me there were additional issues to be addressed.

"Yeah, we changed the oil, replaced the wiper blades, and flushed the brakes. But there's one problem."

"Isn't there always?" I replied.

"Looks like you need a new timing belt."

You think that volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii set off some fireworks? The phone practically melted in my hands.

"You mean the timing belt that we replaced last year with you pocket-pickers, needs to be replaced? Really?" 

When we went to retrieve the vehicle, the service manager came out to greet us. She tried to explain that the service technician made an error. He looked at the car's history on the computer and made what he thought was the appropriate diagnosis.

Silly me, I thought car repair estimates were not based on what was on the computer, but what was happening under the hood.

Now I find myself fighting with two automotive dealerships.

This is going to be a fun summer.

No comments: