Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Car Saga

This is a continuation of the car saga.

Last Sunday, we had to take the car to the shop AGAIN because it was doing the same scary check-engine-light-on and shaking-uncontrollably and losing-quarts-of-oil-at-a-time-over-few-miles. NOT FUN. Monday morning, we were told the car needs a new engine. After $2,400 for the first fix in January and then other smaller fixes over the past few months and countless mornings when I stopped by to have them record the oil level in an attempt to discover the source of the leak, the mechanic decided a new engine was the only solution. We were losing compression in the other cylinders and without a solution, the problem would just keep coming back throughout the whole engine and so, we should just replace it.

Then Tuesday morning happened and I was off to Kansas City in a rental car for the week. I went back and forth with my cousin (a car guy) and his friend (a mechanic) and a second cousin (a big motorcycle/car guy) and finally at the end of the week, decided that we did indeed need the new engine but that we needed a second opinion before spending that kind of money.

Husband was a doll and dealt with getting my car from the one shop to the other shop earlier this week to let them do their thing and give us the second opinion – it was the same as the first. A new engine, here we come!

Because the rental car was due back Tuesday, and we couldn’t get up to the airport then, I submitted a Priceline quote for a new (read: cheaper) rental car for the rest of the time the car would be in the shop. I picked it up yesterday morning. And then promptly forgot how to drive a car.

The rental car I got was a Fiat 500. It was that or a Versa and Husband said I should get the Fiat because it was fun and small and he thought it would be fun to drive. Ok, so that’s what we picked. I got into the car and tested all the buttons and figured out how to adjust the mirrors – you know, the usual.

Husband then took off, and I drove the car off the rental car lot and thought everything was fine. When I headed towards the highway, I noticed that the car was awfully loud – as in, sounded like a diesel in my tiny little car. The engine was really close to the dashboard, though, since the car was so small, and I just thought that was it. But when I increased my speed, it got louder and louder and almost red-lined when I was getting towards 40 mph. VERY strange. I called Husband and told him what was going on and he said it must be because the engine was small and he was sure it was fine.

It was very hard getting the engine up to speed, and I noticed the dial in the middle of the dash did keep going from “1” to “2” to “3” when I pushed it. The gear shift also had a “+” and “-” next to the “D”. When I accidentally hit one of those, it changed the numbers in the dial. So perhaps I’m accidentally driving a manual? This is probably not a good thing. In order to get to work, I kept hitting the gear shift into 2 or 3 to keep it from redlining when going over 40 mph. I arrived at work in one piece, thank goodness.

After some Googling, I realized that the Fiat 500 has a fancy dual engine – it can be automatic or semiautomatic. But NO WHERE could I find instructions on HOW TO SWITCH IT  from one to the other. Even a call to the front desk of the lovely rental car company didn’t solve the problem (her solution if I wasn’t happy with the car? Bring it back and they’ll switch it out).  If you car can go from automatic to SOMETHING OTHER THAN AUTOMATIC, perhaps your front desk clerks should be able to explain that to a driver. Or maybe leave the manual in the car. Something.

Husband came up to my office to switch cars with me because I was so worried I was going to strip the engine or do something horrible to the poor car. Besides, he wanted that particular car in the first place, and he was excited about driving it. In about two seconds of him driving the car – the time it takes to pull out of the spot and go around the line of cars parked in the lot – he rolled down the window and called out to me that he had fixed it.


Let me explain with the picture above – see the D? See the extra area to the right of the D where you can put the gear shift? There’s also the plus and minus there. To put the car into semiautomatic mode and be able to change gears without messing with a clutch (which the car doesn’t have), you put the gear shift as close to the D as possible, so you can hit up and down to change gears. To be an automatic? You pull down and go around those other gears but you DON’T push it closer to the D.

Now I’m a smart lady, I think. My husband was able to figure it out in seconds. What in the world is wrong with a car maker/rental company that they wouldn’t make this easier to figure out?!

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't have figured that out and I'm sure my husband definitely wouldn't have figured it out. I probably would have taken out the manual and hopefully it would explain it! Hope you get something figured out with your real car!