I know you have covered breaking down on the road in the past. I read your advice carefully. I always wondered how we would fare if we had to deal with a major problem during our several months away from home. At home we are familiar with area service people, or have enough friends for recommendations. On the road it is not so easy.
Now we see, with Amazon’s recent lawsuits, that people can be paid to give online reviews.
We recently had engine problems. We asked people in the park and the management who they would recommend, checked online reviews for those we could, and we still got ripped off.
--So low in Show Low
Dear So low:
Life’s a crapshoot, and an adventure. You can do all the preparation in the world, but sooner or later you have to throw the dice.
I can answer with a personal experience. Just recently our Saturn transmission decided to start shifting with a clunk. Sounded like a sledge hammer hitting a rail spike. We were staying at an SKP Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. I could drive it carefully if I stayed in second. When we returned to the park I asked management and a few permanent residents for a recommendation. I went online and read many reviews. My first thought was to find someone local.
I also Googled my problem on several online forums. I made a list of several shops in a 50-mile radius and started interviewing. That’s right, they were going to go to work for me. I wanted someone nice, polite, competent and honest.
Everyone I talked to seemed to fit the bill. They were all nice, polite, seemed competent and all had the same diagnosis.
From my online studies it sounded like the transmission valve body needed replacing. Everyone I talked to seemed to agree. I finally made a couple choices and decided to haul the car to the transmission shops with the motorhome. I picked two places about 40 miles away in close proximity to each other. If I didn’t like the first one I could move on for a second opinion.
The first guy was really nice. Took the car in immediately, ran the electronic codes, test drove the car and told me I needed to have the whole transmission rebuilt. He had so many code errors my car should have died three years ago. For just under three thousand bucks he could have me back on the road in about a week.
That’s when it hit me. Railroad employees always used to say that Jesse James was nice and always polite, but he still took all their money.
I paid them $52 for their advice and moved on. When I was leaving the guy said, “Reverse doesn’t work very well.” I said, “That’s okay, I’m not coming back.”
By the time I hauled the car to the next place it was four o’clock in the afternoon. I was hoping they could at least take a look at it before they closed. It was at a business called Tranco Transmissions in Port Angeles, Washington. It looked very clean and organized. In fact, I think you could eat off the floor.
They brought me right in, and let me watch them as they plugged the code reader into my car.
Surprise! There were no error codes.
They said that 95% of the time it is just the valve body gone bad. They could order one (out of state) and have it there by the next morning. With the hour they had before closing they could have the old one off and ready for the new one in the morning. I would be “Back on the Road Again” for $752.
I pulled the trigger, “Let’s do it.” Went out for Chinese dinner, spent a quiet, beautiful night in Olympic National Park and the car was ready for pickup by nine o’clock the next morning.
My old Saturn is now purring like a tomcat in a creamery.
It pays to be a little suspect. Stories do not always have a happy ending, but if you go through the motions, control your emotions and dial out all the commotions, you have a better chance than being treated like lambs to the slaughter.
Chalk your recent adventure up to experience and move on.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink