Bad Luck With Car Troubles II: Wrath of Knock

Previously on Uber-Man: The Driver

Who knows, maybe I’ll get some material out of it…

For some reason, I can’t help but think of the advice ‘careful what you wish for’.

As I talked about last week I rented a car while my usual ride was off the road. That side of things has been fairly reasonable. The biggest issues I’ve had with it have been about differences between the two cars that you don’t think about until you experience it. Little things like having a handbrake instead of a footbrake, a mechanical gear stick that’s got some resistance to it instead of an electronic one that can change settings by tapping it.

 

Thankfully that was all the issues I had with it. Given the running around – or to put it more correctly, Uber-ing around as a passenger instead of a driver as usual – to get the rental, getting my car to and from mechanics, I’m not sure I could’ve maintained my tenuous hold on sanity otherwise.

Anyway, I was able to get around the city, make money with rides and get on with personal errands. Given the alternative I was originally facing of just not having a car at all, it was reasonably good all things considered. It was tricky on Friday getting my car to Toyota, but only the normal tricky of driving somewhere and not being able to drive back. Sure enough, a few hours after getting back home I got a message from Toyota saying my car was ready to go. After getting back I got my next disappointment, though on the scale of one to the cancellation of Firefly, it was a three.

All the recall issues were dealt with, and being recalls were sorted out for free. And they were able to identify what was causing the knock sound. Apparently it would cost about $500 to fix, replacing the steering column. Initially I agreed to go ahead with the repairs which would take another week or so to get the parts and get them installed, as it was necessary to get my car up to snuff to be registered.

Except it wasn’t! It was just a bit of gunk that had built up and was causing a sound that might be annoying. Absolutely no safety issue at all, in no way impeding the process of passing the rego safety check. Of course, when I got there it was just when the mechanics who could do the safety check had gone to lunch. Given I’d be back in the neighbourhood to drop off the rental car on Monday, I organised to do the safety check then. Also, I cancelled the order for the steering column fix.

After that it all worked out reasonably well. I returned the rental car on Monday morning, after dropping off my car for the safety check. There was a little bit of a hold up as apparently they’d not processed too many Uber rentals and there was some special process or option or thingy-ma-jig that took a little extra time to sort out. Nothing too horrendous, the staff were nice about it and I wasn’t in a rush. (Tip to people when in the role of ‘customer’: generally speaking shouting and screaming at staff to hurry up or to do their jobs properly or other similar orders don’t actually help speed the process up.)

I got back to Toyota, where my car was almost ready to pick up. While I was waiting, I checked to see if they’d uploaded the details to the RMS. They had, so while I waited for my car I paid my rego, which was almost the trigger for my car to be announced as ready. Even though I’d driven the car to its appointments over the last couple of weeks, it felt like it was the first time I’d had it since taking it to the smash repairers. I finally had my car back, and was ready to go.

Star Trek Adventures logoAs a bonus, when I got back home my copy of the core rulebook for the Star Trek Adventures role-playing game! If this is the first post you’ve read on this site, fair enough, but otherwise you’ve got no excuse for not realising ahead of time that I’m a nerd. If you too are a nerd, like RPGs, Star Trek, both, or are curious about any of the above, Modiphius have published this new game. You can buy your own copy of the book or any of the other paraphernalia for the game from their site here.

Also this post’s title probably makes a bit more sense now.

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Bad Luck With Car Troubles

I don’t know about you, but it never seems to be simple with car problems. And they don’t seem to happen one at a time. Your car can be fine for ages, then suddenly it seems easier to list what works than what doesn’t.

It seems I can’t catch a trick at the moment. Way back in the dim dark times of May when this site was barely online, I wrote about the issues I had when I got a flat tyre and what happened while trying to get it fixed. Well now I’ve got a new sequence of events to complain about. (I’m really starting to understand the comedian mindset where something bad happens in your life, and your response becomes “That will give me some good material.” In my case it may only “material” at this stage, but I’m hoping to work my way up to “good material”.)

A couple of months ago I was in a minor accident. No one was hurt, and only bumpers were dented. You may have seen me tweet about it at the time:

Anyway, I made my insurance claim, and took my car off to Buraneer Smash Repairs for them to inspect it. I was told it could take up to four days to fix, which left me scratching my head a little bit. I’d had a similar accident with someone running up my backside but with the same sort of damage to my rear bumper, and the previous repairers had been able to sort it out in one day. (This is after getting the replacement bumper in. They didn’t fix it the day of the inspection, but told me that’s all it would be.)

It seemed a little off to me that it’d take that long, but I figured they were covering their bases in case there was more damage underneath that they couldn’t see with the casual inspection. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that once we set up the appointment to actually do the work that they’d call me later that day or perhaps the next day rather than four days later to tell me they were done. So I booked in for the repairs, and went about my life for a few weeks.

steering wheel missing
“Well there’s your problem!” (Please note: not the actual condition of my car, my steering wheel is attached and working.)
Two weeks ago I took the car back to them, where they again said it would be up to four days, and obviously they’d get in touch when it was ready. I headed home, and something reminded me off what was said the first time versus what wasn’t said this time around. These guys had just given a time frame for the work, and tried to book me in for the earliest window they had. That may seem normal on the face of it, but the previous repairers had told me what needed to be done, advised how quickly they’d be able to get the parts in (in this case, a rear bumper) and booked me in at a time on that basis. Once again I started to have some doubts about how this would work.

Once at home, I pottered around for a bit. I watched some TV. I did some cleaning. I even got caught up on the blog and did some writing, getting a few posts together to be ready in advance. All the while I made sure my phone was with me and charged up, waiting to hear back from the repairers that they’d finished. Though I’d had some concerns, I kept hoping they were Star Trek fans, and following the example of a miracle-worker engineer by the name of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott that they were padding the estimate to look like they did the work faster than normal.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. After four days they got in touch and let me know it was ready. To satisfy my own curiosity, when I got there and I’d waited another 10 minutes for someone to find my car, I asked what had been done. They confirmed that all they’d done was replace the bumper. Until that point I’d been calm, ready to accept that there’d been unexpected difficulties with an otherwise simple job. Even a dodgy-sounding excuse along the lines of there being signs of potential further damage which had to be checked but turned out to be nothing would have been OK. But trying to tell me that four days is just how long it takes activated my often dormant self-assertiveness.

I’m not a car guy. They could have given me a story and it would’ve been like seeing a movie: as long as it makes sense on the surface at the time I’ll buy it, even if afterwards looking back you see the plot holes. But they told me the one thing in this situation that I could definitively refute. I knew that it could be done in a quarter of the time they’d taken, so I asked for an explanation, while holding the slip of paper they given me to sign saying I was satisfied with the work they’d done. Between the time taken to get my car back and the obvious mental tap dancing this guy was attempting to explain that they do quality work which takes time, needless to say I was not satisfied.

I took the car home, reloaded all my Uber gear and got back on the road. I needed to make up for some lost time, but I also needed to try and build up something extra to cover another car issue that was coming up. My rego was coming due, and I needed to get a safety check before it’d go through. So I took it to my local Ultra Tune. They were fine, but unfortunately I needed three new tyres (Can you guess which one didn’t need replacing?) and a headlight. Not only that, but they noticed a ‘knock’ in the steering that I wasn’t aware of. Turning the steering wheel back to centre made the noise, which was all I could hear after it was pointed out to me.

Unfortunately after consulting with Toyota, apparently only they could sort it out, and the earliest they could look at it is this coming Friday. Not only that but it turns out that my car is also on the list for a few recalls that I didn’t know about until now. Needless to say but even if my rego wasn’t expired now, it’d be a bit foolish to keep driving around Sydney with the car in its current state, especially with paying passengers.

In the mean time I’ve gotten a rental car, and will probably be writing about that experience soon, particularly as is relates to using it on Uber. There’s maybe a story to tell there, but as I’m writing this there’s not much there yet.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get some material out of it…

The saga continues: NRMA MotorServe can’t record phone numbers correctly

Yesterday’s story should’ve ended this morning. Unfortunately it continues today…

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NRMA MotorServe Caringbah

Yesterday I posted about my misadventure with a flat tyre. In theory I’d be out driving around now, trying to make up for lost time: my tyre was supposed to be repaired and ready to be refitted to my car this morning, and if there was a problem then the staff at NRMA MotorServe Caringbah would get in contact with me and let me know. I didn’t get a call, so I assumed that when I got there this morning I’d be collecting a repaired tyre. It wasn’t to be…

I arrived there, gave my details, and was ready to take a seat and wait a few minutes while the tyre was fitted. The staff member came back and told me that they’d tried to call me yesterday, showing the number they had for me. In most case getting something 90% correct is a pretty good result, but when it comes to phone numbers its really 100% or bust. The missed number meant that they didn’t call me, they called someone else. (I tested the number, and it goes straight to voicemail with an automated message rather than a recorded one with someone’s name.)

Apparently the tyre couldn’t be repaired, and of course they didn’t have any suitable replacements on hand. So after making sure they actually had the correct number for me this time around, the tyre’s on the way to hopefully arrive this afternoon, and maybe even get sorted out then. If not it’lol be tomorrow morning before I’m back on the road professionally.

To their credit, when I tweeted about the issue this morning NRMA did respond to see if there was something they could do.

I’ll be curious to see if they have something to say after my answer:

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NRMA MotorServe Marrickville

In case you’re wondering, the last time I took my car to an NRMA MotorServe (it was the Marrickville one) was for a service a couple of years ago. Apart from the cause it was almost exactly the same story: they took the wrong number down – with a different difference to today’s shenanigans – and I got back there just before they were closing for the day when it should’ve been ready, after waiting all day for a call that never came. They were waiting on my go ahead to replace some parts, but couldn’t get it because they had the wrong number for me. The issue I had at that point was that the number they recorded for me was not connected, which seems obvious to me that that should have been an indication to lookup my membership details for the correct number. At least this time around the number they had for me was a live one, so not quite the same impetus to check that it was correct.

McDonalds car parks cause flat tyres

McDonalds car parks are a menace. How many tyres must be punctured before their reign of terror will be brought to an end. How long before someone thinks I’m being serious about this, and not just blowing it all out of proportion for the sake of the combination of a joke and maybe a few extra page visits?

A field of abandoned tyres
The many, many victims of McDonalds car parks.

First up, that title is just my attempt at a click-bait style headline. Even my own empirical evidence says that McDonalds car parks are very safe for you tyres, as I’ve been to various different McDonalds car parks on multiple occasions – more than is likely good for my own personal health – without issue. However, I’ve gotten a flat tyre on two different occasions, and both times have been after going into a McDonalds. The last time it happened I didn’t notice until I’d finished up at work (in an office, pre-Uber), so it only meant I was delayed in getting home. (In case you’re wondering, I’d gotten a Sausage McMuffin meal for breakfast, and on the way out of the drive-thru heard a crack, but continued on to work and parked. When I got back to the car, the front tyre was as flat as the tack that could have done the same damage.)

This time its meant essentially missing out on a day’s work, and I didn’t even get breakfast for it. I’d gotten my first ride for the day, and it was to take the passenger to McDonalds. Though I didn’t ask and only really half saw what he was wearing, I remembered the smell well enough from my own Olympic-level McDonalds career to know that this guy was going to work. Not (much) of a problem, given that after he got out of the car and I was out of his sight, I stopped to turn up the air freshener and spray some deodorant where he’d been sitting. After working my way back to the main road, I started to hear a sort of hum that I hadn’t heard in the car before, and I couldn’t work out where it was coming from.

I kept driving, noting that the hum got louder and softer, pitching higher and lower as I sped up and slowed down. I was almost literally scratching my head at what it could be. The gearbox was set to D-drive. I didn’t have the hand brake on at all. I checked that all the windows were up properly. I checked to see if the seatbelt the guy had just used was caught in the door and was being caught in the wind of the car. I couldn’t work it out, and the only theory I had – which turned out to not be too far off the mark – was that with the increased amount of roadkill I’d been seeing around lately, that something had gotten caught on a tyre and was causing the hum.

Regardless of what was causing it, I wasn’t noticing any issues with driving so let it go and continued on, particularly when I got a new pickup request. I put the sound to the back of my mind and headed to the pickup point. I pulled up, and within a few moments the passengers came out with a roller suitcase. Bingo, a trip to the airport! It wasn’t guaranteed, but given how close we were to a train station, if it wasn’t going to be to the airport then it was still likely a decent length trip. It turned out I was right, as once I started the trip the destination was confirmed as the domestic terminal of the airport. The luggage was loaded, the passengers got in, and off we went.

We got as far as the end of the street. At that point, while waiting for traffic to clear, a pedestrian crossing the street helpfully pointed out the flat tyre to me. I found somewhere to pullover, told the passengers they’d need to get a new ride because of the flat tyre, and that if there was going to be a fee for the “ride” I’d given them I’d arrange for it to be refunded. So after they were on their way, I had the NRMA come out, and tweeted this:

Thankfully the NRMA were prompt to arrive and help me out with the flat. Unfortunately, the spare was only a temporary fix, rated to only work up to 80kph, and a total distance of 160km. While that would probably be okay, it could cause issues depending on where any rides might take me, and with no spare tyre up my sleeve, even by avoiding McDonalds car parks I would be flying closer to the sun than would be ideal.

So folks, if you’re out there on the road, and feeling hungry and decide to go to a McDonalds, be careful and make sure you have a spare tyre and its ready to go. If you do decide to risk a McDonalds car park – or that of Hungry Jacks, Oporto or any other fast food place – are stuck waiting for someone to come help you out with a flat tyre or other vehicular issue, or you’re just in your car (parked!) and need a flat surface for something, then this steering wheel tray may just cone in handy.