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…

Product review: Bestrix Universal CD Slot Car Mount Phone Holder

A first for me: I will attempt to do a product review of something I bought from Amazon to help me with my Uber-ing career, and maybe in doing so help out other drivers.

I’ve been driving a while now. As part of that, obviously I needed to have a holder for my phone; a lot of people including law enforcement tend to frown on either holding the phone while you drive or having it in your lap, and for good reason too. Unfortunately the holder I was using – a magnetic one – failed on me a little while ago, during a ride in fact. The magnet was fine, but the glue that held it to the back of the phone couldn’t hold against the magnet. After it worked so well previously, I got a replacement magnet for the same system. Initially it was OK, but I suspect the residual glue left behind from the old magnet stopped the new magnet from sticking properly, and so the pull from the auxiliary cable used was enough to pull the phone off the magnet.

So I went shopping. I thought I’d found the replacement made by the same company: another vent-mounted holder that held the phone around its waist rather than via a magnet on its back. Unfortunately the rubber grip was not quite grippy enough to hold the phone permanently. It was good enough as a temporary measure, especially using the volume know for the radio as a rest for the bottom of the phone, but it I knew it was going to annoy the ever-living you-know-what out of me to always be adjusting it to make sure it didn’t fall out. So I went shopping again.

(I’m purposefully not naming the mounts that didn’t work or the company that makes them. The first one did the job it was supposed to for a long time, and if I’d not needed a quick fix I probably wouldn’t have got the second one in the first place. The company makes good stuff, and I’m actually using some of it to put this post up. Though it caused me some grief, I’m not going to name and shame them. At least, not this time.)

I went looking on Amazon for car phone mounts. Because of the issues I’d had, I wanted to avoid a magnetic mount or one that otherwise stuck to the back of the phone. I wanted a cradle, and not just around the sides of the phone but along the bottom. With my car, a mount attached to the windshield won’t work because the phone would be too far away from the audio connection and cigarette lighter port to charge the phone. Also, it would be too far away from my hands to be able to actually use, let alone be plugged into anything. I knew from previous attempts that trying to mount anything to the dash itself would be problematic. The only things I’d seen that would work would be a mount attaching to one of the vents, which is what I’d been using up until then.

Bestrix Phone Holder in situ
The Bestrix Universal CD Slot Car Mount Phone Holder holding my phone in my car, with both an aux and a lightning cable attached

Which is when I saw this: the Bestrix Universal CD Slot Car Mount Holder. I know I don’t use the CD player in my car and I suspect that there aren’t too many others out there that do either, so using that slot in the dash for something else is not a problem. It’s basically a somewhat semi-circular base that sticks out from the CD slot, with an elbow-like tube that sticks up and out (or down and out depending on the orientation) to where the cradle itself is mounted. The cradle is mounted on a ball joint, so the phone can be rotated through 360° and the angle of display can be adjusted as needed. It hooks into the CD slot via three flat prongs, the middle of which is at the end of a switch to push it down (or up) to hold the whole thing in place. In case you can’t tell from my optional explanations in parentheses, this can be mounted facing either “up” or “down”, with the phone either above or below the base.

The cradle itself holds the phone on both sides and at the bottom. (This assumes you’re using the phone in its portrait orientation, otherwise it would be top, bottom and either left or right as is your preference.) The bottom claw can be adjusted up or down from the rest of the cradle, and stays in place until the bottom button behind the cradle is held down. You squeeze the side claws in towards the phone when its in the cradle, ensuring it stays securely mounted until you press and hold the release button at the top of the backside of the cradle. If you’re used to a magnetic holder, changing to this will be just the tiniest bit frustrating to get used to, because you won’t be able to instantly attach or detach the phone from the mount. However the flip side of that means that the phone won’t move around or slip out of its place accidentally – in my mind, its well worth the trade off, especially when this one becomes what I’m used to.

I can’t speak for other models of phones, but my iPhone 6s fits nicely even with cables plugged into both the lightning and aux ports. The two prongs for the bottom claw sit either side of the lighting cable, with a little bit of clearance either side to limit the ability of the phone to wiggle even if you have the side claws loose. If for some reason you want to switch from portrait to landscape mode, the screw holding the ball joint can be tightened to just the right amount to allow you to spin the phone around to the new orientation, but manage to hold it still once its been repositioned. And as a special note to Uber drivers: the base of the mount and the positioning of the phone can help to stop front seat passengers from fiddling with your radio without asking because it will probably block the display and controls.

Installation is a breeze. The only issue I had was attaching the cradle to the plate it sits on, and even that was a minor one where I was concerned I was going to break something trying to snap it into place. To be fair, its the sort of fear I tend to get most of the time when I’m assembling things. It came with instructions in the box, and a guide was emailed to me within a day of ordering it from Amazon. (I didn’t use them myself, but I assume they would’ve been helpful if needed.) It comes with three pads of varying thicknesses that are able to be attached to the middle prong used to hold the mount in the CD slot. I didn’t need to use mine, but if I had a wider opening for the CD player I might’ve needed to attach one of them to keep it in place.

If you’re looking to replace an existing mount, or need to install one for your car – and have a CD slot that’s not being used – then this mount is a great choice. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, installs easily and does the job exactly as its supposed to.

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Disclaimer: This isn’t a paid review, I bought the mount with my own money, with the only benefit of doing so being the tax deduction of any business purchase. That being said, if you follow any of the links to Amazon on this page and make a purchase while on the site, I’ll get a small percentage of the sale. It won’t cost you anything extra, and you can purchase anything you like from the site; it doesn’t have to be the mount I’m reviewing, or any other mount, just follow a link, search for anything your wanting to get and buy it the same way you would any other time on Amazon. Making Amazon purchases through one of these links is a great way of supporting the blog without having to donate, subscribe or otherwise pay extra money, and helps to ensure I’ve got time to write these posts. Thank you for your support, and if you’re in Sydney, I might just see you on the road!