Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Car Saga

It all started when, leaving Kansas City for Tulsa, I decided that, since I still had 1/2 a tank of gas, I would wait to fill up until after I left the traffic of Kansas City. By the time I needed to fill up, I would be ready for a bathroom and stretch break anyway. So off I went, car packed, heart light, ready to spend time with the family for the weekend. No car problems at all,

Fast-forward about 1.5 hours later, Lamar, Missouri. I stop at McDonalds to go to the bathroom and get a drink. I then stop at Sinclair's to get gas. As I normally do, I got the lowest grade, least expensive gas, then went on my merry way. Or so I thought. As soon as I tried to get up to speed on the highway, my car, it just wouldn't go faster. It sputtered along at about, oh, 20 miles an hour for a few minutes and just when I had decided to pull off on the shoulder and drive with my blinkers on, it picked up speed. Only being able to go 20 or so mph when people around you are zooming at 75+ is a scary feeling. The car leveled off at about 55 mph for another 5 miles or so,  and if I tried to push it over 3000 RPM, it actually would slow down. So I am thinking, "Great, my transmission is gone". Finally, is gets up to 70 mph about the time I reach the next exit.

I pull off the exit. I call Pepin, he listens to my story, has me check the oil and transmission fluids (both fine) and provides general support. I then call my parents and tell them the same story. In the meantime I have (1) restarted my car and discovered it was driving a little better than at first and (2) remembered that the gas I put in it was 85 octane with high percentage of ethanol. I typically get 87 octane when I get gas.

The next question was - what do I do. I was, of course, almost exactly 1/2 between my Mom's house and home. So I decide to head on down towards Joplin and thus towards Tulsa, in hopes of getting someone there to look at it. My mom had given me the number to a Nissan Dealership there (my car is a 1999 Nissan Altima). I called and talked to a very helpful service lady. Her diagnosis was bad gas and that as long as my check engine light didn't come on and start blinking, I would be fine. Oh, and she told me they would close before I got there. So I decided to just continue on to Tulsa, as by this time I had discovered that after I had been driving awhile, the car was ok. Though, it was still grumpy over 3000 RPM. I got to Tulsa no problem.

Next morning, we took it to the Nissan dealer in Tulsa/. It being the day before Thanksgiving, they were swamped with people coming in for last minute things before traveling. The service manager, however, took time to look it over and came to the same conclusion - bad gas. I still had 1/2 tank of gas, and he suggested that I run it down to almost empty before putting new gas in. I drove the call all day on Thursday. It had many of the same issues - stuttering and lurching when first getting going, but driving fine once it warmed up and got going.

Friday morning, I was driving out to have breakfast with my Dad and Step-mom and the check engine light came on, though it wasn't flashing. Well GREAT! I still think it is probably bad gas, but I would feel like such a dum-dum if I didn't get it look at and then it broke down on the way home. So back to the dealership. Now at this point, I know some of you are going to be wonder why the Dealership? Well, it's where my Mom and Step-day always take their cars, so they don't have a different mechanic. My Dad, being from Dallas, doesn't really know a good mechanic in Tulsa either. So I take it in and they say the will work it around all the appointments they have.

Finally about 3:30 in the afternoon, I get the dreaded call. They think it MIGHT be the mass air flow sensor. They think it MIGHT fix the problem. They want me to give them $750. Oh, and most likely it won't be done until Monday. After phone calls and discussions with parents and boyfriend, I decide I am not paying that kind of money for this car and for something that might not even fix the problem. I was going to chance making it home. Pepin was all set to rescue me if needed, as was my Mom. So we go pick up my car and I give the dealership $105 for a new fuel filter and the diagnostic.

Next morning, I head off. The car is still acting up. I go get gas. My car runs as if nothing was ever wrong with it.



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