Rant: Cars, Gas and Ice(and stupid VDOT people)

Today was not a good day. I woke up this morning and promptly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make it out of our driveway, so I called work letting them know I’d be late. Note to self: Next time they predict ice, don’t park in the driveway.

So, by mid-day it was no longer icing, just raining, and the driveway was beginning to look navigable, so I decide it’s time to head in to work. Time to grab the scraper and de-ice the car.  Not too difficult, but still a pain in the ass in the rain. As I’m getting close to work, and about to merge onto the beltway, sputter, sputter. Crap, I’m out of gas. Or at least, so I think. I knew I was low on gas, but the needle was not completely pegged yet, and the drive computer said I still have 3 miles left, and I’ve taken that one down to 0 before. Multiple times. But I’m willing to concede that maybe the gauge got stuck and misreading, so hopefully I’m just out of gas. Of course, I didn’t make it over to the shoulder, so I figure I better get the car at least pushhed onto the shoulder(I was still on the on ramp part where there’s a divider between the Beltway and the ramp). In the cold rain, that REALLY sucked. And yes, I had to do it by myself.

But yet, it would appear to be my lucky day. Within about 5 minutes, one of those VDOT highway patrol/emergency assistance vehicles drives by and pulls over. I tell the guy I think I’m out of gas. No problem, he’s got a gas can in his truck, and pours(according to him) about half a gallon in the tank. That should be enough, since all I had to to was get to the next gas station, which was only about a quarter mile away. Nope, car still won’t start. I guess it’s not out of gas, confirming what my gauge was telling me. Time to call AAA.

They show up about 2 hours later, which was just lovely, seeing as I couldn’t run the heat while I was waiting for him. I explain that my car just stalled, can’t get it restarted, it’s not a battery problem, and Mr. VDOT already put gas in it, so that’s not it either. Time for a tow. I wanted to get it towed to the service station by my house, since they do good work and don’t try to rip you off. We have the cheap AAA plan, where you only get 3 miles free towing and they charge after that, so I’m told it would cost me about $16 bucks, which was fine with me, as I’d rather pay that than wind up with a disreputable mechanic that’s going to tell me something is broken when it isn’t. I could have had it towed to the service station near my office, but didn’t cause I’ve never taken my car there. I don’t know them, therefore I don’t trust them.

Anyways, finally drop the car off at the service station and head over to “Sign of the Whale”, since while home is within walking distance, it was not something I was looking forward to in this weather.  I was already wet and miserable. About half an hour later, Shannon shows up to give me ride home, when I get the call from the service station. Diagnosis: “You were out of gas!”

Apparently Mr. VDOT poured his “half gallon” from what must have been an empty bottle, cause they said there was 0 gas in the tank. All he poured was hot air. Dumbass!! He not only cost me half a day, but made me look like a moron in front of the mechanics too. Not to mention the waiting in the cold part.

The damage was $90 for diagnostics and gas. They checked the fuel pump, fuel filters, spark plugs, spark plug wiring, it all checked out fine. Of course these diagnostics would not have been neccessary if Mr. VDOT hadn’t already “poured gas” in there.I’m glad I spent the $16 for towing though, as based on what happened, some other station could easily have told me I have a broken fuel pump and charged me an arm and a leg replacing something that wasn’t broken.

BTW: Helpful samaritans besides VDOT and AAA? One. And I’m pretty sure she only stopped because I hadn’t pushed my car off the road yet.

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~ by chriggy on January 28, 2009.

4 Responses to “Rant: Cars, Gas and Ice(and stupid VDOT people)”

  1. I know we’ve probably had an anti-AAA conversation before, but I don’t have AAA, and get FREE towing all the way to Carolyn’s uncle’s service station in Tacoma Park, MD. My insurance runs under $700 a year, more like $600ish. It’s part of most insurance plans. Two hours is the longest I’ve ever had to wait, I pay nothing extra outside of my insurance (which is higher because I pay extra for a $60 deductable instead of $500, as well as a an additional glass replacement plan that’s like $12/yr or something.)

    Well, it cost $20 once, because the company didn’t stick to it’s estimate, but I reported/blacklisted them and tell them to make sure now. They drove around the beltway instead of straight through — easier for him to not deal with dc traffic, more expensive for me. I told him not to do it and he did it anyway. The service is called Henry’s Wrecker Service; don’t use them.

    By the way, in fairfax county, it’s illegal to charge more than $40 for ANY DIAGNOSTIC at a gas station. I hope you gave prior approval, because unless you put $60 of gas in your car, or approved some kind of special diagnostics, they screwed you illegally.

    Sounds like a really fucking shitty day. This is why I dislike the people who romanticize snow. At least you have your health. I think I’m getting illness #4 since Halloween.

  2. Is that $700/year just for you or for both of you?

    Do you have any info for the Fairfax county diagnostic law? Does that include labor? And what defines a diagnostic? They actually checked stuff(not the usual, we’ll just plug the computer in and see what the chip says, which takes about 2 minutes to do). Not to mention that they were sent on a wild goose chase due to the fact that gas had already “been added”.

    Maybe I got screwed on the diagnostics, but I’ve never been screwed on repairs there. It’s been the same owner an mechanic(and of course there’s the dog) for as long as I’ve known, so it’s not like you’re dealing with a different person each time.

  3. Just for me, we have separate policies. But we do have multiple policy discount (2 car + house, Farmers). My car accident replacement was pretty smooth compared to most. The adjuster came to my parking garage at work and I got paid to have him assess my damage 🙂 [hey, the accident was work-related! ;)]

    I don’t have the details you ask, but whenever I’ve looked for it at any service station, I’ve always seen it up on the wall. What they did at the one was charge that, plus tax, plus like.. $1 or so. basically, skirting over the edge the minimum without you complaining. This was a shady place in downtown mclean (AVOID downtown stations, they’re used to rich working snobs who’ll pay anything to get back to work sooner) where the guy told me he could do it for $600 himself, $1000 through the station, and Carolyn’s uncle did it for $170.

    But they still had the plaque/sign/notice.

    I’m sure the real law has some specifics in which case who knows what happened. But it’s a good thing to know. Dead car? Tow to a place. You give them $40. They say something. If they suck, go to another place and add them to your personal list. But knowing there is a max makes towing it to a shady place less risky, which I think is the intended effect: a govt regulation to kind of force choice on us whether we want it or not 😀

    If you have a longstanding history, that helps. But it can also be used against you. There was a King Of The Hill about that. Peggy got a better price on a used car than Hank, because Hank had a guy he trusted that he always went to. After enough years, someone may take advantage of that. (Though I think if you’re family, that totally changes it!) Especially during tough economic times.

    (I’m basically expecting everyone to be more desperate and more likely to screw me during these times.)

    The worst part of your story is DEFINITELY the goose chase thing tho! I mean… They didn’t find a GAS LEAK, so obviously none was poured in.

    That’s really odd. You could probably call VDOT and do that. Apparently you gotta take numbers even when people are helping you. (that’s the cynicism kickin’ in!)

  4. The detail may be, for example, that $40 is the max if you don’t approve something in writing.

    I called a guy on it. I wanted the diagnostic so I could know what it is, then get it towed to Tacoma Park. He fixed it without telling me. I don’t remember details, so I’ll make them up approximately: It was $200, and I could hvae done it for $120.

    I called him on it, and he said fine — just take the car and don’t pay at all.

    I considered it, but he DID fix it, so I ended up paying him, and just internally blacklisted him. But I’d possibly go back if I knew what I was getting into, it wasn’t really so deliberate. And he raised the car up again and showed me what he fixed.

    I think it was an exhaust leak or something. I don’t know. Some whole piece fell off or something. I forgot about that. Hmm.

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