Caveat emptor

Earlier this year, I purchased a 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge with around 32,000 miles on it.

I was looking at cars, but thinking like a Mini Cooper or even a Ford Mustang (something to satisfy my inner teen). A Fiat wasn’t even in the running, but my wife spotted a little green metalic one on a lot we were going to walk right past after going to International Mini and being completely ignored. Snooty Bastards. What? We didn’t wear cashmire or designer label clothes?

We walked over to look at it. It was small and cute. I really only need a fuel-efficient car for commuting to work. The salesman came out, showed it to us, and let us take it for a drive. No pressure. The car literally sold itself.

I was very pleased and wrote a good review on their Facebook page (and read a lot of complaints).

Well, I took Gina in for her first oil change (I thought the Fiat had an idiot light like our Chevy that would tell us when to service it, but I guess not). I also had them do a 30k or 40k checkup and asked them to see if they could figure out this weird hesitation the car has on really cold mornings.

I turn the key and nothing happens for two or three seconds — as if the entire electrical system is dead — then it’s like the car goes, “Oh! You wanted me to start?” and then it fires up.

I left it there, went home, and then got a call back. “When was this serviced last?”

I assumed at the dealership before they sold it. Isn’t that what reputable dealers do: a multi-point inspection to make sure the car is roadworthy before they put it out for sale?

“We found a few issues. A bracket [I don’t recall which one he said, see first picture] is just hanging loose. No one attached it back after whatever work was done. Also, the cover to the timing chain is on wrong. It wasn’t bolted on correctly. And lastly, when we took off the bottom engine guard to drain the oil, a heavy piece of angled iron fell out (see second picture). Did you ever hear any rattling?”

No. I never heard any rattling.

“We ran the diagnostics but haven’t figured out the starting issue. We’ll keep looking, but your PCV valve is bad. We ordered a new one and it’ll get here tomorrow.”

Here is that unattached bracket:

And here is that chunk of metal:

So my $20 oil change turned into a $500 nightmare.

I’m angry and completely disenchanted with mankind (as if TheRump’s election hadn’t already put me over that edge).

How the flock can a dealership, even one that isn’t actually a dealership (they don’t service cars or back what they sell with maintenance plans, there primary business is business leasing of vehicles and selling those leased vehicles after they are turned in, as well as an occasional trade-in). I knew from the start that once I drove it off the lot I was on my own. (But I figured, what kind of problems could I have with a 4-year-old car that averaged only 7,500 miles per year? Especially since we were unloading a car that when we bought it was 6 years old and had averaged 16,000+ miles per year.)

I at least expected the car to be in running shape! That they’d at least do a thorough once over to make sure everything was mechanically sound, at the very least give it an oil change.

But it doesn’t appear they even did that much. Or if they did, the mechanic then put the iron piece back in the engine guard when he was done!

The mind boggles! And I’m composing a very strongly worded letter of disappointment, with the pictures my mechanic texted me, along with the invoice to fix those issues, to the owner of the business.

I’m debating if I should attach the letter to the iron piece and throw it through their window.

I got Gina back and she seems to drive much better. It might be my imagination, or it could be that she desperately needed an oil change. Or the new PCV valve makes that much of a difference. (They did change spark plugs and air filters, as well.)

Maybe those incorrectly attached brace and cover were important. Or possibly that iron piece was weighing her down.

As a sidenote: My Fiat 500’s rear headrests were missing when I purchased it. I was looking to buy some to replacements. When my wife was looking to replace her car, we stopped at a Fiat dealership to test drive a Fiat 500X.

I asked the salesman about buying replacement headrests for my car.

“What happened to yours?”

It didn’t have any when I bought it.

He looked aghast. “Those are considered safety equipment. They aren’t just headrests, but are head restraints. You can’t legally sell a car in Wisconsin without head restraints. I’d go back and tell them that.”

Well, I emailed them instead. I said since they are required safety equipment that they should provide them for me. The salesman emailed me back. He’d check with the previous owner and he’d email me back. Basically, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” And I kept meaning to follow up, but haven’t yet. I’ll add that issue to my letter of complaint.

What ever happened to good, reliable customer service?



Freya’s Day

Welcome to another action-packed Friday blog! Let’s get started, shall we?

June Challenge Day 16

I’m still running a mile every day and still doing it in the morning. I know, right? Me, getting up early and running fifteen days in a row? Inconceivable!

I’m not sure what gains I’ve made. I do feel more erect when I walk, so it must be benefiting my core, which is good because I sit at a desk all day at work slouching.

And my legs feel more muscly, less flabby. And as I mentioned before, I feel more sure-footed carrying my elderly, 70-pound dalmatian upstairs at night.

Cardiovasularly, it’s hard to tell if I’m making strides (strides… Running… Ha!). If I push myself to a pace of over 6.7 mph, I tend to start gasping and I’m not sure if that’s helping or hurting my progress. 

I’ve always heard that you should be able to carry on a conversation. Well, that’s only going to happen if I jog at a slow pace, not run, and what’s the fun in that? Besides, I run solo; who am I going to talk to? The television?

Photographic Proof of Bigfoot?

I think I should have taken some semi-naked photos of myself before I started the June Challenge so I could compare and see if I’ve had any visible physical changes. I really regret not taking any “Before” pictures a year and a half ago so I could see how far I’ve come. (I imagine they would resemble a hairless version of the infamous Bigfoot picture.)

Oh. OK. Nevermind. Now that I see him, Bigfoot looks in better shape.

The photos would be helpful because now I look in the mirror and I don’t see much change, but considering I’ve dropped 30 pounds, there must be a change. Photographic evidence woukd have been nice to verify it.

The tape measure, after all, only shows minimal changes in size and that always depresses me. How is it possible that I’m now down to a 34 inch waist in my pants but the tape measure still shows it is 38 inches?!?

Weigh-In Friday

I’m down a pound from last week. I’m at 201.8. I’m still above my lowest weight of 198.6 from back on May 12th.

However, looking back, in the last month I’ve dropped -3.4% in average body fat and gained +2.3% muscle mass. 

So why can’t I lose the weight? Because I love junk food, that’s why. I love salty snacks, especially cheddar and sour cream potato chips. Don’t leave that bag near me or it is gone. Put a few in a bowl and I’ll be fine. Wait. It’s empty already. Just one more bowl.

And last night, I baked the Bigfoot-sized bag of frozen Jeno’s Pizza Rolls for dinner. Sorry, not sorry. Had a craving. Usually I’m good with portion control for dinner, but last night I went a little overboard stuffing those delicious little pizza-filled wonton-like things in my mouth. It was like the old Alka-Seltzer commercial:

On Becoming an Auto Geek

I’ve never really been a car guy. By that, I mean, a guy who fusses around his cars, spending entire weekends in the garage massaging and oiling and pampering them.

Sure, I like cars. One day, I’d love to get a classic muscle car and attempt to restore it, except we haven’t the garage space for that and to me, a header is the thing at the top of a document.

The closest I came was my 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z. I did change its oil. And I hand washed it. Applied polish. But to be honest, I never understood the process. 

Did you know that polishes and waxes are two totally different things? I didn’t. I learned washing from my dad, who also wasn’t a car guy. You got a bucket of hot, soapy water (dish soap, why spend money on car wash soap?). Then you’d dry it with old beach towels. Then lather on some Turtle Wax. Voila. Done.

And after the Daytona, I kind of lost interest in band washing, mostly for two reasons, 1) We were living in an apartment without access to an exterior hose, so automatic car washes became a habit, and 2) None of our cars really had a very impressive looking paint job.

And up until recently, my philosophy on car washes had devolved to, “If the rain can’t get it clean, it ain’t getting clean.”

That changed when I got the Fiat. Part of the reason I was attracted to it was the paint job, olive green metal flake that sparkles in the sun.

So I’ve been researching how to detail a car to preserve and protect that shine. I’ve spent hours on sites like watching videos on car detailing.

Thursday, my order from came. I can’t wait to take my new random orbital polisher and the detailing products to our Vibe and see if I can’t make her shine again. She’s got a bad case of neglected, oxidized paint. White? I thought she was supposed to be dirty dishwater grey?

Stay tuned.

Making Baseball Great Again

Did anyone watch the Congressional Baseball Game last night? It was very enjoyable, and not because the Democrats destroyed the Republicans 11 to 2. 

No, it was enjoyable because you could sense, despite the athletic competition they were in, that there was a sense of comraderie that probably hasn’t been evident in Congress for a long, long time. 

Sad that it took a shooting to make everyone realize that, despite our political beliefs, we’re all still human beings.

And who knows how long it will last.

The part of the game I found touching was (and I swear there was something in my eye), at the end when the Democrats received the trophy for winning, they called out the manager of the Republican’s team and gave it to him to put in the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana to keep until he recovered from his wounds.

That’s the spirit of cooperation and civility we should all be living

Currently Reading:

The Complete Guide to A Show Room Shine by Mike Phillips


Adventures in ADHD: Learning about cars

One thing about having ADHD (OK, there are dozens of things but I’m trying to focus on one here. Don’t distract me) is that for me, I have this tendency to become hyperinterested in something and for the next few weeks or months I spend all my energy on that interest (and unfortunately, my money as well sometimes).

Until I become burned out and lose interest or a brand new shiny interest shows up.

Past interests have been swords. I wanted to collect them. I read about them. Became an expert on them. Before I knew anything about them I had purchased three wallhangers (swords only good as decoration) and before my interest waned I had acquired two genuine swords and three antique fencing foils.

Silver Age comicbooks. Having grown up in the Silver Age, I still regard this period, into the early Bronze Age, as the greatest period for comic books, specifically Marvel. So I go through periods where I purchase collectable copies of S.A. comics. Usually reader’s, which are the lower grade of comics and the most affordable. 

At one time I was interested in collecting beer steins, and also beer memorabilia, but since I stopped drinking over two years ago, these things are just taking up space and collecting dust. Anyone want a German beer stein that has a naked woman in the bottom that you can only see once you’ve drained the beer and hold it up to a light? 

My latest interest is cars. I’ve never been a car guy. I mean, I grew up during the muscle car era of the ’60s and I still oogle a well-maintained car from that era, but I’ve never had any interest in their mechanics.

Outside of changing the oil on my 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z, the rest of a car’s mechanicals are a mystery to me. As far as I’m concerned when you turn the ignition key, the car starts because of magic.

But now my ADHD has taken a turn toward an interest in cars. Beyond just wanting to change the oil, and wash and wax my vehicles, I want to know what makes them tick, and click, and squeal, and knock and ping.

I want to learn how to work on them and keep them running well. (I’ll simply mention that part of this is because I’m cheap and tired of paying mechanics to do things I should be able to do just as well.)

I’ve been to the library several times and have checked out four books so far on maintenance for beginners. Three out of four of those books were geared toward women and/or written by women. 

I guess the sexist assumption there is women don’t know jack about cars, but men do. Nevertheless, I’m finding them very educational because I probably fit into that level of inexperience. My dad never worked on cars (or my mom). They relied on the corner gas station to keep things running and, I might add, were at the mechanic’s mercy when it came to problems and cost.

I don’t want to be like that any more. Did you know that a car’s internal combustion engine is also called a four-stroke engine because it takes four strokes of the piston  (up and down and up and down) to make the car go? I didn’t. As I said, I thought it was magic. Who knew it involved valves, fuel injectors, combustion chambers, spark plugs, cam shafts and so on? Seriously? Who knew?

I’ll admit, I had a few friends in high school who worked on their cars and I often got roped in to do all the grunt work, but I never understood what they were doing. It was like watching a magician summoning a demon. If you told me it didn’t involve a pact with the devil and blood sacrifices to get that car to run, I wouldn’t have believed you.

How long will this new interest of mine last? Hard to say with ADHD. Could be anywhere from three months to the rest of my life.

All I know is I’m chomping at the bit (shoukd i have used a car analogy?) to change the oil on one of my cars, but they were all recently in for that and I don’t want to just waste oil time and money on something unnecessary. 

In the meantime, I’m actually going to clean the garage, put up shelving, and get everything organized for when I finally do get a chance to work on one of the cars.

The books I’ve read so far (in order of how I read then and coincidently, in order of how I liked them):

  • Clueless About Cars: An easy guide to car maintenance and repair by Lisa Christensen, with Dan Laxer
  • Auto Upkeep: basic car care, maintenance and repair by Michael E. Gray & Linda E. Gray
  • Dare to Repair Your Car! A do-it-herself guide to maintenance, safety, minor fix-its, and talking shop by Julie Sussman & Stephanie Glakas-Tenet
  • The Car Book: Everything you need to know about owning, enjoying and maintaining your car by Steve Rendle

I enjoyed Clueless About Cars and found it to be easy to read and understand. Lisa Christensen is a female auto mechanic. Her experiences made for factual and interesting reading, whereas the women who wrote Dare to Repair are not mechanics and admitted they knew nothing about cars until they started eriting the book. Dare to Repair is a much thicker book, but it’s geared primarily to women who, like me, are complete novices and think cars run by magic. The book is informative but I still think Christensen’s book is much more useful.

The Car Book is last on the list primarily because it was written for a British audience and the differing nomenclature was confusing and I don’t just mean boot and bonnet. Aside from that, by the time I read it, most of its information was just repeating what I had already learned in the previous books. Which is a good thing for me because it means I’m actually learning,  and possibly retaining, this new knowledge.

If you have any suggestions on what car book I should tackle next, I’d be happy to hear it.

Learn something new every day to keep your mind young. Learn a hobby to keep it active.