For the past few months I had quite the learning experience trying to fix yet another problem on my piece of shit car.
Stemming back to last year there was a noise coming from my front tires. First it was a knocking that grew into a knocking, grinding, groaning mess. It got to the point I was embarrassed to drive the thing, as if driving a Toyota Corolla wasn’t uncool enough.
In December I decided to get it checked out. I didn’t know who I should bring my car to so I did what any Gen-Y, social media savvy person would do: check online. I headed over to Yelp and settled on Tom’s Auto Stop. Tom was nice enough to look over my vehicle and decided that I needed new struts. $800 later I get a call saying the new, expensive parts definitely improved the ride but there was still some noises coming from the car.
He called them phantom noises- I call it getting ripped off $800.
I was left with a sour taste in my mouth after that experience. I know I should of spoken up but this guy has already lost my trust and I let it go, another expensive lesson learned.
A couple of months later I figured I’d get a second opinion from Mr. Tire while I was getting an oil change. They thought it was the brakes and struts and suggested I replace them all (struts, front brakes, rear brakes.) The mechanic claimed that the struts needed to be replaced and the brakes were on their last legs.
Struts must be a popular up-sell because I surely didn’t need new ones after two months. The estimate from Mr. Tire was well over $1000. No way I was going to authorize that kind of work. However I did believe that the brakes needed some replacing- I haven’t had them changed in the four years I’ve had the car.
A week later I ran into Krissy and Mark at Home Depot. They were preparing to renovate their bathroom despite hardly ever lifting a hammer before.
“Mark’s been watching YouTube videos for a month,” is what she told me when I asked her if they knew what they were doing and with that a light bulb lit up in my mind.
Information has never been more available: tutorials on YouTube, dedicated TV networks, and popular blogs & websites like Instructables. It was a very empowering to realize with easily accessible information we are tackling tasks and projects we would normally shy away from. Perhaps Gen-Y is also Gen-DIY.
That’s when I decided I was going to fix my own car.
I went online and found some great websites like AutoMD where I could start diagnosing what could be going on with the Corolla. What’s really great about the site is it produces a list of possible ailments and shows you how to inspect your car to confirm the problem. Just like Mark I started watching YouTube videos and reading how-to guides online.
One Sunday morning I woke up early, parked my car in front of my house and got to work. I learned some new skills like jacking up your car, removing lug nuts, and changing brake pads. My roommate Caroline came outside and thought I was mad when she saw me with parts and tools all over the front lawn and my car up on jack stands.
I don’t think I felt as accomplished as I did that summer morning. I developed a new understanding about my car and I felt a sense of pride that I did something myself, saving a couple of bucks in the process.
The new brakes fixed the sounds but not entirely. I took my Corolla to another mechanic, but with more knowledge of my problem I was ready to defend myself from another up-sell attempt. He figured out that it was the axle alignment, which was a simple fix. Luckily this garage was actually honest, the axle was on my list of possible problems.
While I’m happy to end another turbulent chapter with my car, I am kind of glad I went through the entire ordeal and I think I grew a little from it.
Maybe now I’ll learn how to change the oil.