So long, and thanks for all the headaches

mr2In 2000 I bought an MR2 Spyder.  I’ve written about it so frequently because it is probably the most reliable car I’ve owned.  Especially when you consider that I drove it to work, 100 miles every day, and auto crossed on the weekends for over 130,000 miles.  The only thing that ever broke on that car was the plastic thing that holds the hood prop when it is closed.  I literally raced that little economy engine every weekend, at red line.  I changed the oil and tires at almost the same rate, modified the holy hell out of the suspension, and that little bastard kept ticking with it’s little 138 hp smile.

370ZFrequent readers know that I’ve owned two Nissan Z’s.  Neither of them ever even saw a race track, auto cross, Dragon trip, or drag strip.  Not even once.  My first, the 350 Z was an 05 that ate through a clutch master cylinder ($350), front and rear rotors (before the 50k mark) ($400), a power window motor ($400), a rear-hatch strut ($80), and other various items.  I was stuck on the side of the road with a broken 350Z a total of two times.  After about 5 years of not learning my lesson, I picked up an 09 370Z which is my current (soon to be last) Nissan.

I purchased the second Z in 2011 with less than 20k on the clock, and by the end of 2012 I had already replaced the clutch master cylinder, the clutch, a bunch of transmission seals, and all of the transmission oil because of its decision to explode and hemorrhage fluid all over everything.  This occurred somewhere in the 30-40k range, and manifested during my drive into work cruising down I-4 in regular traffic.  Again, stranding me road-side waiting on a tow truck.  nissan-350zIn 2013 came the brake/rotor replacement that we’ve all come to expect from Z’s at about the 40,000 mark (all four rotors!).  And later this year I was again blessed with another road-side, phone-a-friend, couldn’t-happen-at-a-worse-time incident when the security system fouled up while I was visiting my parents 150 miles away from home which cost me another $1600 plus a rental car, and two days of my time.  Fast forward to this weekend (it’s like a gift, every year!) and ye hath received the holy trinity of Nissan Z-bullshit.  As we were headed to dinner, the engine’s revs dropped dramatically and the engine moaned bloody murder as the fan belt drive on the AC compressor started its painful and audible slow death.  My first reaction was to shut off the AC, which managed to get us to and from dinner and me to work the next day.  But, as the serpentine belt’s screeching became more frequent, I knew it was time for another visit to the trusty dealership.  I barely made it into the service garage with the 3.7 liter brz13-side9engine fighting with all its breath to overcome the inevitable full seizure of the accessory belt.  After which, I was immediately thanked with a $1700 bill.

So far, this “reasonably priced sports car” has left me stranded, road-side, 3 times and cost me almost $6000 in repairs to systems that should not wear out on a car with less than 85k on the clock.

Anyway, if you’re looking for me this weekend, I’ll be test driving Subarus and trying to forget ever owning a Nissan.

Devil vs Chevron

OK, I’ve been getting non-stop text messages for 3 days since I posted this update on my Facebook page.

The verdict is in. watered down fuel. can you name a gas station that has been turned in to the fl dept of agriculture? I can!”

So, here’s the whole story:

Saturday night (Aug 8th) I stopped at a Chevron gas station on my way to the bar to see the MMA fight.  I filled up with 93 octane, and headed down the road.  I made it about 2 miles before the car started fighting me and stalling out.  I was able to get her into the bar’s parking lot (those of you who know me personally know the bar) and into a parking spot far enough away from everything as to not be in the way.

After the fight, it was decided that driving the car home had the high potential of doing more damage than good, so I set the alarm and got a ride home.

nissanBrokenSunday morning, thanks to my friends at the bike shop and the Nissan dealership, Skitch (the car) was towed to the dealership for an early Monday look-0ver.  Assumingly, I could fix the problem myself if I could get them to tell me what codes were being thrown.

First, the techs at Nissan had a difficult time figuring out what was wrong and did a number of tests including pulling spark plugs, fuel injectors, the fuel rail, and coils.

Finally, it occurs to me that I had just filled up the tank before the issues started so I called the dealership back and asked them to grab a fuel sample and check it out.  I still have the bottle sitting in my garage, it’s about 1/3 unknown fluid and 2/3 fuel.

So, where do we go from here?  A quick Google search shows that the Department of Agriculture is responsible for testing fuels.  So I call the 800 number and set up a visit to the station.

By this time (Tuesday), the car is fixed and ready to be picked up.  After getting the car, I get a call from the Dept of Agriculture guy telling me that he is on his way to the station to test the fuel, and to hold on to my sample as it may be the only example of the contaminated fuel.

I got home around 4pm and got online again.  I contacted Chevron’s corporate customer service dept and they sent me the proper forms to fill out, which I do and include a cover letter asking for a refund of the original fuel price plus the repairs.  I also attached copies of the invoice from Nissan.

Later Tuesday evening, the Dept of Agriculture guy calls me back and verifies that the unknown fluid, is in fact, water.  I learned some intersting facts about how this all works which may help you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. The dept of agriculture receives these complaints all the time (very often in this county) and 90% of the time the stations aren’t even aware of it. Generally it is because the tanks’ seals leak over time and standing water works its way into them. The calls go up in frequency in the summer because of the rain. Basically, the guy says to avoid any stations that look like they might have non-updated equipment.
  2. Although it is the responsibility of the equipment owner (the gas station) to keep their tanks and pumps up-to-spec, there is no legal recourse that the state peruses to punish them for selling contaminated fuel. They are required to submit their findings to the station, and the state, and that is all

So, now it’s a waiting game.  Do I think I’ll be reimbersed the ~$650?  So far I have faith, but we’ll see.