The Diesel Car Repair Debacle in Greenfield, MA

DIESEL CAR REPAIR IN THE PIONEER VALLEY (SPECIFICALLY GREENFIELD, MA) AND A NEAR ESCAPE FROM A $2800 TURN OF THE WRIST

Update: In writing this, the whole scenario began to seem less like an innocent mistake — I’m not saying it was purposeful, just that I am more alarmed because, were it me, I’d have dashed off a huge apology right away, at the very least, and probably refunded the $100 fee for the FREE consultation and quote — and so I finally decided to do what I’d not wanted to do; I wrote an honest review on Yelp. I was then told by a reader that business owners can pay for a “cleansing” of their Yelp reviews. Should that happen, the name of the business, the URL, and the address will be added to this post. That’s just not right. And I cannot find anything on yelp.com about this “option”. 

 

 

My car is 12 years old. It has like 150k miles on it. It will easily make it to 600k or more miles; diesel engines last forever and that’s why I bought it. The body is another story though, and it is expensive, and that’s why I have done the body work myself. If you have a disk sander you too can do your body work. If you catch it in time it is easy. If you let the rust build up… well, now you are a sculptor and you need to learn to use Bondo. And get a double-barrel respirator.

Anyway, it was time to get it checked for a clutch anyway but then I noticed a spot in the middle of my parking spot. I had also noticed my mileage was way down. The usual 50mpg seemed halved. or, i was getting siphoned, though I doubted that bc we have a gate on the alley where we park.

Friends had heard a radio ad for a place in Greenfield that specializes in this exact type of diesel so I started googling but came up empty-handed.  I asked around. Finally a friend said she knew of a guy who had something to do with diesels and, as he had his business in Greenfield, he might know the place for which I’d been searching. So I called, and after a funny exchange in which I became easily confused, I realized this was that place, and so I exclaimed, “OMG! YOU’RE that guy!”. I was so excited — it felt like my pal Fate had stepped in!

I arranged to go up at noon the next week and coordinate that with a friend in Greenfield I’d not seen in ages. “Great! I can drop it off and have Petunia meet me there, and you can look at it while we go for lunch!”

He insisted the entire engine scan and diagnosis would take no more than 15 minutes so we could wait and then go on to lunch, he is that fast, and that “Yes, there is no charge for the consultation and estimate.”

So, Petunia and I arrived and while we all chatted, he opened the hood, plugged in a laptop, and within minutes — less than the estimated 15 for sure — he had a diagnosis; “See this puddling around the Fuel Injection Cap? (I *think* he said cap, though I have been calling it a “Fuel Injection Thingie* all along), It’s cracked. I will have to replace it. It will be $2800: $1000 for the part and $1800 for the labor”, and “yes”, was positive.

I almost fainted. I knew I was nearly due for a new clutch, first gear was acting jiggy so I had to baby it. I’ve never owned an automatic — though, this is only the 4th car I have ever owned. I keep my car forever and take great care of them. In fact, I bought this to be the last car I would ever buy. And I knew that the clutch would be really expensive.

I tend to eat bulk seeds for the protein, corn tortillas with beans and cheese, yogurt, and scant few fresh fruits and vegetables because I have to eat within my budget. Organic fruits and vegetables are a splurge. Only when I have a dinner party do I buy fish or chicken and all the fixings, and they are always potluck — like many of us, there is no other way I can entertain. I economize however I can and I get all needed clothing from the free pile (most art buildings have free piles) or thrift stores. You really can find cool shoes at thrift stores, and furniture too; though I like the stuff I find discarded and fix up myself.

I’d also been driving 8 years with no air conditioning due to lack of budget, though I am of the pathetic physiology that wilts, faints even, in heat and humidity. In years past I’d often borrowed cars from friends for fancy events during heat waves so as to not arrive nauseous and drenched. The quotes I’d gotten for the AC fix were all in the $1200 range. And my medical co-pays for the degenerative spinal disorder were adding up faster than I could pay them, and I have appointments a lot.

He advised that I not drive it as it was leaking fuel so I left the car at his shop and said I would call when I figured out how to get the cash, as credit cards are not accepted at this place. There is no cash discount either, BTW, which I found odd as so many other places do offer a cash discount, especially if you pay up front. I find cash is generally negotiable in these parts. So, I planned to get the cash somehow and then write a check because while I tend to be overly-trusting, cash freaks me out. I said I would call when I was sure. It is one thing to put a charge onto a card, but taking a cash advance is a whole different story, often (in the case of my credit card’s terms) with interest rates at 19.99%. I was a wreck.

As he was the acquaintance (albeit not seen for decades) of a friend, I not only trusted him but forced, absolutely FORCED, a deposit on him. I had taken all the cash I could get my hands on, $150, and pressed it on him as both deposit and show of good faith.

Petunia and I went o grab a bite and she generously drove me home, which was a rather long drive.

But then.. friends stepped in — as I told various friends about this quote they all had the same reaction… they were all very suspicious. Every one of them suggested I get a second opinion and most were certain that I could actually drive the car in the meantime. I’d not been leaving a trail of fuel, it had just puddled once in my driveway, and that after sitting for a few days. One knew him from when he worked for Justin (with whom he said he is no longer in contact) in The Arts and Industry Building in Florence, MA where I used to have a studio; — Justin is THE guy who invented the Grease Car, i.e., cars running on Vegetable Oil — doing conversions from diesel to vegetable oil, in what is now evidently called, “Renewable-fuels transportation”,  and he smirked, saying,  “I would definitely get another quote.”

One pal, Mr. Sir, suggested I call his son who is a student at an area Technical Institute and also suggested the quote (which I’d received via email and forwarded to him) seemed “off”. The advice was 100% in favor of getting a second opinion, including one from a retired mechanic.

So I called the Diesel Repair Place in Greenfield and told the guy I had no choice but to have my car towed to the Tech Institute because it was that or starve. He let out a long “OOOoooof”. I apologized, I explained I had thus far come up empty-handed and had no way to get the money. He said he understood, that he too was struggling, that though the business pulled in 100-something k annually in gross income, what was left for him was under the poverty level, that he had no health insurance, mortgage woes (I rent, BTW, and will for life). I apologized more, explained more that I could not manufacture money. It was a very uncomfortable conversation and I felt I should not have had to endure it, to be honest.

I called back, as arranged, with the exact date and time AAA would come to tow the car. As he made no mention of the deposit I finally had to ask for it. He said well, he had done the scan and had to work up the invoice (the one he’d practically bragged about doing in less than 15 minutes). I countered with the fact that it had been done while I waited and he said well, he had taken some time to put the data into the template and print it, to which I replied that it had come via email. Finally I said, “Look, I was under the impression that this was a free consultation. If you could find it in your heart to return it, even a portion of it, I would be grateful. I know my car has been sitting on your lot for days on end but then, you do have the space and it could only help to make your shop look busy, right?”

When I went to wait with the car while AAA came I found 50$ in the center console. he had collected $100 for the free consultation and for my car being in his lot — his big, mostly empty, lot.

To make a long story short — the Fuel Injection Thingie was NOT cracked; it was merely a loose bolt, and it had taken the kid 5 minutes to ascertain as much. In one twist, he saved me $2800.

For another $1200 the kid also replaced the engine mount clips (which are evidently important and which the Greenfield due had missed), fixed the AC, replaced the clutch (well, i put the clutch itself on my credit card, as we went clutch shopping together), cleaned out the air intake valve, replaced the timing belt, and replaced or fixed the brake sensors.

I emailed the diesel repair guy in Greenfield and told him how it had merely been a lose bolt and heard nothing in return. Months later I emailed him again, telling him I felt torn about writing an honest review of my experience on Yelp so as to not wonder if others would have a similar experience, and wondered if he had anything to say or even had any feelings about the whole thing, asking him what would he have done had he noticed the loose bolt, or if he’d not have noticed and just replaced it anyway for $2800. I said I felt especially upset at having paid $100 for a free estimate while nearly being wiped out financially in the process, and felt I was entitled to it’s return. His reply? He was being evicted and would get back to me as soon as he settled in anew place. That was months ago. Google tells me is still High and dry in Greenfield, MA.

SUMMARY: Go to a tech school. Or at least always get a second opinion. And beware places that don’t accept credit cards (Do they really take something like 20%, as I was told?).

And if you live in the Greenfield, Ma or Pioneer Valley area and drive a diesel, email me and I will tell you where to go, or not.

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3 Responses to “The Diesel Car Repair Debacle in Greenfield, MA”

  1. So what was the name of the place that gave you the run around? Where did you end up getting yours fixed? I have a diesel truck in need of major repair. I live in Greenfield and am looking for a reputable local shop or option to the dealership. Thanks.

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