Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shine On

A warning light! Uh-oh...
  I’ve had my 2013 Chevy Spark for almost a year now and so far it has been a dependable car. It hasn’t broken down and it gets 37 miles per gallon. I do have a couple of quibbles. Even though my Spark is a 4-door sedan, it's so small that I can’t take my chess tournament stuff AND 2 passengers so when I take anyone to one of my youth tournaments I have to travel in my trusty Kia Rio instead of my new Chevy Spark. About four months ago the low tire pressure light started coming on in the middle of my drive to and from work. The light blinks for a minute and then goes steady but turns off after around 10 minutes. The blinking light means a tire has low pressure but when it turns steady after a minute it means the sensor that tells me a tire has low pressure is malfunctioning. I called the dealer and they said to bring the car into the service department when the light is on but by the time I get to work the light has already turned off so after every drive to and from work this blinking light comes on and I am left to wonder if I have a tire going flat or if I have a malfunctioning sensor which it has been so far.

  My other problem with the Chevy Spark isn’t a problem with the car per se but it is a problem nonetheless. Ben’s Tires, the place I've used to get my oil changes, tires, new clutches, and routine maintenance in all my cars over the past 15 years cannot get the oil filter for my car from their usual oil filter supplier. They have to get it directly from the dealer. The first time I went to get the Spark’s oil changed at Ben’s they took the oil out, realized they couldn’t get the filter from their supplier and that the local Chevy dealer was closed on Saturday, and put new oil back in the car while replacing the old filter. They ordered the filter from the dealer and the next week put the new filter on the car with some new oil. Kelcy the owner told me she would always keep one or two of the filters in stock so I could keep getting my oil changed there and I didn't have a problem until this February when I went to get my oil changed on a Saturday only to be told they didn't have a filter and the dealer's parts department was closed but would order some and I could come back next week for my oil change.

  I like and trust Ben’s Tires so I didn't get too upset over them not having the filter in stock but all the same I decided to call ahead the next time I was going to get the Spark’s oil changed. I had to work late a couple of days the next week and found myself leaving work at 12 for a rare afternoon off. On the way home I mentally took stock of the things I could get done during the afternoon and when I got home at 1pm I called Ben’s Tires and asked if they had a filter in stock for my Chevy Spark. The owner told me she did so after a quick lunch, I found myself at Ben’s Tires at 1:30.

  Ben’s Tires is not known for their quick service – in fact the owner Kelcy likes to take pictures of the customers who fall asleep waiting for their cars and post them on facebook (you can see them here) – but I have never waited more than a half hour for my oil change. There are a lot of old barber chairs to sit in and free coffee and donuts. I gave Kelcy my keys, got a semi-stale donut and fresh coffee and sat down in a barber chair watching a rerun of Will & Grace on the TV and the ensuing hilarity of best friends Will (single and gay) and Grace (single and straight) sharing a New York City apartment as best friends and the odd situations they encounter due to their unconventional living arrangement with a convenient laugh track provided so you will know when it is OK to laugh without seeming politically incorrect. I don’t care much for the Friends and How I Met Your Mother buddy-buddy types of shows and I don’t care much for Will & Grace either but I sat down and watched all the same since I didn't plan on being there long anyway.

  After the first episode, another episode of Will & Grace came on and in the middle of the second episode, a mechanic came out and told Kelcy that the dealer sent the wrong filter for my car. Kelcy called the dealer and after the beginnings of a civil discussion she started yelling that they must have send the wrong filter because the one they sent didn't fit on the Chevy Cruze. At that point I interjected and mentioned that I owned a Chevy Spark and not a Chevy Cruze and Kelcy made nice with the person on the other end of the phone and called herself an idiot and called him honey and asked if he could run an oil filter for a Chevy Spark up to her shop. She hung up the phone and told me that they would bring it right away and I sat back down in the barber chair just as the Will & Grace episode was ending with a voice telling me to stay tuned because another Will & Grace episode was coming up next.

  At that point I must have dozed off because I came to as the third Will & Grace episode was ending with a voice telling me to stay tuned because another Will & Grace episode was coming up next. I don't know if Kelcy took my picture when I was sleeping but if she did it isn't up on facebook yet. I made a mental note to find out what channel was on so I could gouge those buttons out of my remote control when I got home and went to check on my car, which was still in the garage up on the lift in a filterless condition. I asked Kelcy if the dealer had brought the filter yet and she said not yet but they would bring it up right away. At that point I was ready to just drive my car off the lot without any oil but instead I called Kathy and asked her to get me since I didn't really want to spend the other half of my afternoon off watching Will & Grace.

  Kathy got me and drove me back around 4:45 - 15 minutes before quitting time at Ben’s Tires. My Chevy Spark was sitting happily in the parking lot so I walked in to Ben’s, paid my bill and drove my Chevy Spark home. I decided the next time I needed an oil change for the Spark I'd go to the dealer where I bought the car: Bob Brown’s Chevrolet in Des Moines who presumably would have a filter. Normally I wouldn't travel to Des Moines to get an oil change but the bank I've been assigned to work at for the last few months is only a few miles away from the dealership. I left work a little early on Friday and headed over to the Bob Browns’ Quick Lube where no appointment is needed. I pulled right into a bay, told the clerk that I wanted an oil change, and headed to the customer waiting area.

Welcome to Bob Brown's Quick Lube center. I sampled the free soda and wireless internet while my Chevy Spark hid amongst the big trucks...

  I hadn't had any service at Bob Brown’s since my terrible experiences in 2006 (which I wrote about here) when they were located on the Merle Hay Auto Mile. Since then they moved to a huge space off Rt. 80’s Exit 126 in Urbandale and I have to say the waiting room at Bob Brown’s is pretty impressive. While Ben’s Tires has coffee with powdered creamer, donuts and Will & Grace on the TV, Bob Browns has coffee with flavored liquid creamers, pastries, and Jeopardy on the TV. But that’s not all! Bob Brown’s waiting room also has a free soda dispenser with fine Coca-Cola products and wireless internet. I sat down, plugged in my amazing iPod (which at the ripe old age of two doesn't hold a charge very long), checked my email on the Internet, and before I knew it the Spark’s oil was changed and after paying my bill ($43 which is $12 more than Ben’s Tires – someone needs to pay for the free soda, I guess) I was on my way. I was offered a coupon for a free car wash but I wanted to get home so I passed but after spending so much time at Ben’s Tires and so little time at Bob Brown’s I channeled my inner Arnold and told the clerk "I'll be back!".

When you drive over a hundred miles a day, your car can get pretty dirty...

  And I was back. I took last Thursday off from work to drop Kathy off at the airport in Des Moines and on the way back home to beagle-sit I stopped at Bob Brown’s Quick Lube to get my oil changed. I pulled up to the bay, told the service attendant I needed an oil change, headed to the customer waiting area, made myself an ice cold Cherry Coke (ice is also available!), and sat down with my iPod to check my mail. My iPod had hardly had any time to run down when the attendant came out to let me know my car was ready. I paid my bill and again got a free coupon for the car wash but this time I decided to use the coupon since I had time and my car was filthy.

In goes the coupon and one car wash later....

  My coupon was only good for the 'Classic' car wash – a $7 value. I resisted the urge to upsize my car wash to the $9 DELUXE package with the underbody wash and sealer wax or the $11 ULTIMATE package with the underbody wash and sealer wax AND TripleFoam Polish, but I was so taken with my free soda and excellent customer service that I decided to photograph before and after pictures of my Chevy Spark’s car wash so I could extol their praises in my blog. I put my coupon in the dispenser, pulled my car into the bay and I was on my way to a clean car.

  The car stayed stationary as this giant machine on rails passed over my car in multiple passes spraying water in varying degrees of pressure. I was a little concerned that I never saw any sign of soap or foam. But after several passes past my car which took about as much time as a segment of Will & Grace that fills the time between commercial breaks the giant contraption stopped, the 'Exit Now' sign flashed and I drove out of the car wash bay.

  I pulled over to see the results of the free car wash I got with my $43 oil change and was unpleasantly surprised to see that only a minimal amount of dirt was removed from my car. The front of the car was still covered with insects and insect by-products and the only clean part of the back of the car was where my fingers had removed some of the grime when I open the hatchback. It looked like the touchless car wash had barely touched my vehicle.

...except for the water marks this could have been the before picture!

  I ended up washing my Chevy Spark in Marshalltown at the Rainbow do it yourself car wash on Sunday afternoon. It took ten minutes and cost $4.50 in quarters. I’m still pretty happy with my two oil changes at Bob Brown's and will go there again and I'll go to Ben’s Tires for everything else on all my cars except the Spark's oil changes. I'm hoping someday Ben's will have filters for the Chevy Spark, offer free soda, and have wireless internet in their waiting room but I can't hold it against them for not having a car wash since after all, neither does Bob Brown.

I took my Chevy Spark to the Rainbow Car Wash in Marshalltown on Sunday. A few minutes of elbow grease and...

Viola! ... A clean car!

  As fate would have it on Monday I received an email from asking me to fill out a quick survey about my service experience at Bob Brown's. I filled out the survey and gave them a top mark for customer service and a middling grade for their facilities which would be the average of the excellent waiting room and the terrible car wash. Then I was asked to fill out a review which I did. In the review I wrote (you can find it here under May 19th):

Great Oil Change - Awful Car Wash
I came to Bob Brown's Quick Lube for an oil change. I was in and out in 20 minutes without an appointment and there was wireless internet and free soda. The clerk was excellent and let me know about a recall I needed to get taken care of. $43 is a bit much for an oil change but it does come with a compimentary (sic) car wash coupon. The CAR WASH was the WORST - MY CAR WAS JUST AS DIRTY AFTERWARDS AS IT WAS BEFORE. At least I got my money's worth from the coupon.

  I didn't realize that my review was going to be posted on the Internet but now that it has been I hope I don't get a special recall notice to install an ejector seat in my Spark!