Highway robbery

Highway robbery

Little things add up to big problems when you’re not paying attention

By Jennifer Hadley 03/21/2013

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When my car registration came due in January, I knew well enough to pay the fee immediately.  Experience has taught me that those penalties really add up. However, that pesky check engine light which had been on intermittently in my Xterra for a year or so, was back on, meaning there was no way I’d pass a smog check. So I did what any starving writer would do. I got someone to turn the engine light off for me, then promptly drove my car to the smog check station. My trusty Xterra passed all of the emissions tests. But the little smog computer alerted the smog check station that the engine light had recently been reset. Foiled!  
The nasty little device reported that my fuel-level sensor had a high input. I knew that the fuel sensor wasn’t working correctly. When I fill up with gas, it takes a day or so to register. But I was super annoyed that I was going to have to fix it, since it didn’t cause my car to turn into a pollute-mobile.
My annoyance turned to rage when I got my first estimate ($600) to repair the sensor. My second estimate of $535 stung less, but all the same, it seemed a lot easier to just find a shady smog station willing to overlook the engine light. 
That would have worked out flawlessly, save for the fact that I’m not really versed in bribery, and didn’t even know where to begin searching for a shady tester. So I headed to the Internet, where I intended to look for a smog technician with questionable morals. Instead I stumbled across a Nissan forum where people were discussing this fuel sensor issue. Within five minutes I was elated. Nissan had extended the warranty on the fuel-level sensor, and with just 70,557 miles on my ride, I fell within the 72,000-mile limit.
I called up Glendale Nissan, since they’d been really helpful the last time I’d taken my car in, and once again, the service was terrific. My service advisor, Alex, let me know that the sensor was indeed under warranty. Moreover, he asked if I’d received a letter about a new recall on my car. Admitting that I’m not really a “mail-opening kind of girl,” I said it had probably come and I’d filed it with all of my other important paperwork in the kitchen trash can. He offered to have that fixed for me, while my car was in for the other work, and asked if I would I like to have a loaner car?
Well, tickle me pink, I sure would like a loaner car. I headed over to Brand Boulevard, delighted that the end result of my attempts at criminal behavior resulted in all kinds of free labor. I was in and out of the dealership zooming home in a borrowed 2012 Nissan Sentra in no time.  In fact, everything seemed too good to be true. As it turned out, it was.  
While my car fell within the 72,000-mile warranty, the dealership’s free repairs on the problematic sensor had expired in 2012. However, Alex offered to make a call to the powers that be to see if Nissan would cover the new part. He called me back to let me know that they would pay for the part, and that I would be responsible for labor only. So, my responsibility would be $220.  
I thought about throwing a massive temper tantrum over having to pay anything at all, because, expired or not, my car was well under the mileage cap, and Nissan specifically extended the warranty for the issue. However, since I don’t open my mail, I was willing to acknowledge that it was kind of my fault that I never had the problem fixed sooner. And really, I was willing to offer that money to someone to illegally pass my car, thereby risking their livelihood and potentially setting myself up for civil and criminal charges. So I threw in the towel and paid the labor charge. 
Yet, since I’m still stewing over shelling out $220 for unnecessary repairs days later, I’ve decided that I have to do something. And since my smog guys were so nice, and everyone at Glendale Nissan is always nice, I’m going to have to direct my anger elsewhere. Lucky for me it just so happens that I can conveniently file a complaint about the wasted money with the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair & Smog Check right online.

Contact Jennifer Hadley at jmhadley624@yahoo.com.

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