December 21, 2017

Them's The Brakes

So Saturday morning rolls around, and I get up early to receive the expected phone call from Midas.  See, if you schedule an appointment on their website they're supposed to call you back in one business hour.  Since we had hit the website Friday night after closing, and the site clearly says "we'll call you back in one business hour", it seems reasonable to assume that they'd call back, at the latest, an hour or so after start of business on Saturday, yes?  So, not wanting to miss the call and a chance to get my car's brakes repaired, I was up and out of bed at 715am when they open at 730am on Saturdays.  As I write this, it's very late Tuesday Thursday evening and Midas has yet to call me back. 

I'm starting to get the impression that they don't particularly want my business.  I got tired of waiting around 930am and called a local place that has great reviews and that I've heard good things of in the real world... they answered after two rings.  They told me to bring it on in, though they surely didn't recommend driving it there.  In that, they had my full agreement: it's one thing to be driving a car missing half or more of its braking ability in light traffic on a Friday morning.  It's a totally different story altogether trying to drive a crippled car in heavy traffic at one of the city's busier intersections... so many more things to hit.  There would have to be a tow.

As it turns out, I have towing coverage on my insurance and they were happy to set me up with a company here in Duckford.  After a few dozen questions ("Are you in a safe place?  Are the keys in the car?  Are you allergic to shellfish?"), they let me off the phone.  Shortly thereafter, I received a text message from the towing company: we'll be there in 90 minutes.  At this, I called Ph.Duck, who had been a stabilizing force for good when it comes to my car-related panics, and he would pick me up at Pond Central in 60 minutes, 10 minutes to the parking lot at work, bish bash bosh all is swell.  At the 55 minute mark, I put on the weather-appropriate zip-up fleece and head down to the Official Parking Lot of Pond Central.  

After a couple of minutes, the tow truck driver calls and says he's "five minutes away".  I explain that I'm not there, but I should arrive in about 15-20 minutes.  "Can't wait that long, I'll just load it without the keys."  Whatever you say, buddy.  Ph.Duck then texts to tell me that he's running late and will be picking me up in about 15 minutes.  Fair enough... the tow truck will certainly be loaded by that time, so we'll just head to the mechanic's shop and give them the keys.  And thus did it occur.  I run into the place, note the remarkably clean shop floor, introduce myself, tell them the car should be showing up any moment, they promised to call when they figure out what's borked, and we're good to go.  This all took about 15-20 minutes: there were a couple of people ahead of me.  No tow truck.  Hm.  I call the number the insurance company gave me, and the driver says "I'm about 15 minutes away from the car right now."

I admit to having gotten a little het up at this point.  It's not like there wasn't any stress going on in my existence at the moment or anything after all.  Turns out the person I was speaking to was the OWNER of the towing company, not the driver I had been talking with... he was still on the tow he'd been on when he called the first time.  So the owner, who "wasn't even supposed to be working today", decided to do the job.  Ph.Duck and I then drove back to my employer's parking lot to meet him.  He showed up, eventually, got all positioned and stuff, then pulled the car onto a flatbed... after dragging the muffler approximately one mile in the process.  "Do you have a suspension problem?"  No, the muffler and exhaust of the late '90s Camry hangs rather lower than you'd expect.  Eventually he chained the car onto the flatbed and drove away.  A rather impressive puddle was left behind, all of it in line with the right side tires.  Yeesh.  Ph.Duck and I went off to have some lunch, and then we drove back to the mechanic's shop to get the news. 

The plumbing for the late '90s Camry's brake system, seen in the diagram above, is... um... convoluted.  It appears that each brake has a dedicated line, with a number of valves, pumps, gears, turboencabulators and widgets on each one.  But they also appear to SHARE a major line between the brakes as well.  I have no idea what was going through the designer's head when they did that.  The line to the right-rear brake had blown out, dumping most of the system's fluid out upon the ground.  The brakes still worked... just... but there was very little brake fluid remaining and whatever stopping power still existed would have disappeared awfully soon.  He thought he could get it fixed in the two hours before they closed.  By all means, please go ahead... I bid Ph.Duck adieu and sat down in the rather pleasant waiting room.  Oh dear god no...

I've changed my mind.  I'd rather drive away in a car with failed brakes than watch The Phantom Menace again.  After about 90 minutes of hell, the mechanic working on my car, Terry, came in and gave me the news: he had replaced the failed line, filled it with brake fluid, gave 'em a test... and another brake line blew out.  This was both annoying as hell and totally expected... he had even warned me that could happen.  In truth, he was rather pleased that only one more had blown; it appears my oil leak worked in my favor for once, as all the gunk had coated some of the hardware, keeping them from rusting and wearing out.  So I had that going for me.  Which is nice.  The plan going forward was simple: "soak" the remaining brake lines all day Sunday looking for bleeders, then repair what needed to be fixed.  We'd play phone tag / text message on Monday.

By mid-morning Monday the news came down: she's all fixed up.  The rest of the brake lines held together, hooray!  They have the potential to fail at any time, but they held together!  A few hours later, I picked up the car and everything was back to normal.  I think the moral of this story is quite simple: don't trust Midas for anything.  Ever.

Epilogue: ...and then a meteorite impacted.  The end.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:17 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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