Thursday, January 10, 2019

Broken Windows

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Part 1

Well as I mentioned here, I had some car trouble in Vegas during my recent December trip.  With this post, I will begin to tell the entire story. It will take a number of chapters, and I may not run them consecutively (still to be determined).  In order to do this, I have to start before I even got to Vegas.  I want to start at the very beginning.

In 1913, Henry Ford initiated the first moving assembly line for automobiles in Highland Park, Michigan—

Hmm….I guess I don't have to go back quite that far.

So let me just remind you that a little more than a year ago, my good friend Woody and I made a deal and I walked off with one of his cars. This resulted in a two-     part blog post, the first part of which can be found here.  I coyly didn't mention the make, model and year of the car back then, but I will now.  It was (and is) a 1995 Lexus LS 400.




I have loved that Lexus for more than a year, and yes, I had to put a few bucks in it during that year, all minor stuff.  Just before I was ready to head back up to Vegas, I took it in for an oil change.  Everything was great..

At sort of the last minute, I decided to get a haircut on the Saturday before the Friday I was planning to drive up to Vegas.  Why do I mention such a seemingly insignificant event like that?  Because it turned out to be a very fortuitous decision.  In order to get said haircut, I had to park in one of those big parking structures where you need to pull a ticket to enter and leave (but no, I didn't have to pay for parking, this isn't one of those posts, parking for the first hour is free).  I entered the structure without incident, but when I went to hand the attendant my ticket to exit, the driver's side window, which I was sure I'd already lowered, was still up.  I lowered it, gave the attendant my ticket, and hit the up button on the door to raise the window as I entered traffic.

The window remained fully open.  Uh Oh.  I waited a few minutes and tried again.  The window raised about a third of the way and stopped.  I tried a few minutes later and it raised another third of the way.  I tried a few minutes later and it raised all the way up.

Hmm….this was certainly a new development.  On the way home, I played around with it and discovered that it would only move a little bit at a time—and only if I waited a few minutes between attempts to raise or lower it.  I decided to leave it up and stop playing with it.  I called my pal Woody and he basically said that the motor for the power window was dying.  It would need to be replaced and he said he could replace it.  I pointed out that I was less than a week away from my two weeks in Vegas and really wanted to have this fixed before I went up to Vegas.

Thus, had I not decided to get that haircut at the last minute, I never would have known about the motor dying as I generally keep the windows up 100% of the time to enjoy the climate-controlled comfort of the Lexus.  Without the haircut, I would not have tried to use the power window until after getting to Vegas and trying to get into one of the casino parking structures. So it was really a good thing I found out when I did.

Of course, a few years ago, the inability of being able to open the window would have not been a big deal.  I could have easily spent the entire trip in Vegas without needing to lower the window.

But a few years back, Vegas casinos, most of them, began charging for parking.  I might have mentioned this before, I can't recall for sure.  Anyway, they put up gates and machines to make sure everyone pays (or has an upgraded players card so that they've "earned" free parking privileges).  To enter any of these garages, you either have to pull a ticket or insert your players card into the machine at the gate.  In other words, you have to lower your driver's side window to enter the parking structure. 

All of the parking structures that now insist on having you pay to park were built long ago, back in the good ol' days when the casinos actually wanted your business and would encourage you to come in and spend your money inside the casino. So once some corporate meatheads got the idea of charging you before you even entered the casino, they put the gates and the ticket spewing/card reading machines in.  They had to retrofit these gates and machines into lanes that were not built with that in mind.  And they wanted to add multiple lanes/gates so that the lines to get in and out would only be really annoying, and not so obscenely awful that it would discourage people from even trying to get in.

As such, most of these lanes are extremely narrow.  The point being, at most structures I've seen, there isn't room for a person who is not really, really skinny to open the car door, get out of the car, and put their player's card (or grab a ticket) in the machine.  There also isn't room to drive further up so there is more room to exit the car to do this, they just weren't built for that.

So, I honestly didn't see how I could visit Vegas in the year 2018 without getting the window fixed.  I really didn't want to keep trying my luck that I could keep rolling it up and down in sections and hope that I could always get it up (so-to-speak).  The thought of it finally completely dying and then having the window permanently rolled down didn't exactly appeal to me.  And I wasn't sure how many (if any) of the structures I'd want to park at could accommodate a car without a usable driver's side window.  I likely would be relegated to parking at the Venetian (which still doesn't charge for parking) and Planet Hollywood (which also doesn't charge for parking because the garage is owned by the shopping center attached to PH and that is not owned by CET).  Of course, I could visit any of the locals rooms in town, as they don't have any damn gates, but if I wanted to play in locals rooms I could stay in Los Angeles.

As I said, Woody said he could repair it himself.  So on Monday, I drove to his house and we immediately headed to a Lexus junkyard in a part of town I'd never been to before to buy the replacement part I needed.  Woody had done this many times before and had a relationship with the owner of the junkyard.  Basically I was buying a working part from a totaled Lexus.  This was a much cheaper alternative than buying an OEM Lexus part, which would be quite expensive.  Woody also buys parts like this off eBay but there was no time for that.

This business was not the kind of business I'm used to dealing with.  Woody's wife, LM, knew I would be a fish out of water at this place so she instructed Woody to get a picture of me there.  I present said picture below.  To get to the office to negotiate the deal, I had to walk up a narrow, creeky wooden staircase and stand in a very narrow space while we discussed business.  It wasn't exactly an AutoZone. 



But he had the part we needed inventoried and we bought it (I think it was a small motor that runs the window, but what do I know?).  We headed back to Woody's so he could do the repair.  I am totally mechanically inept, so I left Woody to do the repair and went inside and visited with LM (I've been pals with LM for much longer than I've known Woody—we worked together for over 7 years and I don't want to say how long ago that was).

Well, long story short (ha!), the repair didn't go as fast as Woody had hoped.  We checked on his progress periodically.  He was having some issues but was sure he'd get it.  One time we went out to check and he was gone.  Not to worry, we just assumed he'd gone to the local AutoZone for a minor part.

Well, it was early December and soon he ran out of light.  He kept laboring away in the dark before he finally announced he was out of ideas and he wasn't going to be able to get it working that night.

The side panel on the driver's side was removed.  I think it was then that I learned that he had apparently blown a fuse attempting the repair.  For awhile I believe the entire electrical system in the car was offline, but he did now have it (mostly) working.  I think he had to buy a fuse at one point.

Try as he might, he just couldn't get the window to work.  He said we had no choice but to take it to his favorite mechanic, a genius (especially in regards to electrical work) who I'm going to refer to as The Wiz.  The Wiz is located closer to my house than Woody's.  My car was partially dissembled but theoretically drivable.  Theoretically.  Woody said it would probably be a good idea if he followed me home.

So I suggested instead I just stay over that night.  And we'd both drive to The Wiz early in the morning (he'd follow me).  This sounded like a much more practical idea.  Of course, I didn't have a change of clothes, or a toothbrush, or food (LM had a kitchen full of food but none of it catering to someone with my medical conditions and dietary needs).  Also, I didn't quite have a full complement of my medications for the morning (but I did have most of the important ones).   

I could make do in a pinch.  Suddenly I had a feeling of déjà vu.  It was almost exactly a year ago—to the day—that a one day visit to LM & Woody turned into a sleepover (two nights, actually) when I took possession of the Lexus (link to that story at the beginning of this post). I pointed this out to them.  Is this now going to become an annual, December tradition?  Doing something with my car and ending up spending a night or two?  Hmmm…..I also made a promise, that from now on, whenever I come to visit with a Lexus issue, I'm going bring an overnight bag with clothes, extra meds, and some Rob-approved food

After we went out to a nice dinner, Woody had a idea.  He thought of something else he could try in the morning to try to fix it himself (and save me some money). 

Fortunately I had my laptop with me so in the morning, while he took another crack at it, I got some work done. Finally after a few hours Woody came to me and said we had to take it into the Wiz after all.  I got ready for this, but he still needed to hit up an Autozone for something first (I can't remember what that might have been, maybe another fuse?).  Anyway, I drove down there with Woody following me and most of the driver's side panel inside in his SUV.  But the car made it there fine.

Well, after a thorough testing, the Wiz figured out that the problem was that the motor we had gotten from the junkyard was just no damn good.  He couldn't repair the part.  I'm not sure, but I think it was so bad that it had blown a fuse and temporarily fried my whole electrical system the day before (I could ask Woody for confirmation, but honestly, I don't think he wants to relive this and he might have successfully driven the memory from his mind).

The Wiz could fix it but only if we could get him a working motor.  What to do?  Well, there was an AutoZone right across the street from the Wiz, and Woody thought that he might have bought this very same part from them before.  So we went over there and checked.  They looked it up and actually found a record of Woody buying the part not that long ago, maybe a couple of years back.  The good news is that AutoZone has a lifetime guarantee on all the parts they sell.  The bad news is that this particular part was part of a factory recall not too long ago. So not only didn't they have that part (or a similar part) in stock, but no AutoZone (anywhere) did since they had sent them all back!  But they did offer to give Woody a cash refund on the recalled part if he returned it.

At that moment the part was in my car door, not working.  It was Tuesday, I was heading to Vegas in three days without a working window.  Woody checked on eBay and found a bunch of sellers who had the part, but it was too late to order it and get it in time to do the repair/replacement.

In desperation, I suggested going back to the junkyard to see if they had another part we could try.  So we did that.  It was when we were back at the junkyard (which fortunately wasn't all that far from the Wiz) that I learned that Woody had already been back to the junkyard a second time the day before, and was already trying the second motor he got from them.  That's where he was when he disappeared on Monday.

At first the guy was willing to give Woody two more motors to try (and bring back the other one, he trusted Woody) but it turned out he only had one left.  This was our very last shot at getting this done before Vegas.  In my mind, I was cancelling my Vegas trip if we couldn't get the window working.  If it didn't work, it would have been three strikes and we were out.

We took it back to the Wiz, who tested it and voila, it worked!  Now it was just a matter of the Wiz installing and putting everything back together.  It would take some time and we were starving so we drove over to the nearby Costco for a delicious lunch of hot dogs and pizza.  When we got back, it was ready, at least in theory.  But Woody had noticed earlier that the trunk wasn't working properly.  You could only open it with the key.  The release inside the car wasn't working, and neither was the button on my electronic activator (but that still worked for the doors).  The Wiz was at lunch but one of his guys spent another half hour or so figuring out what the issue was and fixing it.  Meanwhile, Woody took the recalled part over to Autozone and got a nice refund for it.

The dumbest thing was, at one point, the guy who was working on fixing the trunk release suddenly couldn't find the keys to the car.  They weren't in the ignition.  They seemingly hadn't fallen in the trunk or inside the car.  They were nowhere to be found and we all sort of panicked.

Well duh, eventually he noticed the keys were in the lock for the trunk (since the releases weren't working, that was the only to get into the trunk).  Yeesh.

Finally I paid up and was on my way.  Everything seemed to be working just fine, and I was able to get home and start to prepare for my trip.  I kept testing the window every so often and it worked perfectly every damn time.

After a crazy, nerve wracking couple of days, I could look forward to a nice trip to Vegas, hopefully without any further incident.

It was not to be, but more on that in future posts.

8 comments:

  1. Brings back fond memories Rob! Amazingly, Autozone gave me back MORE money on the window motor recall than I spend for the wrecking yard motor! It's like poker, most of the fun is in beating the system

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    1. Well thanks for all your help, Woody. You didn't offer any corrections so I guess I got most it right from memory.

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  2. Oh my, what an ordeal. If it wasn’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all! But what a story...You are a terrific writer and find your posts very entertaining. The pic of you at the junkyard is fabulous reminding me of Tuco, Walter White, and Jesse Pinkman of Breaking Bad conducting business at a junkyard. If I didn’t know the rest of the story (and its a real looong one) I’d say this was the worst of what could happen. But I know better. Looking forward to your next posts (3, 4, 8 more??!) ...

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    1. I promised you a 23-part blog post, and I may just reach that.

      Love the Breaking Bad reference. The junkyard on that show was a LOT bigger than this one. It was amazing they had so much, well JUNK, in such a small space.

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  3. Wow. Knowing a little of how this story progresses/ends, I now understand why you were so upset. The trip from Hell!

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    1. All I can say Lightning is, you ain't seen (or read) nothing yet. Wait til I get to Vegas, and try (yes try) to leave.

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  4. IF you couldn't find the motor, you could do the switch from the passenger side to driver side. Passenger sides aren't used as much.

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    1. Thanks for your suggestion. I ran this by Woody and there are a few problems with this solution, inlcuding the fact that the motor holds up the window and putting a defective motor in the other side therefore might have caused even more problems. But clever thinking.

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