Gateway Sun

This is a true story.

It ends with me standing in my garage along with my friend, who fixes cars for a living, and he says: “This is why people don’t trust mechanics.”

Warning: the article is kinda long and possibly not safe for work. (Language.) If you’re okay with a few s-bombs and you have 5 minutes, read on.

The story begins as I’m driving my 2013 Kia Rio on Gateway Boulevard late at night on a delivery run for my job.

All of a sudden my check engine light goes on, followed shortly by the oil light.

As soon as I can, I pull over and turn the car off. I admit, I’m kinda freaked out. After about 15 seconds I turn the car back on. The check engine light is still on (solid, not blinking) but the oil light is off. Okay that’s good. So I continue driving … but it doesn’t take long for the oil light to return.

The only time I had ever seen an oil light on in any of my cars was when the oil was low. So I have my wife bring me some oil. But it’s dark and I have no funnel. No matter, I do my best to add the oil and I’m sure I got most of it in but I definitely spilled some too.

I restart the car. Same deal as before … solid check engine light, but no oil light.

I keep driving and about a mile or two later the oil light returns. I pull in to a 7-Eleven and let the car sit. I look underneath the car and there’s oil dripping. I wonder how much oil could be leaking that the oil light is already back? Was it bone dry? I buy some more oil and add it, again with no funnel and spilling some but getting most in.

Okay. There’s got to be plenty of oil, definitely enough to get the car back to my place. I start the car. Again, no oil light.

Time to get this vehicle home and have it looked at in the morning. But I only made it about 50 feet before the oil light comes back on.

Something’s wrong. I park the car and have my wife come get me. If you ordered from Florida Food Runner late on November 28, 2015 and we were really slow – this is part of the reason why. The other reason is one of our restaurants was really backed up and that messed us up pretty good. It happens.

Anyway, I arrange to have the car towed to Galeana Kia the next morning.

The first phone call comes in from Vince at Galeana early on Monday. He tells me it’s going to be $109.00 to diagnose the problem.

We tell Vince to proceed.

It barely takes any time at all for Vince to call back. Like, just a few minutes. That was fast.

Vince is explaining the problem in technical terms to my wife. She looks pretty pissed off, and is taking notes. We bought the extended warranty from the HUGE dealership in Cape Coral when we purchased the vehicle, so I’m not too concerned at this point.

My wife looks at me. “He says the engine is finished. The car needs the engine to be replaced.”

Vince and my wife continue their conversation. I could only hear her side, but Vince had explained that if we get all of our oil change receipts together then replacement will probably be under warranty.

That’s going to be a problem. You see, I drive a lot, and by now we should have had 21 oil changes on that vehicle in 2 years. But who has time to get 21 oil changes in 2 years? We’ve probably only had 10 and can only locate 8 or 9 receipts – and even that’s by calling Duffy’s and Tire Choice and a few other places to get copies.

Vince delivers the bad news. Kia probably won’t pay to replace the engine, due to lack of maintenance. We’re going to have to cover the cost ourselves.

I don’t know how many cars I’ve had, but it’s probably a dozen. I don’t do oil changes every 3,000 miles and never have. I’ve also never, ever blown an engine. In fact out of all my cars I’ve ever had, I serviced this Kia more than any other vehicle.

For the record, my last oil change was on October 17, 2015 and I hadn’t driven enough miles to need another one.

Vince tells us there is too much sludge in the engine and it was completely beyond repair, and we’re on the hook for it.

I get on the phone and ask Vince to email me the repair quote. He said he’ll need a few minutes. We end the conversation and I await the email.

It comes in.

——————————————————

UPON INSPECTION OF VEHICLE, FOUND ENGINE “SLUDGED”, THIS RESULTS IN THE CAMSHAFTS OVER ADVANCING, CAUSING VEHICLE TO BE SLUGGISH AND RESTRICTING ENGINE OIL FLOW RESULTING IN OIL LIGHT, THIS WILL EVENTUALLY CAUSE ENGINE TO SEIZE. UNABLE TO CLEAN ENGINE INTERNALS, DAMAGE HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE. ADVISED CUSTOMER THAT MAINTENANCE RECORDS WILL BE REQUIRED TO ENSURE WARRANTY (10/100,000 MILE POWERTRAIN) COVERAGE.

NEW ENGINE ASSEMBLY (LONG BLOCK) – $5666.70+TAX

GASKETS & COOLANT $50.00+TAX

LABOR $2350.00+TAX

TOTAL $8066.70+TAX

——————————————————

Holy shit.

$8,066.70?

We don’t have that kind of money.

The reality begins sinking in. We’re in shock. I ruined a 2-year old car. My wife and I have a huge fight. She’s absolutely ripping me to shreds. We still have nearly 4 years worth of payments left on the car. I’m in disbelief that Kia’s engines are that delicate.

I immediately begin contacting anyone I can think of. We reach out to the HUGE guys to get their opinion, and without even blinking they start their pitch to sell us a new car …. Don’t worry about your old stupid broken car! Get a new car! …. It wasn’t helpful to us at that moment, but they didn’t care. They’re practically robots. They pressed away with making the sale until we hung up. I also conctacted a Gateway Sun reader who owns his own repair business, and he said he just did a new engine on a Kia Optima for about $5,000 and that he could work on a quote for me. I tell him don’t bother, because I don’t have $5,000. But it was good to see the price come down.

Then a new light goes on. And it wasn’t in the car.

How did they make a diagnosis like this in just minutes? Their first and only instinct was to replace the engine? It sounded odd to me.

I re-read the email from Vince.

Hang on a second. The report said that the vehicle was “sluggish”.

I never said the car was sluggish. The engine was, in fact, operating perfectly. No noises, no knocking. Definitely not sluggish at all, even with the engine and oil lights on.

That’s weird. A destroyed engine would be sluggish, you would think.

Something’s definitely wrong here. I decide that we need someone else to look at this thing.

The next morning we surprise Galeana Kia and show up without warning. I meet Vince and tell him we’d like to have our car back and go get a second opinion. I picked up a weird vibe off Vince, and he says to talk to the cashier and he’ll update the file and the cashier can officially have the car checked out of their system.

I pull out my debit card and tell the cashier that Vince said it was only going to be $109.00 and we’re not expecting to pay anything more than that.

The cashier looks over the file with a strange look on her face. She calls Vince.

A short conversation later, the cashier tells us “there’s no charge.”

Wait. What?

I ask her to repeat herself, and the cashier confirms that they’re not going to be charging us anything for the tow or the diagnostic.

Okay, something is really, really wrong here. I’m not thinking “wow, it’s my lucky day!” … I’m asking myself what the hell are these people up to?

Is it Free Bullshit Diagnostic Week at Galeana Kia?

I get the car back and immediately check the oil now that it’s daylight. It’s way over-filled. It turns out there never was an oil leak. The oil I saw on the ground was the oil that I missed when I was filling it. Even with that much excess oil, we’re only driving to Gateway so it should be fine. The check engine and oil lights are still on but it drives back to Gateway without incident and without any sluggishness.

There’s really only one person I can trust right now. It’s a friend of ours who has done car work for us in the past. He’s a full-time professional mechanic, not just some buddy who works on cars as a hobby. I would have involved him sooner but I believed it was under warranty, so why not just let Kia do it?

My friend does some research on the check engine codes and the lack of other noticeable symptoms and calls me back with some surprising news.

“Based on what you’re telling me, and based on what I’ve found out, your engine doesn’t need to be replaced, it probably just needs an oil change,” my friend says.

I’m stunned. And, admittedly, a bit skeptical.

He says he’ll come look at the car the next day, after he’s done work.

When he arrives the following evening, he tells me he’s done a lot more research. He pops the hood and immediately turns his attention to a section of the engine near the passenger side and removes a bolt. He pulls out a cylinder and shows me how there are a few tiny mesh-looking filters, and one of them is completely blocked by dirt. Keep in mind these filters are only about 1/8 of an inch in diameter, so we’re not exactly talking about a lot of dirt here.

That’s what was causing the engine and oil lights, he said. It was blocking the oil.

He cleans it off with brake cleaner and proceeds to do an oil change.

When he starts the car up, the oil light is gone and he cannot get it to come on no matter how hard he revs the still-not-sluggish engine.

Holy shit.

Did he just fix this supposed $8,066.70 problem with $15.00 worth of oil and some brake cleaner? And he only asked for $20.00 for the labor?

I wasn’t ready to do a victory lap just yet, but I did do a few laps around Silverlakes to test the vehicle. Still no issues or sluggishness with the car whatsoever. Still no oil light.

A few key-cycles later the check engine light goes off too. Hasn’t been back since.

At the time of writing, the car has been driven over 400 miles on an engine that Galeana Kia said was toast. On an engine that Galeana Kia said needed to be replaced at a cost of over $8,000.

Was there sludge? My friend said yes, “but not too bad.”

Now I’m sure I don’t have to explain how much stress Galeana Kia caused my family over this. I contacted the Kia dealer to ask them to explain how it was possible that they recommended replacing the engine when all it really needed was an oil change and for a tiny filter to be cleaned.

Galeana Kia did not respond – but, surprise-surprise, the HUGE Kia dealer in the Cape continues to respond daily by phone, email and text message still trying to sell us a new car. No thank you, Billy and Caroline.

Has Galeana replaced other engines and stuck Kia USA, or Chevy, or Dodge, or unsuspecting customers with a $5,000 to $8,000 bill that wasn’t really necessary? And how many fights have they caused within households by over-stating a lack of maintenance? How many scared people who couldn’t pay did they reduce to tears for profit?

And why did they waive the $109.00 diagnostic fee anyway? Did they anticipate I would storm in to their dealership commanding them to refund me after another mechanic came up with a solution that was a little less drastic than replacing the engine?

In the coming days I’m going to add a counter on to GatewaySun.com that keeps track of every mile we drive on the engine that Galeana Kia said needed to be replaced. Then I’m going to start parking the Kia in the garage rather than my drive-way. Just in case they’re not too fond of my work.

(Maybe I’m being paranoid. But maybe I’m not. Speaking for myself, at this point, I wouldn’t put anything past them. )

My friend was absolutely right when he said that this experience is a perfect example of why people don’t trust mechanics.

Fortunately for me and my Kia, there was one mechanic I could trust.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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