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A Tough Choice - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
A Tough Choice
Here's my dilemma of the day. Old Red needs to go into the shop. I'm not sure what's wrong, but the idle is so rough that it threatens to stall at every traffic light. It's probably one of those fuel-air mixture problems. The last time I drove "him" -- for some reason, we all decided a long time ago that Old Red is a boy -- I did make it home without incident. Now I have to figure out how to convey him down to European Auto Tech for repairs. My choices are A) to call for a tow, which will mean waiting a long time and using up one of our free tows; or B) to see how far I can make it before the car won't run. If I I somehow manage to make it all the way there, B) would be the better option by far, since a lot less of my day will be ruined. I wonder, though, whether I have the psychological fortitude to keep sitting at intersections afraid I'm going to have to push the car to the side of the road.
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gpratt From: gpratt Date: August 29th, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
How long has it been since you drove it last? How old is the gas?

How much gas does he have in the tank?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 04:14 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Freshly gassed up last week. So, no, he's not out of gas. I drove Thursday. But thanks for trouble-shooting. Sometimes the problem is that the tank is empty. Since we have no gauge, that is.

masoo From: masoo Date: August 29th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
My guess is, most people will think the solution to your problem is evident, but some people will think A is the solution and some will choose B.

I'm the former. What is the point of having free tows if you don't use them? It's not like you can save them up to use five years from now. The whole point of getting free tows as part of whatever service you are using that offers them, is that you use the free tows when you need them.

I'd also add that it's nice to tip the driver who gives you the free tow. I'm an obsessive tipper, myself, always checking Google to see what's proper, and among other things, it's been noted that most companies like AAA have deals with specific companies to do the towing, so a person you see today might very well be the person you see the next time. Slip them a fiver and they'll remember you that next time, I assure you.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Good idea! I hadn't thought of that tipping thing. The problem is A) that we live a little too far out for the tow to be entirely free, unless the driver fudges the distance; and B) we only get so many free tows and I may need one again in the near future when I really don't have the option of driving.
masoo From: masoo Date: August 29th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm sticking with option A. So what if you need a tow later, so what if you have a finite number of free tows. You use the free tows, and then, if it happens that you go over, you pay.

Try to remember how many times a year you need a tow. Figure out an average number of tows per year. Compare that number to the number of free tows you get a year. Then estimate the cost of a tow if you have to pay for it yourself. I bet you'll find you're fretting over a very small fee. If, for instance, you get three free tows a year, and you've had ten tows in the last three years, you've only had to pay for one tow in three years. If the current situation means you'll end up paying for two tows in three years, that's still not enough money to keep you from using the free tow right now, when you know you'll need it, rather than postponing it on the off chance you'll have to pay in the future.

If you run out of free tows, you won't be stranded ... you don't have a limited number of tows, just a limited number of free tows. Use one of them ... right now!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm going to go test the car on our street to see whether it stalls or not. Then I'll call for the tow if it seems iffy.

mhkrabat From: mhkrabat Date: August 29th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's all speculation at this stage since we don't understand why old red is having this problem. (don't you hate that?) It could be as simple as an "unmetered air leak" which is in the realm of air/fuel mixture stuff. One possible and simple to correct source for such a leak comes from small rubber or plastic vacuum lines on the engine which have somehow been "holed' or the ends of the lines split so they don't securely seal to their designated nipple. If a hole is in a line and no other alternative presents for a real correction, a temporary solution would be to wind some electrical or ducttape around the wound. A split end can be corrected satisfactorily sometimes simply by snipping the end back to where the hose is not split and restoring the repaired end to it's nipple. Mind you it's possible it could be any number of other factors. Look for cracks, holes or splits on all rubber or plastic tubes/lines.

All that said, you have free tows, why not use one? Does doing so dictate that you must be present for the car to be towed and so are held hostage by the whims of towtruck drivers? You might make it trying to limp it in, but then again, you might not (gee, thanks, oh great Carnak!). A cell phone and better yet, another vehicle to escort (guarding your rear bumper) would be in order if you are determined to drive it. G'luck then!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
OK, you and masoo have convinced me.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 10:38 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
But then I had to chance it anyway, because AAA was going to charge for over five miles and would have taken at least 90 minutes to get to me.
From: ex_benlinus Date: August 29th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I can hook up the Vag-com. It might be something really simple like a relay or something. Today is friggin nuts for me, but I've got a half an hour between 3.30 and 4. Call me.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I made it in before reading this. Thanks for the offer, though. I'll take a raincheck, since this is bound to happen again.

Remind me to tell you what the folks at Stuttgart did to European Auto Tech. Petty and cutthroat.
mhkrabat From: mhkrabat Date: August 30th, 2006 12:17 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You have a friend with a VAGCom?! duuuuuude
gpratt From: gpratt Date: August 29th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

You made it!

Great! My first time back online to check your reply (and everyone's thoughts).
You made it to the shop and that's half the battle. Yay Old Red.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 29th, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: You made it!

Yes. I just hope it's not too expensive to fix.
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: August 30th, 2006 07:35 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

I guess I'm a little late...

Hi Charlie,

I guess I'm too late here, but I was going to say that I've been having a lot of rough idle issues with my 98 Golf and there are a few things you can try yourself that are cheap/free and relatively easy. Somebody mentioned vacuum lines, which is a good place to start; it's also pretty easy to clean the throttle body and MAF sensor (I just did it, and have a half-bottle of each kind of cleaner laying around, if you ever need it). Those helped. You could also spray water on the coil/coil pack (depending on which engine you have) to check for cracks, which would spark. A tune-up never hurts the idle, either.

Looks like you're getting it taken care of already, though. Is European Auto Tech a good place to go? I've been using this place called Desert Tech (they also specialize in VW/Audi/BMW/etc.) on Ft. Lowell near Stone, and that guy's great.

It's good that you know somebody with a VAG-COM. That can save you some serious $$$.

I'd be curious to know what the culprit is in Red. Mine might have the same problem...
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2006 07:49 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: I guess I'm a little late...

Great to hear from you! I wish I understood more about my engine. I'm so unmanly. . . :-)

Seriously, I should probably get the book, now that I know someone that can extract the codes. The car is old and beaten-up enough that shelling out lots of money isn't wise at this point.

The car hasn't been tuned up in ages, so it might be that combined with the inevitable Tucson-is-awful-for-rubber-parts cracks in some line or hose.

It actually ran OK on the way to European Auto Tech. But I made sure not to be idling on any large inclines. Historically, the car has had trouble of the check engine-light variety on cold days when I pull out going upslope. It's not cold now, obviously, but I was mindful of that problem.

Oh, and we like European Auto Tech a lot. They've done right by us over the years. The owner of the VAG-COM isn't so sure, because he felt he wasn't getting the technical answers he wanted. But they seem to have done a good job of keeping our cars going without charging us too much.

Are you playing B-ball on Fridays?
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: August 30th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: I guess I'm a little late...

The Bentley manual is a good investment. I don't know anything about engines, either, but now I can make it sound as if I do! I got mine off ebay for something like $50. It helped enough for me to do my first tune-up a couple of weeks ago, (surprisingly) without any serious injuries to myself or the car.

At least you're getting a CEL, so there'll be codes. My Golf never gets a CEL when it stalls out -- that makes it a lot more confusing.

We're trying to get the Friday afternoon bball started back up. It's hard replacing so many people -- Brandon "The Hitman" Fastman, in particular, leaves quite a void -- but we're actively recruiting. Of course, you're always welcome -- we need more good pick-setting! Let me know if you want me to add you to the weekly e-mail list so you know the time/place we decide on.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 30th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: I guess I'm a little late...

Of course, the Check Engine Light is the only thing that works on the instrument panel, really. We haven't had a speedometer, tach, or gas gauge since 2002. Too much to fix it.

Yes, add me to the list. I might be able to come every other Friday.
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