The Saga of My 1994 Honda Civic Ex

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My 1994 Honda Civic has had trouble ever since I had an alarm system installed in it a few years ago. The electrical system seemed to be drawing more power than it needed whenever there was a rainy day. I brought it to the dealer near us but they couldn’t figure it out so I had to find someone who knew the alarm system and see if they could determine the cause. I love the car and wanted to make all sorts of improvements to it, but I couldn’t spend the money until I knew the car was working again.

We researched online and decided that there was a chance the master switch went bad. After ordering and installing a new master switch, the car started right up. It didn’t last though. The car still wouldn’t start after a long rainy day.

I found a shop 200 miles away that could work on the alarm and brought the car to them. They took possession of it and tried to determine the cause of the electrical issues whenever it rained and after 6 months, they finally found a short in the alarm system wiring.  During that time, I had them install window tinting. They were having a half price window tinting deal and the car was already there so I just called and asked them to do it at half price. They fixed the fault the alarm system and I was able to pick up my car.

Six months is a long time for a car to be in the shop. I am lucky that I had another car to drive daily during that time. I’m sure that the car didn’t have their full attention since the owner lives 200 miles away and the problem with the car was intermittent at best and impossible to reproduce with the right weather conditions. I am glad that the shop actually agreed to look at it given the fact that it wasn’t going to be a very profitable job.

I drove it 200 miles home and then again the next day to Target a few miles away. On the way back from Target, we were on the highway going down a hill doing 65 mph and all the dashboard lights turned off. It appeared that the car was off electrically, but this wasn’t the same as an alternator failure. The car was still on and in gear, so I left it that way and turned the ignition key. The electrics all came back on and we drove the rest of the way home.

The next day, I tried to start the car but it wouldn’t start. We thought the battery might be dead so we charged it and tried again. No luck. In fact, we couldn’t get the car to start at all. We tried numerous times over next month or so and couldn’t find anything. I knew that I had to take the car back to a place that could understand the alarm system, and they were 200 miles away.

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I researched car transport options online and discovered that I was either going to have to pay a car carrier to move the car or a towing company. It turns out that hiring a car carrier for a single car is way too expensive, but sometimes there is an empty spot on one that is delivering other cars. There are brokers that help connect car carriers to people that need to move a single car, but these places are sketchy at best. Each of them talks about how the other ones rip you off by taking their fee upfront and you are supposed to pay the driver their portion, but the driver never shows up. Complicating matters, the car was in my driveway and the car carriers need to be able to maneuver an 18-wheeler near your car so I would have to get my car towed to a nearby parking lot. The car carriers through a broker for a 200 mile carry costs around $300 – $400. The short tow to the parking lot would be at least $50. So this was complicated, scary, and expensive.

I then researched tow trucks and discovered that these are not complicated or scary, but cost a lot more. Towing my car 200 miles would cost at least $700. I needed something cheaper.

In the mail the next week, I received some “junk mail” trying to get me to sign up for AAA. With all the research I had done, I had yet to even consider them. It turns out that the Premiere membership level for AAA provides 1 free 200 mile tow per year! The premiere membership is the most expensive one they offer but it is only around $120 per year. Most people would not be in a situation to be able to wait before using the 200 mile tow, but my car was sitting in my driveway and had been now for 6 months. I could stand the seven day waiting period. I signed up for AAA and a week later called about my 200 mile tow. They were very helpful and sent a tow truck to my house. The car was delivered that day and I only payed $50 more because it was a little over 200 miles according to the tow truck driver after he arrived. I could live with that.

So now my car is still broken and 200 miles away, but it is at the shop where it can hopefully be repaired. It spent another 4 months at the shop during which time they replaced the ignition switch, wiring, and battery. I visited the shop a few times and called weekly to check on the progress. During one visit, I discovered that my passenger side window was broken. Nobody had called to tell me about this and when I asked about it, they said there had been an “accident.” They would replace it but my car would be there a bit longer. A few more weeks went by and I was finally able to pick up my car.

I picked up the car and when I got in, the head unit faceplate was missing. The shop routinely removes the faceplates when the cars are in the shop so that there is less risk of break-ins, but I couldn’t find it under the seat or anywhere in the car. I opened the trunk to check there and saw that my two 10 inch subwoofers and amp were missing too! I realized at this point that the “accident” was someone breaking into my car while it was at the shop. I guess they liked my audio equipment and stole it. I talked with the associate at the shop and he assured me that they would take care of it for me. He said that I could take the car today and they would replace the equipment whenever I could bring the car for a day.

I took the car to a friend’s house nearby and left it there until the next time I was in town, which was only a few weeks. I called the shop and let them know I could bring the car in to get the audio equipment replaced. I brought the car in and they weren’t able to finish it in a day so I ended up back on the calling weekly schedule. It took another 4-6 months before they finally had it ready for me with the speakers and head unit working again. When I picked it up it was just like I remembered before the whole ordeal started, except that my car appears to be working more reliably than it was before.

I am very excited that my car is back in my possession. After spending the last 2 years in and out of the shop, I am happy to see it back in my driveway again.