I didn’t get the shaft this time

I started this morning with a trip to the Toyota dealer — both Priuses needed regular service (oil change) as well as the “60C Special Service Campaign” (aka the steering-shaft recall). I’d called yesterday to make appointments, and the service writer I talked with said to bring in one car this morning and they’d do the oil change and handle the recall; then I could swap cars in the afternoon and they’d do the other one the next day (in the meantime, I’d have one of their cars).

But I had an inspiration — if I was quick, maybe they could do both cars in one day. So I dashed out of the house bright and early and got to the dealer well before 8. I got a different guy as the service writer, and when I told him what I wanted to do, he asked me, “why do you think we can do the recall today?” Apparently there are two different shafts for the Prius, and some cars need one and some need the other, and they didn’t have both in stock.

In fact, they didn’t have any shafts on hand, so it didn’t matter which one I needed. But they did check to see which one, and they claim they’ll order it and notify me when it arrives.

But I still had to get the oil changed, so I waited while they did that — then I went home and repeated the drill with the other car. Fortunately, they have wi-fi, so I was able to work while I waited, but I’d really rather have been able to finish the process instead of having to wait for the shaft.

Awfully close to 45mpg

For years, I’ve kept track of the mileage I get at every fill-up, with the thought that if it changes significantly, it might mean problems with the car. But I’ve never bothered to look at the mileage closely, until today.

I was curious about the mileage I got on the trip to Tucson, and whether it was significantly different than the mileage I get in normal driving. So I brought in my logbook and started entering data; when I finished, I’d discovered that my cumulative average mileage had been very close to 45mpg since my second fill-up, even though the individual fill-ups gave me very irregular results (especially the one where the automatic shutoff on the pump didn’t work and I pumped 11 gallons, some of which went outside the car instead of in the tank!).

The average mileage for the Tucson trip, 45.9 mpg, was slightly higher than my long-term average of 45.0 mpg, but not by a lot. On the other hand, my average speed on the Tucson trip was undoubtedly significantly higher than my normal speed — most of the distance was on roads with 70 or 75 mph limits, and we spent a lot of time at or above 80 mph (just keeping up with traffic, of course). Around here, the limit is 65, and traffic usually moves about 70.

Diane’s car gets somewhat lower mileage (currently 44.3 mpg long-term), but it’s going up with almost every fill-up.

Naturally, neither of these numbers comes close to the EPA figure of 60 city, 51 highway, 55 combined, but they are much better than the 20mpg or so I was getting from the Saab most of the time!

Not exactly easy, but quite doable

I spent this morning at the winter Congregational Meeting at Shir Hadash. I probably didn’t pay as much attention to the meeting as I might have, because I kept looking at my watch and thinking, “I should be installing my XM radio while it’s still daylight”. Eventually, the meeting ended, and, after a fairly quick lunch, I was home and ready to begin.

A friend had volunteered to help me, but I decided not to wait for him to arrive; I started the project at about 1:30. By the time he arrived, I had gotten through the initial disassembly in the simpler procedure I’d found on PriusChat, but I still hadn’t had to use a tool other than my own hands. And I hadn’t done anything which felt dangerous.

That didn’t last long; the next step in the procedure called for unscrewing a junction box — one with a bunch of wires and connectors coming into it. But it wasn’t very difficult, and in just a few more minutes, I’d plugged the XM tuner into the radio and had the preview channel up and running. Unfortunately, the tuner and antenna were sitting on the driveway, which would have prevented me from taking the car anywhere, so I had to continue, this time from the Prius XM instructions and DVD.

The rest of the steps involved running a cable under doorsills to the back of the car, moving some carpets, and running the antenna cables through the hatch opening and mounting the antenna on the roof. None of the steps were really very difficult, though it was very good to have another set of eyes involved, and, at times, an extra hand (especially when fishing cables to the back of the car). And pulling weatherstripping out of the way bothered me a bit, but only a bit.

We finished before 4:30 and I called XM to activate the radio and, as long as I was at it, turn off the XM PCR I hadn’t used for a few months (time to list it on eBay!). By 4:45, the radio was activated, and I was finished. And there were still a few minutes of daylight left.

The DVD was invaluable — especially when there were spots where the printed instructions weren’t quite clear enough, or when things didn’t seem to fit together quite correctly or come apart easily, watching someone go through the steps was enormously reassuring. It is, however, startling to see how much of the car is held together by clips and friction!

Thanks, Sam, for helping; your turn next!

We’re a two-Prius family again

I picked up Diane’s Prius this afternoon; with luck, I won’t be back to the dealer until it’s time for regular service again. I hope.

They had to replace the torque sensors and the steering rack; the service advisor said it was the first time they’d seen such a problem at the dealership. Gosh, how lucky can we get?

On a lighter note, Jeff had his first fencing lesson tonight — he enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching it, and might consider giving it a try sometime in the future.

A Date Certain (again)

The Toyota dealer just called; they have the last part and are actually finishing up the car today. But they weren’t sure that they could be finished in time for me to pick it up by closing at 6, and I’d still have to deal with the rental car on Tuesday. So I told them to take their time and plan for a Tuesday pickup.

Diane wasn’t thrilled by having to wait until Tuesday to drive her car, though!

Renting again

The new power steering rack we need is on backorder, so the Toyota dealer just called and gave me the authorization number I need to rent a car (they’re paying, not me, which is a nice change) until they get our car back on the road.


The dealer authorized us to rent from Enterprise, and I wound up with a Toyota Corolla with 43,000 miles on it, which is a far cry from a brand new Prius! But it works, and since my daily commute is only 10 miles, I’ll get by. But I want our car back soon!

Nice rack — NOT!

The Toyota dealer’s service folks called me this morning — Diane’s brand-new Prius needs to have the power steering rack replaced. They don’t have a spare in stock but there are at least two available in the warehouse — but they’re not sure if the relevant warehouse is local or is in Los Angeles. If it’s local, we may get the car back on Tuesday; if it’s in LA, we’re probably looking at Thursday.

Fortunately, we have fairly flexible schedules this week, and Jeffrey isn’t in any classes, so we can get by with only one car for a few days. But it’s still irritating to have bought a new car, and to only have made two one-way trips with it, with a Toyota dealer at one end of each. *sigh*

108 miles and it’s in the shop!

This morning, I took my Prius to a nearby dealer for its 5000-mile service. I didn’t realize that it was just an oil change and would take less than an hour, so Diane followed in her new Prius to bring me home.

When she arrived, she asked me what a red exclamation point in a triangle meant on the dash. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think it was good. I opened the manual and it told me to consult the multi-function display, which had a “PS” on it, which meant that the power steering was out and that we should bring the car to a Toyota dealer as soon as we could.

Since we were parked at a Toyota dealer, that was an easy prospect — we drove over to the service area (again) and gave them the car to look at. A few minutes later, they’d finished the oil change on my car, and we headed home.

Late this afternoon, the service department called — apparently a torque sensor is acting up, causing the power steering to go offline (there was a recall for this in the 2001 Prius). They will have to call ToyotaTech for advice; in the meantime, we’re back down to one car. *sigh*

A rollercoaster of a day

I knew today was going to be unusual. The only thing on my schedule was a funeral at lunchtime (a friend at shul), but I planned to work before and afterwards.

The morning got off to a bit of a slow start — I came to work dressed in a suit, which threw everyone offstride. Shortly after I arrived, I got an instant message from a friend who’d been given 30 days to find a new job or leave the company — he’d found a new job, and it was probably better than the one he’d had. And I was able to help another friend with a question from a client (at least I think I gave her good data!). But one of our summer interns was leaving, having finished her six month stay (she’s from Australia, so she arrived during her summer and left during ours), and that was somewhat sad.

I dropped by the credit union to deposit a check and pick up another car loan preapproval (our first one had expired already); one of the people in line was incredibly happy — it turns out it was his last day of work (he decided to retire at the end of the month and was going on vacation between now and then). I congratulated him, of course. Then I took care of my business and returned to my office to get a little work done.

Very little, as it turned out. At 10:45, my phone rang — it was Bob Martin from Hansel Toyota in Petaluma, calling to tell me that he had a new Prius for us (Blue, AM package, which was our first choice) and wanting to know when we’d be in to get it. Since the funeral was going to go well into the afternoon, I decided we might as well go to Petaluma afterwards instead of coming back to work for an hour or so.

So I worked until it was time to leave — then hurried to Shir Hadash for the memorial service, arriving barely in time. Then it was over to the cemetery for the interment, and then home to change.

There was a Hertz location near the dealership in Petaluma, so we were able to drive up together in the Hertz car and home in the new car. The only catch was getting to Hertz by the time they closed — 6pm. We left home at 3:20 for a 95-mile trip — we arrived at 5:52pm. I guess I shouldn’t have believed Mapquest when it suggested taking the East Bay route — the merge from 580 to 101 took 20 minutes all by itself. But we arrived safely, if frazzled, and got rid of the car.

Now we were 95 miles from home with no car. So we did the obvious thing — we went to the closest restaurant (Cattlemen’s) for dinner. It’s a steak house — and pretty good. I’d go back, though I wouldn’t make a trip to Petaluma just for a meal there.

The dealership was about a 20-minute walk away; we arrived, met our salesperson for the first time (we found him through craigslist), and got started on the actual transaction. Two hours later, we were finished (it did help that we knew the car already, so we didn’t need the one-hour intro we got when we bought my Prius) and on the road for home.

This time, we avoided the East Bay and took 101 to the Golden Gate Bridge, then 19th Avenue through the city, followed by 280 and 85 to home. Elapsed time in this direction: one hour, 40 minutes.

I hope to avoid car shopping for quite a while. I won’t avoid Petaluma, though — we have a trip there with Shir Hadash on Thursday.

A Date Certain

I just got a call from one of the dealers I’ve been working with to replace the old Prius; he says he has two blue BC Priuses on the next boat, arriving at the port at the end of this month, expected in his hands by July 2. Now he only has one unallocated car (and my poor credit card has yet another $500 deposit on it).

Diane would actually prefer the AM package, which is slightly less loaded (no navigation, no CD changer), but time is of the essence. Similarly, if another dealer can provide us with a car sooner, we’ll go there (all of the dealers I’m working with know that).

But at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The old Prius is really history now

We’ve gotten our checks from State Farm and from Toyota (refunding the balance of our extended warranty), so I guess the story of the old Prius is officially over at this point.

We’re on the waitlist for a new Prius at six dealers so far (only one of which has actually charged our credit card for the deposit). The next batch of cars is due in this weekend — I’m hoping that one of the dealers will get the color/equipment combination we want, because I’m tired of driving rentals, not to mention paying for them!

The current rental, by the way, is a Chevy Classic — it is completely innocuous and personality-free. This puts it enormously far ahead of the Chevy Cavalier that I rented for the first part of this process, but I wouldn’t want to own one anyway. Sorry, Rick.

Car update

State Farm called yesterday to tell us how much they’d give us for the totalled Prius; the number was quite reasonable, but we’ll still be well short of the price of a new Prius. I was pleasantly surprised that they also will repay us for the unused registration and for the sales tax on the car (well, for the amount they cover) — I hadn’t thought of that at all.

So now we’re on the waitlist at three dealerships so far, and I should call some others over the weekend, on the extremely limited chance that there’ll be a blue BC available locally.