Archive for the 'Cars' category

Needs inflating - Photo: Peter Orosz

I am pretty good about regularly pumping up my tires ever since I discovered I can use the air pump for free at the Costco Tire Center.  Every time I get gas at my local, overcrowded Costco I then drive over and pump up the tires.

A few months ago I noticed one of the tires on my beloved Prius was a bit lower than the others. I just assumed it was random since it wasn’t very low.  After awhile though I noticed it was the same tire, my front left tire.  A few months ago when I got an oil change the tires were rotated and I was hoping that maybe now that it was in the rear it would not go as flat but it did not make a difference.

Toyota Prius

I continued running like this because the tire never seemed to get very low between fill ups. Also I had no idea where to go to get my tire patched and I was too lazy to figure out.

This pattern of inflating and deflating every two weeks fell apart when Ji Seon began filling up the car.  She did not know I inflated the tires and the tire became flatter and flatter.  Still I did not address the problem because I noticed my fuel mileage was still the same.  My laziness knows no bounds.

cluttered desktopOne day I showed my now quite flat tire to my car friend expert.  The expression on his face said “You know nothing about cars.  How can you do this to your car?”  (I am sure I have the same expression when some people show me their computers.)  But he was very polite and explained why I had to buy new tires since the side walls had been almost completely worn off.

I wasn’t sure where to go for replacement tires.  My friend suggested Costco lukewarmly.  Though one blog post recommended them the comments on that post weren’t that reassuring nor were the complaints about Costco Tire Center on this site and other sites.

I called Yarnell’s, my auto mechanics, and the receptionist suggested America’s Tire Co.  When I asked about Costco she said “Oh, they’re good too.”

When I asked what’s the difference the receptionist said “Oh they’re the same.”

P185/65R15 Michelin Energy Saver A/S TiresI then called the mechanics my friend uses, Japanese Beetle.  The mechanic, who was very friendly, told me he sends all of his customers including himself to Costco Tire Center.  He said that some of his customers also use America’s Tire Co and Wheel Works.

After talking with everyone I decided to take a chance with Costco Tire Center so I went over yesterday afternoon and asked for a quote.  The serviceman strongly suggested the Michelin Energy Savers and quoted $600 to replace all four plus $70 off with the Costco coupon.  This was a lot more expensive than I expected.  I ended up asking to just replace the rear two tires and the quote was $300.  The wait he said though would be 2.5 hours and suggested I come back in the morning.

Update 10-28-2009: The price seems to have come down.  At the tires are $121.99 and at they are $145.99.

Michelin Energy SaverThat night I checked out different sites to see if I should get the Michelin Energy Savers like this forum.  There seemed to be no consensus about which tire to use for replacement.  In the end I decided might as well pay the extra, you usually get what you pay for.

I arrived at Costco Tire Center this morning at 9:30 AM but already I was too late, the expected wait was 2.5 hours again.  In the end I waited over three hours but fortunately I had my laptop with me.  Most of the time I waited inside Costco sitting on a lovely couch they are trying to sell.

Now I finally have a healthy tire as shown below.  Notice the green cap because the tire is filled with nitrogen.

Michelin Energy Saver for Prius

Lesson learned.  Fix the flat for $20 instead of waiting to replace it for $300!

Update 10-28-2009: My mileage seems to have improved by about 7 mpg but part of that may have been because the tire was kind of flat before. 🙂


Scratches Are Expensive Update

 | March 7, 2009 2:30 PM

scratchThree months ago I blogged about how I accidentally scratched a car and how the owner requested $650 to $850 for the repair.

Since that time I engaged in many conversations with him and various repair shops.  One shop, Active Auto Body, advised me that there is no way that the repair should be that much, that the cost should be around $125.  I sent the photo of the scratch to another shop, B2 Perfection Auto Body, and they said they could try to buff out that scratch for free.

It turned out the owner had thought I had damaged the front of his bumper which is why the repair was so high since there is a lot of labor involved in fixing a front bumper.  A scratch on the side rocker molding is easy to fix because you just put in a new one.

At this point I was starting to become frustrated with this owner trying to get me to pay so much for damage I had not done.  I also was becoming a little frustrated with his contradictions.  Originally he said that the reason he wanted to fix the scratch was because the car was new and there were no other scratches.  Now he was admitting there was other damage on the car.  He also first said there was a sizable dent on the front bumper but later said it was a scratch that was smaller than the scratch I had caused on the side rocker molding.

I became so frustrated that I told him I would not pay.  Previously he would take a few days to reply to any of my emails but he immediately replied to this one.  After several exchanges I relented, not because of his contradicting arguments, but because I realized that regardless of everything the scratch was still my fault.

In the end I realized that my greatest frustration was that I thought that by doing the right thing somehow I would end up not having to actually pay for what I had done, like a reward from God for just doing the right thing.  When I realized that this time, unlike previous times, I would actually have to pay, I was disappointed to say the least.

I contacted the owner a few times after that, asking him to please get the repair done quickly so that we could move on.  He finally sent me an email saying he got hurt and that it would take him a few weeks to do it.

Now it is three months later and I have not heard from him since mid-December.  At this point I would be quite content if he never contacts me again.


Change Your Own Oil

 | March 5, 2009 1:49 PM

Recently I changed the oil on my Prius and it cost almost $50.  I know everything is more expensive in California but I am not used to paying more than $30 for such service.

Now that we’re knee deep in a recession I thought I’d consider learning how to change my own oil.  This article, How to Change the Oil on your Prius with Pictures, seems pretty helpful.  Consumer Reports also has articles on how to check your oil and how to inspect belts and hoses.

If I want to still get a repair, Consumer Reports recommends checking out Repair Pal and Car Talk for names and user reviews for local independent garages.  I used Yelp to find the place I went to for my Prius and they seemed pretty good.  Consumer Reports also recommends using a shop that’s approved by AAA and is a member of the BBB.

I hope I can get 200,000 miles out of my Prius and Odyssey.  Well maybe not the Odyssey, I don’t really enjoy driving that car.


Scratches Are Expensive

 | December 3, 2008 12:09 PM

We went to Costco to look at possibly buying an LCD HDTV.  The model we wanted was sold out so I returned the flatbed shopping cart to the cart return area.  As I normally do when I near the cart return area I pushed the cart towards it like it is a sporting event instead of gently, intelligently pushing it all the way back.  Unfortunately I had no idea that flatbed shopping carts cannot be pushed like this.  Instead of wheeling straight into the cart return area it suddenly veered off and headed towards a parked minivan.  I tried to stop it but not before it left a small 2″ scratch on the bumper below the driver side sliding door.

Wanting to do the right thing, I left a note for the owner of the minivan.  Ji Seon was worried because this minivan was brand new, it did not have a scratch on it.  I was hoping that even if we did had to fix it the cost would be between $50 to $100 since it was just a small scratch.

Yesterday the owner called me and said he got two estimates and they were between $650 and $850!  The high cost is because the industry standard is to pull out the whole bumper before reparing it.  I called back one of the body shops and they said they could do it without pulling out the bumper but the cost would still be between $200 and $300 and that they would not warranty the repair.

This is a pretty expensive lesson.


AAA Limit

 | September 11, 2008 3:56 PM

AAA StopI have been a AAA member for awhile. Previously I joined because I got a discount on my car insurance when I joined AAA so the membership ended up being free. I am not sure why but I decided to keep it this year, partially because it seems at least a few times a year I drain a battery and need to call AAA for a boost.

The other day I got a letter from AAA saying they only do four services a year for free and that I have done already three (all boosts).  I am not sure when they started instituting this limit but it makes my AAA membership seem just a little less valuable.  I might actually have to learn how to do a boost myself!


Comparing Gas Prices on the Road

 | June 21, 2008 5:39 AM

From the New York Times, Comparing Gas Prices on the Road. has been a handy site for finding the cheapest gasoline prices, but more than likely you’ll need the information while on the road, not at your desk. It has instructions for getting current prices with its mobile Web site ( or by text message at

Another reason to get the iPhone. 🙂