My tale of automotive woe

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

I finally got my SUV to pass the emissions test. But it cost me almost $2,000 to do so. Why such a tremendous amount? Let me tell you my tale of woe!

As I have previously written, my plates expired at the end of November, 2017. That was an interesting year where I experienced unemployment, medical situations, underemployment and finally decent employment. Like a lot of people, I put off having my car serviced simply because I couldn't afford it.

A friend tried to help me out by taking the car to the auto parts store and having them diagnose why the service engine light was on. The recommended fix was a new mass air flow filter that cost $150. I bought it, he installed it, but the service engine light kept glowing. I knew my next option was to put it in the shop. But which one?

I posted a plea on Facebook for suggested repair shops. I got a recommendation for one on Division Street that had four stars. But my son decides to take it to a place he heard about, and that was a major rip-off.

When I finally got my car back, the shop had taken out my decent battery and replaced it with a used battery that didn't have enough power to even run the radio. They also took off the brand new mass air flow filter and put the old one back on. Unfortunately I had paid the $600 balance before I learned of the situation. I was able to drive the car for one day, but it died out on me a number of times. So we had the mechanic pick the car back up. One week later, I got the car back and it was running slightly better. However the following day, the car wouldn't start. A friend accurately diagnosed that the starter had gone out. Another bad piece of news was that it had gone out during some of the coldest days we had in January.

I posted a different plea on Facebook and got the name of a mechanic who could fix the starter at my house. Two hundred dollars later, the car was running again. But the service engine light was still glowing! It took another month for me to raise the money to again put the car in the shop. Nine hundred dollars later, the car did pass the emissions test. I had spent $1,700 on my car.

When I finally went to the Secretary of State with my certificate showing I passed the emission test, I had already purchased the $10 7-day pass a total of four times between December 2017 and April. I had also gotten a $60 ticket from the city of Chicago for my car being on the street with an expired plate. I was stopped at least three times by the police for having an expired plate, but each time those officers were sympathetic to my plight.

The Secretary of State wanted me to spend $121 on my plate sticker, which included a late fee plus another $2.84 because I paid with a debit card. Then they informed me that my new sticker would come in the mail along with a new set of plates, which will still expire in November. How does the state get to charge me for time during which they wouldn't give me a sticker? Yet they had no qualms selling me those 7-day passes at $10 each!

No other business would allow such deceptive practices. Neither ComEd nor Peoples Gas can charge me for their meter fees while the service is disconnected. 

We've already had stories in the paper about how parking tickets can cause people to go bankrupt. Emissions testing can't be far behind. I hope some politicians will look into this and offer some substantive changes!

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