Panic! At The Intersection

Last night, I went down to my car in the garage of my building, only to find a dead battery.

Forty-five minutes, some unsafe jumper cables, and a chivalrous colleague later, I was on my way, with a freshly jumped car I could only hope would run until I could find a service station. Which wasn’t quite what happened. Instead, the car died again at an intersection in Beverlywood. And until a good Samaritan came by to help me push the car out of the way, I had to wave cars around me at the stop sign for twenty minutes.

(By the way, good Samaritan – if you are reading this – thank you again. You were the only person to stop and help me. I’m going to pay that forward.)

Of course, I was panicking during this time. After all, what do you do when your car dies, and you don’t have Triple-A? Or, for that matter, even know where you would be towed to if you did? Fortunately, I remembered that I had Roadside Assistance through my Progressive insurance, and called them. Then, all I had to do was find a service station to tell the driver to take me to.

Ideally, I would have had the driver take me to the service station closest to my home, on Pacific at Windward. Which he did – right when the owner’s son came skateboarding up to inform us that the station didn’t actually fix anything. They just outsourced it to other stations. For those of you in Venice, Angel’s Service, right across from the new Coffee Bean on Pacific, do not actually do any service work.

But the driver suggested Pep Boys in Culver City, and that’s where we took the car. It’s there now. I had my cousin pick me up, and then I realized – we were close to Versailles, and if there was ever a night for it, that was it. And for the record, a glass of sangria and a plateful of BBQ chicken, beans, rice and plantains, will make even the nightmare of car troubles disappear. It was my first trip to Versailles, too, and now I know where to go when I’ve just had a very rough day.

Today, I get the fun and excitement of dealing with getting the car fixed, which requires me to go down to Pep Boys and work with them. Does anyone have any experience with the chain, especially the Culver City location? And where do you take YOUR car when it has trouble? Do you take it to a chain store, to a garage, to the dealership? In a city where cars are so all important, I can’t believe I never thought to prepare for this before.

UPDATE: The car’s symptoms (it’s a ’99 Saturn SC1, for the record) were those of a broken alternator, but Pep Boys told me today that it needs new battery. I pushed for the alternator, and they said nope, it’s the battery. And I have to go with that because the car’s undriveable as it is, and it’s already there. However, thanks to all the wonderful people who shared their mechanics, I will just take the car to one of those for a second opinion. You guys rock.

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9 Replies to “Panic! At The Intersection”

  1. Although I’ve never used Pep Boys, I’ve been advised against them because I’ve been told they overcharge. I hope you find out differently! When I lived in Venice I used Arka’s Automotive at 2130 Lincoln. It’s an independent shop and I was really happy with their service.

  2. Oh, and SERIOUSLY consider getting a AAA membership. They $70 per year is well worth the piece of mind. I can’t recommend it enough. This coming from someone whose car is on her last cylinder. Literally.

  3. Pep Boys is notorious (consumer resports) for ripping off customers. I found this out after my battery died (car only had about 30k miles) and they insisted I needed a new one.

    Dealership = they’ll find EVERYTHING wrong with your car and insist that urgent attention is needed. You’ll spend lots of $. But you will also get someone who’s specially trained in your make and model, know it inside and out and be able to diagnose any sound (plus free coffee and donuts)

    Garage = most would be thrilled to have a returning customer and will treat you honestly and timely. But you have to do the leg work to find the right one that you can trust. my guy is in the valley (but i don’t live there!) and i wouldn’t trade him for all the manny, moe and jack’s in the world

  4. Jim Matson on Pico and Crenshaw. I know it’s nowhere near you, but he is GREAT. I had some engine trouble a couple years back and took the car to him. He discovered that the problem was covered under Mazda warrantee and sent me to the dealership so I could get the work done for free. Love him.

  5. I don’t think you really need a mechanic for a dead battery. Just go get a new one, replace it and you’re on your way.
    It’s a 20 min job even for someone who isn’t particularly mechanically inclined.
    Heck, I would do it for you if I knew where you were. It really is that simple.

  6. For mechanic/garage, I’d check out Doyle Sharp at A-1 Auto.

    A-1 Auto
    2245 S. Barrington Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90064
    (310) 445-3290

    He won’t work on German cars, but he will work on everything else. I live close to Venice but make the trek out to his garage between Olympic and Pico. In fact, he was recommended to me by a buddy who lives and work in Alhambra. My friend will only take his car there.

    As for Pep Boys, it all depends on who you get to help you. My recommendation is that you take the car somewhere else.

  7. If it’s just the battery, you can go to Auto Zone – they’ll install the battery for free.

  8. Car broken? Call boyfriend that is what they are for. Bad alternators will ruin a good battery and bad batteries can damage alternators – that is what the BF said.

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