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Here's a tale you don't hear often: I took the car in for a repair and came out with a balance of zero.
By Cathy Dyson
I FEEL AS LUCKY
I took my car in for repairs and came out owing absolutely nothing.
My mother told me to enjoy the moment, because ones like it don't come along too often.
It all started with the air-bag light. I'm embarrassed to admit that it's been coming on, intermittently, for the past year, and I didn't take it to the dealership for service.
I didn't want to pay the hefty price I just knew would be associated with the service. But I was coming up on my annual inspection, and Charlie, faithful caretaker of my car and those of several other people in the newsroom, said my vehicle wouldn't pass inspection with that red shining icon on my dashboard.
He suggested I take it to the dealership because Honda offers a lifetime warranty on seat belts.
I wasn't sure the air-bag light was a component of the seat belt, but I figured he knew more about it than I did.
And Charlie was right on the money--or the lack of it on my part, in this case.
A bad buckle was the culprit, as it is nine out of 10 times the air-bag light comes on, a service consultant said.
The diagnostics, the replacement part and the service were free. All I had to do was bring the car back two days later when the part arrived. That didn't bother me at all, given that I would be paying nothing for the service.
When I brought the car back the second time, I saw a different consultant. He called later to say I had a bulb out, and did I want him to replace it? I told him no thanks and that I'd get it replaced the next day when I had it inspected, at the shop where we always get our vehicles serviced.
He asked if I wanted him to do the inspection. Again I said no.
He said all I'd have to pay for was the cost of the bulb. He'd do the inspection for free.
That was the magic word. I said sure.
He called later to say I didn't have a bad bulb after all. The seat-belt buckle had been replaced, and my balance, in his words, was "zero dollars."
"I like the sound of that," I said over the phone.
Afterward, I felt as if the stars had aligned in my favor. It's so seldom that you go to the repair shop and leave without feeling you've left an arm or leg behind.
I felt even luckier after I shared the story with co-workers. One told me about his experience with an air-bag light, which went from being nothing to worry about to a repair that involved replacing a seat cushion and sensor--to the tune of about $1,300.
I'm glad the patron saint of air bags was smiling on me.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425