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(Name of facility omitted since they are making good on it.)

Five years ago, I purchased a 2012 ECO brand new off the showroom floor. Five years later, I've nearly paid it off and the car has 52,000 miles and looks brand new. This is a short miracle, considering that most of the time I have been in California and nearly a year in Los Angeles. However, the car has persevered against the odds and has been a very reliable companion. Recently, I outfitted it with a full Thule rack system and having the increased storage capacity has really enabled my car's utilitarianism and versatility. I was looking forward to enjoying the next three or four years of having a paid off car that was practically pristine.

Fast forward to last week, I was in San Jose for a friends wedding and needed to make the trip back to Los Angeles. On my way out of town, I stopped at a local popular oil change facility to get the oil changed. I have been to this location before and they usually do great work, but for some reason this time this trip proved to be fatal for my car. They changed the oil, did the inspection, and I was ready to go. For anyone familiar with driving down from the North Bay to the LA Basin, there are numerous technical sections of the interstate that have to be navigated and the trip can be very challenging on a vehicle that isn't prepped for the trip. I've made this trip multiple times with my Cruze, so I didn't have a reason to believe that this trip would be any different.

There is a section of roadway that connects the 101 to the I-5 called Pacheco Canyon. It goes through a reservoir and it is a very beautiful, scenic drive. It's beauty is matched only by the danger of the twisted sections of roadways that claim cars and lives on a weekly basis.

I navigated this section of roadway successfully, and merged onto the I-5 Southbound. The car was running very well, and as I started climbing a grade, I settled in for an uninterrupted two-three hour haul. In my rearview mirror, I saw a Shell gas station (last stop for 35 miles) recede into the horizon in my mirror.

It was just at this moment that my car overheated. There was no warning, no hesitation from the engine, no stumbling. I was just climbing the grade at 70 MPH, and my temperature gage immediately went from normal temps to overheat while the info screen threw up a warning. I immediately pulled over as best as I could on a nearly non existent shoulder and shut down the car. The first thing I thought was that the oil change facility screwed something up. I was in a very dangerous situation, as cars were passing by my car with only inches, and my car would rock from the wind blast as 18 wheelers drove by. I had no choice but to move the car. I started the car up, the temperatures seemed to settle back to operating range, and I accelerated the car and merged back with the freeway. I finished climbing the steep hill grade and as I cleared the ridge the car threw out another overheat warning. Fortunately, there was a very wide embankment and a service road crossover. I puled off onto the cross over and shut the car down.

I called my insurance that sent out roadside assistance, and as I waited for the tow truck I popped open the hood to see what had happened. The coolant reservoir was open, the cap sitting on top sideways, forgotten. Smoke wafted up from the backside of the engine, the smell of coolant and evidence of coolant being spewed all over the engine bay was obvious. This car was not moving.

I settled in for the wait, and eventually the tow truck showed up. The driver checked the engine and confirmed that the coolant was missing from the reservoir. I'm glad I found a safe pull off, as getting it onto the flatbed was an extended task as he couldn't find an anchor point on the vehicle to hook onto. I made a mental note to get one of those race tow hooks that install on the bumper for future adventures.

I was towed into the nearest town, a small hamlet that sat about 10 miles off the interstate (a commuter town as it was called), my car was deposited at a closed mechanic shop and I found a nearby hotel to stay the night. Once I was settled in for the night, I immediately started making battle plans for what I suspected was going to be an ensuing battle. I collected my numerous receipts for such a short excursion. (A oil change at 10 AM, a tow bill at 12 PM, a hotel bill) I fired off an email to corporate, making sure I included all the five W's (Who, what, where, why, when), made sure I connected the chain of events, and let them know the disposition of the car and where I was at.

The next morning, I went to the mechanic. It was a preferred repair facility for my insurance, but it seemed less then promising. This was definitely Lightning McQueen breaking down in Radiator Falls. Various cars of numerous year models past their prime sat waiting for repair. The parking lot was full of cars that were in doubt various stages of mechanics liens. My poor Cruze was in the parking lot, looking wounded.

When the garages to the shop opened up, people started streaming in like survivors entering a shelter and it was obvious that the mechanics were going to be overwhelmed. I did my best to relay my need, attempting to sum up the entire adventure in one sentence or less. As it turns out, I was able to shorten the entire adventure into only two words, and it wasn't what you thought it would be.

The section of roadway in which I broke down was infamous for claiming car and people alike, and the town experiences weekly influxes of people with stories just like mine. From the concerned mechanic, to the nodding attendant at the auto parts store, to the restaurant staff and the deskman at hotel, all I had to do was utter the words "Dinosaur Point." and that told the whole story onto itself. There was enough of a stigma to that section of road that one could arrive at the conclusion that many centuries ago, native Americans were probably massacred and ever since then forces were actively working against the machines that transverse that roadway. Technology and the NHSTA were no match for ancient hoodoo.

I had to tread carefully because this was the part of the adventure where spoken words literally had dollar signs attached to them.

"It's going to need an inspection." The mechanic said. ($90)

"The repair work is going to take at least a week." ($35/daily rental car)

"It might not get done today." ($65.00 hotel room)

"It could either be a cracked head gasket or we may have to replace the whole engine. ($1800 - 3800)

I weighed my options. The nearest Chevy dealership was nearly 40 miles away. Could the car make it over there? Could this be a power train warranty issue? Could I call insurance on it? I started to sweat. I was in a very precarious position. I had to be back in Los Angeles and my car that was nearly paid off had a potentially blown motor courtesy of a botched 12 point inspection as far away from civilization as I could possibly be.

As it turns out, my email to corporate did the trick, because that particular location dispatched a manager to the repair shop to put eyes on the car. After some questions, a tense half day of back and forth, and other associated issues, the call was made. The oil change facility was taking responsibility for it and they were going to cover the damages to the car. I was relieved. The gentleman assured me that I had nothing to worry about. The mechanics nodded their approval. ("We've never seen that before", one muttered)

That afternoon, I had a rental car, (2016 Malibu) and I was rocketing back South to Los Angeles to get my work done.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is my story about the oil change from ****.
 

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@ls1vazquez, Glad you’re safe and sounds like everything’s going in the right direction.

Be sure to post a follow-up when you get the Cruze back!

P.S. Congrats on the loan pay-off, big accomplishment.
 

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I'm convinced that anyone that uses a quick change outfit should do their own inspection of the car before going any significant distance. Perhaps after driving a couple of blocks. Make sure it's still got oil and all the fluid caps are in place.
 
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I just read over this real quick, so help me if I skipped over something but couldn't you just have added some coolant and went on your way?
Normally one would think of this, in fact I carry spare fluids for that type of occurrence. This should have been noticed before proceeding up the grade. I'm sure if the cap was off the sickly fragrance of Dex Cool would be in the Car. Yet breaking down on a California Freeway can be very dangerous and sometimes we don't think clearly. I cracked an engine with my Turbo Colt on the I40 in 140 degree heat and drove it back to L.A. once.
 
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