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Experiencing Vandalism & Untimely Automotive Maintenance Firsthand!

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

What Kind of World Do We Live In?

A Volvo SUV sitting adjacent to a tent outdoors.

Volvo XC-60 (media by Jeff Clos)

Last week was quite the experience in our household. The adage, when it rains, it pours is an understatement with regards to the setbacks my wife and I experienced. For the sake of this article, I will keep it focused on the automotive issues we both had in such a short time frame.

My wife has been making consistent weekend trips to visit her ailing mother, who happens to be 300 miles away in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. On her previous trip, she was able to carpool with her brother, and the two of them agreed to meet in a predetermined location and leave one of their cars in a carpool lot. Keeping with the theme of untimely automotive maintenance, she returned to a car sounding like a motorcycle. Someone had removed the catalytic converter from the vehicle, which is not something easily done. For those unfamiliar, the catalytic converter is a commonly stolen piece from cars, mainly due to the precious metals (platinum). Its purpose is to take the exhaust (Pollutants) from the system and to convert them into something less toxic. This part, located underneath the car, had to be removed using a Sawzall blade.

A catalytic converter not attached to a car.

Typical Catalytic Converter (media by Jeff Clos)

Around the same time, I struggled to find a tire shop to resolve my nail in the tire issue. A simple plug repair, generally an hour experience in a reputable shop, required a few days for repair. Tire shops are so behind right now, which can be attributed to many issues. The most common problems I heard, we are very short on help, and vehicles are back on the road with the economic bounce-back. I would bide my time with repeated trips to the air station until it was vital to complete a proper repair. If I was having this much trouble completing a tire repair, you could imagine how hard it may be to have a catalytic converter replaced on a vehicle.

My wife dreaded having to make another trip up north with her crippled car. Not only did it sound like a giant, struggling monstrosity, but it had also lost the ability to punch it. She could still exceed 70mph, but it took much longer to get there. It was not appealing for a 300-mile drive back and forth to the Upper Peninsula. In this particular case, it was essential to call in a few favors. A family friend had a connection at a shop within the Metro Detroit area. He could order the parts to be delivered in a day or two and perform the installation service the same day. The cost of repair would be in the $1700 range. Not ideal, but needed just the same!

Just as I resigned myself to the decision of waiting on the tire repair, another issue arose. As I pulled into my neighborhood, my car started to sound like a screaming banshee. As I pulled into the garage, the sound echoed even louder. The kids were perplexed, as was I, as to what could be causing the sound. I quickly opened the hood of the car to locate the sound. After a quick inspection, I was compelled to remove the engine oil cap. The sound instantly went away. You could feel the vacuum from the now exposed hole. I replaced the cap, and the sound returned. I now had a starting point and would do some further investigation.

In the past, I would reach out to the Volvo car dealership to schedule a service, but I wanted to see if I could complete this service. My last few trips to the dealership have resulted in no less than $1000 on each visit. My routine visits seem to yield larger expenditures every time. After seeking out information on my issue, I found the problem stemmed from the PCV valve. The PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve’s purpose is to take the unwanted pollutant gases and channel them into the intake rather than the atmosphere. This explained the vacuum I felt when removing the engine oil cap. It looked like the blowby gases were escaping my system and creating the “banshee” screaming noise from my vehicle. It was quite the head-turner when riding by walking pedestrians.

My next job was to locate a replacement. It turned out to complete the service; a PCV valve oil tray assembly was needed. The repair, although cumbersome, would be relatively easy. As this was a Friday, my biggest heartache would be to continue driving the “screaming eagle” throughout the weekend until the part arrived. I ended up spending roughly $200; the shipping charge accounted for a significant amount for expediting. As stated earlier, the dealership charge would most likely hover around the $1000 mark, so I considered this a win.

PCV valve Oil Tray (media by Jeff Clos)

There were a few days when both my wife and I had underperforming vehicles, and I can only imagine what our neighbors thought. There goes the neighborhood! It was at about the same time; the small tire leak became a more significant tire leak. I could not keep the air in the tire, and the delay in having it fixed could no longer be tolerated. I needed to find someone to repair this tire and quickly. After calling about a dozen places, I was lucky to happen upon a business that could slip me in. I only needed to drop the car off in the afternoon and have my wife pick me up in her “motorcycle.” The shop had trouble locating my tire lock tool, but it was found with my spare tire after a thorough search. With one project done, I could focus on my PCV valve issue.

I was surprised and relatively pleased with myself as it was a straightforward repair. More importantly, once the unit was on, the screaming sound was gone. I had a slight scare when the engine repair light remained lit within the dash, but I quickly found it was my inexperience in using the diagnostic tool. For those of you interested, I will be posting the video at a later date. I am also happy to say, my wife’s vehicle was also completed. There was a delay in getting the parts, as the wrong parts were ordered, but ultimately the repair was made. Also, to her benefit, the parts and labor came in well under the $1700 estimate.

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