houston performance: my experience

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this was supposed to be my post where i talked about how i'm still not satisfied with my car, but at least all the work i got done involving the new engine is functioning properly. of course, since it's me we're dealing with, it's far from it.

i told work i was going to be out this morning to go pick up my car. jack and his daughters gave me ride up to the place. the place is houston performance (houston performance website), located on 249 a little inside beltway 8 north. i walked in and after a minute or two the owner (steve) showed up and said "yeah? oh, it's you. the keys are in it." when he had called a few days ago to let me know the car was ready, i thought it was odd he just said "your car's ready" since i'd asked him about doing some other work for me, like looking at the clutch, problems shifting, trying to see if my transmission has overdrive, etc. but he hadn't talked at all about anything, just "your car's ready". so i now asked him about the shifting (as one thing), and he said "yeah, it's messed up. you need to talk to a transmission guy. i've got a card for one." i said "so you didn't look at any of the other stuff?" to which he replied "yeah, it's not really our thing." i was kind of annoyed he completely blew off everything i'd asked about, especially given he'd made it sound like they could look at that stuff. but, oh well, what could i do? i wasn't having to pay them so i wasn't losing anything. i went out and got in the car and took off.

within 50 feet the engine was clicking just like when i dropped it off. "well," i thought, "maybe it just needs to get some oil in it when it starts up." so i kept driving it. no, the sound was...worse. louder. same sound though. we were only going about 1.5 miles to eat, so when we got there i told jack and we turned around and went back to the shop.

i walked into the office and the boss and his two workers were sitting in chairs. i said "the car's still making the same sound. i think it's worse now than it was before." they looked at each other for awhile without saying anything, then the boss said "well, i don't know what to tell you. we did what edelbrock told us to do." pause. "i thought it sounded better. but i didn't drive it. you?" (aside: this comment is rather interesting considering the first time i was there he talked to me about my shifting/transmission as if he'd looked into it some.) one of the other guys replied "nah, i just started it up and moved it back. so, uh...." pause. then the boss said "i guess you need to just call edelbrock." that was evidently all they cared to say on the matter. i was shocked. they hardly talked, would hardly make eye contact...not a single one of them went out to look at or listen to the car. they couldn't even bother to get out of their fscking seats. i turned around and walked out. (and for the record, i was not angry, confrontational, taking attitude, or anything at any point with them.)

i went back to my car and immediately called edelbrock. fortunately the guy at edelbrock was at his desk and answered his phone. i told him the story and he seemed surprised. i told him i was still in the parking lot, so he said he'd call the shop. i sat outside and waited while he called and talked to them. while waiting and checking my engine, i noticed that several cosmetic hex nut inserts that go on top of the rocker arm covers were missing (which i'd never noticed being gone before.) i could see oil left on the spark plug wires and headers they didn't clean off. so i guess at least i could tell they'd done something to the engine. after some time, he called me back and said the guy told him he thought it'd been fixed. i was still letting the car idle, so i told him i could let him hear it over the phone. he was shocked a shop would give an engine back to someone when it sounded like that. he even brought a mechanic over and let him listen to it over the phone. he was shocked and said it sounded bad too. i told him how they'd acted, and he told me he got the impression they weren't really interested in dealing with this at all, so he thought we should take it to another shop. i agreed, saying i was concerned at this point they would be annoyed with me, even though none of this was my fault at all. the edelbrock guy agreed. i made sure i should still be able to drive it, since it was making the same sound as before and he'd told me i could drive it. he said it was fine. note during the 20 or 30 minutes i was outside and they were on the phone with edelbrock, plus the time they were off the phone with and i was talking to edelbrock, they never came out to me or anything. their bay doors were open and i was right there near them. i hopped in the car and off we went back to the place to eat.

about 200 or 300 yards into the drive, my car started making a new sound. a bad sound. not a high-pitched ticking like with the lifter knock, but a low-pitched loud clanging/thunking...more like pistons hitting valves or something. i let off the gas and it subsided, so i hoped it was temporary. but the next time i gave it some gas and started to get rpms beyond idle it started doing it again. it did this a couple of times, so i ended up having to mostly let the car coast or move at very low speeds. i called the edelbrock guy while driving and told him the new twist, and gave the car some gas to let him hear the engine. (oh, it was way loud enough to hear over a phone.) he said that sounded really bad and i shouldn't drive it. i agreed. to be honest, it sounded about like my previous engine did before it blew. (thank goodness i hadn't immediately taken it onto a highway, because it may have happened under high rpm at highway speeds, and it might have been really bad.) i was at the parking lot for the restaurant so i pulled in and stopped the engine. he said he'd talk to his guys and come up with a plan. i told him i had aaa, so i could tow it somewhere. he said they could pay for it, but if i wanted to use my aaa he'd appreciate it.

we ate, then we left my car and went to an auto zone to get a fuse for jack's van. he called me and said he was trying to get me into fast lane. which looked like a very nice shop from when i looked up their web site a couple of months ago. plus it was only a few miles from where my car was. i felt pretty confident fast lane would probably do a good job. but then he called me back later and said fast lane was overbooked and couldn't take me. so he told me he was calling the Texas edelbrock rep to find somewhere, and he'd call me back. so we went to the mall. he called me back an hour or so later with contact info for a new shop to try.

so i called them. they couldn't take my car today. *sigh* so i had to get my car towed to my house, and i'm supposed to tow it to their shop (which is only about 7 miles from my house) tomorrow. of course, i had to miss the whole day of work, which wasn't planned. and now i'm going to have to miss part of work tomorrow too. i called aaa and set up the towing, but i also learned aaa only gives you 4 free tows a year (i thought it was 5) and i had already used 3. so today was my last free aaa tow until my membership renews (in august). so i called edelbrock back and told them i couldn't use aaa tomorrow because my free tows were gone. he told me keep the receipt and edelbrock would reimburse me.

now, at this point i'm a little worried about what is going on with my engine. i'm hopeful that everything will be taken care of under warranty, especially since the edelbrock rep has been on the phone with me for the whole ordeal today (as well as the last couple of months in getting it into a shop) -- but anytime stuff like this happens i always get worried that they're going to find some reason to blame me or the mechanic that put the engine in or something. i don't think that'll happen this time -- i drove it probably 1000 or 2000 miles with the lifter knock and no other problems before houston performance had it -- but who knows? i spent a lot of money buying a brand name "performance" crate engine, and had to pay way more than i thought i was going to have to in order to get it installed. so it'd just be nice if you spend the money to get nice stuff done that it would fscking work. it's annoying to feel like you could have spent money better on getting crappy work and crappy parts and it all probably would have worked better. or at least it would feel like you got your money's worth.

but mostly what i'm on about right now is houston performance. they are a mustang shop, and almost all they had there were mustangs. so maybe they don't deal with my kind of engine often. but why did they agree to take my job, tell me (and edelbrock) they could do stuff (and the edelbrock guy said they described the work properly), but then act as if they'd washed their hands of the whole thing and were completely disinterested in the work they were supposed to have performed when the work they did didn't fix the problem? and now it seems very likely that something they did while working on my car has actually made it really messed up. (even if it turns out to be an easy fix.) i'm pretty sure if i would have pushed the engine, it would have irrecoverable damage. hopefully just the little amount i did drive it today didn't mess it up. based on my experience with houston performance today, i don't think they'd give a sh!t anyway.

maybe you can expect that sort of crap from some shade tree mechanic that is self-taught, irresponsible, and (perhaps) incompetent. but i don't see how a business that is supposedly "performance" and specialty can act like that. seriously? blow off customers and their problems, ones that you were specifically contracted to work on? even if it's outside of your normal work/experience range, what you don't do as a professional business is act like you could care less about the work you did and the operation of the vehicle you just worked on. it's beyond unprofessional, it's almost a level of poor customer service and inconsideration that you have to work at to achieve.

i guess we'll see what happens with yet another shop. why is it so hard to find a mechanic that is competent and professional? i sure hope this new place turns out to be an exception to most mechanic shops. if they seem to be, i'll certainly sing their praises.

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Maybe report them to the Better Business Bureau?
Sounds like really professional operation, NOT.

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