A little backstory to how we became so tragically poor over the weekend...
We own a 2009 Prius, which we adore and would name, if we could ever decide on an appropriate name for such an efficient beast. She is not particularly fast, but she is stealthy...like a ninja...or a SEAL. We have, many times, accidentally sneaked up on cyclists, runners, and the occasional golf cart. She has been good to us and we've been been appreciative to her in the form of regular oil changes at reputable places (like dealerships...until recently, when we switched over to places where a guy in a hole in the floor appears out of the darkness to change oil and filters in 13.7 minutes flat) and detailed car washes. One time she got a flat tire, through no fault of her own and once she lit up the entire dash with every single caution light installed...and when you're talking about a hybrid, it can start to look like the Vegas strip. But, as it turned out, that was a recall issue and we were back on the road to a loving relationship in less than a day.
Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago when, on the way to the public library's book sale, the check engine light came on. Mistaking it for the check oil light, I pulled into our local guy-in-the-pit place to have them take a look. They changed the oil, realized it was the check engine, ran the electrical for "codes", found nothing and cleared the check engine light. I paid my bill, thanked them for...whatever...and called the dealership in Louisville, who informed me that a light always means something but since it had been cleared, all of the information associated with the light had been erased and I would just have to wait for it to come back on.
Fast forward to last Thursday during my mad dash to make it to my hair stylist on time (which, admittedly, is my only real appointment of the month so I feel extra pressure to arrive in a timely fashion). The light came back on. Schnitzel. Seriously?? Of all the nights and all the weeks, when I had to be in Louisville with Blue the next day and then another trip to Louisville on Saturday. Really?? So after my cut, color, style, and obligatory post-salon selfie, I met Neal and Blue at the local dealership to drop off our pretty little Prius. Related: it had to be a dealership because, apparently, Toyota has been tight-fisted with the how-to-work-on-a-hybrid side of things, leaving non-Toyota mechanics in the dark about how to do anything but a routine service or oil change. Awesome. Did you know that Toyota won't accept our Firestone (6 months, no interest) credit card for payment at their dealership? And then we waited for the call.
Hello? This is Bob at Toyota. We figured out what's wrong with your car. The auxiliary battery is dying. That's about $50 in parts but we have to take out your entire trunk to get to it, so that adds some. Also, your catalytic converter is going out. That's going to be pricey. All said, it will be $2404.
Sorry, Blue. You can't go to college. We had to fix the exhaust system on our french fry oil burner. How ironic.
But, figuring the longer we waited to fix it, the more it would destroy in the meantime, we handed over the AmEx and silently calculated how many free nights in a Doubletree Suites that would score us...when we can eventually go on vacation again in 2017. Our pretty little Prius now gets 49.5 miles to the gallon...up 6 mpg from last week. I'm not sure how long it will take us to recoup $2400 in gas but I'm thinking we'll be even before the next Presidential election.
On a related note, as I was calling around to get quotes from other mechanics we know (and also my mom because, while she is not a mechanic nor does she play one on TV, she also has a Prius and sometimes knows the answer before I even ask the question), one guy said, "oh that's the part they've been cutting out and selling online." Ummm...OK.
So, YES...this is apparently a thing. In my hometown, they've had a rash of catalytic converter thefts, mainly from SUVs (because they sit up higher, making it easier to get under and get out without being noticed) and mainly in large parking lots where people tend to stay for awhile (hospitals, Walmart) since the part has to cool before it can be cut and stolen all thug-like. The catalytic converters have platinum in them, obviously making them valuable. Even my wedding bands don't have platinum (which is fortunate, lest someone see some value in them and cut off my finger while I'm napping in my car in a Walmart parking lot). So, a word to the wise: a catalytic converter is necessary and expensive. If you see someone worming their way out from under your bumper, chase them like a dog and scream like Publisher's Clearinghouse is standing on your porch. Unless you have a Prius, which they can't get under anyway. Even Blue has trouble. And then you'll just have to wait until it goes out on its own.
Update: In an ironic twist of fate, we had a CD come due on Saturday morning so we are not as poor as we originally thought. But if the Pathfinder pulls any funny business, we'll have to put Blue on a paper route.