We were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the middle of a 5000-mile road trip and I had just finished giving a talk to a group of journalists when I noticed that my “maintenance required” light had gone on in my 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. I looked at the odometer and then the sticker from my last oil change and with quick math deduced that it was time for a 5000-mile oil change.
Alas, it was Saturday afternoon and my options for then and the rest of the trip were limited. But I knew there was a Jiffy Lube nearby, one I had used once before when I lived in Santa Fe and so I immediately drove there.
After I pulled my car into the bay and went to the office, I was informed that the car needed more than an oil change. Among other things, the man behind the desk said, the cabin filter was a mess. He showed it to me. I saw what he said were the remnants of hazelnuts and also what he said were mice droppings.
“You don’t want to be breathing that,” he said.
And so in addition to the oil change, I got a new cabin filter. The man behind the desk also said I needed new wiper blades and I concurred with that.
Satisfied that I had done my due diligence and kept my car on its routine maintenance schedule, I paid the $127.45 bill and moved on. We headed for Albuquerque and hadn’t gone far when I turned on the air conditioner.
Well, the noise coming out of the AC was louder than a jackhammer and vibrated just as much.
We returned to Jiffy Lube immediately. After some consultation, the man behind the desk said that there was nothing they could do about it. He said that when the mechanic pulled the filter, some of the shell fragments fell into the AC and JL lacked the equipment to get them out.
Our best bet was an authorized Toyota dealer but the one at our next stop (Elko, Nevada) couldn’t see me for a week. So we soldiered on. It turned out that at high car speeds and low AC speeds, you couldn’t hear the shells rattling around in the AC that much, and if you could, you could always turn on the radio.
We could have endured that until we got home, but then we encountered three other problems. One was greasy fingerprints on the driver’s door. They really popped out on the yellow door.
Later, as we were headed east my wife tried to open the glove box. The latch release was jammed. The box would not open. When I tried I managed to pull it out completely and there, behind it, was the cabin filter. So now we knew why the latch was jammed.
Much later we encountered major rain storms and in Nebraska or Iowa and one of the new wiper blades came loose. (Fortunately, it did not fly off.) I had to turn off the wipers and quickly pull over to fix the problem.
Back home, my Toyota dealer fixed the noisy AC by removing the blower motor and cleaning out the heater box. It cost me $82.68. He did not charge to fix the latch release.
When I called Jake at Jiffy Lube in Santa Fe, he refused to reimburse me. He said, in effect, it was my fault that the filter was in the condition it was in (sounds to me as though it was doing its job) and that higher ups had told him the problem was mine, not Jiffy Lube’s.