Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Traumatic Car Alarm Experience

We love having a car, and our 4Runner has been very reliable for the most part. However, every once in awhile we cannot start it, no matter how many times we try, and this can be rather unnerving. Muncho, our night guard, has worked on trucks a lot, so he has been able to mess with our battery and get the car to work in the past. This Thursday we are driving to Playa Brasilito, which is about five hours North West of Escazu. We knew that we would not have Muncho to save us on our trip, so we decided it would be wise to take our car into a mechanic to get checked out.
After school we went to the Autopits near our house, which is like a Latin version of Jiffy lube. After talking with one of the mechanics for awhile, we agreed that he would change out our fuel filter a.k.a. filtro de gasolina. The procedure was only supposed to take about a half hour, so we walked to Bagelmans to get an afternoon snack. We had delicious cream cheese and lox bagels, as well as some relaxing tea to drink. Unfortunately, this would be the last relaxing thing about our afternoon.
When we returned to Autopits, they were still working on the car. They said it was taking a long time because everything was so dirty. They showed us the old fuel filter a little while later, and it was very filthy indeed (the mechanic then proceeded to pour all of the gunk into the storm drain).
We waited inside the office for quite awhile longer, before we were finally summoned with the good news that everything was done. One of the mechanics started up the car, and that was when the trouble began.
Before we go into any more details about the alarm going off, let's explain the special alarm that came with our 4Runner. This 4Runner is unlike most cars in the US because it has several secret, very important buttons on the driver's side, hidden underneath the steering wheel. One of these buttons must be pushed before the car can be started. It is some kind of anti-theft device that we have not had any problems with so far. The other buttons that are hidden near the pedals activate the car alarm. We have not used these buttons before. The guy who sold us the car told us it was better not to mess with the alarm.
Back to Autopits. The mechanic tried to find the right secret button and started pushing every button he could. He finally started the car, and all of a sudden the car alarm started going off. We had no idea how loud our alarm was, but we soon found out. It was one of those alarms that changes between different, but equally loud noises. The whole garage was staring at us, as well as all of the people that passes by on the road. We tried turning off the alarm with the device on our keychain, but that did nothing. Finally, after a lot of pushing secret buttons, it finally stopped.
We thanked the mechanics, started the 4Runner, and drove out of the garage. 10 feet later the engine stopped and the alarm started again. Our anti-theft equipment was working well...a little too well. We frantically pushed different secret buttons, trying to get the unbearable noise to stop, as did several different mechanics, but with no success.
We even called the guy who sold us the car from Herredia. He told the mechanic some secret trick to stop the alarm, and we thought we would finally be able to leave. No such luck. The alarm had been sounding for about 45 minutes straight. The only way to stop the alarm was to disconnect the battery, but this made driving home difficult.
Autopits turned off their lights, and the employees started heading home. All thoughts of our Thanksgiving trip to Guanacaste began to fade. Another disturbing issue was that we were parked at the bottom of a steep driveway, outside the doors of the garage. Since it was impossible to start the car, it seemed that our 4Runner was destined to spend the night outside of Autopits. We could picture the windows getting smashed in and all of the parts stripped.
A couple of the mechanics stayed with us, but they seemed worried too. It was pitch black at this point, and were ready to leave a long time ago. The fact that this whole situation was all occurring in Spanish made it more stressful. Plus, the pleasant alarm kept blaring to add to the ambiance. Finally, after another call to the old owner of the car, and some more fiddling around near the secret buttons, one of the mechanics pulled out a fuse and the sound stopped! He turned the key and the car started up immediately. The old owner of the car told us that he would call later and tell us how to reactivate the alarm, but we are not going to do that.

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