Friday, December 30, 2016

NYS Vehicle Safety, NOT Lemon Laws

This year, I had the pleasure of learning about New York State Vehicle Safety laws.  It occurred to me recently how much I appreciated having some help along the way, so I decided to write down my experience so that someone else could benefit, as well.

About this time last year, I finally agreed with Todd that it was time to look for a new car.  Some of you may remember that we bought the Saturn at a bank auction back in 2010, when I crashed the Suburban on the Thruway.  Tricia and big SUV's don't mix, and we no longer had a camper, so it was back to minivan land.  But Todd never liked the thing.  Among his complaints: it is terrible in the snow (true), it drops snow all over your seat when you open the door after a storm (also true), and it doesn't like to re-start when it's still warm from the last time unless you pump the gas pedal a little (also true, but who cares?  It starts).  Anyway, last winter we reached the point where I began to suspect it would start costing too much to keep it on the road (things underneath started to need repair), and it was time to go.  We decided we would go shopping with our tax return money.

Todd loves to shop for cars and let it be said he has a heart for underdogs.  So we ended up at a very small dealership that shall remain nameless for the time being.  One guy operation.  They usually sell mostly handicapped vans, but they had a regular Honda Odyssey on the lot.  We liked it.  I noticed when we test drove it that it surged a little while waiting at lights/stopping, but I thought it was a quirk of the car.  It did everything else.  It was actually a little older than the Saturn, but it had fewer miles and a Honda was supposed to be a more reliable high-mileage vehicle than a Saturn.  We weren't finding anything newer that was still in our price range.  After two trips to this place that is further than I wanted to go, we bought the thing (third trip required for pickup).

We were happy for about a week.  It didn't take long for us to notice that the van had a shudder at about 2,000 rpms and 25-35 miles.  It wasn't something we would have noticed in a test drive because we took it out on open road, not puttering through town.  We called the dealer; he agreed to our having the surging bit fixed, and then he asked us to bring the car back so he could have the transmission looked at.  He took it to a big dealership,  He had them flush the transmission fluid, which can sometimes temporarily fix a shudder in the torque converter, but not always and not for long.  It was also clear on the proof he sent me that he didn't actually ask them to look into the problem we had described.

I took the car to Saunders Transmission in Argyle, who confirmed that the torque converter was the source of the shudder and said that the transmission might be ok for a while, but could also fail totally without much warning.  Super.

The dealer offered to take the car back, but he wanted to give us back less than we had paid for it for "mileage" since we had been driving it for a few weeks.  We were willing to do that, but he wanted something like $700.  We pushed back, and he ended up saying he wouldn't take the car back at all, the problem wasn't that bad, and we could file a complaint with Vehicle Safety if we wanted to.

One of the men I work with happens to be retired from working for the DMV and he coached me through the process of filing a complaint against the dealer.  He was also the one who told me I didn't have to let the guy take any money for mileage at all.  He said that when he worked that job, he would only let the complainer pay mileage if the person was a troublemaker/being difficult.  The bill of sale that the dealer signed actually warrantees the engine and transmission for 30 days, and we had proof from Saunders, etc., that we had identified the problem within 30 days.

Over a weekend, I had looked into it and decided that we weren't covered by lemon laws.  Lemon laws in New York State only apply to cars with less that 100,000 miles, and this one had 118,000.  Sigh.  But my co-worker said No, no, no!  He told me to go back to the DMV website and look for a form called VS-35.  Aha!  With this form, I could make a complaint against the dealer based on that 30-day warranty.

So, I filled out the form and mailed it in.  I mailed it around April, 2016 after the work had been done to try to rectify the problem and we had failed to reach a satisfactory agreement with the dealer.  We were conflicted about this, because we didn't really feel that he had known the car had a bad transmission, and tried to sneak it past us.  I felt like maybe he just didn't have the cash handy to buy the car back, being a small dealership.  I didn't want to be a jerk about it, but...I need a safe car and this was not cool.

Luckily, we had not just sold the rusty trusty Saturn.
 We had listed it, but not sold it.  Instead we ended up fixing the wheel bearings and the brakes to make it safe to take on a summer camping trip, because we didn't trust the Honda.  We basically stopped driving the Honda at all, because we didn't want to be stuck paying mileage for whatever we did do.   Over the summer, Todd just drove it to work on occasion to keep the brakes from rusting up.  Meanwhile, while we were camping the Saturn developed a large crack in the windshield that grew at an alarming pace.  We discovered the windshield could not be replaced, because the crack originated at a hole in the frame, and no body shop wanted to fix that part of the frame, considering it too risky,  *Sigh*

Now, if you're paying attention at all you have noticed that I wrote up the complain in April and we were camping in the summertime.  Yes.  The only response I got from the DMV was a preliminary fact-finding call about a month later, and the person who called said that they would forward this to the actual inspector, and it might be six weeks.  Over the spring, the gas pedal also got stuck so that the van gained speed as long as I wasn't pressing the brake, but it came out of that when I kicked it. (Yikes!) In July, I saw my co-worker and his wife at the mall and he gave me a phone number to a local office to call and check the status, which I did.
The inspector assigned to my complaint very nicely looked it all up and told me that it would probably be another six weeks before he got to me, as he had x number of cases before mine and there were only x inspectors at his office, with 15 counties between them.  That was in July.

I got another phone call in SEPTEMBER.  So 5 months had elapsed and we had basically had zero use of this car, while paying registration and insurance on it and continuing to keep the tan van on the road.  We were pretty happy to see that inspector when he finally came to our house one morning to evaluate the car.  We also began to suspect that the dealer had told us to "go ahead and complain to vehicle safety" because he knew we'd have to wait months for resolution, and probably thought we'd have disposed of the car by then.  Well, he played the waiting game with the wrong person.  Todd and the inspector went for a ride in the Honda, the inspector took photos of my file full of proofs, and Todd sent him a file of text messages from the dealer showing the conversation that took place.
The inspector agreed that the complaint was valid (cue angels singing), got in touch with the dealer, and called me back with an offer.  The dealer would a acquire a rebuilt, warranteed transmission from a shop in Brooklyn (the one in New York City), and have it installed locally.  We could bring the car back to him and he'd get that done.  If we agreed with this, the Inspector said, it was the best resolution he thought there could be.  He couldn't really force the dealer to but the car back if he was offering to fix it.  So we agreed.  That was September.
We managed to watch a parade from the back of the van during the few days we had it.  

The moral of the story:  If you buy a used car and it has problems, document well in the first 30 days.  Make a complaint on a form called VS-35, found here.  Be prepared to wait.
Upstate New Yorkers, have you ever wanted to drive to Vermont to buy a car and been told not to because there are no warranty laws over there to protect you?  Well, now you know what the warranty laws in New York will do for you. Not a lot unless you have time on your hands, which most of us don't if our car goes kaput.  DMV inspectors are extremely under-staffed.

And.  We still own both vans.
The rebuild has failed.  Twice.  The Honda has been in Brooklyn since Thanksgiving.
Now instead of a shudder at 25mph, we had a van that dropped out of Drive into Neutral when we slowed down at lights, and even just in traffic.  So NOT COOL.  The dealer is now 10X as frustrated as we are because he has put, he says, $3,000 into fixing this van and it's still not right (he did fix the revving at lights throttle issue).  At last call he said the shop in Brooklyn was denying a problem, and he told them to replace the transmission anyway.  I actually called the Vehicle Safety inspector again a few days before Christmas (co-worker said to) because I was so frustrated that my minivan was still lurking in a shop in Brooklyn and nothing was being done.  My complaint had been closed (during the first two days we had the van back and it hadn't yet tried to kill me in traffic), but he would give the dealer a call anyway and find out what was up.  It sounds like he did that and then actually had a Brooklyn inspector give the shop down there a call, too.  We were supposed to possibly get the car back today, Dec. 30th.  No sign of it.  We've put less than 3,000 miles on the van in 9 months, all the while paying for registration and insurance on a van we couldn't drive.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Family Update- Part I

Because we had for so long written these letters for our family, friends and prayer supporters to tell you of our progress towards the mission field, it’s tempting to stop sending them now.  We’re still the same people though, with the same loves, and we believe you still care about us, so here’s an update on what we’ve been up to. 
In 2013 we attended Annual Conference with our mission agency, and at that Conference, we resigned.  Each time our resignation came up on the agenda, something happened that pushed it back, hour after hour.  By the time our team voted to accept our resignation, I had become a teary mess and headed back to my room to clean myself up. 
It hurt to walk away from WEC for a number of reasons.  We loved that location and the people at the sending base, and wanted to walk alongside them as they elected new leaders and moved ahead in key areas.  More than that, leaving WEC sealed the fact that we’d given up on our dreams and plans to live on a foreign mission field.  That HURTS.  One sweet friend who went through Candidate class with us and happened to be on the sending base that week, back from her first assignment, saw me on campus watching the kids and asked me how I was.  I answered politely that I was “fine,” but she didn’t accept it.  “Don’t lie,” she said, smiling.  “I know you’re not fine.”  How I appreciate that God sent a sister who had recently seen her share of pain and disappointment, with whom I could grieve honestly. 
But we have moved forward in our grief, and I even visited the WEC campus again r last winter and again in the fall, something I thought I would never want to do because of my grief.  Psalms 147:3 says of God, “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”  Later in verse 11 it says, “The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” 
That is what we have had to do in the past two years since we made the decision.  With no idea where to turn with our gifts, talents and desire to serve God and see His Kingdom grow, all that we could do was hope.  We hoped that God had better things in store for us.  That He didn’t simply keep us home because we are not adequate to the task of missions or because, as some have said, my Mom was about to get very sick, or for our kids’ needs...rather, we simply had to believe, to hope, that He had a better plan for us.  I will ev
en say that those nearly eight years since we sold our house and became nomads for Christ, bounced from job to job, and even had a terrible, major truck & camper accident, were not wasted but parts of His plan and purpose for our lives.  We may never understand how He will use those things to shape us, although I see glimmers sometimes. 
More than two years have passed, and I do wish I were writing today to say that, aha, we see it now and know where God wants us to go and what He wants us to do.  But we don’t see or know.  How we’d like to!  We’ve run up to a few more dead ends looking for God’s will.  I won’t pretend it’s easy to live like we do right now.  We continue to grieve.  We’re in a better place financially that we had been in quite some time, but still rely on Todd’s parents letting us use this house, to make ends meet.  We’re thankful for the jobs & opportunities God provides, but still long for more meaning and purpose in the daily grind.  I hope that as I write you can hear my heart as I try to balance gratitude and trust with this longing for meaningful work and a home of our own.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014-2015 Homeschool Reveal

Here we are, at the planning stage of a new school year!
Actually, my planning probably started last March, when I had tax refund money in my pocket and catalogs arriving in my mailbox.  But in another sense, I'm making very few changes this year, so there wasn't as much "plan" to it as usual.  Nevertheless, here it is:

The Sleeping Giant is the one who is this year.  I'm being cheated of my last year at home with her as well as her last year of school, because she's decided to finish early *and* she's doing half her stuff in dual enrollment.  I'm teaching her hardly anything!  :(

At the start of the year in July she had two English credits left to get, both of which will be taken at the College.  Intro to College Writing happens soon, in Summer Session 2 which starts in two weeks.  She'll take another English credit in her Spring semester at the college.
She also has two History/Social Studies credits left to get.  One of these is the combination of Economics & Government, which she'll take at our local co-op, whether she wants to or not!  I'm thankful that this teacher makes this class available, and I enjoyed the one I sat in on (I didn't help) last year, so I think that will be great.  Her books for that aren't shown in the picture, because I don't have them yet.  The second History class is going to be a Western Civ. class in the Fall semester at the college.
That takes care of the things others are teaching her and her requirements.  I was going to let her stop taking Math and Science now that she has accomplished what the State of NY requires, but she decided on her own that colleges would want more, so she's taking more.  Teaching Textbooks Math has worked really well for her and for me; I don't do anything, which is in an improvement over re-learning algebra so I could discuss it with her a 10 pm, which is when she likes to do math.  That arrangement just wasn't working for me!  This series allows her to work at her own pace and on her own, and her grades are better.  Special thanks to my friends, Katrina for allowing us to try hers and Susan, for selling me the next one in exchange for Chinese lessons.
For Science, the Giant has also decided on her own to take a shot at Physics.  We picked Lifepacs.   I have some experience with Lifepacs and I while I didn't love it, I feel like it would be ok to use for a self-motivated older student for some electives, which is what this is at this point.  I had to spend some money on materials for experiments, but I didn't mind doing that because experiments are what makes Science fun.
And finally, because she realized that colleges want 2-3 semester of language credits, and because every year we try to do Latin and don't, she's doing German by herself with Duolingo and other resources we're picking up at the library.  Her goal here is to eventually take a CLEP test.
Hannah will be continuing with Violin lessons for music credits, and needs two half credits of gym this year.  Her Hapkido commitment has always been enough for her to get the half credit each year, but since she's trying to do two years at once, she applied for some financial help to get a Y membership so she can take up Yoga or some other classes.  

Just for fun She's also doing PSAT and SAT prep books as time allows, because those tests are looming in the fall of this year.  The idea of graduating a year early and doing two years at once came upon us just this spring, otherwise we probably would have taken the PSAT last year.  Live and learn, this kid is my experimental one.

The Girls who Loves to Be Blogged has a light load this year.  Her interest in athletics (soccer and tae Kwin do- she'll be a 2nd degree black belt by spring) made it hard for her to get her classes done last year, so I made this first year of high school a no-electives year.  She will be playing soccer with a local Christian school Aug.- Oct., and the rest of the time spends 6-10 hours a week at her do-jang.  I'm all for letting them focus on things that they love, but some coursework is required and I want to see her be successful in the classes she does take.  So, her load this year is English, History, Science, Math, and Gym.  That's it.  If she's doing well, I might throw in her Health course in the second half of the year (another NYS requirement sometime in high school).

Let me just say here that when I decided to switch to Tapestry of Grace as the core of our homeschool, I envisioned having everyone do it together all the way through.  Just as it makes me sad that The Giant is doing her History and English credits at the college this year, it also makes me sad to say that Tapestry just isn't quite working out for The Girl.  Tapestry is a literature-based curriculum; the Girl is not a big reader.  More importantly, she's not an independent learner. She's a social learner.  What?  And, worse for me, she doesn't like history.  *Sigh.*  Anyway, this past year she participated in an on-line co-op via Tapestry for History, Literature and Writing.  We've been with this co-op for three years.  By the end of the year I became convinced that she wasn't learning much.  I don't mean to criticize any of the other families in our co-op; this is just a learning style issue.  If they were here live and in person, she probably would have done better, but it was just too easy for her to tune out in the on-line environment.  And so, I'm making some adjustments to my beloved Tapestry.

Speaking of Tapestry, we're coming back to Year 1 this year.  This will be my first repeat of a year.  I will have one LG student and 2 dialectics, which is also a first for me.  I'm already getting a little confused checking over my book lists because I am so used to getting ALL the books for every level, but that's all changed up this year.  The books you see are just a sampling of the ones I have purchased and currently have out from the library. As you can see, those stay the same when I switch from The Girl to The Mayor.

So, for History we are continuing with Tapestry of Grace, but I will lead the discussions at home with The Mayor.  They will both be in dialectic.  In the picture are some of the books that are part of our history studies.  The Girl will be doing her Writing/Literature at our local co-op with the same teacher that teaches The Giant's Econ & Govt class.  We had a chat and she said that I can sub in some books from Tapestry lit when the kids have a choice.  We will also start our Tapestry year about a month sooner than co-op begins, so The Girl can start and finish the year with my selections from ancient history.  I am hopeful that a live class full of her friends will be beneficial for keeping The Girl on track this year.  This is my plan for doing Tapestry but seeing her get a little more work done.  For Science, she'll be doing Apologia Physical Science at local co-op.  For Math, I've got the Saxon Algebra 1/2 book but I've also got some concerns about finding time to sit with her every day while she works through it.  If someone wants to volunteer for that job, they can have it.  This year that we've just finished was a tough one for math, and that's all I am going to say about that.
Gym class is more than satisfied by the hours she spends in soccer and tae kwon do.

The Mayor, as I already said, is moving from Upper Grammar to Dialectic this year.  He's a big reader so I'm hopeful this will not be a big deal for him.  We'll have weekly History discussions with The Girl. He's also doing the on-line co-op for Literature at the Dialectic level.  To round out his English class, we will be using Rod & Staff English 6, and we'll use that for Writing as well.  I have been skipping the Writing portion of Rod & Staff or using it only to supplement the Writing assignments in Tapestry, but he finds Writing such a struggle that I am just going to stick with Rod & Staff Writing this year.  Even if he just has the impression that it's easier, because I am not sure that it is, it might help his attitude.  The final piece of his Language Arts pie is Spelling Power.  Tapestry also includes a Church History component that he will do, but I'm also teaching a church history class in local co-op that he wants to participate in.
For Math, he'll be in Saxon 8/7 (we use older versions, I believe Math is Math and I'm too cheap to worry about the newest edition).  What else?  For Science he will be doing the new Apologia Chemistry and Physics for Elementary ages.  This will likely be his last year in the Elementary series and he has done all of the Apologia series except Land Animals.  He'll be doing General Science next year.  Finally, The Mayor will continue Chinese Studies with the Go! Series 200 book.  I teach that, and this year we had another student come study with us, but that student is going to a private Christian School this year and won't have time for this.

The Little Princess is getting serious in her studies now that she's in second grade.  We are about 1/3 of the way through the Saxon 2 Math book.  She finished Explode the Code 4 this year and is a pretty stellar reader at this point, so I don't plan to continue with Phonics.  She's also about halfway or more through Rod and Staff Spelling 2, so once she finishes that we will move to Spelling Power.  She's very excited to be in the Rod & Staff 2nd grade English book this year.  (As an aside, I think starting from the beginning is the only way to do Rod & Staff- it's a pretty intense series, although I will admit we skip some of the lessons that seem to be geared toward addressing redneck grammar issues like double negatives, etc.  You could possibly start it in 5th grade, but no later than that if you want to use the upper level books.  Some people I know also recommend doing half a book per year after 5th grade.)  She definitely needs to do more writing this year, and I also got her a handwriting book.  In addition she will participate a bit more with Tapestry this year, completing maps and reading in her Bible.  I think I will be using Story of the World, which is an Upper Grammar alternate resource, with her for much of it because my library system is short on ancient history resources for her level.  For Science, The Little Princess will use Apologia Botany, which dovetails nicely with Tapestry Year One, as well as taking part in a Science class at local co-op.  That reminds me, she's also participating in a US Geography class, a missionary heroes class and God's World News class at co-op.

Finally, just for balance I am including a picture of all the teacher's aids and guides that I will have on my desk.
It's missing the math guide for The Mayor because we're still using it for The Girl, and after I took the picture I turned around and saw it on the hutch.  Perfectionist, I ain't.
The purple binder is where I store about three weeks at a time of Tapestry notes that I'm using for planning and discussions. It goes back and forth to the library with me because it has the book lists in it.
For my next post, I might show you my color-coding madness.