Car Repairs: My Own Private Hell


We’re the new kids on the block in this metaphorical special needs neighborhood. I’m getting to experience things that veteran SN parents already know how to handle or endure. And while our experiences are nothing new over the last 3 years, I finally have the title of “special needs child” to help explain our very own special hell to people who, frankly, have no clue.

Lots of people have children. Lots of people had little children, once upon a time. Most people have no idea what little kid + special needs can mean. We’re a walking, talking (screaming?) ambassador for special needs when we do things that “normal” families do, like car repairs.

I’m exhausted. The past few days have been difficult. They’ve called for a master plan with meticulous planning or the least little thing can derail the whole process.

I’m talking car repair. As in, our car’s air conditioning broke down in 100+ degree weather. That’s not just inconvenient, it’s downright dangerous with three little kids in the car. We used a new dealer to purchase this car, but perhaps we should’ve gone to a more trustworthy car dealership. If these issues can’t be repaired, we’ll have to ask around for other suggestions of where to get a car from. I know one of my friends always finds Kansas used cars dealerships that seem to sell reliable vehicles. Maybe a car dealership like that would be better. We’ll have to see if our car can be fixed first.

I made an appointment at the dealer, hoping that since this was a new dealer for us that just maybe they would have a collective brain and an ounce of sympathy.

Why do car repair places have kid death traps and no kid-friendly areas? Sorry guys, a glass top table (seriously?!) with a few coloring books and crayons aren’t going to cut it when we’re sitting at the dealer for 4 hours waiting for them to get around to our car. True story, it happened. More than 4 hours, actually. (warranty issue, couldn’t go anywhere else.) I think next time I will get a quote from a vehicle transportation company to get my car delivered to the garage so that I don’t have to stay at the garage and eat into my own time.

After making an appointment, I asked for a general time frame: how long would it take to diagnose it? They had a manager call me. He politely explained that the appointment time didn’t mean the tech was ready to look at our car. No! It was more of a drop-off time, and we would have to sit and wait until the tech got around to it.

I politely explained special needs, that we can’t drop it off (3 car seats) and that we simply can’t wait hours to just get the problem diagnosed. I asked if we could schedule a firm time where the tech could start on our car at our appointment time. Nope! Wouldn’t budge.

But, he offered to get us a discounted rate for a rental. Do we look rich? No? then no, we can’t do a rental. Especially since the last time we had someone look at our car, they broke apart and had to wait a week! to fix it. No rental. Not on my dime.

You see, for most “normal” people, you take your car into the shop. They diagnose it, you sit there and wait, watch tv, play games on your phone. Annoying, but you can handle it. Even your kids can handle it. They color, play games, watch tv. Maybe bored, but not horribly so.

Us? We pace. We walk outside pointing out clouds. We do jumping jacks. We walk to nearby stores if we can. We pull out schoolwork, tablets, games, anything that I can possibly jam into a big bag. And then, around the hour mark, the kids lose it. Whining, crying, screaming, wailing, you name it. The Engineer tries to run. Where to? Not sure, but anywhere but here. My sentiments exactly.

Somewhere around the 4-hour mark I grimly go to the desk and inquire about our car while holding on to a struggling, writhing body. By then they really want us to leave, but our car is torn into pieces all over the bay and we can’t go anywhere.

You’re probably asking why do I drag the kids into this? Why not leave them at home with a sitter? A grandparent? Has the other parent dropped the car off?

We don’t have family here. We can’t hire a sitter because of special needs issues. This car has our 3 car seats in it, and they don’t fit in my husband’s car. This is life with no support network. It sucks.

This time we managed to find a shop that diagnosed it in 2 hours while we ate lunch. They ordered the part, and my husband brought the car back when the part came in. They dropped him off at home while they worked on it. A little transportation juggling and we had our car back. Yay!

That dealer that was so NOT helpful? I canceled that appointment. Wasn’t until tomorrow anyway.


    • Thanks for quoting me, that made my day! I have to say, your podcast is a whole new level of “real” that I’m in awe of – I enjoyed it! Does that make me a “bit?” Totally agree that every fringy family needs fringy family friends. It helps.


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