You might not think that something as simple as an automatic carwash could turn into your worst nightmare, but it can. It all started innocently enough, I needed some gas, so I figured I would splurge for a $4.00 carwash while I was at it. After all my van needed a wash, and how can you go wrong with a wash, and wax at that price. I had used automatic carwashes before without incident, and I had no reason to think this time would be any different. I paid for my gas, got my code for the carwash, and drove over to the entrance.
I entered the code for the carwash, and the box read “invalid try again”, so I did and this time it accepted it. Did I enter the numbers incorrectly the first time, or was a higher power allowing me a chance to turn back? At the time I didn’t give it a second thought. I drove forward, watching the small green sign that reads “pull ahead slowly”. Suddenly I felt a bump, but with the sign still lit up, I continued to pull ahead until I could go no farther.
After sitting in the van with my two children ages twelve, and nine for a minute or so and nothing happening, plus the sign still reading the “pull ahead slowly”, I realized something was wrong. I tried lightly bumping the barricade in front of me thinking it was an issue with the sensor, but still nothing happened. That’s when I got up the courage to open the door and take a peak to see what the problem was. It didn’t take long for me to find the problem at hand, I had ran off the track. Now I had to figure out a way to get my van, which happen to be a full sized Ford Windstar back onto the track which was about five inches higher then the floor I was on.
Being that I couldn’t more forward, I decided my best option was to reverse my way back onto the tracks. With the kids laughing hysterically I managed to reverse myself back onto the tracks without noticeably damaging my van. Due to the car wash being equipped with automatic gates to prevent people from piggybacking and getting free carwashes, I had no choice but to pull forward and try it again. What else could go wrong?
Forgetting about the side mirrors, the rollers slammed the passenger side mirror into the car on the first sweep. As the rollers passed the van I noticed a wire that looked like a straighten out coat hanger sticking out from it. All the while this monster machine was squirting out what I thought was soap or wax on the van, even when it when through the dry cycle. When the “Thank you” sign lit up, I was more then happy to leave. As soon as I got home, which was less then 2 miles away I dreadfully inspected the van for damages. The passengers mirror was automatic, but no longer worked. I had to manually set it to were I could see to drive. I had a few small nicks from the strange wire, but I could live with them. The worst part was, my van was covered in hydraulic fluid, due to a leak the carwash had that I was unaware of.
How much did a $4.00 car was really cost? Well I learn to live with the nicks in the paint. The mirror is going to cost $385.00 to repair. For now I am living with having to adjust it manually as well. I had to take the van to the dealer to get the hydraulic fluid removed which cost me $54.00. Overall the damages were $439.00 not counting the paint touch-ups. Did the gas station pay for any of it? No, you agree that they are not liable when you purchase the carwash. I guess I should start reading the fine print. I could have retained a lawyer, but that would just add to the cost. I did learn a lesson though, for now on I will be doing all the washing by hand.