Getting Alpha Legal

Neither Brandon nor I have ever bought a used vehicle off Craigslist before but we knew that actually making it ours (in a legal sense) was more complicated than just handing over a stack of hundreds to the previous owner. We also needed to have the title transferred into our names and get it registered here in Oregon. This was going to be a simple trip to the DMV, until the check engine light lit up on the drive home from Washington. You see, in Oregon a vehicle needs to pass an emissions test in order to get registered. The problem is that they won’t even test your vehicle if the check engine light is on. Suddenly, getting legal wasn’t so simple. Alpha would need to go see the doctor before he could be a legal Oregon resident.

During our first weekend at home with Alpha Brandon started calling around to find a mechanic that had enough space to work on RVs. We learned that many car mechanics don’t like working on RVs because they’re big, cumbersome, and the engines are not always easy to access. Luckily, the Ford dealership near Brandon’s job was willing to give it a go.

Alpha was running pretty well on the drive home from Washington so we were hoping that the problem wasn’t too serious. After taking a look at it, the guys at Ford determined that it needed an EGR valve and sensor. The EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) system recirculates exhaust gas back into the combustion chamber of the engine to be burned again. It would also need some new vacuum components that aide the EGR system. Clearly, Alpha would not pass the emissions test with an exhaust problem so this would need to get fixed pronto.

Alpha would also get a full tune up which consisted of new spark plugs, spark plug wires, cap and rotors, fuel filters, air filters, lube, oil and filters, a rear axel service, front brake job, and the front bearings would be repacked and sealed. They also replaced the alternator belt and battery (the alternator was over charging and killed the battery). At first Brandon had replaced the battery terminals and cleaned up the battery but this did not fix the problem and Alpha died in the Ford parking lot when Brandon dropped it off.

After nearly a week with Ford, Alpha was finally ready to come home. We were ecstatic. Until the check engine light came back on just a little ways down the road. We were not particularly pleased with Ford at this moment. Not only had they taken longer than originally estimated, they had not even fixed the problem. But we couldn’t turn around because we were taking Alpha to Champoeg State Park that weekend. Luckily, Alpha was still running just fine, maybe even a little better than before, so we decided trudge on with our weekend, but with a plan to have a stern talk with the Ford guys on Monday morning.

By Monday morning Alpha was back at the Ford dealer for round two. Apparently replacing some parts on the EGR system had put stress on other parts causing them to break, specifically the vapor canister and vacuum lines. Ford did not have these parts on hand so they would need to be ordered. We spent the next week waiting for the new parts to arrive. When the parts finally did arrive they were the wrong parts. Brandon was understandably furious. Ford then explained that they could replace the vapor canister and vacuum lines with parts for a new model of van and it should work just fine. They could have done this in the first place and saved us the time but they wanted to replace everything with the original manufacturer parts. I understand that they like to put everything back together to original specifications but they did not even give us the option of using newer parts.

By now Brandon has made countless trips to the Ford dealer. We’ve had Alpha for nearly a month and it’s been in the shop almost the entire time. We had been so concerned about having somewhere to store the RV when we bought it that we secured a storage facility before we went to pick it up. But Alpha has yet to make it to its storage spot.

The next time Brandon talked to the guys at Ford he explained that he had no intention of paying labor costs for these new repairs because it all should have been done correctly the first time Alpha was in their shop. Furthermore, the first time we picked up Alpha from Ford we found a rat’s nest on top of the engine and learned that they had left the engine cowling out in the rain for a week. I think Brandon was going to be just as happy to take Alpha off their hands as they were to get it off their lot. But in the end, round two with Ford only cost us $87. And most importantly, the check engine light has not come back on.

Alpha barely passed the emissions test, but it passed and that is all that matters. With the DEQ emissions certification in hand, Brandon went straight to the DMV. He had all of the paperwork filled out, signed, and ready to go. Unfortunately, he did not remember that the DMV only takes cash or check. He didn’t have enough cash on hand and I don’t think he even owns a checkbook. To make matters worse the ATM at the DMV has a cash withdraw limit that doesn’t cover the cost of new title and registration. Brandon had to leave the DMV (after waiting in the terribly long line) to go get more cash. But on the way back to the DMV his wallet fell into the space between the door and the seat and all the cash fell out. When he pulled over to gather up the loose cash a lady stopped to tell him he had lost a hubcap in the DMV parking lot. The journey to get Alpha legal was truly becoming a comedy of errors. Thankfully, the hubcap was still there and Brandon was finally able to get Alpha titled and registered.

Getting Alpha titled and registered was a big deal not only because it meant that it was officially ours, but because Alpha is actually the first thing that Brandon and I have ever legally co-owned. Technically, we co-own lots of stuff, but nothing that has an official piece of paper saying so. So this is a pretty cool thing and we’re pretty darn happy about it.

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