Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ford dealer owes me a transmission, but I don't expect to get it

Funny how things happen. The transmission oil cooler lines in my car rusted out and failed when I was on a trip to visit family. The car was repaired by the local Ford dealership. Instead of putting in the real replacement lines, which are steel, they cut the rusted portions away and clamped in short sections of rubber hose. They did not call attention to this fact.

I trusted the repair shop at this facility, where my father has done business faithfully for years. The bill was not cheap, after all. They'd jumped in for a brake job while the car was there.

Rubber grafts are an emergency, short-term repair. I was not told I had received a short-term repair. I was told the lines were repaired.

Oil degenerates the rubber hose. Unlike the metal lines, which rust and develop leaks slowly, the rubber fails catastrophically. Fluid blows out rapidly. As a result, internal parts of the transmission suffer damage from heat and lack of lubrication. According to my car guru's transmission guru, I probably smoked a clutch pack, leading to the strange slippage between second and third gear.

The benefit out of all this is that I got to meet, by phone, yet another cool, down to earth mechanical guy who digs what he does and loves doing good work. It makes me want to round up sick transmissions and send them to him. But such ministrations aren't cheap. Not by a long shot. The ballpark repair estimate for his recommended option, or indeed any of the options he laid out, is around the blue book value for the car.

People complain to me all the time that they've spent more on repairs and upkeep to their bicycles than they paid for the bike itself. I answer that the value of the bike exceeds its cost, which makes it a better bargain. Whenever you have to pay someone to take conscientious care of your stuff, you are buying a portion of their life.

As the dealership demonstrated, a high price tag does not guarantee that the work was well done. Examining the bill in detail now, I could see where the part cost showed a cut corner. Since I did not know the price range for such parts going in, I had no warning flag to tell me to probe more deeply when I first got the bill.

Until I resolve this issue, I cannot drive the car. The conscientious transmission guy is even farther away than the Gilford Guru. He sounds well worth the trip, but do I roll the dice on a drive down there, hoping I won't smoke more tranny parts, or pay huge sums to have it transported there by flatbed truck? No AAA Plus for this boy. It's cha-ching as you go, beyond the first few miles basic motor club courtesy would cover.

This is why I go through all the crap I do to go to the mechanic who always takes good care of me. Between the underhanded and the incompetent, it's too easy to have expensive mistakes made on your behalf in the world of automobiles.

The bill for all this is going to cut deeply, along with the bills already incurred for other things that needed to be done right when they needed to be done. There's nothing frivolous in my economy, yet it is still stretched to the breaking point.

All because of some two-bit hack in a dealership garage.

Whatever you do, do well. Take pride in your work and your integrity. Be honest and give full information. The people who tune you out, who complain that you're boring or make their dumb, thoughtless lives too hard can go get humped by the courteous dudes in the matching blue shirts who call you sir and screw you hard while you're anaesthetized by their marketing.

I'm kind of pissed about this.

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