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Monday, November 07, 2011

Royally pissed

I am NOT a happy camper.

In the last few months, our van has been showing signs of electrical problems affecting our lights.  First, the right headlight stopped working.  We'd just changed the bulbs after the left headlight had burnt out, so this was unexpected.  We tried changing it again, but still nothing.  It did, however, suddenly start working again, then stop.  Clearly, the bulb was not burnt out.

Then the dashboard brake light starting turning on.   This is supposed to be the light that warns you if there's a problem with your brakes, so when it first started, that's what I was thinking was the problem.  However, it would turn on and off intermittently, usually without the dinging noise that 's supposed to accompany it when it turns on. 

Not good.

Eventually, we noticed that the rear driver's lights stopped working.  Then they started again.  Except for the hazard light.  When opening the sliding doors, the van's hazard lights turn on, but the one on the rear driver's side wouldn't turn on or blink.

Oh, and then there was the signal lights.  First, the left signal started blinking at double time.  The light was working at the front (we could see it blinking furiously in the reflections of cars in front of us) but wasn't working in the rear.  I think.  It's not like we could see it while driving, but when we tested it, it wasn't blinking at the time.  With those lights not being reliable anymore anyhow, I had no idea when or if the left signal light was turning on at the rear at any given time.

The right turn signal had been fine until very recently.  What started to happen is that I'd signal right, it would start blinking, then suddenly start signalling left (which we could hear happen because of the different speeds), then back again.  Or they would simply not turn on, left or right.

In the last week or so, as temperatures have been dropping, our front headlight suddenly started working again.  Temporarily.  It was still off more often then on, but it did work on occasion.  The signal lights switching from right to left or stopping completely hasn't happened in a while, but obviously I'm still concerned that it will happen again.  No change in the dashboard brake light.

When we bought the van, we got their highest level of insurance coverage for repairs, but we still didn't know if it would be covered.  There's a list of things that aren't covered by any of their plans - switches, bulbs, certain parts, etc.  It left me unclear as to whether or not we would be covered.  Despite several attempts to find out, we never got any response to our questions about it.  They did try to sell us a newer vehicle, which we would have been willing to look into if we hadn't encountered several other problems.

I ended up calling the insurance company directly.  I was quite happy with the information I got from then.  As to whether or not our problem would be covered, we'd have to know what it was, first.  That required a diagnostic.  Though we could have hunted for another garage that would honor the coverage we bought at the dealership, the guy I spoke to told me they deal with our dealership's garage on a daily basis and he suggested I do go there, as they would be more familiar with the coverage than others.  We talked for quite a while and I am happy with them and how they keep an eye on things, but I have little trust in garages.  We got burned badly in the past and know how prevalent scamming by garages is.

Long story short, I ended up taking the van in this morning.  After considerable time spent describing the problem, which the woman helping me inputted into the computer, printed out, got me to check (I spotted an error) and sign, I got a shuttle ride home.  They were going to do the diagnostic, then call us later.  I was told (and I was expecting this after talking to the insurance company) that if the problem was not covered by our insurance, we would be on the hook for the diagnostic - at $140 an hour, with the possibility of needing up to 2 hours.  It turns out the airbag on our van has been recalled, so that was going to get done either way, and there was the tentative push to get an oil change and have our brake fluids done, which I said no to (neither is covered by our insurance).  There would also be a complimentary inspection, which we apparently had as a purchase perk but had never used. 

Of course they called while I was away, but Dh was there to answer.  He was told it would cost us $50 on our deductible (which is $100) to fix the problem, which was covered by our insurance, another $60 for bulbs, and they made recommendations to get our break pads changed up, among a few other things that turned up in the inspection.  He said no to anything that wasn't what we'd brought it in for, but gave the okay for that part.

Eventually, we got the phone call that the van was ready.  A relief, since Eldest has a 5am shift to get to, and there are no buses running that time of day.  I called for the shuttle to pick me up and headed over.  It turned out that I got there basically as they were closing for 6pm.  The woman that had helped me with the paperwork before was staying late to process my file.  This was not really a good thing, as she was new to the job and there was no one there to help her out when she needed it.  Anyhow, on top of the deductible, the bulbs and parts added another $156 to the bill.  She wasn't able to close the file because there was no one to help her out, but she processed what she could, I paid the bill, and she promised to call me tomorrow to take care of the details she couldn't finish up.  I got my key then went hunting for the van.

It took me a while, but I did find it. 

First problem?

Right away I noticed they hadn't taken off the plastic on the seat from it being worked on.  Okay, fine.  Then I tried to get to the driver's side door, but there was a truck parked next to it and I really didn't want to squeeze though (I'd already had to do that getting out of the shuttle van), so I went in through the passenger side.  That's one of the things I like about the van - it's easy to do that. 

After clearing the plastic off the seat and the cardboard off the floor, I took the time to text Dh that I'd be heading out and stopping at a grocery store on the way home.  Then I started backing out.

First, I immediately noticed an odd noise.  A sort of grinding noise as I turned the steering wheel, as if something were loose somewhere.  Once I started driving straight, then turned left to leave the lot, it wasn't there anymore.  Hmmm.  And that new headlight must be really misaligned or something, because I can't see it.  I start driving down the road and...


The brake light on the dash turns on, then immediately turns off.


I keep on driving and as I make my way, I notice that the grinding noise happens when I turn right, then straighten the wheel, but doesn't seem to happen with I turn left then straighten the wheel.


I stop at a grocery store along the way, pull into a parking spot behind another car and immediately notice a reflection.

Or lack of it.

I still have only one headlight!

By this time, I was royally pissed.  I texted Dh to let him know (you can imagine how thrilled he was with the news), then headed into the grocery store, did some quick shopping, then headed home.  Grinding noise still there.  Brake light turning on and off, but no longer dinging.  The signal light was working fine, at least.

When I park at home I get out and check the lights.  Front, just one headlight (but the amber lights are working).  I check the rear lights and they seem to be on.  I open one of the sliding doors.

No hazard lights.  At all.

I close the door and turn on the hazard lights.  They're working fine.  They're just not turning on when the sliding door is opened.

So not only do I still have one headlight out, still have the dashboard brake light flickering like a Christmas tree, but now the hazard lights when the sliding doors are opened no longer start up at all and I've got a grinding noise that wasn't there before.

Our van is in worse condition coming back then when we took it in.

Being closed, there's nothing I can do about it until tomorrow.

They are going to get a major earful when I talk to them tomorrow.

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