Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Recalls, Rentals, and Repairs: A Tale of Two Cars

A couple months ago, my noble steed (a 2007 Chevy Cobalt that shall henceforth be referred to as "Cobie" or "the Cobie") was part of a massive recall issued by General Motors due to a fault in the ignition that could cause the car to shut off at any given time and thus potentially cause things like death and disfigurement. Aside from the fact that they were aware of this little glitch as far back as 2001 (NBD, right?), when they finally were forced to send out recall notices, they didn't even have parts available for the dealers. So it was pretty  much a situation of "your car is a potential death trap and it's so fragile that you shouldn't put anything on your key ring except the actual ignition key - not even the remote-entry keyfob - because the extra weight could trigger it, buuuuuuuut there's not much that can be done about it yet, so sit tight."

At the insistence of my worrisome mother, I finally called the local Chevrolet dealership since there was a rumor that parts were going to start becoming available on April 7. (This was, like, April 3rd.) The rumor was in fact a rumor and they had no idea when parts were going to be available, but they did confirm the other rumor that if you were concerned about the safety of your vehicle, you could get a loaner car until it could be fixed. Given that I had prior weirdness with my ignition and that softball was going to be starting soon and there was the potential for chauffeuring around my players, I decided to go for it. I mean, my own safety is one thing, but I'm not going to put someone else's kids in danger just because GM was being shady and cheap about their manufacturing process. (One day, my key randomly didn't turn all the way off in the ignition, and after a day or two of frantic Googling and facebook-polling, I learned that the workaround for this was a tiny little white button somewhere up in the steering column that I could push to release the key. Unfortunately, in this window, I learned that if you take the key out even when it isn't all the way "off", the car doesn't actually shut off either, so I ran my battery down. From then on, though, it became an automatic process. Put the car in park, turn the key, reach into the steering column, push the button, finish turning key, remove key from ignition. Yes, it was a pain in the ass... however, it became so second nature that I stopped thinking about it, except for when I'd take my car in to get an oil change or something, and had to inform them of the proper way to turn my car off. It was about a 50/50 chance of them listening/remembering.)

Anyway, I dropped off the Cobie and was escorted over to Enterprise to select a rental car to use for an indeterminate period of time. I went with the Chevy Cruze as it was the most similar to my car, and I figured the lower the learning curve, the better. (Somewhere I think I heard that the Cruze had their own set of safety issues, but I opted to not look into it that closely.) It was a 2014 model, thereby making it the newest car I have ever driven, and still smelled newish, and it had fancy gadgets and features on the dashboard that I will miss. It also had Florida plates, which kind of made me feel like I had a target on my back, because everyone is suspicious of out of state plates.

After about a day, I decided to take things to the next level, and I programmed in all the radio presets. The following weekend, I got to take it on a spin out of town, and could not figure out how to set the damn cruise control... and when I googled it, I found exactly one helpful answer and a lot of answers to the effect of "READ THE MANUAL." HI, THANKS, I TRIED, BUT THERE WAS NO MANUAL, EFF OFF. Anyway, the newness and my paranoia about driving a car that did not belong to me eventually wore off, and I rather enjoyed driving it around.

All good things must come to an end, however, and I had to give back the loaner car today. I was a little sad to see it go. It was fun driving something new and shiny with features I didn't know existed and ample trunk space to haul softball equipment. (I will not miss the weird cruise control.)

It was especially sad when I got into my car, which I haven't driven since I dropped it off 25 days ago, and it felt all foreign and weird and tiny. And disgusting. I'd forgotten how dirty it had gotten.

Since the dealership had my vehicle anyway, I had them look into that weird thing where it doesn't release my key unless I feel up my steering column. Turns out there was a short in the shifter that had been causing that (a "solenoid" which is a thing I have never heard of), and the entire shifter had to be replaced. Oh, and the battery decided to go kaput somewhere in there too. I had a discussion with the service manager to make sure the battery died of natural causes and not, you know, the techs being negligent of the fact that my key doesn't shut off all the way and then just letting it sit there with the battery dying for almost a month. I think he was a bit confused at first and therefore wasn't quite answering my question, so he tried to explain the situation from their end, but as soon as he said that they had made sure the power was completely off when they weren't working on it, that was exactly what I needed to know so I wasn't having to pay for a new battery when it was their fault the old one went bad. Once we finally got back on the same page, it kind of just sounded like it might have been its time - it may have been the original battery to the car, who knows. I haven't replaced it in the 3 years that I've had that car so it was probably kind of a senior citizen battery anyway, and I'm sure being unused for 25 days didn't help. As long as it was OFF-off and not just half-off, then I really can't fault the dealership for that. Whatever, dead batteries happen. It's just annoying when they happen alongside something else.

On the bright side, my ignition is no longer in danger of randomly stalling in the middle of operation (probably, assuming GM doesn't have more faults hidden somewhere) and my key (of which I now have a spare!) comes out properly when I shut my car off.

Twenty bucks says I'm still going to reach up for the little button for a while until I remember that it's fixed.

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