Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Steaming mad. The Saga. (updated)

See this picture?  This is the front of our van.

Note that there's only one headlight.

This is *after* I took it to the garage at the dealership we bought our van at 2 years ago.

So why is it still out?

Good question.

We had some weird things showing up with our electrical system involving the lights that goes back a while.  It started shortly after the left headlight burnt out.  We replaced both headlights and it was fine until the right headlight went out.  Strange that a new bulb would burn out so quickly, but we replaced it again.

It wasn't the bulb.  To make a long story (involving changing the bulb 3 times) shorter, the bulb worked fine, but we still didn't have a headlight.

Annoying, but not too big a deal.

Then other things started happening.

The left turn signal started blinking at double time.  Then it would blink normally again.

Then the dashboard brake light would turn on with a ding.  Alarming, since it's supposed to mean that there's a problem with the brakes.  Then it would go out again.  Then start turning on and off (dinging only rarely) continually.

When I took it in for an oil change and they did a quick check, all the lights were working normally, but I asked the mechanic about it.  My main concern was the brake light.  In describing what was happening, he told me it sounded like a bug in the electrical system and that a garage would have to track it down - something that might take a while.  With how much garages charge by the hour, I was not looking forward to getting it checked.

Things worked normally for a while, but then the headlight died and wouldn't turn on again, the left turn signal stayed at double time, while the brake light in the dash kept turning itself off and on.

Then we discovered the rear driver's side light was out.  The whole unit, including tail light, signal/hazard light and reverse light.  Then they all started working again, except the signal/hazard light.  We noticed that when opening the sliding doors one time.  The hazard lights turn on when the sliding doors are opened, but the amber light in rear driver's side wasn't working.  How long this had been going on, I have no idea - I'm usually driving, so I don't get a chance to see the rear lights.

Things got really weird with the signal lights not long ago.  I went to signal right one time and it started blinking normally, then double time,then back again.  My first thought was that the right turn signal was starting to do the same thing as the left, but when it happened again and I was actually able to look at the dash I discovered it was worse.  The light would start signalling right, then switch to left, then back to right again!  Later on, I'd start signalling right but the left signal would start blinking.  Then they would simply stop turning on at all.  I'd turn them off, then on again at the lever and they would work again, but this was not a good sign!

Then it went back the way it was - left signal on double time (not visible in the back, as far as I knew) with the right signal worked normally.

I finally got around to calling our dealership about several things a little while ago.  One of the three things I asked about was whether or not our Ultimate Wrap coverage, the highest level of coverage available that we've been paying on for the last 2 years, would cover such a problem.  They tried addressing the first two concerns, but never the coverage question.  Of course, they did try to get us to trade in the van for a newer one and we were actually going to come in and take a look at that possibility, but things went downhill rather quickly - I won't go into detail here - and we ended up not coming in and being quite unhappy about it.  In an email to the person we were supposed to meet, I explained what happened, why were weren't happy, and asked (for the third time) about the coverage.

He never responded.

I finally called the insurance company directly.  We talked for quite a while and it was very informative.  They couldn't tell me specifically what would be covered - that required a diagnostic - but I was satisfied that the insurance company was at least on the ball.  All the agents are mechanics, which doesn't hurt.  Anyhow, the agent told me they deal with this dealership on pretty much a daily basis, so he suggested I avoid the front end completely and deal directly with the service department and go there (rather than hunting for a garage that would honour our insurance package).  I was looking through the dealership website trying to find a local number for the service department (rather than the toll free number) when someone popped up on the live chat and offered to help.   Before long, I had an appointment for Monday morning. 

So far so good.

The dealership has moved since we bought the van and I was able to get in to their new location (finding them is part of the problem we had when we tried but failed to visit previously) and entrance.  It then drove around in confusion, trying to figure out where I could park near the service area and go in to ask about my appointment, which was was half an hour early for.  I ended up pulling over next to some people talking and asking.  It turns out there is no such thing.  I had to go to one of the service entrance doors and drive in.  Not too happy with driving into the garage when I had no idea if I was in the right place.

Once in, a woman came over with a clip board.  She asked me a bunch of questions and I explained what was going on. She checked the lights, took notes, then I went over to her little island workspace and we talked more while she inputted it all in the computer.  There was a bit of confusion as she was new and used to GM vehicles, but that got cleared up.  It was eventually worked out that I would get a shuttle ride home while they did the diagnostic.  If the problem was found and fell under our coverage, we'd pay the deductible and whatever else wasn't covered (bulbs, switches, some parts, etc. are exempt).  If it wasn't covered, we'd be stuck paying for the diagnostic.  At $140 an hour, with it possibly needing 2 hours to do.

What choice did I have?  Without the diagnostic, we'd never know what was wrong or whether or not the work was covered.  Meanwhile, it turns out our airbag was recalled, so that would be fixed regardless. 

Home I went, and it was a waiting game for the phone call.  Of course they called while I was at my daughter's guitar lesson, but Philippe was there to take the call.  He sent me a text telling me the repair was covered, so we'd only have to pay $50 of the deductible, plus $60 for some bulbs.  They'd recommended other work, but he gave them the okay only for the stuff we'd brought it in for.  We figured we'd end up paying something like $150 by the time they finished tacking who-knows-what on.  Cynical?  Yes.

Then it was again a waiting game to find out when it would be finished and I'd get a shuttle ride over to get the van.  It was starting to get late enough that we weren't sure we'd get the van back the same day at all - an issue since I had to drive my daughter in for her 5am shift this morning.

We got the call and I got the shuttle ride, arriving just as they were shutting up shop for the evening.  The woman who had helped me before stayed late to process my file.

Did I mention she was new?

There were a few things she didn't know how to do and she had to phone someone, but she walked me through the charges as best she could figure out.  The diagnostic and repairs were paid by the insurance company, while I had charges for bulbs, etc.  The $60 in bulbs, plus the deductible, turned out to be about $155 with everything, plus tax.

There's a reason we're cynical.

So I paid the bill, got my key and headed out.  I eventually found the van and could immediately see the plastic cover was still on the seat.  I went to the drivers door but it was parked next to a truck.  I ended up going through the passenger side, removing the plastic seat cover and cardboard from the floor in the process.

The first thing I noticed as I backed the van out was a strange grinding noise.  WTF???  It seemed to go away as I drove out the lot (left turn signal working fine!).  As I got clear of the lot's lights, I found myself thinking that the fixed headlight must be seriously misaligned, because I can't see very well.



Yup.  The brake light in the dash turned on again, then immediately turned off again.

No.  Way.   This can't be right.

Sure enough, as I drove along, the light kept turning on and off, though it didn't ding anymore.

Then I noticed the grinding noise again.  It only happened when I turned right, then straighted the wheels, but not when I turned left.  It sounds like something is dragging or rubbing somewhere.

Along the way I stop at a grocery store.  As I pull into a parking spot, I come up behind another car and immediately notice...

There's only one headlight reflecting back at me.


So it looks like they changed the bulb (which wasn't burnt out in the first place) and that was it.  The light still doesn't work.

Needless to say, I was seriously pissed off.

When I got home, I took the time to check the lights.  Front headlight is still out.  Rear lights seem to be working except...

On opening the sliding door to see if the hazard light was working, no hazard lights turned on at all.


I checked the hazard lights by pushing the button in the dash and all 4 lights are working fine.  They're just not turning on when the sliding door is opened.

So I had taken in the van to get the signal light, dashboard brake light and front headlight fixed.

I left with a fixed signal light, still no headlight, still a problem with the dashboard brake light, a grinding noise and the hazard lights not turning on at all when the sliding doors are opened.

The van is actually in worse shape now then when we took it in.

I drove my daughter in for her shift this morning.  We were both rather disturbed by that grinding noise.  When we got to her work, I had her look while I tested the rear lights (brake, reverse, signals) and they are working fine.  Only the left rear signal light, which is also the left rear hazard light, had not been working before.  Aside from that one bulb, the hazard lights had been working when the sliding doors were opened, but now there's nothing.

Going back to sleep after dropping her off was not going to happen, so I wrote this instead.

I am now waiting for things to open.  I'm going to call the insurance company first and let them know they're being charged for work that wasn't done, and that the van is in worse shape now than before.

The woman who'd helped me at the dealership is supposed to call me today.  I'll be calling them as soon as they open.

At this point, I am wanting to take the van in and basically stay there until I get it back.  I've got work I can bring me that will easily occupy me for several hours.

I'm sure as heck not going to pay again for work that I already paid for but didn't get done.

I am also spreading the word.

Feel free to do your part and share this post.  Let everyone know how this dealership treats its customers.

Update:  So I've been looking through the paperwork while waiting for the place to open.  I'll be calling the insurance company when I'm done this.  Looking through it, there is nothing written down about changing the front headlight bulb.  In fact, while the front headlight is mentioned under section A, then refers to section B for repairs, section B only talks about the signal lights.  Nothing about the headlight.  It looks like the headlight wasn't touched at all.  There is no mention of the dashboard brakelight (even tough it was written up in the sheet I signed at the garage) at all.  They did replace the upper mount brake light bulb - I vaguely remember that it was noticed as being out when I got my last oil change, but it's not something we see, so I will just assume it was out and needed changing.  There's nothing about them even looking at the problem of the dashboard light problem.  They replaced a multi-function switch and the left signal bulb, which apparently was the fix for all the signal light problems.


Why do the hazard lights no longer turn on when the sliding doors are opened?

Why does my van now make a grinding noise when making a righ turn?

Why was the brake light in the dash never looked at?

Why was my front headlight never fixed?

Time to start making phone calls.

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