I have about two hours until I leave for work and I’m basically sitting next to my phone waiting and hoping for a phone call from the Ford dealership. They’ve had my car for over three weeks now, and as far as I know, they’re only changing the regular 12 Volt battery in it. That’s it. Three weeks to change a 12 Volt car battery. How much will this cost me? About $310 they said. For a 12 Volt car battery. Some readers might not know much about cars, but this is one of the easiest and cheapest repairs someone can do on a car. It’s also something that routinely wears out over the years, so any long-term owner of a car should be familiar with changing a dead battery.
Sadly, I didn’t have much of a choice here. I own a 2013 Ford Focus Electric which is a fully electric vehicle. I had a dedicated blog for it to enlighten anyone curious about vehicle electric ownership to the pros and cons of the things although I have slacked off and haven’t written anything over there for over a year. But if you’re curious, please check it out. Despite loving the car for its endless list of perks over a gas car, it does have one glaring flaw for me: I can’t really fix anything on it.
The car has much commonality between the stock Focuses (Foci?), mostly the mechanical bits like breaks, shocks, tie rod ends, etc, but everything else is unique to it being an electric vehicle (EV). If anything goes wrong here, I’m pretty fucked and a tow to the dealership is required. Making this even worse for me is the fact that the car doesn’t really tell you what is wrong with it. Given a severe enough problem the computer in the car won’t let it drive and only flashes a “Stop Safely Now” warning. Here’s a picture of the damn thing.
It’d be nice if the “Stop Safely Now” warning only appeared in dire situations (which it did last time when the main drive battery had a cooling issues and a voltage leak) but this time, after having it towed 20 miles away to the nearest Ford Electric Certified Repair Dealership…) the only thing they could find wrong with it was the damn 12 Volt battery. The battery I could’ve replaced by literally walking down to Farm and Fleet and buying an $80 replacement. And the labor cost for me? Nothing. I work for free if it’s something I’m doing. So when they called and quoted me $310 for a battery I was pretty pissed — that’s all that’s wrong with my car? — but didn’t have much choice. I suppose I could have it towed back home (and probably have to pay for that), replaced the battery, and hoped it worked with the finicky Ford Focus EV computer, but it was already there, so fuck it, sure. Change the battery.
To tie this back to the rant two paragraphs ago: the Focus Electric also shares the basic 12 Volt based system with the rest of the Foci meaning I could’ve totally pulled of this repair on my own had I known this was the issue at hand.
I wish the car would tell me more. I like to compare them to airplanes where the plane loves to tell you exactly what’s wrong with it. There’s all sorts of gauges and information at your fingertips — oil pressure, oil temperature, manifold pressure, RPMs, fuel flow, amperage to the battery, resettable circuit breakers, a battery switch, an alternator switch, fuel valves and cutoff switches — all sorts of shit you need to troubleshoot any issues. And in a car? Speed, RPMs, coolant temperature, a “battery light,” and a “check engine light,” that’s it. The “check engine” and “battery light” especially can mean issues with literally a hundred problems the car could have.
And the EV is even worse than a gas car. A gas car will still let you drive it if something is wrong and doesn’t have a computer to tell you “Nope, car is broken. Fix it please. Oh, what’s actually wrong with it? Naw, I can’t tell you that. You don’t work for Ford.” I’m sure newer gas cars have shit like this as well, but for now the clunkers I drive (the 1997 Saturn and the 2006 Civic) are champs and let you drive them no matter what. This lets you troubleshoot and isolate the real issue, key for a DIYer such as myself.
Obviously, this all comes down to money hidden under the guise of “safety.” Maybe I’m cynical, but doesn’t it make sense for Ford (or any other massive car company) to basically force you to go to a dealership to get your car fixed? DIYers don’t make them money, and only the schmucks who have no choice but to haul their cars to them feed the capitalistic monster. I imagine if you really got a Ford executive into a room and forced him to answer why they don’t make the cars easier for the DIYer to troubleshoot he’d probably say something like, “Well, we don’t want people to repair their cars in an unsafe way! They and their families and kids and mothers need to ride around in a vehicle that has been safely repaired by our Certified Ford Technicians using all their fancy tools and procedures to properly fix the car.” But, I’d then ask him, “Motherfucker, how do you install a 12 Volt battery unsafely? How can you possibly fuck up installing brake pads? Oil changes? I need a certified repair technician to unscrew a bolt and an oil filter?” To which he’d simply send me to the Ford PR department for any further questions/comments.
I hate inefficiency. I hate bloat. I hate things that don’t make any sense. I like to have a central authority that I can call for information. Ford (and every other car company) is so damn detached from their dealerships that there seems to be no accountability to anything. I can’t call Ford, the company that actually built my car, and really bitch about anything because they’d just say the dealership is in charge of any repairs and to call them. The car’s manual simply says for every issue to “contact your Ford Dealership.” If one dealership fucks you over, you have to go to another one, and that seems to be the only choice you have. And if that one fucks you over? Hell if I know. Like Ford builds the cars and if something goes wrong you have to wrangle warranty information with the dealership and it’s so damn inefficient, a hassle, and expensive, let’s not forget expensive! It reminds me of the medical system: people not calling you back; people not emailing or faxing shit; just expense and costs everywhere because you the consumer have to support some bloated system above everything; no one you can really talk to without being referred to another department or given another phone number to call; legal words tossed at you in every piece of paperwork you see; total bureaucracy and that’s about it I guess.
So I suppose that rants over. I figured I might as well make a blog post about it.
Note: APPARENTLY THERE IS A SECOND PART TO THIS POST. Check it out if you’re interested.
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