Tag Archives: Cars

Dealerships (and Electric Cars) Suck: Part 2

This is an impromptu continuation of this post and is a post I didn’t think a continuation was necessary for. But, life happens, you’re aware of that. Shit happens, plans change, things go to hell, etc. And I don’t know why I ever expect anything to work out as planned. A friend of mine likes to expect the worst because then you’ll either be prepared or pleasantly surprised; I think she might be onto something. Damn me for being optimistic…

The plan today was to drive the twenty miles to nearby Belvidere, Illinois (a shithole I despise going to for any reason) to pick my shitty Ford Focus EV up from the dealership. It was fixed, or more precisely as they said, “We’ve fixed everything that could be wrong with it, *implied shrug over the phone*, so you can pick it up tomorrow.” We drove there, I paid the $427 for the repairs, and walk to car in the parking lot. I start it and everything looks alright beside the twenty-one mile range left on the car; they didn’t even bother to charge the thing! It’s about fifteen miles to our house so to be safe I planned to charge it on the way home. “Looks like I’m stopping at the park on the way,” I texted my wife. (A park five miles from out house sports two EV chargers.) Whatever. I’d make it work.

About halfway home on East State Street (the busiest damn street in Rockford: a big three lane road in both directions) the car popped the infamous”Stop Safely Now” warning. I was stopped at a traffic light — in the middle lane nonetheless — so there wasn’t much choice of where to stop safely. The car wouldn’t let me drive it anywhere else so I sat there in heavy traffic stranded in the middle of the tree lanes.

THIS IS GOING TO BE MY MOST USED IMAGE

Luckily, I trained for emergencies while learning to fly and feel confident in my ability to not panic and deal with the situation, so frustratedly turned on the emergency flashers and sighed. Here I am, I am safe, and what do I do now? Kinda checked the right and left lanes of traffic and wondered what the hell my options were. Call a tow truck? Push the car to the side when traffic cleared? Who the hell knew. Either way I was pissed and stuck in the middle of the road with a dead car.

Another high-quality image from r/THE_PACK, my most favoritest subreddit. AROOO MFER LET’S CRANK THE HOGS

I tried the typical “shut-if-off-and-turn-it-back-on” trick that is standard for troubleshooting anything and luckily IT worked. I waited until traffic was clear to the right and zipped into a parking lot. Old Chicago if you’re really curious. I probably should’ve went in and had a few beers to really think about this issues.

I pulled out my phone and called the dealership and one of the ladies at the desk answered. “How can I help you?” she asked.

“Yeah, can I talk to someone in the maintenance department?”

“Sure, is this involving an appointment or an issue with your vehicle?”

“Well, I picked my car up twenty minutes ago and it died on me halfway home…”

“Oh…I’ll transfer you then.”

“Thaaaaaaanks.”

Luckily Mike, the guy who gave me my keys twenty minutes earlier, answered the transfer. This was also a fun conversation.

“Hello, this is Mike, how can I help you?”

“Hey, this is Jeremy, the guy who just picked up the Ford Focus like twenty minutes ago. Uh, I made it about halfway home and it popped another “Stop Safely Now” warning in the middle of State Street and I couldn’t move the car at all. Luckily, I shut the car off and turned it on and it allowed me to drive but I mean I don’t want it to happen again where I need to have it towed. Should I just drop it back off to you guys?”

“Hmm…so it wouldn’t let you drive it at all?”

“No, not until I restarted it.”

“…”

“…”

“Yeah, it could do that again, huh?”

“Yeah, I have no idea what caused it. It seemed really random.”

“Well, that’s not normal. I’d say bring it back in and I’ll have a technician look at in on Monday.”

Since range wasn’t an issue anymore (because who gives a fuck if they get an EV with a dead battery) I drove like a maniac back to the dealership. I parked the car, sulked into the place, and handed my key back to them. Chris, the guy who fixed my car a few other times, seemed genuinely upset that I hauled it back twenty minutes after I had picked it up. That dude knew what he was doing; how about he fixes my car this time? Andy, the guy who handled my shit this time, apparently didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.

On the ride home with my wife, I received a call from the dealership. Already? I thought. It was one of the desk girls again asking how the service was that I received. Was everything okay with the car? So it was very satisfying to just monotone-plop out a reply of “Yeah, actually the car just died like thirty minutes ago and I dropped it back off. So, yeah…” Her reply went something like, “Oh! Well…we’ll get in touch with the service department and talk with them.” Yeah. Fuck you guys.

So now it’s a wait until Monday to hear anything about it, at the very least. It could take longer, who knows. Obviously, my entire weekend is shot now because this was the singular positive thing I was looking forward to to jumpstart my life. I’d get my car back, it’d be fixed, and I could get on with the other issues in my life, move onto bigger and more difficult things if you will. Maybe start flying again. Nope! Fuck you, Jeremy: life fucks you again. Que The Big Lebowski: “You see what happens?! You see what happens, Larry?! See what happens? This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass, Larry!”

That rant wasn’t very much called for, but, still. I don’t even know. I keep thinking this entire car purchase years ago was a mistake. Some flawed thought of me trying to move into the future and be part of the leading wave of brave electric car owners. Those who walk the path before others comfortably take it up. I envision us as the covered-wagon folks traveling to California in search of gold in the 1800s. Pioneers and such leading all others. Taking risks. Being brave. Etc. I remember as a kid in like 1996 telling my grandmother that I’d own an electric car because they didn’t pollute as much, and when I bought the car I kinda remembered that moment. Yeah, I actually accomplished one of those wild childhood dreams somehow. I did it: I was an electric car owner for real! Wow!

But now? Mistake. The damn thing was a mistake. I bought the cheapest piece of shit EV — a compliance car by Ford, let’s recall the popular acronym Found On Road Dead — and I was paying out of the ass in repairs. But don’t EVs not have any moving parts? What wears out? What can wear out? Why is it so hard to repair them? That was my initial thought but this thing has been repaired more than the damn 1998 Cavalier I owned for more than a decade. Why? How? Wasn’t I doing the right thing? Wasn’t I saving so much money in gas? Wasn’t I cutting down on carbon emissions? Maybe, but at what cost to my own bank account and well-being? Maybe it’s just easier and cheaper to drive a shitty gas car and deal with the problems and upkeep with that.

So I’m feeling pretty beaten down again and heavily drinking because I really don’t care anymore. Give me some chemicals to futilely pick me up. It’s going to be another one of those weekends I can already tell…

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Dealerships (and Electric Cars) Suck: Part 1

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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“When it Rains, it Pours!”

“Now you can smash all the windows that you want, all you really need are some friends and a rock.”

– Dead Kennedys

The universe, while being such a bro to me a few months ago stringing meaning and understanding along in ways that have been impossible to ignore, has recently decided to fuck me hard with a series of semi-related and unfortunate events. I totally hate the universe right now. It can go fuck itself for all I care.

Firstly, let me mention that our newest car, a Ford Focus Electric, has been dead and at the Ford dealership for three weeks now. Why? I don’t know. It’s a fully electric car and when it shits out it shits out in a way that is impossible for the home mechanic such as myself to repair. This was the risk of buying an electric car in 2016: I bought it to be a pioneer on the new frontier of clean, efficient, battery-only vehicles (popularly abbreviated as BEV: battery electric vehicle) and I can’t say that I’ve been wrong about that fact. Trying to get an EV fixed, even in 2019, does feel like the frontier. No one knows a damn thing about them so it’s always back to the dealership for any serious repairs. So far they’ve quoted me $1,300 for the initial repair (and with my insurance deductible that I’ve frugally set at $1,000 to rake in a low premium payment, I’m basically fucked) and they’ve found another issue that they’ve been working on for a week without any update. (I really hope the main drive battery has a fatal flaw; under Ford’s warranty I might get a brand new battery out of this bullshit.)

Double shifting in the meantime — working hellish hours at UPS delivering everyone’s bullshit Christmas packages — didn’t leave me with much choice in what to drive. I still needed to get to work and even more so now that I needed to foot the bill for the EV to be repaired. Luckily we have a derelict and non-insured 1997 Saturn SL-2 sitting around that I was able to fire up and drive to work illegally. It also has no exhaust just to really paint the picture here of how shitty this car is. I literally wore earplugs on my way to work. Gotta protect your hearing, right?

Luckily, a friend at work has had sympathy and has been driving me around on break. Why take two cars when one is illegal to go eat shitty fast food when you can take a single legal car? Anyways, between shifts we seen this asshole driving around:

My friend’s window is dirty as fuck btw.

The picture might not be the best quality but it should be obvious that all of this person’s windows have been smashed the fuck out. Sides, back, and even the front windshield had been completely destroyed with only the front window still present. (Front windows are coated in something so if they do smash in an accident you don’t get your face, neck, and other parts of your body sliced up by flying glass. The window was fucked up, but still intact.) Funnily enough, as we seen the side of the vehicle we realized that not all the windows were destroyed: the driver’s side window was unharmed which was hilarious to see. They even had it rolled up as if that singular window could keep the interior warm while driving around in the Illinois winter. The coolest part was probably how they didn’t even try to clean up the debris, the busted glass shards were still futilely hanging in place as if the owners were indifferent or even proud of having their vehicle fucked up so badly. We had a ton of laughs about this person’s vehicle and misfortune and wonder who exactly they pissed off. Were they cheating with someone and their spouse found out? Did they owe someone a lot of money? You have to pay off those gambling debts and drug dealers, guys. 

As a totally unrelated note that actually is related, I’ve been listening to a fuckton of Dead Kennedys lately, especially the song “Riot.” I really think it’s one of their best, if not the best, song by them. It starts off slow enough but has some serious building energy where by the end of the song the band is just going of the fucking rails. It’s nuts. It’s also a terribly ugly song with a disgusting bass line driving the entire affair, but it all works in such a visceral way.

The song is about rioting (huh…), and how the people who riot end up getting turned away from the ones who really matter, the corporate overlords that keep them fiscally enslaved and stuck in their hourly jobs, and end up fucking up their own neighborhoods. It’s full of fun lines like “Now you can smash all the windows that you want, all you really need are some friends and a rock.” Shit. I’ve been listening to it on the way to work to get fucking hyped and have been joking about busting windows with bricks/rocks because it’s the punkest thing ever. Yeah, let’s smash shit! Gimme a fucking rock or a brick! I’ll go find my supervisor’s supervisor’s manager and smash his goddamn windows out. He’s the real slave-driver!

And then I was fucked by the universe in a cruel bit of irony. I came outside one day to see this sight on the beloved Saturn:

I, like the SUV earlier, had no effort to clean the glass shards up. What’s the point?

Well shit. We called the cops and he didn’t do a fucking thing (because what could he do?) but did suggest that insurance should cover it. “Well it’s not insured. It just sits here as a spare,” I said. I didn’t admit to taking the car to work uninsured because I’m not stupid, and the cop gave me a look that said, “Well, you’re fucked without insurance.” I can’t even drive it now sans-window because of admitting to the cop that I didn’t drive it. It would be pretty obvious if the same cop seen it barreling down the road, loud as hell, and without a window that I was the guy with the uninsured car. Guess I’d have to foot the bill for the Ford EV and the Saturn’s window. Raking in all the extra money during Christmas seemed much less appealing with the impending $1,500 in possible repairs.

The next night we discovered the neighbor’s car windows were also smashed. These were some bold motherfuckers roaming the neighborhood. I fantasized about catching the culprit(s) and violently throwing them to the ground and letting my temper take hold as I beat them to a pulp. I’m talking blatantly fantasizing about torture here: dragging them back to the house to pepper spray them in the face or pull their fingernails out. Tie them up in the basement and kick them in the balls. Maybe steal any sort of cash in their wallets or pockets, because who would the cops believe anyways? Me, the victim of a crime, or some punkass teens who have been smashing windows for something to do? Sadly after two weeks they haven’t returned and I haven’t been able to beat some ass. But boy when I hear a sound outside my adrenaline goes haywire.

Luckily we have four vehicles at our house. The Saturn was out with a busted window and the Ford EV was doing who the hell knows what at the dealership, while our Dodge Caravan and Dodge Ram were still going strong. Or were they? A few days later we discovered the Ram had a dead battery and jumping the thing didn’t help: the battery was legit shot. That was an easy fix though. But today? I hopped in the Caravan, started it, and noticed the power steering wasn’t working. “No big deal,” I thought. Then I noticed the lights were kinda dim and checked the voltage via a Bluetooth stereo cigarette lighter plug-in thingy: 11.8 volts. The battery wasn’t charging. The issue seemed to clear up on its own and considering the power steering issue points to a problem with the drive belt, but I haven’t even started to troubleshoot the problem yet. I just don’t even care to think about it yet.

A common bullshit saying is that, “when it rains, it pours,” and while I shit on stupid sayings like that all the time, well, this is a perfect example of it. The Ford EV dying during the worst time of the year, the Saturn getting its window smashed out after seeing someone driving with their windows smashed out — and joking about it — all why listening to the Dead Kennedys screaming about smashing glass with rocks/bricks at least four times a day. Having the neighbor’s also inherit our bad karma didn’t feel very good either. Like I felt like my bad karma was the real cause of their smashed window. (I don’t even know why I have bad karma; I donated $100 to Team Trees like two weeks ago.) Being unable to get revenge on the window smashers. Discovering the Ram with its dead battery and finding an impending issue with our Caravan: when will we stop getting shit on?