Tag Archives: Ford

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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