Design Flaw

You can stand in a field, holding a small electronic device and have a ‘real-time’ video conversation with someone halfway around the globe, but the kitchen appliance companies can’t make that stupid drawer at the bottom of the stove stay on its tracks when you pull it out.

Sometimes we simply put up with lousy design like it’s too hard for the builders of such things to make them work properly.

We can tunnel from two different points, miles apart, and have them meet up perfectly in the middle, but the lighter on the barbeque quits after about 3 months.  Instead of insisting on better design, we usually get one of those butane lighters or turn on the gas and throw matches in, hoping to not blow ourselves up.  Heck, even the stupid lighters don’t work properly.  I have one in the drawer that’s half-full but won’t spark.

Shopping carts with one wheel that won’t turn properly!  Aaargh!!  It’s a wheel, for Pete’s sake!  They’ve been around since the stone age.

How about that packaging that you can’t get in to?  Well, a company made a nifty little device that will cut right through it with ease.  The problem?  It comes in the same bullet-proof packaging that you can’t get into in the first place.  Brilliant!

My biggest complaint has to be about windshield wipers.  How is it that we’ve had cars on the road for more than 100 years, that now have the technology to see around corners, park themselves, control the climate, talk to you, give directions, heat your bum on cold mornings, but the crappy wipers are frozen to the windshield,

making the only really important thing about driving – being able to see where you’re going – nearly impossible!

I don’t get it.  Why can car makers not get this figured out? There are after-market washer fluid heaters you can install so those little jets don’t clam up with ice.  Okay, that’s a good start, but it still won’t make the frozen wipers squeegee the glass properly.  And, why does that have to be an after-market item?

Many cars have heaters that warm up the windshield, but usually it doesn’t heat the wiper blades, so they just flop back and forth, smearing the snow-yuck around instead of clearing it from view.

Maybe the car engineers are being paid off by the windshield washer fluid companies.  When the wipers don’t work properly, your only option is to keep hitting the wash button until you’ve spent the entire jug.

Where is Ralph Nader when we need him?  Why doesn’t Consumer Report mention this problem?

I made a deal with my son, who is in school to become an engineer, that his first task once he’s done, is to come up with a way to keep the wipers warm and nimble in any weather condition.

Is that the real key here?  Is it an ignorance of the northern climates by the big auto makers?  Do they think everyone lives in California?  All that advertizing showing their vehicles crashing happily through snowbanks would suggest not, but what’s the deal?

Hey, GM and Ford, Chrysler and Toyota…you gotta have about 20,000 well-trained professionals figuring out how to get the car to say ‘Good Morning’ to you when you step onto your driveway.  How about you put a couple of them on the wiper issue, eh?

That’d be swell…and just in time for summer.

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One head light…

From time to time, all cars have a breakdown of some sort.  Sometimes it’s that little yellow engine light that comes on, suggesting that something terrible is happening, only to find out that the gas cap wasn’t put back on properly.

Other times, it’s an amber prophecy of dire things to come…usually on the side of the road…at a time when it’s the most inconvenient thing to happen…and it’s raining…and you’re late.

It’s so much worse with cars when the problem isn’t so much with the vehicle itself, but with the people working on them.

Something like this just happened to my car. If this didn’t actually happen to me, I wouldn’t have believed it.  I am not making any of this up…I have witnesses!

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed a burned out headlight.  Simple enough to replace, and light bulbs aren’t too expensive.  I did a little web search on how to change the bulb in my vehicle, which was really no help.

I decided I’d try it anyway, and if I ran into trouble, I’d bring it in to my local dealer to get it fixed.  I picked out some fancy new ‘high intensity’ bulbs, so I could see better in these cold dark winter nights.

Replacing the bulb was pretty simple, but it was -26 degrees outside, and bare skin on cold metal isn’t fun.

I decided to swap out both bulbs, since if one went, it would just be a matter of time before the second one would go, and I wanted them to match.  Esthetics are very important to me, you know.

A couple of days later, my Son noted that my headlight was out.  What?  I just changed it!

I pulled it back into the entrance of my crowded garage, and opened the hood again.  When I touched the connection cable for the light, it came back on.  Aha!

The light would turn on and off intermittently, so I knew I needed to get it in to the shop.  There was something more going on here.

The dealership immediately suggested that it was a bad bulb.  No, I said.  I just changed the bulb, and the connection was loose.

They, being much smarter in the way of light bulbs than I, concluded that it was indeed a bad bulb, and charged me about $300 to fix it and do a couple additional ‘maintenance’ things while they had the keys.

Fine.  Sure enough, the next day, the light was out again.  Now I was getting a bit frustrated.  I called them up and explained the problem.

Must be another bad bulb, they quickly surmised.

“No, I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t the bulb.  It must be an electrical connection problem.”

Without arguing the point, I booked it back into the dealership.

After another full day of my vehicle being in the shop, they called and said that after an exhaustive investigation, it turns out that the bulb was good, and that there was indeed an electrical problem.  Halleluiah!

Unfortunately, they went on to say, they had to order in a brand new headlight assembly, but it would be here Tuesday, as if that was a good thing.

Fine!  I said I’d come and get it, so I had something to drive until Tuesday.

“We’re closing in 10 minutes”. 

I live about 25 minutes away from the dealership, so I had to wait until the next day to go back and get it.

They said they’d call me on Tuesday when the part came in.

Tuesday came and went. No call.  So did Wednesday.  No call, no headlight.

On Thursday, I called them. The part had just arrived.  I booked the car back in for Friday to get it replaced.  They told me it would only take an hour, so I could just wait for it there.

Here are the sequence of events that unfolded over the next 36 hours:

Friday Morning – Headlight Repair.  Take III:

8:29 am:  Arrive at dealership

8:35 am: Notified by service adviser of 2 minor recalls on vehicle

8:37 am: Approved of additional work – asked for ride home since it would now take a few hours with the extra work

8:37 am: Advised that shuttle driver would take me home in 15 minutes

9:26 am: Asked service adviser where shuttle driver is

9:31am: Shuttle driver loaded me into his vehicle

2:04 pm: Called dealership on status of vehicle

2:07 pm: Car was ready. Will send shuttle driver right away

3:07 pm: Called back dealership.  No shuttle driver in sight

3:16 pm: After long hold with bad music, adviser tells me that they broke a fuel line part and the car won’t be ready. Maybe Tuesday.

3:17 pm: Swear under my breath.

3:17 pm:  Adviser offers a rental car for me

3:40 pm:  Shuttle driver arrives.  Doesn’t know where rental place is

4:01 pm:  Arrive at rental place thanks to the maps app on my phone

4:18 pm:  Handed keys to smallest car on the lot.  Summer tires.

4:20 pm:  Rental has no gas in it.  Rental office is closed for the night

4:21pm: Swear under my breath. Drive shoebox with wheels to nearest gas station

Saturday Morning

10:31 am:  Urgent message on my cell phone from dealership to call them

11:04 am:  Called back dealership.  On hold for 5 minutes.  Bad music

11:09 am:  Service manager picks up and explains that an ‘incident’ occurred with my vehicle

11:10 am:  Told service manager that I knew about the broken fuel line thing.

11:12 am:  Service manager explains that something else happened.  There was open fuel and someone started my vehicle.  There was a fire.

11:17 am:  I regained consciousness and asked for explanation

11:19 am:  Service Manager said they got the fire out and it only caused about $4,000 in damage to my vehicle

11:20 am:  Service Manager asked me to attend the scene of the fire

11:35 am:  Drive over-sized skateboard rental car to dealership

11:45 am:  Service Manager took me around back where partially burned out vehicle was sitting

12:00 pm:  Service Manager informed me that they were very sorry and put a rush on the new parts

12:01 pm:  Reminded Service Manager that the only thing wrong with the vehicle was a burned out headlight.  Now I have a burned out vehicle

12:05 pm:  Service Manager assured that the parts would be in on Tuesday

Perfect.