Friday, May 22, 2015

Frayed wires

The Fiat's annual state inspection was due for renewal at the end of April and I knew it wouldn't pass because the license plate lights were both out.  The replacement for the 2012 is to buy THE ENTIRE TAILGATE HATCH as a unit because the lights didn't have a connector on them.  So I took it to my guy and asked him to see if he could splice in a set of the new bulbs the hard way.

The next day he asks me to stop down and look at the car.  He shows me this:

What you're looking at is the wires leaving the body through a flexible loom and entering the hatch for the lights and wiper. Every one of the wires was cut inside that loom.

We both knew a simple splice job there wasn't going to do the trick, so we patched in new lengths of wire with solder and a torch, then pushed that splice into the body so it wouldn't  flex at that point any longer.

How the hell does something like that happen anyway?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Well, that's not supposed to happen

My wife doesn't know her own strength.  She just ripped the door handle off the car.  Now I'm not sure how I'm supposed to drive the thing.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What's a little rust between friends?

I posted a while back about the license plate bulbs being burned out.  Didn't get an opportunity to sort that out until just the other day when I noticed this.

So I'm guessing that a gasket didn't get installed between the body and the chrome trunk handle.  It's rusting like this on both sides.

FIAT says the solution to the license plate lamps for the 2012 model year is to replace the entire trunk handle for $150.  The 2013 and later years have lamps with connectors that cost about $20/set.

Lucky me.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back to normal maybe

So after the engine replacement and the transmission mount debacle, things got back to normal.  The car went back to being my daily driver, and when we hit 3,000 miles, we sure as hell got that oil changed.  Don't want any part of that mess again.

And then about a week ago, the status display came up with "CHECK LICENSE PLATE LAMP".  Turns out that those two bulbs are some sort of new-fangled LED contraption, and wouldn't it just figure that these aren't made to be user-replaceable in the early cars?  That's right, you're expected to replace the whole hatchback door release assembly, which has the new bulbs in it.  Later models came with bulbs you can replace, but I've popped mine out and there are no connectors.  If I'm going to replace mine with the new style, I will have to come up with my own connector mechanism.

Oh, almost forgot.  A couple days ago, the driver's side door handle almost came off in my hand.  The leading edge pivot apparently wore out.  I'm guessing that this isn't covered under the body warranty.

Borrowed this pic, mine didn't come out well.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fix it again...

About 2,400 miles after the engine swap, the bolts on the transmission mount on the engine snapped and the car stranded me. I called roadside assistance and had the car towed straight back to the Studio.

It was obvious to me that something had not been tightened correctly when the engine had been replaced. I called the service manager a few days later and he confirmed it was a broken motor mount. He said they ordered the part and he would call when it was done.

THREE WEEKS roll by before he calls me.

"How did it go?"

"We got the engine mount replaced, however, there is also a tear in one axle boot. We need to order another $400 in parts, and I'm calling to get your approval to proceed."

"Why do you need my approval?  Isn't this your fault?"

"Well, I don't think anyone has made that determination..."

I was starting to get a little hot at this point, and I told him that finding that out was his very next step.  Three days later, he told me the car was done and I could have it back, but the axle seal wasn't fixed. They weren't able to just replace that, it requires the whole axle, which had changed slightly since my car was built, so I'd also need a new control arm, bearing and knuckle.

So I picked up my car and I'm still searching for a good solution for the torn boot.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Statistics matter

So in the weeks since this all went down, I have personally been made aware of three more FIAT 500s that had engine failures exactly like mine.  One of them lasted only 42,000 miles.  What are the odds that one FIAT owner would know three other people who had the same problem?

And yesterday I heard about a fifth one.  A friend asked on a message board if anyone else was having low oil pressure warnings while hot at idle.  I advised him to go directly to the dealership immediately.  I'm still waiting to hear what he's learned.

Come again?

So after nine weeks of waiting for my 500 to get back on the road, I called the Studio and got a little snippy with them about it.

"Is my car done?"

"Yes, it's done.  Well, it's running, but it keeps throwing codes for a bad knock sensor."

"How could that be?  It should be brand new!"

And so I'd go another week or so before I'd get the car back, but gloriously, in mid-May, they finally called and told me I could pick it up.

So I rode down to the Studio with a coworker and picked up the car.  I stalled it twice in the parking lot - in my defense, it had been a while since I'd driven a stick, and the 500 now had a brand new clutch so it felt a little different.

In the days since then, my check-engine light has come on and gone off a few times for no apparent reason, but for the the most part, the car seems to be okay.

All tolled, the car was off the road for nine and a half weeks.  I made three car payments during that time and lost a prized 34-year-old classic automobile.

But above all, I lost faith.  Faith in a brand I had admired and evangelized for.

But I learned a valuable lesson ... let someone else beta test new products.