Sunday, September 7, 2014

The lowest of lows

After my mechanic gave me the sad news, I called the local Studio and asked what they wanted me to do.  They said to have the car towed down, and to bring the oil and filter so they could examine it.  So my mechanic filled the car back up with oil and put in a new filter so it could be run a little, and then he towed it to the Studio.   That was March 10, 2014.

After a day or so, I received a call from the Studio service manager.  "Sir, your engine's low end is shot."

"How is that possible?", I asked.  "The car has only 60,000 miles on it.  Surely a modern engine wouldn't eat itself that quickly".

"Well, how often have you changed your oil?"

I didn't like where this was headed.  I started to get a little angry, to be honest.  I had adhered to the manufacturer's maintenance plan, and I even exceeded it.  The book calls for an 8,000 mile engine oil change interval, but that seemed like a really bad idea to me, so my oil changes were always handled between 4,000 and 6,000 miles.  I think I only actually went to 8,000 once in those 60,000 miles.

The service manager was a nice guy but he lectured me on how I should ignore those recommended intervals and if I had just changed the oil every 3,000 miles, this engine should last several hundred thousand miles.

Now I was livid.  I asked him how he could sell a product that falls apart even if you follow the manufacturer recommendations.  His answer was always something like "Son, I've worked on cars for forty years, and I always change my oil every 3,000 miles and I've never had to replace an engine".

The nice service manager went on to tell me that he had recently done an engine replacement for a little old lady who hit a rock and ripped off her oil pan, and that had cost around $5,400, and since I was out of warranty, this was about all he could do for me.

At this point, I was starting to feel sick to my stomach.  I had not purchased an extended warranty when I bought the car because, well, it's a FIAT, what could have possible gone wrong?  The brand I had fallen in love with would never let me down.  Would it?

And so I began looking around for options.  I knew some folks on the board of the FIAT club and they had made good contacts in the company's chain of command.  I wondered if any of them could help me out.

One of the board members of the car club sent out some emails and made phone calls on my behalf, and I was encouraged when I read the replies.  Yes, these people agreed that my situation was unusual, and they'd be happy to look into it.

"That's all I can ask", I said.  And I waited.

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