113,142 hiccups!


my car started missing (and i mean it never does this), and threw an engine light ...

bad news because i'm not entirely sure i can limp it the 13 miles i need to get to my favorite dealer out here. after waiting a day i'm able to get it in, not really worried about what's "wrong."  why should i, i'm covered, right?

turns out it's a split vacuum line, and lo' and behold, it's not covered by my service contract.

in fact, i spent a l-o-n-g time on the phone with chrysler and even the reps (i spoke to more than one) couldn't believe it wasn't covered.  my guess, and this is only a guess, is that it was simply omitted.


not expensive (only $46 more than my deductible) but still not welcome.



112,469 new battery ++

i'm in CA and my car keeps acting like it doesn't want to start ... in fact, sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't.  not that big a deal since i carry jumper cables with me, but i don't like the idea of crossing deserts with questionable batteries ... you run out of juice in the middle of nowhere and you may get a lot more than a frame stripped.

so i go to the local walmart and get a battery to do my own swap (the warranty is better and it's cheaper) ... the switch isn't trivial since the engine compartment is SO tightly jammed together, except ...

when i go to pull the battery out, the air hose to the air cleaner is almost completely cloven ... not what i was expecting.

so i call up normandin ... they're able to take me right in ... i have them replace the air line under my service contract and install the battery for another $35.  that makes my battery more expensive than i had originally intended, but still cheaper than if i'd had the whole thing done at the dealer to begin with.  (i'm actually kinda surprised that they had the air hose in stock ... turbo versions of cruisers have to be getting just a touch rare.)

i'm starting to wonder if i'm gonna get nickle-and-dimed by the continual car.

$35 for battery install
$100 service contract deductible
$250 SCR


110,938 mile service

back to my normal guys, prestige in LV, NV.

they once again take my chapman coupon.  everyone's happy.



109,125 when the going gets weird, the weird are no longer professional

sahara are a brand new dealership.  so new, in fact, that they do not yet have signs identifying their business, nor built-in swagger from their employees who look down on potential customers.  i've taken the continual car here because my normal place can't take my vehicle for a fortnight and i'm hoping to have it back faster than that ... but, in this case, if wishes were horses, then beggars would be figuring out some other way to get to CA ...

this is complicated.  complicated enough that it's set me back eight months to do the update (and pre-date it), but the dance-able part goes something like this ...

i take the cruiser in.

i tell them that i've got an error code that has appeared and disappeared.  i also say, "and there's a ticking i've been hearing the last few weeks," which is true.  but, amazingly, not only am i able to get the noise to reproduce itself in the drive (it's pretty subtle ... sounds kind of like a quiet wind-up watch), but i also get the service tech (ST) to hear it.


the ST is just barely at the third grade level of written literacy (he spells work, "worck" and mark, "marck"), but god bless his spirit and soul his heart's in the rite plaice (sic) and he takes down everything in detail.

two days pass.  i need to get my posterior to CA, but when the shop calls, the car's not going to be ready.

"um, okay.  can you just hold it for two weeks, then, until i get back?"


okay, good.  not the answer i want, but my car's just as fine -if not "finer"- in their lot.

get back from CA without an update from the shop, so i call.

"oh, yes.  we've been trying to get hold of you ... [ed: that would be a lie] your camshaft position sensor is failing..."

aside from the lie (DID I MENTION THAT YET?), that would make sense.  it would explain the mild misfiring i've been experiencing, and the error code.  "...i'm sorry to tell you it's not covered by your lifetime service contract."

"uh, yes it is..."  this is just a simple case of being new and not understanding the concept of 'if it's mechanical, it's covered.'  it's become very clear to me over time that nearly no one has these service contracts, so i'm not surprised.  being a brand new dealership doesn't help.  "we won't go into that now, i'll call chrysler and they'll put the hurt on you  [ed: in fact i called chrysler immediately after this phone call and they did put the hurt on 'em.]  ... but i can tell from your pause there's something else."

and, in fact, there is more.

"... but when we fixed that, we brought the car out on the drive and it was still ticking..."  (at least they both checked it and told me.) and i'll just let the write up carry it from here, because it all feels so much more, um, "official" (caps are theirs on the shop receipt).


now, in the event you're not fluent in the subtleties of reading bastardized shop-speak, what they did was replace my fricken turbo-charger.

but guess what ... no.  no.  it's much better than that.

after another two weeks, the ticking is still there.  so they, get this, completely replace my transmission.  
all told, they have my car for six weeks.

horror of horrors?  well, not exactly...

because i now have:

  1. a new cam position sensor
  2. a new turbo charger
  3. a new transmission
  4. two new engine mounts
and they had to change the transmission fluid, which means that i'm not due to do that in quite some time.  and hear's what's weird ... the cost of all this to me is $100, and the only reason it cost that much is the cam position sensor isn't covered by the lifetime powertrain warranty.  my new turbo and transmission are actually free.

but this means i have to do some adjustments to this blog, because i haven't had powertrain warranty work done before and this actually is a separate break-out item.

$150 in SCR
$6000 in lifetime power train warranty return


well hell in a handbasket

today i was driving my car and the light from a couple of days ago came back on.  it was still before the close of business, so i called the new chrysler dealer in the neighborhood and set up an appointment for tomorrow morning to look at it ...

and then wouldn't you know that the light then went back off this evening ...

hopefully the black box stores error codes and they'll know what happened.  i don't need my vehicle to act flaky as i drive it a thousand miles in the next fortnight.



108,975 light's on

it's been awhile since the engine light last came on, but it did this evening as the engine started missing.

i suspect the culprit is stabil.  i added some to the tank because i thought i was going to be parking my car for an extended trip this summer ... but the trip got canceled and instead of being parked for three months, the continual car was left to sit about four weeks.

the tank was about half full so i added some techron, filled the tank the rest of the way, and drove an exit on the freeway ...

voila, the light went off.

i need it to stay that way ... i've got a big drive coming up next week.


something's missing, but you don't know what it is...

...do you, mr. jones?

checked my oil tonight (as I do at every fill up) and noticed that the cowling here is missing...so it was either broken or removed and not replaced at my oil change a few days ago.

it's hard to reach prestige people by phone, so I'll have to drive it in.


107,986 mile service

oil change with a coupon off the chrysler web site (oddly, the prestige coupon didn't show a price, but the chapman one did, so i just used that).

the inspection that came back shows my tires at 3/32nds or less ... but that's clearly not right ... i'm not down to the warning bars on any tire yet.

the "engine air filter and cabin air filters" show up as "may require attention soon" which is almost certainly true due to the dirt roads, dust and forest fire soot that's been in the air lately.

love the after hours service ability.

$24.  ($10 saved with coupon.)


105,005 mile service

just this week prestige is starting to stay open to 21:00, so i set up my oil change for 19:00 and took in a chapman coupon from the chrysler website (and an older chapman coupon that said they'd match prices).  everything went smoothly (with the minorly annoy wrinkle of having to deal with an upselling service writer ... i've dealt with this guy before).  fortunately my service guy was from last time was standing right there  (and he remembered me ... which is kind of amazing) and helped smooth things over.

oil change and tires rotated.  i think my right front wheel bearing is starting to go, but i didn't say anything about it ... neither did they.



quote of the moment

"The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute found that from 1983 to 2008 the percentage of 19-year-olds with a driver's license fell from 87.3 percent to 75.5 percent. Two years later it hit 69.5 percent."

-- bloomberg businessweek


quote of the moment

"[FIAT] are, by far, the leader in use of substandard materials and underdesign..they are to cars what Shasta is to soda...Diet Shasta."
-- b1-67er


in just one week, chrysler has responded to my request for a 100,000 mile club license plate bracket.

with $6 worth of postage, there are three items in the envelope:

the bracket

a letter

Dear b1,

We are delighted to learn of your satisfaction* with your 2008 PT Cruiser!  Thank you for sharing your experience.

It's quite a milestone to watch your odometer roll over to 102,000 miles and to share our appreciation we have enclosed a 100,000 mile license plate bracket for your vehicle.  Chrysler Group LLC want to honor you and your vehicle for this achievement and wish you many more safe and pleasurable driving miles.



Senior Staff

*(i actually didn't mention anything about my satisfaction in my request for the bracket, but this isn't the first time someone associated with chrysler has put words in my mouth, nor the second.)

and a propaganda sheet from the manufacturer of the bracket
"olde country reproductions."  their leaflet includes a description of their nearly unbelievable non-toxic alloy, "pewtarex."  i'm sure you are both as relieved and amazed as i am that to know that pewtarex can be used not only for purely decorative purposes (ala, say, a license plate bracket?), but also is "perfectly safe, durable, and attractive for food and drink service."

just how will my brother -- with his 300,000 mile (and commemorative bracket-less) ford -- feel when i serve him nachos and wine on my club bracket when we celebrate this remarkable achievement?

safe.  that's how.

seriously, though, thank you for the gift, chrysler.


trailer overview

i want to create a page just to keep track of my trailer basics.  not part of the continual car, per se, but easier to keep track of here.

harbor freight item #42708
tire inflation pressure is 60 psi
rotate tires every 5000 miles
recommended max. speed according to the manual 45 mph
repack bearings every 2500 miles (or get bearing buddies)
trailer load limit is 870 lb
the tire is a 62M (weight rated at 580lbs! - speed rated at 81mph)

back-dating this entry to sit next to the first trailer entry

102,284 mile service

because it involves a timing belt, from a dollar point-of-view, this is the big one.

i called prestige last month, hoping to get a free rental on my belt change before i hit 100K miles, but ran out of time ... the price they quoted then was $1350 for the timing belt alone ... but it was clear in the conversation that the price had some flexibility to it ...

so before i went in, i negotiated ... according to the manual, i was supposed to change plugs back in august, but hadn't gotten around to it yet ... my brother and i did these at 60K miles and he was appalled by how hard the job was ... so maybe i can get that thrown in as well.

for $1400 they did my timing belt, replaced the spark plugs, did a radiator flush (first one! -- only needs it every 100K miles) and did an oil change.  it's not cheap (especially considering that all my dealer services to this point have been $1750), but i feel good about the discount, remembering that i want to keep this work at a chrysler dealer and considering the alternatives.

i'm also completely caught up with my car now (and it'll be another five years before i have to hit this hard again).

my service advisor asked about the engine mounts ... when i told him they'd never been replaced, he was surprised, so he had the crew look them over as well (he wrote "CUST STATES THERE IS A VIBRATION WHEN IDLING," which i definitely did not, but they have to write something in order to look it over).  yet, when they inspected it, it was fine.

"someone must have changed 'em sometime."

maybe.  but i drive a car pretty soft.  i don't excessively speed.  i don't jackrabbit start.  i don't corner hard anyway, but especially not in a cruiser (which has way more understeer than i'm comfortable with).  i'm infamous for coasting to a stop ... so maybe it's just the way i drive.


this is by far the biggest charge i've ever had against this car ... it'd be nice to not beat that record.

(i asked for my used spark plugs back to examine the ignition characteristics on them.  the replacement boxes they were in were Champion with a two year warranty -- regardless of mileage ... i'm using this as a green light to back off changing if i get more than 30K miles in the next two years.)


102,200 miles -- new make-up filter

i wanted to change the make-up filter the last time i changed my air filter, but the auto parts store of that moment didn't have them.

just picked up one, and a spare just for the future ...

... and a funny thing happened, both the manager, and the guy who rang me up, asked what they were for and how they worked ... so at least i don't feel like a complete idiot when i had no idea what they were three years ago.


the continual car joins the chrysler high milers club

i was poking around the 'net looking for a posting i'd made on a public board when my original del sol turned 100,000 miles and stumbled across chrysler's high milers club.  i give them my name and VIN, they give me a pewter license plate bracket.  fair enough.

i filled out their online form early this AM and got this auto-reply before noon.

Dear b1:

Thank you for contacting the Chrysler Customer Assistance Center.

We are pleased to learn of the odometer reading of more than 100,000
miles. We trust you will enjoy many more miles in your 2008 Chrysler PT
Cruiser. Your requested has been forwarded for further consideration.

Thanks again for your email.



Customer Service Representative
Chrysler Customer Assistance Center

i don't care how dopey it is, i like it ... and you can think of this license bracket in one of three ways:
  • it's free
  • it merely cost me $41,000 (and gave me free use of a car for five years)
  • this is my prize for not completely gutting the continual car when i hit that piece of retread on I-15 at 80mph a few months ago
the frame uses both the word "chrysler" and the "pentastar" logo -- not surprising since it's making reference to the corporation that built these steeds of global degradation -- it's cool to be so old skool.  (of course that doesn't keep some of the dodge bigots on the forums from complaining ... for some reason some of those guys don't like to admit they drive chryslers ... i'll bet the bugatti people don't like to admit they're driving volkswagens either.)


car expense crossover point

i have now spent more on everything having to do with my car (maintenance, upkeep, gas, insurance, tolls, parking fees, etc.) than i originally spent on my car itself.


102,000 miles - towing begins

i've had a curt trailer hitch installed on the continual car.  it's there to tow a very small harbor freight trailer with a tongue extension.  and the reason all this stuff is there is so i can start towing a kayak (and the reason i'm getting that is my intention is to boat the length of the MS river in the medium future).

i chose this hitch because it was:
  • in stock
  • bearing good online reviews
  • more highly recommended by the seller (then again, he had it in stock and didn't have to order a new one)
  • didn't require drilling of the car frame
including installation (which also involved bringing the electrics to the back of the car), the hitch was around $400.  i'll be adding that number to my TVC since the apparatus essentially a part of the car now.

to me, the hitch feels a bit pricey, but it's evened out by the amazing deal i got on my trailer.  the sophisticated version of an erector set package was on sale for $180 and i was able to score an additional 20% discount (using a coupon from my entertainment book, of all places), for a total that's a touch more than $140.

compare that to what i paid for a tongue extension (essentially a single piece of a stop sign pole): $100.

when i asked my brother why the tongue was so expensive, he said it's about the price you'd expect -- it was the trailer that was incredibly cheap.  he also said that the trailer is surprisingly high quality ... big words from someone with several automotive patents to his name.

i will not be adding the trailer price to the TVC since it's not really part of the price of the car ... and could conceivably be towed by someone else (although i don't have plans along those lines).

starting to tow with the continual car presents some problems (and is the reason i just keep going on and on here).  the owner's manual (OM) makes a few passing references to maintenance adjustments needed due to towing as well as some different driving behaviors.

it's worth noting that i've never had a dealer even hint that they might not honor the service contract (in fact, i've had the opposite happen), but as the car gets older -- especially since it's now over 100,000 miles -- it's not inconceivable that there could be some pressure to not honor the contract (never forgetting, of course, that transmission failures would be covered under the lifetime powertrain warranty, not the service contract wrap) ... and i can't let that happen.  it runs counter to the very idea of the continual car.

according to the service contract, i have to maintain the car according to the OM.  in that vein and spirit i'm making notes here so i know how to behave in the future (and i have immediate reference material if i'm ever challenged in the future).

[do note the ironic catch: this trailer isn't really towing -- or more precisely, it's not the kind of towing they mean when they're making reference to it in the manual.  if you load a trailer correctly, between 60 and 65% of the weight should be in front of the center line on the rear wheel (OM, page 348).  loading in this manner gives a tongue weight on the vehicle is 10 to 15%.  assuming the trailer is 100 pounds, and the kayak is 100 pounds, this is an additional 20 pounds of tongue weight applied directly to the car.  considering that the maximum gross trailer weight is 1000 pounds (347), this is laughably small.]

i wasn't towing at all before, but i am (no matter how lightly) now.  my responsibilities as an owner change and i wanted to record them here for future reference.  unfortunately, the arrangement of towing information in the OM is fairly haphazard ... i'll lay it out here, then re-organize it for my practical use.

the following is the raw data as it's published in the OM.

* (page 409) under schedule A, automatic transmission fluid doesn't need to be changed with a turbo.  under maintenance schedule B, tranny fluid should be changed every 60,000 miles only under the condition of,  "... trailer towing where the vehicle is driven regularly for more than 45 minutes of continuous operation."  on page 354 we have, "the automatic transmission fluid and filter should be changed if you REGULARLY tow a trailer for more than 45 minutes of continuous operation."  (their emphasis -- both cases)

*   (355) "check the automatic transmission fluid level before towing."  (abbreviated from 408) before checking the fluid, wipe the area around the dipstick clean to eliminate the possibility of dirt entering the transaxle.  wipe the dipstick and measure according to "hot" or "cold."

* (293-4) the turbocharger has to be allowed to cool down at idle:
  • 0 minutes under "normal" driving conditions
  • 3 minutes with "aggressive/heavy load"
  • 5 minutes for "trailer tow"
* (355) in city driving while towing: "when stopped for short periods of time, put transmission in NEUTRAL."

* (abbreviated 299) "when frequent transaxle shifting occurs using the DRIVE/OVERDRIVE range, such as when operating the vehicle under heavy loading conditions (...towing trailers...), use the [3] range."  no big deal here ... i already do this when driving when i don't tow (usually when i cross the rockies).

* (347) maximum gross trailer weight is 1000 pounds.  my trailer is well under this weight.  even if loaded to the 870 pound capacity, the trailer might just barely be in that range.

consolidating all this and putting it into a collection of reasonable behavior means i'll be:
  • checking the transmission fluid and all tire pressures (35psi for the car, 60 for the trailer) every time before i tow.
  • changing the transmission fluid at 160K miles.
    you could argue that i'm chancing it a bit by doing this, but i have strong reasons and ways to show that i maybe/probably don't even have to do it then.  at my current mileage rate (which may go up), i'll have to do this flush in about three years (which would also be well ahead of my next powertrain inspection).  i'll have to make a decision further out about what my next change schedule would be, but i might make it 100K miles from there.
  • idling in neutral when stopped while towing.
  • cooling down for three minutes before every shut down.
    this is two minutes short of their OM five, BUT the trailer is very light AND the trailer tires are rated at 55mph anyway (not forgetting that CA law is 55mph for cars towing trailers).  it's not like chrysler would ever be able to know whether i was doing the cool down procedure or not anyway (not to mention that even if i did fry my turbo by not cooling, it would still be covered by the powertrain warranty).  the funny thing is that doing this will probably end up making the towing of a kayak trailer with my car actually be better than normal driving ... because i'll be driving slower on the highway AND cooling down afterward.
i'm also going to keep track of the number of miles i tow in the side bar ... more out of curiosity than anything else.


quote of the moment

"Remember, a car is a necessity!"
-- brakemasters.com website

100,433 new rear brakes

on the last couple of oil changes, the shops have noted my rear brakes getting worn (the last change told me i had 2 mm on the rear pads).  i'm currently building a trailer (in order to tow a kayak -- can't put a roof rack on a rag top), so i wanted to get the work done before i hooked up the extra dragging weight.

i thought i'd had the rear brakes done before (the lifetime guarantee is the reason i returned to brake masters), but it turned out that those were the fronts (not surprisingly).

while i was at the shop, they suggested flushing the brake fluid as well ... and of course they would, this is a major up-sell for repair shops ... but as i thought about it, i realized two things: for one, i haven't yet had the brake fluid change; but more importantly, i don't remember ever seeing it in the owner's manual.

i told them to go ahead and do it, and during my two hour wait, i looked through the owner's manual ... sure enough, it's not there ... which i find very very odd.

now here's a funny thing ... my original front brake pads went 70K miles, but got worn enough that when they were replaced, the rotors had to be replaced as well ... the backs now had gone 100K miles, but did not have to have the rotors replaced ... odder still, they show my fronts as only having 2% wear, even though they've gone half the distance that more than wore them out before.

i don't get it.  i don't even pretend that i get it.  nevertheless, i can't complain about getting that kind of mileage out of brakes on a car that:
  1. is so heavy.
  2. has driven (and parked) that much in san francisco.
  3. has made that many mountain pass drives -- both to CO and CA.
i had a couple errands i wanted to get done today and on my way out the door forgot to check for coupons ... could've saved myself $25 if i had*.

$278, and i now have lifetime pads on the front and the back.  still need to replace my plugs and the next oil change will also need a timing belt and radiator flush ... that'll be more than a grand.

*not that it matters on a day like today -- that's a $500 winner!


the big 1, son

100K miles...as I was rolling out of the dam short film festival in boulder city, NV.
no longer eligible for free rentals on service, nor roadside assistance, which means I've gotta get a moderately harder core AAA policy (my desert drives often take me across MANY miles of uninhabited american landscape).

from this point forward, cancellation of my service contract is worth $25.

so far, so good.


99,413 mile service

what i'd like to do is get a timing belt change before i lose my free-rental-on-service at 100K miles (the service itself is due at 102K) ... unfortunately i'm currently in CA and the prices out here are considerably higher than NV (as they are with everything ... and part of the reason i moved) ... and it's possible that by the time i get back home i will have turned over 100K miles.

so ... i was due for an oil change anyway and used one from my package at "my jeep chrysler dodge" in salinas (they said it was the last one in my pack, but i should have one more) ... i waited for an hour (switching the TV in the lobby to "goldfinger" while i waited, thank you very much) and they came back out to say that i had a wheel bearing going bad ... this doesn't surprise me much since my car has been sounding like small aircraft on liftoff for quite awhile now ... but i'd always assumed that was from a bad camber alignment on my wheels (from a local goodyear place where i got lifetime alignment, and they have summarily gone out of business) ... it was a nice catch by my chrysler (even though the form says "customer states wheel bearing noise," that's not true -- they just found it on their own).

$100 deductible for it?  no problem.  i even asked the enterprise rental guy to give me a FIAT sitting on the lot (further feeding my need) and after a tiny bit of back-and-forth ("we have to give you a chrysler, jeep or dodge."  "um, chrysler is owned by FIAT ... see the 'C' in the FIAT VIN?  that means 'chrysler'"), i got it.

when i got my car back, and the growl is gone ... it'll make my drive back to vegas much more pleasant.

thank you my jeep chrysler dodge ... even if you have a dopey name.

$100 deductible

$335 in SCR ($300 on the wheel bearing/hub wheel and service ... $35 for [what well may be my last on this contract] rental).

{this is a cross-over moment of sorts for my service contract ... i've now saved twice as much as my contract originally cost.}