ta da

six hours after the post office showed my letter being delivered to chrysler, i got a phone call from a detroit area code ... it is, in fact, a rep. calling from the CEO's office ... this in itself is interesting, not only because the response is so fast, but also because i never put a phone number on my letter -- it means that they've gone through their owners' logs and pulled it out.

the conversation is long, winding and strange (as conversations with me tend to be on the phone -- the robot has suggested that i start publishing all my phone conversations), but i can summarize it succinctly: if i follow what's in the owner's manual, i'm covered for warranty's sake.

some interesting pieces of side trivia:

* chrysler has a record of all my visits to all my dealerships, but they do not have a record of what the results of individual inspections are.

* my chrysler rep. also has a max care service contract on her jeep (and she hasn't read her owner's manual).

* i now have a name and a direct line into chrysler.

i was traveling at the time and forgot to ask for a quick note in the mail stating the same, just for my record purposes, but i will.

we also had a brief conversation about chapman that i will not repeat here, but i will say i am satisfied.

i consider this an early xmas present from chrysler, and given the current circumstance, could not be happier.


they've got mail

you can get email confirmation on certified mail now ... and it's cheaper than those damn little green cards.


b1-66er has requested that you receive a Track & Confirm update, as shown below.

Track & Confirm e-mail update information provided by the U.S. Postal Service.

Label Number: 7107 1692 5290 2804 2861

Service Type: First-Class Certified Mail

Shipment Activity        Location                               Date & Time
Delivered                AUBURN HILLS MI 48321                  12/22/09  8:06am

Arrival at Unit          AUBURN HILLS MI 48326                  12/22/09  7:46am

Acceptance               LOS GATOS CA 95030                     12/16/09 11:21pm

Reminder: Track & Confirm by email


and just when it was getting good too ...

i'm headed back east (which is to say CO and NV) for a few weeks ...
which means there'll be a delay on seeing/reporting anything related to
the chrysler group letter until after the new year.

in other news, my car was 2 years old, yesterday.


a question of faith

at breakfast with the grumbler this morning, i brought up the letter to mr. marchionne (since i knew he subscribes to my RSS feed) and asked him what he thought of it.

it was a non-topic for him.  "i don't think anybody's gonna read it."

but i think he's wrong.  i could go on and on about this, but having worked in large corporations (some with the grumbler, in fact), i know that a letter that comes out of the office of the president will get attention ... and very little gets sent certified mail these days ... i think it'll get a response ...

... but i've been wrong before.

quote of the moment

"The Sacred"

After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank
in their chairs,
the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone,
his tape deck playing
things he'd chosen,
and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,
their hiding places,
but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it,
and sometimes one other person
who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need
to speak, or to answer, the key in
having a key
and putting it in, and going.

-- Stephen Dunn


... and the rain came down

remember how i said that pre-emptive letters were going to go out to the heads of all operations based on the suspicious inspection that was done (and repeated here and here)?

well, that time has now come to pass.  i've arranged letters in reverse order of importance so the most important ones are on the top, the lessers toward the bottom.

you're welcome to read along and see:

my letter to the CEO of chrysler outlining the suspicious inspections and my need to have chrysler bring the matter to rest.

my letter to the general manager of chapman chrysler giving notice that i have good reason to believe those inspections are incorrect.

my letter to the president of daimlerchrysler service contracts telling her that i thought the phone conversation with her department was weak.

my letter to the CEO of the southern NV better business bureau opening the door for filing a complaint against chapman.

my letter to the secretary of the treasury letting him know what's happening with the US investment in chrysler from my end.

my letter to the owner of my chrysler, telling him i had great service there along the way.

my letter to autowest chrysler, tell them that i appreciated their service as well (here's another).

(and, yes, this increases the TVC of my car by $14 -- $11 for postage, $3 for envelopes.)

we'll see what happens.


letter to Sergio Marchionne

{note: original document was sent via certified US post -- hypertext links are for background information, the formatting is not part of the original letter and is a side-effect of the way html appears on a browser screen.}

December 16, 2009

Sergio Marchionne
Chrysler Group LLC
PO Box 21-8004
Auburn Hills, MI 48321-8004

Dear Mr. Marchionne,


I’m writing to you due to recent inspections on my 2008 PT Cruiser by Chapman Chrysler Jeep in Henderson, NV, which I believe are not correctly reflecting the state of my vehicle. This letter is an effort to ensure that my lifetime powertrain warranty and the associated “Lifetime Maximum Care Wrap” Service Contract (LMCW) will remain valid and intact.

Allow me to back up...In November of 2007, Chrysler announced the discontinuation of one of the most fun cars I’d ever driven: the PT Cruiser convertible. I had one made to order once I discovered that I could get a LMCW. To be very clear, my LMCW -- combined with the lifetime powertrain warranty -- is the reason I sold both of my Hondas and became a Chrysler customer for the first time in my life.

In anticipation, I read the 2008 Owner’s Manual (OM) online before my car had even been built. Since my Cruiser would be the most expensive single item I would own, I knew that I would conform to the much more rigid Maintenance Schedule B (OM pg. 434), irrespective of how I actually drove the car. I figured that that way if anything ever happened to the car mechanically I could never be challenged as to whether or not I had chosen the right service schedule, and somehow void my LMCW coverage as a result. Even though there’s no mention of this possible objection in the contract itself, I didn’t ever want to broach the possibility of breach of contract in this way with anyone at Chrysler.

I’ve been driving a lot -- my car has more than 46,000 miles in less than two years. Thanks your distributed dealership network, I’ve had the 15 requisite services needed to this point performed by nine different Chrysler dealers in three different states.
On the whole the car has been doing very well, and my experience with your dealer network has been quite good. There is one notable exception...
On May 28, 2009, I took my car to Chapman Chrysler in Henderson, NV for my 33,000 mile inspection. Using a coupon from the Chrysler Web site I received an oil change, an air filter and an inspection for the (much appreciated) bargain price of $22.

The service components were exchanged without a hitch, but the inspection came back shocking. My car “failed” (their term) an automatic transmission fluid check, a power steering fluid check and a fuel line check. In all cases the fluids or components were found to be “dirty.” I was also “cautioned” on the brake fluid level/condition “due to mileage,” and I was told that my tires should be rotated and balanced. Combined, the price of these services would come to more than $800. This on a car that was less than a year-and-a-half old, and at 33,000 miles, still under full warranty.
I was surprised since the (far more extensive) 30,000 mile service at Las Vegas’ United Chrysler (they were still a dealer at this time, they are not any more) showed none of these problems.

I pressed my service advisor a bit. I told him I knew I was responsible for standard maintenance (LMCW pg. 4) but these items were far from standard. The brake service isn’t due until 48,000 miles and even then only if the car is used for towing (OM pg. 441), which it definitely is not. The transmission fluid is due for a change at 60,000 miles only if my car is used for police, taxi, limousine or trailer (OM pgs. 442, 447), which again, it definitely is not. And the fuel injector service? It doesn’t even appear in the OM.

I said, “Listen, if all this stuff is bad, it should still be covered under warranty. There’s no way this is ‘standard service.’ It’s definitely not required as part of Schedule B in the Owner’s Manual at this mileage. None of it’s even close.”

My advisor shrugged and suggested that desert driving can put excessive wear on a car. I said, “Not that it matters, but the vast majority of my miles are not in the deserts. I don’t even live here.” I declined the services.

That same day, I called my brother, b1-67er. He’s a licensed Professional Engineer with several automotive patents to his name (I encourage you to do a Google search -- he’ll show up when you do a search for the phrase “world’s best mechanical engineer”) and is a specialist in failure analysis. He was immediately extremely suspicious of the diagnosis.

This gave me a quandary, what happens if an inspection shows a “failed” component and then subsequently that piece develops a fault and I need warranty work done?
On or about June 2, I called the DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts hotline (800-521-9922) essentially asking, “if Chrysler does an inspection on my vehicle and you find something's wrong (like dirty automatic transmission fluid), and I don't change it, and it subsequently fails, am I still covered by the lifetime powertrain warranty (or the wrap)?”

Mr. Marchionne, you just can’t believe how difficult it was to get a simple answer to that question. It took nearly 20 minutes of back-and-forth conversation, but the service representative essentially said, “no, you would be liable” -- in the most non-committal way you’ve ever heard in your life.

This puts me in an awkward catch-22, because essentially what Chrysler is saying is “no, once we spot a problem, if it’s not fixed, you are not covered under warranty,” but if those components subsequently fail, the warranty is no longer valid. It doesn’t make any legal sense because it’s not “prescribed” in the OM (LMCW pg. 4).

On July 16, my 36,000 mile service is done at AutoWest Chrysler in Fremont, CA. As part of the coupon for an oil change, they too do an inspection of my car. They find nothing wrong.

The 39,000 and 42,000 mile services are both done a Chapman in Henderson. Once again on both of these they claim the same problems from the 33,000 mile service (I don’t know for certain that they actually re-tested at these times -- it’s possible they were just re-publishing their previous tests).
For the 45,000 mile service I go to My Chrysler in Salinas, CA. They do the general inspection as part of my oil change coupon and find nothing wrong.

I’m not going to say if Chapman is correct in their belief that my car has several problems -- as a consumer, I don’t think I should have to. For certain there are three other Chrysler dealers who have not found the problems reported by Chapman during the same rough period of time. Instead I’m going to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
One of three things has to be true (possibly in combination):

  •  Chapman is incorrect about what’s wrong with my vehicle.
  •  Chapman’s tests are far more precise than the other Chrysler dealers I have gone to. That’s why they are showing problems that others do not.
  •  The other Chrysler dealers I have been going to are not actually performing the inspections, or are simply failing to spot what’s “wrong” with my vehicle.
Of these three -- especially given the expert advice of my brother -- I think one of the first two must be correct. My bet is on the first one.

I studiously avoid being confrontational as a consumer of a company’s products. I’d much rather get along with my service provider than try to fight them (and, quite honestly, I want to see Chrysler, in all forms, do well). To this end, this is what I’d like to see you provide to me as a consumer of your product:
  • Authorize a San Francisco Bay Chrysler dealer (e.g. someone like Stevens Creek) to do an inspection on my vehicle -- looking specifically for the problems reported by Chapman. This ensures that the inspection would be done well-away from any influence that Chapman might exert giving a better chance for a “true” inspection. It’s also closer to where I live.
  • If the inspecting dealer finds any of the problems that Chapman have reported, give authorization to have that repair done under warranty. Clearly these problems should not be appearing at this mileage (they are not prescribed by the OM at this mileage) and need to be fixed. They were all originally spotted well within the original 3 year/36,000 mile time period.
  • If the inspecting dealer finds no problem, then have them provide that information in writing -- this would give me coverage for any problems that may arise in the future.
  • Alternatively, you could simply send a letter saying that as long as I follow the service recommendations in my OM, I am covered by my plans (the powertrain warranty and/or the LMCW), and I do not have to comply with inspection results.
If you are not able, or unwilling, to provide this to me as a service, there are a few things that I want to make clear for the record:

  1. By both Federal law and your LMCW (pg. 4) I am not required to have my car serviced at a Chrysler dealership to maintain the validity of my warranty. Being able to prove that the car was serviced is good enough for fulfillment. I use your dealerships because I never want to have a non-Chrysler service on my car called into question. However, if the inspections are creating difficulties themselves, it’s senseless for me to accept them and I should move outside the dealer chain of reference to minimize my expense and hassle.
  2. I do not consider Chapman’s assessment of my vehicle to be accurate. There are eight other unique Chrysler dealers who have never found a problem with my vehicle -- three of them immediately surrounding Chapman reviews.
  3. Chrysler’s unwillingness to help would make me a vocal advocate against your corporation. I am not saying this as some quasi-form of psychological blackmail (nor do I think I have much clout), it’s merely that I cannot, in good conscience, support a corporation who supports what I believe are predatory business practices. (I do not believe this is true at the present time.)
  4. Nowhere in the LMCW, nor in the OM, does it say that I am responsible for correcting problems found by Chrysler inspections. In fact, due to #1 above, Chrysler inspections are not required. I stand by the sentence on page 4 of the LMCW fully, “your responsibility is to properly operate, care for and maintain the vehicle as prescribed in the OM supplied by the manufacturer” (my emphasis added). That is precisely what I do, and to the letter. There is nothing I have agreed to in principal, nor in print, that says I have to abide by a recommendation resulting from an inspection. (Especially one that equals 4% of the original price of my car in less than two years of use.)
Mr. Marchionne, I don’t delude myself for a second. I know the chances are essentially zero that you will read this letter -- it undoubtedly will be batted from department to department for awhile before it ends on the desk of someone who’d rather not deal with it. But that doesn’t lessen the fact that I believe in my cause, nor does it take away from the fact that I am (at least for the moment) a fan of Chrysler’s. I bought my car when everyone I knew or talked to thought it was an act of folly. Essentially my pals asked, “What good is lifetime if the company has no life?”

But I know a thing or two about business and the law. And I admire what it took to for a major corporation to come out with a lifetime warranty. I was enthralled enough that I decided to come along for the ride. I have a ‘blog dedicated to my car (in fact, this letter appears there, as will any response you send) -- I encourage anyone who sees reads letter to give it a look at http://www.continualcar.com/.

I realize that I’m the smallest conceivable mite on a planet of the much bigger problems you deal with, but before you completely wave me off, consider this: if even one percent of current Honda owners had done the same as I, Chrysler would have no monetary troubles (and, ironically, you wouldn’t have to read this letter right now, because you wouldn’t be running the corporation).

The entire purpose of this letter is to put a stake in the ground now to help stave off any possible problems in the future. This missive isn’t a warning; it’s a request for official help. I bought my PT Cruiser for enjoyment of a fun car and to be a participant in a grand experiment conducted by a company that had its back against the wall.

So far the experience has been great. My car is extremely solid and reliable. On the whole my experience with your dealers has been extremely good (especially Chapman, if you ignore the inspection “problems”) -- better than my old Honda dealers. I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m upset with Chrysler, because I’m not. I’m just doing everything I can to never buy another car again, including writing this letter.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Enclosures: 6

cc: Mark Akbar, General Manager, AutoWest Dodge Chrysler Jeep
Nick Banker, General Manager, Chapman Chrysler Jeep
Sylvia Campbell, CEO, Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau
Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury, United States Department of Treasury
Tom Maher, Owner, My Jeep Chrysler Dodge
Ann Tomlanovich, President, DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts, Inc.
ecc: b1-67er, Professional Engineer
J. Scott Maberry, Esq

letter to nick banker

December 16, 2009

Nick Banker
General Manager
Chapman Chrysler Jeep
930 Auto Show Drive
Henderson, NV 89014

Dear Mr. Banker,


On May 28th of this year I took my PT Cruiser to Chapman Chrysler to have a service done using a coupon I had printed from the chrysler.com Web site. For the bargain price of $22 I would get an oil change, an air filter and an inspection.

The oil change and air filter went without a hitch, which was great. Unfortunately this was more than offset by my shock when I learned the inspection had found three items “failed” (transmission fluid, power steering fluid and the fuel line) and that two others were “cautioned” (brake fluid and tire balance) on my car. The suggested maintenances totaled more than $800...This on a car less than a year and a half old and with only 33,000 miles on the odometer.

Aside from your dealership’s inspections, there has never been a hint that this might be the case with my car. In the 12 oil changes and inspections I have had at eight other dealerships, before, in-between, and after those you performed, none have shown any problems with my car.

As you will see in the enclosed letter, I am contacting the Chrysler Group CEO in an effort to rectify the quandary your dealership’s inspections have put me in...It’s extremely important to me that my lifetime powertrain warranty and Lifetime Maximum Care service contract remain valid.

I do not expect any action (including a response) on your part. I just wanted to make you aware of the situation firsthand so you could see the interactions I’m having concerning this matter. Please be aware that I reserve the right to post, even in edited format, any response you have to my ‘blog devoted to my Cruiser: http://www.continualcar.com/.



cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

Sylvia Campbell, CEO, Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau

letter to Ann Tomlanovich

December 16, 2009

Ann Tomlanovich
President, DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts, Inc.
DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts, Inc.
P.O. Box 2700
Troy, Michigan 48007

Dear Ms. Tomlanovich,

As you will see in the enclosed letter to Mr. Marcionne, I’m concerned about the results and implication of a series of recent Chrysler inspections. I’m writing you for two reasons: one is to let you know that your business arm was mentioned in my letter; the other is I had an extremely frustrating call with your staff.

On or about June 2, 2009, I called your consumer hotline (800-521-9922) to ask this question: if I have a Chrysler inspection done on my PT Cruiser and a car component is seen as problematic, will I be liable (ie. not covered by the lifetime powertrain warranty and/or my wrap) if this particular component ultimately fails?
It was nearly impossible to get a direct answer to this question. In fact, after 20 minutes of probing, the answer I had was essentially, “probably.” It’s actually worse than no answer at all.

I’m not expecting an answer to this question from you (or actually a response of any kind) -- I’m leaving that in the hands of Mr. Marchionne -- but I am letting you know that the training this particular service representative had on this particular question was beyond wanting, it was simply weak.

At the very end of the day, a Service Contract is monetary icing on the cake for your company. You know it, I know it, and it’s the very reason that you have this particular job. As a consumer, what I really want on the other end of the phone is someone who can answer a question simply -- especially if the question has a yes or no answer.



Enclosures: 1
cc: cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to sylvia campbell

December 16, 2009

Sylvia Campbell
Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau
6040 S. Jones Blvd.
Las Vegas NV 89118

Dear Ms. Campbell,


I’ve had a series of inspections done on my car at Chapman Chrysler Jeep on 930 Auto Show Drive in Henderson {ed: here, here and here}. As you will see in the enclosed letter I have sent to Mr. Marchionne, I have reason to believe that I am getting exaggerated claims on the state of repair of my vehicle.

To be very clear and absolutely fair, I am not 100% certain that Chapman’s reports are in error. I just have very good reasons to believe they are.

I’m not familiar with what constitutes a “complaint” with the Better Business Bureau. If my grievance qualifies, please consider this a formal lodging to that end. If not, please accept my apologies for disruption of the BBB routine.



Enclosures: 2

cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to Timothy Geithner

December 16, 2009
Timothy Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
United States Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Mr. Geithner,


Although it’s devilishly hard to determine explicitly, my understanding is the federal government now owns a large portion of the Chrysler Corporation and the Treasury is the department responsible for the oversight of this holding.

I’ve copied you on a grievance I currently have concerning the “lifetime” agreements I have in place with Chrysler (their powertrain warranty and the “Lifetime Maximum Care” service contract).

I am expecting no action on behalf of you or your department. No response is necessary. I merely wanted to make you aware of what was happening with your investment at the absolute most microscopic of levels. I know that as an investor I’m always curious about anything that happens relative to an investment of mine and it’s possible someone in your department might actually be charged with knowing this kind of stuff.

Use it as a datum for the larger picture, or ignore, as you see fit.

A happy new year to you,


P.S. As I was looking for your street address, I saw the “free shipping” promotion you have on dollar coins and ordered four boxes. I love the dollar coins and I think it’s a great idea to help pump them into circulation. (And no, I’m not even getting a single frequent flyer mile for it).

Enclosures: 1

cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to my chrysler dodge

December 16, 2009

Tom Maher
My Jeep Chrysler Dodge
800 Auto Center Circle
Salinas, CA 93907

Dear Mr. Maher,


Just the briefest of notes to let you know that I have mentioned your dealership, in passing, in a letter to the Chrysler Group CEO, Mr. Marchionne (enclosed).

As I have stated in my letter, my sole experience with My Chrysler was superlative. My oil change and tire rotation were done cleanly, correctly and on time -- according to my schedule. (You can’t believe how hard it is to get a car serviced in the afternoon -- nearly everyone wants a morning appointment.)

The only reason I mention this to you at all is on the very off chance you hear something from higher authorities due to my letter. I seriously doubt this would happen, but just in case...

A very Happy New Year to you,


Enclosures: 1

cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to AutoWest Dodge Chrysler Jeep

December 16, 2009

Mark Akbar
General Manager
5850 Cushing Parkway
Fremont, CA 94538

Dear Mr. Akbar,


Just the briefest of notes to let you know that I have mentioned your dealership, in passing, in a letter to the Chrysler Group CEO, Mr. Marchionne (enclosed).

As I have stated in my letter, my experience with AutoWest has been superlative {ed: here and here}. The people at AutoWest have always been efficient and gracious (especially Roger Thurman). The work your center has done on my PT Cruiser has been great.

The only reason I mention this to you at all is on the very off chance you hear something from higher authorities due to my letter. I seriously doubt this would happen, but just in case...

A very Happy New Year to you,


Enclosures: 1
cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC


the continual car window is closing

i just read that last summer chrysler announced the 2010s would no longer have lifetime powertrain warranties.  this also means that it will no longer be possible to get lifetime bumper-to-bumper wraps.  (oh, and just to blow my own horn, i predicted this happening two years ago.)

so ... if any of the three of you who read this 'blog want a continual car of your own, you better go out and snag a 2009 chrysler, jeep or dodge.  otherwise you'll be driving a boring old industry standard warranty.

and seriously, who wants to do that?

(3/1/13 note: at least as of now you can still get a lifetime wrap on all chrysler vehicles as well as FIAT ... so chrysler has stuck by the lifetime idea ... they must be making money on it.)


... and a filter

missed one of the little check box-ies that said i need to get a new air filter at 45k.  went and installed it myself (which is right at my very limit of automotive mechanics) and learned about this crazy thing called the "make-up" filter -- essentially a little sponge that's sitting in the same box.



44, 911 mile service

down at my brother's place in salinas for T-day, which means it's time for, that's right, yet another chrysler dealer to change my oil.

this time i've got the coupon i couldn't get hold of last time and head on over to my jeep chrysler dodge.

from the get-go they're super-responsive and friendly, so i figure i'll try a gambit.

"hey, i've got a coupon here that's good for wiper blades and an oil change for 20 bucks ... how about i trade you?  you keep the wipers and give me a tire rotation instead for the same price?"  i figure it's a good deal for them because it's just a bit of extra labor, but not hard durable goods going out the door.


they set an afternoon appointment with me (car dealerships almost always want you in in the morning) and took the continual car immediately on arrival.  i went a couple blocks away for a late pancake lunch and they finished it well before i was done with my tasty meal.

now, in theory, they did an inspection here too and found ... nothing wrong ... once again making chapman look suspicious.

my jeep chrysler dodge is a great dealer ... and once again ... the non-5-star dealer is better than the ones that do have stars.  i don't get it.


(this service was supposed to include an air filter, but i did it myself.)


trivium of the moment

poking around on the NTSA web site today i found that the total number of 2008 PT cruiser convertibles manufactured was 1858.


42,122 mile service

back in vegas again, so i headed over to chapman.  the chrysler website has a coupon for oil change and wipers for $20, but i forgot to print it out before i left CA ... and as punishment, god crashed the chrysler website.

had to settle for a chapman coupon for a $20 oil change (no wipers).  they had another coupon that included a tire rotation for $30, but the service guy reminded me that i'd rotated 'em last time and fairly emphatically suggested that i not do it now ... so i didn't.

they also did an inspection and, once again, show contaminated power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid and a "dirty" throttle body.  or to put it in terms warren buffett would understand, $780.

come on, man ... is it really that bad?  it feels like they're grasping to me.



milestone for my old car

'93 honda civic del sol, now owned by radioactive dave. 200k miles.
think of it as a dry run for the continual car.


the continual car rests

i've bought one of jetblue's all-you-can-jet passes, which means the
continual car is gonna be mostly sittin' from 9/8 to 10/8.

i have a new 'blog for my travel exploits.

and as search engine fodder you can buy AYCJ t-shirts here.
(profits go to carbonfund/org)


39,111 mile service

i'm back in vegas and it's time for yet another oil change. chrysler has gone through a significant trimming of their dealerships as part of their bankruptcy proceedings and there's only one, yes one, official five-start dealer left in las vegas proper.

and that would be whom?

that's right, chapman. the only dealer in vegas that i'm suspicious about. so i grab my coupon and head on in, not having any idea what's going to happen when i hit my three red lights of their original inspection.

but hey, i'll get a cheapie, mopar-approved, oil change and the good news is i had them hold the parts so i'll get the trim and my interior light fixed (even though now i'm over 36k miles).

unfortunately i let my fricken driver's license expire so i'm not able to get my freebie rental car ... but they do have a shuttle, so it's not all bad ... i'm able to retreat back to the robot's house where i'm staying.

it takes chapman an extra day to fix my car than they originally predicted (making them 1 for 4 in being on-time), but when i get it back everything's done complete and correct. i give a little tug on the roll bar trim and it stays put, so maybe it has a chance.

and how did they handle the inspection? there's a huge red box that says "previously declined recommendations" that includes:

* tire rotation and balance
(i declined the balance before, i told them to rotate -- the work order says they did, the print-out says they didn't).

* brake system flush
(highly suspicious -- they say "brake fluid can become contaminated in as little as 2 years." one would assume this is a worst case scenario. my car is 4 months, or 17%, shy of this figure.)

* power steering flush
("should be replaced with new fluid as part of a preventative maintenance program." the normal maintenance for this isn't even in the owner's manual.)

* automatic transmission service
(needs to follow a "regular maintenance schedule." well, the owner's manual says that shouldn't be happening until 60k miles, and then only if it's a delivery vehicle. please.)

* fuel injector service
(they don't even have a nagging sheet about this one ... i use injector cleaner every oil change and i drive the vast majority of my miles at highway speed for hours on end -- a nice hot engine is the least likely way to have this build-up happen ... unfortunately it's also the only thing that is not covered by the mechanical part of my extended service warranty. hmm)



public warning about chapman chrysler jeep service; henderson, NV

so here's the deal ... chapman chrysler jeep in las vegas, NV handed me a vehicle inspection (part of a chrysler coupon i had), that showed i needed $814 worth of services (bad fuel injection, dirty power steering fluid and dirty automatic transmission fluid). no inspection before this one by chapman, and the one immediately preceding it, showed any problems with my vehicle.

if you're new here, go ahead and read through some of the stuff i've written to decide whether i'm a flakeball just spouting off, or i have a legitimate complaint about something suspicious going on here ... after you're done with that my advice to you would be to get a second opinion of any recommendation by chapman.

it should be noted that their service, although often slow (they set me up an appointment at 10:00, but don't roll my car into the service bay until 15:30?), is done spot-on the money. everything chapman claimed they'd do eventually got done completely and correctly.


37,042 mile service

i wasn't able to stop by the shop in vegas before i headed out so i dropped back in to autowest dodge chrysler jeep in fremont, CA on my triumphant return to the bay area.

i had a coupon for tire rotation, oil change and inspection. the inspection should be interesting because if it matches chapman, then i can more firmly suspect there's something legitimately wrong with the car -- and if it doesn't match, it could mean there's something very wrong with chapman's service.

i say nothing about the former inspection and wait for an hour in the waiting area with some guy making hilarious comments about jerry springer (i swear to you, if he sat with me through all TV shows, i'd watch television every day ... instead of only when i travel, like i do now).

the car gets done and guess what? nothing is wrong in the inspection.




35,141 mile warranty service

might as well call this one "roll bar molding, part III"

i'm approaching the magic distance of 36,000 miles on the continual car. to be clear, this is the point where i drop away from the factory warranty (read: "free repairs") and go to the extended service contract (meaning "$100 deductible").

the continual car has had the roll bar trim come loose twice (it's a problem with the air turbulent rolling over it with the top down) and it's loose again, so i need to get it done now ... while i'm at it, i'm going to have them repair the lens on the roll bar interior light -- the fit and finish isn't quite right.

i roll into chapman with 35,141 miles. it takes them a full day to look over the car (i get a rental) and decide that: yes i was right; no, they don't have the parts.

no matter. it's not something that needs to be done right away, but it is something they need to be aware of before i cross the magic number ...

oh, and a mild kicker here is i won't be able to get the roll bar trim fixed in the future under my service contract because it would definitely qualify as soft trim.

no problem ... if it comes off in the future it'll definitely be "paging mr. glue, mr. super glue" ... but i'll take one more chance on chrysler, sure.

a minor catch here is i won't be in town when the parts do come in, but if i can get them to hold on to them long enough, i can get it done next time i'm in town ... maybe even with an oil change.


a call to chrysler

i call the service contract people with a question that is this:

if you do an inspection on my vehicle and find something's wrong, like automatic transmission fluid is dirty, and i don't change it, and it fails, am i still covered?

you'd think this is a simple question. i certainly do.

but try asking this to a politically correct corporate spudnut that may be being recorded for quality assurance purposes. the guy hems and haws and spews wild different forms of gibberish that are all essentially non-answers.

during the conversation (which takes more than 20 minutes), i point out that the inspection isn't required, that i could have a vehicle serviced anywhere (which means i may or may not change the transmission fluid and they wouldn't know) and that if my car did have bad transmission fluid it would be so early that it should be covered by warranty repair.

after beating him like a rabid dog for an extended period of time he finally said something close to yes, i would be liable.

i'm not happy and this is far from over.

pre-emptive letters are going to go out to the heads of all the operations here. you'll see.


32,985 mile service

new coupon, new dealership.

what starts as a routine oil change ends very oddly.

i'm supposed to get an oil change and an air filter (not that i need it, but that's what the coupon's for). which is fine and that's what i get.

but their inspection turns up, get this: failure of the fuel injection system, dirty power steering fluid and dirty automatic transmission fluid. at 33,000 miles? this sounds highly suspicious.

i tell them "no thanks" to the $814 worth of service they've suggested and pull out my owner's manual ...

... because if i'm responsible for standard and required maintenance, what's required when?

there's no reference to the power steering fluid change, but transmission fluid is expected, get this, at 60k miles if i'm a taxi, a police car or a delivery truck.

i call my brother and he's immediately suspicious of all their findings. he knows i've been taking care of the vehicle. he also knows how vehicles of this type behave over time. essentially he believes their claims are ludicrous. and because he believes that, so do i.

or more precisely, if those things are in fact, wrong, they should be covered by warranty because they fall into the realm of defective.

and i don't know what it means to have a black mark on my record like this. if they say it's at fault, and i don't fix it because it's not standard maintenance, are they going to filch when i bring it in for warranty repair on failure? (yeah, that's what i think too.)

it all leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth.

i need to talk to the service contract people.

chapman chrysler jeep, i officially don't trust you.



i told you so ...

got a letter in the mail from chrysler.

the short version of seven paragraphs:

* chrysler is filing bankruptcy and merging with fiat
(a wrinkle in what my bother and i talked about a year and a half ago)

* "the new company will seamlessly honor all warranty claims and service contracts."
(both what i had predicted and what i'd been told by the service people)

which means the continual car concept lives on.

(this written 12/10/09 as i found the letter in a stack of old stuff.  pre-dated to match the date of the letter "may 2009.")


29,595 mile service

this is the first big service on the car. up to here it's just oil changes, tire rotations and air filters; 30,000 miles includes spark plugs, inspection of the PCV valve (whatever the hell that is), air filter and adjusting the generator belt drive tension.

unfortunately, this also gives me my first shot at getting majorly up-sold. if you call a service center and ask for a "30,000 mile service on a PT cruiser," you're likely to get a whole catalog of items that aren't in the owner's manual (or are at much later mileages). the answer they'll give you, always, is that it's what they recommend.

i'm in NV right now, giving me four choices of dealerships to choose from (and i already called from the bay area about this service as well -- it's about 15% cheaper here than back home).

a quick call shows a whopping difference in price. most NV dealerships are wanting on the order of $750, but i find one, united chrysler jeep, that will do it for $250 minus the amount of my oil change coupon.

i go in, get my rental and get the service done. the dealership on the whole feels a little shoddy, but i'm not arguing with the service, nor the price.


(my brother is appalled that four spark plugs are $167. "i'll teach you how to do that.")


... or maybe so ...

it appears that bankruptcy is imminent for at least one of the major car manufacturers, and there's no question that chrysler will end up pulling the trigger in that game of russian roulette. the obvious question is what happens to the continual car service contract? because if there's no contract, the continual car isn't a forever living vampire, sucking down the world's resources; it's nothing more than a zombie waiting to get shot in the head -- just like the car you drive.

i don't need that.

it's so easy to get wound up in speculation about "oh, what if this happens?" and "oh, what if that happens?" that it becomes easy to ignore the obvious, which is why don't you just ask the people directly involved. from an information point of view, by far the biggest weakness of the internet is hearsay, false rumor, and the absolute worst -- idle speculation. i'm not going to fall into that trap so i call daimlerchrysler service contracts, the people i have a legal agreement with for the continual car.

i dive deep into a voice recognition phone tree for my service contract number, ultimately not being able to tell what choice i'm supposed to make so i just say "operator." a short pause brings me to a real live person that batters me with questions. what's my name? what's the last 8 digits of my VIN? what's my address and phone number? who was president after millard fillmore?

i know all that stuff and at four minutes past my dialling the telephone we're through all the nonsense. which means we're to the good part.

me: "as i'm sure you're all too aware, chrysler is in big time financial trouble. they might go bankrupt. if they do, what happens to this service contract?"

service operator guy: "sir, we have no information regarding the financial situation of chrysler. as soon as we do, we'll inform you. but if something like that did happen, your service contract still applies. it's a confidential {i'm pretty sure that's the word he used, it stuck to me because i'd never heard it in that context} legally binding contract."

me: "i just want to be absolutely clear here ... unless something totally insane happens, like chrysler declaring chapter seven {that's the form of bankruptcy where a company just vanishes}, i am covered. if chrysler were to declare bankruptcy, like a chapter 11, i'd still be able to get my car fixed under this service contract."

service: "that's correct. is there anything else i can do for you?"

me: "no, that's quite enough. thank you."

... or maybe not ...



making it last forever

good article here on long term cars, with a focus on a guy that has driven his new '66 volvo p1800 *2.6M* miles.


it's interesting that the 2M guy changes antifreeze only every 100k miles (not to mention that his car isn't even garaged!). his car has the original body, engine block, transmission and differential; with an engine re-build @ 680k miles. front seats replaced 2x due to sun damage -- the rest is original.

salient continual car points below, on the chance the article gets struck in the future. {my comments in braces.}

Top tips from folks who keep their cars over long distances:

1. Regular oil changes are just a start. Check the owner's manual for when to replace coolant, transmission and differential lubricants, brake and steering fluids, air and fuel filters, belts and hoses.
{this one seems like a gimme -- i'm surprised it's on the list.}

2. Fix it as soon as it breaks. A worn ball joint or shock absorber may seem like no big deal at first, but keeping it on the car long-term stresses other components. Minor dings or scratches can become big rust holes. Deferred maintenance turns a survivor into a beater.
{love that last sentence.}

3. Drive gently. Frequent drag-racing starts and F1-style braking maneuvers do not enhance your car's long-term durability.

4. Budget for it. When you're done with car payments, save at least some of that cash for upkeep.
{... or maybe pay a little more up-front with a chrysler lifetime warranty and pray the fates somehow keep you in the game.}

5. Choose quality parts. You're keeping the car, so why cheap out?

6. Find a mechanic you can trust. A wrench who knows your machine inside and out is a valuable ally in keeping it going.

7. Keep records. If you wish to sell or need to make an insurance claim, records make all the difference in proving your car's true value.
{sell a long term vehicle? please.}

8. Enjoy driving! The point of all of this is that you like driving the car. If you come to regard it as and old heap you resent rather than a traveling companion on the journey, it's time to make a trade.
{there's another point here, but if you're in for the Long Term Game, you already know what it is. and if you're not, you wouldn't understand it anyway ...}

obama, fan of the continual car

this (c) reuters

"To reassure consumers wary of purchasing a vehicle from a financially distressed company, Obama said the government would underwrite warranties beginning on Monday. 'Let me say it as plainly as I can, if you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always. Your warranty will be safe,' Obama said."


26,540 mile service

chrysler sent me an oil change coupon in the mail that was being honored by boardwalk, so i went back there. although the car was due at 27k miles, i wanted to take it in before i did another vegas drive -- it just made things easier.

i was able to make an appointment, take my car in, wait, get the change and leave all in less than an hour. good deal.



24,028 mile service

boardwalk chrysler wasn't honoring the latest set of chrysler coupons so i took my car to autowest dodge chrysler jeep. in addition to the oil change and tire rotation, i mentioned the recurrence of the air bag light and the repeating problem with error code po456. i was given a gigantic panel van as my rental car.

i was promised my car in a day, but got it back in two due to a couple of mild complications. it turned out the airbag problem was actually a faulty seat belt connector, so they replaced it -- i could tell just driving it off the lot that they got that right.

they did a pressure check on the fuel system and found a small leak in the gas cap, replacing it as well. that too must have been the right answer because i haven't had any problems since.

two problems that would be easy for a dealer to blow off and both were fixed quickly and correctly. very impressive. they'd get full marks except when they returned my car it had been shat upon pretty heavily by seagulls -- problematic because washing my top is a by-hand, two-step process (i have to wash/brush it, let it dry and then waterproof it again).



i'm leaking, i'm leaking again

the engine light came on the day before i was due to do* the las vegas, NV -> santa clara, CA drive. desert chrysler were super-helpful and able to take me in in the early afternoon. a quick check from them (so quick, in fact, that i had not left the lot in my [free] rental) revealed the return of error code P0456.

good news and bad news. the good being that i can make the drive back to CA, no problem. the bad being there may be something tiny wrong with the fuel system causing this evaporation leak light to come on. i'll need to get that checked before the 3-year/36,000 mile mark (since i don't have to pay a deductible before that).

*gotta dig lyrics in writing


welcome the snow beast

my brother referred to my del sol as a "snow pig" due to its lack-of-ease on snow packed roads. the combination of a 50/50 front/back balance, along with a relatively light curb weight, made it tricky on slick streets.

the cruiser comes from the other side of the tracks ... not only is it heavy (probably to the front), but it also has anti-spin and ABS. it runs great on the snow and ice. but the automation is heavy-handed enough that it's hard to have a feel for the car ... i still don't fully trust it, but it laughed at other cars on an icy road in CO and was rock solid on both recent snow drives through UT.

i almost certainly would have had the traction features added if they hadn't have already been included on the car, but i'm glad i didn't have to ...

the convertible top is easily the most insulated i've ever experienced. even in the near-zero temps, i was driving with the seat heater off and heat on the lowest setting with the dial cranked about 3/4 of the way ... compare this to a ride under very similar circumstances in my hardtop sirocco 20 years ago -- i had to drive with the heat on full and my jacket on just to stay comfortable.

the two drives i've taken through UT have been punishingly brutal -- including passing a sander spewing marble-size gravel last night. the car's taken it absolutely in stride.

20,836 mile service

chrysler is posting their oil change coupons online again. since i'm back in CO, i had the change done there -- they neglected to do the tire rotation, which is fine since it's not technically due on this service.


a new low

in eastern UT


a record never to be broken?

my mom gets discounts on gas for buying groceries at the local safeway.
she lives alone and buys very little, but that didn't keep me from
getting a 70¢/gallon discount on gas on my new year's eve fill-up.

because of the downward spike in gas prices and this abnormally large
discount, will this end up being the cheapest gas i buy in the US for
the rest of my life?