Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bring me the head of a Chrysler engineer!

Yesterday morning Girlie Bear and I got into the van to get to school and work. When I turned the key the lights came on, the radio started playing, but no cranking. After repeated attempts with no luck, I figured out that a relay was clicking over under the hood, and I could hear the starter whirring. But no cranking.

I transferred us over to the truck, and we made our way to work and school. I took the afternoon off to try to fix the problem or make arrangements at the shop.

I did some research online and in my Haynes manual, and it could have been a loose connection to the starter, a bad relay, a bad battery, or the starter itself. I checked out the cables, and they looked OK. I trust the relay because I can hear it clicking when I try to start the car. I took the battery to the parts store, and it came out of the test as a good battery. So I'm down to the starter.

According to the manual and the internet, it's a matter of disconnecting the battery, disconnecting the starter, and then unbolting it from the engine.

Disconnecting the battery took about 2 minutes total. Bonus!

Disconnecting the starter from the electrical system took almost an hour. It was only 2 nuts to remove and one wire to pull out, but to get my big meathooks into the small space the starter is in was painful, ungainly, and maddening. Bogus!

I removed the first of 3 bolts from the starter after doing some real yoga-like contortions with my wrench. The other two bolts remain hidden by other parts of the engine, waiting for my hands and forearms to heal enough that I can try to figure out the 3d puzzle that is a Chrysler engine compartment and remove them.

I will have a replacement starter tomorrow morning. I will probably wait until Saturday to try again.

But I have made a decision. It will be a cold day in hades before I purchase another Chrysler product. I loved my first Chrysler, a Dodge Shadow. It was a crackerbox, but it was comfortable, got good gas mileage, and was really reliable.

When I finally gave in and got something else, I stayed with Chrysler and got a used Sebring. That car lasted 18 months, and then its transmission broke going 70 miles an hour on the freeway at 10 PM on a Friday.

I had been considering getting another car anyway, as this car wasn't as comfortable as I thought it was. I didn't think anything bad about the car, because it was used, and I didn't know how hard the previous owner had driven it.

So I got the Caravan. And it's a nice, comfortable daddymobile. I've had it almost 3 years. It's on its second transmission, has blown almost every lightbulb in the car, and has started getting gas mileage in the F250 range.

The only reason that I pause before dumping this van and getting a Ford or something is because it's almost paid off, and I'm looking forward to not having a car payment for a while.

This is not a complaint about the people I have worked with at Chrysler. Between us, the Irish Woman and I have bought 5 cars from the same salesman at our dealership. I also really like the people I've worked with in the dealership like the mechanics and technicians.

But good customer service doesn't make up for the continual need for me to maintain this heap. And when I do work on it, the unreasonably tight quarters of the engine compartment make what should be a 20 minute job into a multiday exercise in knuckle busting. No amount of styling or good service makes up for that.

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