An argument over whether or not non-functional brakes on a vehicle constitutes “a safety issue” might be one of the definitions of insanity.
I say argument when really I mean a disagreement with customer service representative Carissa. She was actually very nice, and I managed to keep my tone in check despite my growing frustrations this past week.
Not her fault she has to deliver the company message, right?
I discerned an issue with the brakes in the SUV my wife and I bought a few years ago. We purchased this vehicle in the hopes of making it our main baby transporter, but we’d started to feel a bit uneasy about the brakes in recent weeks because it felt like there was a brick underneath the pedal, which made stopping in time feel like a 50-50 proposition. No clue to why it made a weird hissing noise that sounded like a deflating tire while being depressed.
I figured the brakes needed some work.
So we took it in and had some work done. This work did not seem to solve the problem so I decided to check the internet. Figured I’d do a bit of WebMD’ing but for cars.
This led me to an apparent common problem with the year, make and model we were driving so I finally had an answer. Or so I thought.
I made the internet diagnosis on Thursday night so I called a dealership because this particular problem should be covered under a “special service program.” This is a fun little term that will factor in more to our story in just a little bit.
The service department at this particular dealership was closed by the time I called so I left a message. I didn’t get a call back early the next morning, so my wife and I started calling around to the closest dealerships (there aren’t many) and started seeking an appointment.
The best anyone could do was Monday afternoon.
This was frustrating so I contacted big corporation headquarters to inquire about a rental car. I figured,
“Brakes aren’t working; this makes vehicle dangerous; I can get a replacement car for a few (five) days until the estimated time of inspection and service.”
I was pretty much wrong.
To qualify for a rental car, I needed a certified dealership to diagnose the problem, but I couldn’t get an appointment to make said diagnosis. And since this wasn’t a recall but a “special service program” – basically an extended warranty – this didn’t constitute “a safety issue.”
Oh, poor, sweet Carissa delivering that message.
I’m not a car expert, but where I come from, brakes not working constitutes a bit of a safety issue. So the message was to go ahead and rent the car at my own risk, and they MIGHT refund up to $30 per day if it’s determined I qualify.
Otherwise, I was free to keep driving the rolling death trap around town. Good luck to my family and everyone else on the road.
Basically, Mazda — I waited to out them because I still like their vehicles — responded to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation to why the brake pedal wouldn’t depress to the floor while making a hissing sound by saying, “Yeah, it’s our bad. We will let them fix it.”
That was good enough, so no recall was made which led to a really convoluted service problem for me.
I toughed it out for the weekend with one small vehicle just big enough to allow us to cram our young son into it when necessary. I nabbed the rental expecting a two-day service window and got it back after one.
The ol’ Mazda brakes like a dream now.
It only required a week plus and four full days with only one vehicle to get solved. Nothing is easy when fixing cars anymore unless you have a dealership next door and don’t mind the exorbitant prices charged there for the most basic service.
Most of all, you need a thorough understanding of warranties, recalls, special service programs and safety issues. I feel like I learned a lot this past week, mostly that owning vehicles are an evil necessity in this country, and they have the ability to drive you insane.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.