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July 28th, 2009

Car In The Shop Blues…

Is this how lovers feel when one goes away on a business trip?  It’s like my entire life is on hold until I get my friggin’ car back.  I’m actually getting depressed about this.

I took Traveler in to the shop a week ago Monday to finally have the damage from my neighbor’s sideswipe repaired.  It was minor damage, thankfully.  Just around the front of the driver’s side front wheel well, and the side indicator light cover.  But I didn’t want anyone but my Mercedes dealer touching that car, and especially doing the body work.  The instant you lay your hands on that car you notice how nice and smooth and substantial the paint job on it is.  I wanted it fixed, not covered over.  I had to make an appointment for the work, and the best date they could give me was three weeks away.  So I waited three weeks to have the work done, fuming quietly to myself every time I saw the neighbor who I am certain did the damage.

But the weekend before I was to take the car in, I got a sudden message from the speedometer display…

The Tire Pressure Monitoring System Is Inoperative.

HuH?  Well, I thought, maybe it’s the battery inside one of the tire pressure sensors that’s gone bad.  The cars Mercedes sells everywhere else in the world but here use a system that monitors the wheel spin as the car drives down the road, through the Electronic Stability Control system.  A tire that’s getting low will drag more then the others and the stability control system will detect that.  But when I bought Traveler, that method of monitoring the tire pressure hadn’t yet been approved by whatever U.S. regulatory department it is that approves these things.  I have the Electronic Stability Control system in my car, but it doesn’t also monitor the tire pressure.  In 2007-08 Mercedes sold its cars in the U.S. with a tire pressure monitoring system that has pressure monitors inside each wheel.  They communicate with the tire pressure monitoring system via an RFID chip inside each pressure monitor. 

It’s a more complex system and it gives Mercedes owners headaches whenever a new set of tires or wheels needs to be "registered" with the monitoring system.  You can’t just swap on the snow tires every winter.  You have to reset the tire pressure monitor and register the pressure monitors inside the snows with the system.  That’s to prevent someone else’s car from driving up alongside yours and the pressure monitors in its wheels confusing your car’s monitoring system.  Then in the spring you have to do the process all over again when you take off your snows and put back on the regular tires.  It’s something an owner can do themselves, but it’s a pain.  And the monitors in the wheels sometimes fail and then you have to pull a tire apart to get a new one in.

So I was expecting it to be something like that.  But my dealer is having problems figuring out what’s wrong with the tire pressure monitoring system apparently.  I brought Traveler into the shop a week ago Monday.  It was supposed to be a three day body shop repair and then maybe an afternoon with the mechanic fixing the tire pressure monitor.  But the body shop didn’t get done until Friday afternoon, and the machanic said they needed to order a part because they thought there was a grounding problem in the cabling.  Swell.

I had a rental Volkswagon Jetta, but it was on the insurance for the body work, so I couldn’t keep it for the machanical work too.  So I brought the Jetta back in and the dealer gave me a Subaru Forester to take home for the weekend.  It’s nice for an SUV; small, easy to handle and park, yet very spacious inside.  It was so new it still had that new car smell to it.  I took another load of…stuff…to the city recycling drop-off with it and having that extra cargo capacity was very nice.  But it has that odd Subaru opposing piston four banger and seems to get good gas milage.  Driving it I could almost see owning an SUV.  Well…a mini SUV.  Almost.

Yesterday I called the dealer hoping to get Traveler back.  No luck.  They’re still waiting on a part.  And I’m depressed.  I don’t have my car.  And now I can’t give it a clean bill of health when the next Consumer Reports survey comes along.  I’m going to have to report that my Mercedes had an electrical system failure, and even though it wasn’t anything that would have left me stranded and waiting for a tow truck, it will get tallied up and Mercedes cars are going to keep getting a black eye in the Consumer Reports annual report compaired to the Japanese makes.  But I’ve looked at the new Lexus and Acuras and I would still not buy one.  I might go find another dealer though.


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