Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cars, Warranties and STP

So, there I was at Pep Boys picking up a couple of quarts of oil and STP oil treatment (my car has a sporadic oil leak and blows white smoke every now and then when I start it, so there's either a problem or my car thinks there's a new Pope) when I spied a remote to open the car.

Some time back, my wife had not only lost the remote, but also her key, which cost $60 to replace (programmed). In any event, I bought the remote last week, with the oil. It was $44 and fortunately I hadn't yet opened. When I got home, I checked Amazon and eBay, which is where I always (well, apparently almost always) look. Yeah, I'm one of the retail sales problems – I don't like stores much. On eBay, I found the remote for $12 and bought two.

They came today and I programmed both of 'em in about five minutes, something for which Pep Boys charges nearly $15. I like Pep Boys; they've been around forever and they've always been helpful, but I thought this was a bit much. Once I had to replace a tail light, which in my car is a royal pain (Tbird). One of the guys there came out and did for nothing. It took him about ten minutes and I tipped him a ten for his trouble. Would have done the same thing on the remote…

Now, I like my car, as far as cars go, but I think they're generally a pain in the neck. Mine's approaching 100,000 miles. Getting back to the "white smoke," in early August I thought it might be a good idea to pick up an extended warranty. Yeah, I know, never do that. However, I did for six years or an "additional 75,000 miles," whichever came first.

When I spoke with the scammy salesperson for the warranty I asked specifically if the company wanted to inspect the car. He said no and explained the terms of the policy, which seemed fine to me. For the first month, you can't make a claim if anything goes wrong, and that apparently covers them. The fellow didn't ask me if there was anything wrong with the car and, given that, I felt no need to tell him about the occasional white smoke.

So, in early September, the policy went in effect. Three weeks ago, my airbag light came on and one of the cigarette lighters didn't work…and, of course, I had the white smoke problem. So, I was sent a claim form to fill out and told to go to any certified AES mechanic.

To make a long post a bit shorter, the "Warranty" company said that my claim had to be reviewed by the "Fraud" department. Of course, I asked why and was told it was procedure. In short, they denied any claim, even the lighter and airbag issues.

I told them I wanted a refund. "It will be pro-rated and we'll send you a form to complete." Well, I completed the form, returned it and, much to my surprised, they issued a refund. However, it did not included August, when one could make no claims and a couple of weeks in September. The funds were credited to my credit card. I lost about $200 on the $1500 deal.

Well, they called and said, "You didn't fill out the 'Waiver of Litigation.'" I told 'em I didn't plan to and in the interim, before they called about that, I found a couple of major class action suits against the company – and applied to join both.

Now I've had a couple of extended warranties in the past; one on our refrigerator from Best Buy, which I renewed and one on our washer and dryer, same place, which I renewed. But you can only renew once, unfortunately. They were great and held to everything in the extended warranties.

But these auto guys, I "shudda" listened to a couple of people who told me not to. Granted, there was an issue before the policy went into effect, but they didn't want to check the car, nor did they ask me.

I'm equivocal about the moral issue of not volunteering the information, but what the hell, they wouldn't have paid anyway.

So, still a little white smoke, but no oil leak. Just in case, I can top it off in the garage and I've got some STP Oil Treatment which friends tell me stops almost anything.

And, on a worst case basis, my "shade tree mechanic" told me I get a rebuilt engine for about $2500 and he'll handle it for another $600.

So, that's it for me today.