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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No Good in the Clutch

No Good in the Clutch
In 1990 I leased a new Jeep Wrangler.  I loved the Jeep Wrangler, it was no frills yet it had a certain “cool” factor.  I felt it was a safe car for my kids to drive, not so much power that they would be tempted to speed and showoff, but cool enough for a high school kid.  I leased the car because I couldn’t afford to buy it outright.  I could afford the lease, but money was tight.

The car ran fine for a year until there was suddenly a problem with the clutch. The car simply would not shift past second gear.  Reverse was not even an option.  I probably should have had the car towed to the dealer for service, but that would have been expensive so instead I drove it twenty miles in second gear.  I took it to the dealer because I assumed the problem would be under warranty.

The clutch needed to be replaced.  It was apparently completely shot.  Of course it was not under warranty.  The drive chain was covered (whatever that is) the steering was covered, the tires were covered, and the electric was covered.  Everything on that car was covered by a warranty; everything but the clutch.

A new clutch cost $600 a major dent in my meager bank account.  Of course it had to be replaced; the car was only one year old.  At this point I wished I had brought the car to my regular mechanic, Tom at the Volk’s Shop (see “The Volk’s Shop” which was only one mile from my house.  Tom generally fixed anything and never charged me more than $300.  Oh well, a clutch was a clutch and sure to cost at least $600 even if installed by my favorite trusted mechanic.

I bit the bullet and paid the $600.

Exactly one year later the jeep once again would not shift past second gear.  Crap!  This time I drove it over to The Volk’s Shop for Tom to fix it.

“What’s the problem,” Tom asked.

“Ah'm not sure, it just doesn’t want to get out of second gear.” 

I had long ago learned to never tell Tom what you thought was the problem.  Tom was a great mechanic, but he was very literal.  If you told him what you thought was wrong, that is what he would fix.  It was much better to say “I don’t know” and let him determine what needed to be done.

I walked back home trying to figure out how I would get the money to pay for a new clutch…again…and cursing that friggin Jeep under my breath.  When I got home Tom had called.  He was probably giving me the bad news and checking if I wanted to spend the $600 on a new clutch.

I called him back.

“Volk’s Shop.”

“Yeah Tom, it’s Mr. Hagy about the Jeep…what’s the bad news?”

“Oh yeah, it’s not good…”

“Shit” I thought, "here it comes.”

“Yeah, your clutch cylinder has a small leak.  I could replace it for $137.48 (the man was always precise) but if you just added fluid every year it would probably be OK, it’s a really small leak.  It cost $2.97 for fluid, no charge for labor, didn’t take but a minute”

This was great news, $2.97 not $600.
When I picked up the car, I had to ask Tom,  “Tell me Tom, any chance the cylinder was damaged when the original clutch was replaced?”

“Doubt it.  That there clutch is the original.”

That clicking sound is the light bulb over my head turning on.

One week from the time that Tom made it abundantly clear that the Jeep dealer had completely ripped me off, the Jeep dealer burned to the ground.  It burned down one year and a week after they charged me $600 for a new clutch when all they did was add clutch fluid.

No…I didn’t do it…I’m Cranky, not crooked, but the dealership had either burned down by some unfortunate accident, or more likely, knowing them to be unscrupulous, they were losing money and it was torched for the insurance.

Either way, I was out $600, and karma was still a bitch.


  1. I think we could both write posts about the warranty hoaxes we've experienced. This is apparently a lot more common that you'd like to think. Anytime a warranty is pages long and filled with legalese, you can be sure some lawyer wrote it to protect the manufacturer and to screw the consumer. That's why all those "exceptions" are in there.


  2. I just replaced the clutch in my '98 RAV to the tune of $925.00. That took a chunk out of our budget.

  3. It's really too bad that some companies feel they need to do that. But, hey - - I thought they only did that to little ol' women?!

  4. Warranties (& insurance) cover everything except what happens--I wish I had a Tom!!

  5. WOW. That's a story. I had a Chrysler dealer who did work down to the real problem, such as the 2.97 cylinder. They were bought out by Kia several years ago. Sad.

  6. oh, don't worry about the $600, it will come back to you in some form or the other. If it does't, then it truly din't belong to you in the first place!

    oh boy! I can speak karmic! LOL :D

  7. I don't understand how a place can stay in business when they treat customers like that. Word of mouth is worse/better than any advertising. I'm betting you're right about them burning it all down on purpose.

  8. Well, it could have been lit by a mob's flaming torches, what with them angry about being unable to afford pitchforks after doling out $600 for clutch fluid.

  9. It's almost poetic justice that the crooked dealership burned down. The bums.

  10. Stick with the local guy. I have one of them too. Actually I have a couple of them. ALL of them are like big brothers to me and I worry not about car repairs of any kind. Karma is a ripe b!tch, not to be reckoned with in a fould mood or with ill intent.

    The dealership might have burned down, but they will open up shop and do it all over again, new name, new face, new place- but still the same foul intent.