In early September, after Missy spent over four hours waiting to be extricated from the mud, I began, in earnest, to look for a four wheel drive vehicle. We are working the pipeline and, although it is the best job we have ever had as gate guards, the workplace environment leaves a lot to be desired. Parking pads are virtually non existent and 95% of the work is off road and literally in the middle of the Texas scrub brush on some ranch or property. Gate guards and their necessities are an afterthought. At our last post we had to park on ground softened from rain and the 5ver's tires sunk up to the wheels. I only parked there after all parties agreed to either help in the extrication and/or pay me to sit till it dried out enough to free it. The extrication of the 5th wheel is a subject that could fill another post. Anyway, you get my drift-we needed a four wheel drive vehicle.
I contacted a salesman that I had worked with in the past at H&R Auto Motors, located in San Antonio, and began my search. The vehicle market is very convoluted in South Texas, with pickups and Jeeps commanding silly money. The "exotic" Jeep market is a whole different animal with 20 year old, hopped up Jeeps commanding top dollar. Geez, all I wanted was a bare bones, four wheel drive vehicle that didn't cost an arm and a leg. A compromise was needed, so I pared things down. I wasn't going to pay mid 2000 money for a 1990's Jeep. I really wanted air conditioning and reliability was a necessity. The salesman offered up a dandy 2008 four door Jeep Unlimited and Missy went up to drive it. Now Missy is no Jeep fan, she has a friend that owns one, and she wasn't enamored with it. The four door rode much better and had a roomy interior to boot. She returned after short test drive all ready to close the deal. When it comes to shopping, especially during the commercialized holiday season (another story), I don't mess around. I have an agenda and once it's fulfilled I close the deal. As soon as the negotiations began, it became glaringly apparent that something was missing from the vehicle. There was no four wheel drive lever! A Jeep without four wheel drive? I didn't know they made them; at least in the iconic Wrangler models. Strike one, and the hunt continued. Shortly thereafter, the salesman called with a Jeep he had found and bought from another dealer. With days off as scarce as hen's teeth (especially with both of us working) we paid to have it delivered. Overall I was pleased with the vehicle, except for the huge wheels and mud tires and the lack of cruise control. Now, don't lecture me with the cliché, "it's a Jeep, what did you expect". I was correct, the tires deafened you at any speed above 35-40 miles an hour and cruising above 60 miles an hour was an adventure. It would, however, suffice as a "get to and from work and slosh around" vehicle. The first time we took it out for a shakedown cruise to Wally World, the check engine light lit up and an odyssey began.
Used car dealers generally buy a lot of vehicles, at auction or otherwise, and turn them as quickly as possible. Most used vehicles have little or no warranty so the lots do not have a service department and farm out the repairs. H&R Auto Motors is a family operation and does have a service department of sorts. One sibling handles the vehicle end and another runs the service department. Unfortunately; like a lot of service departments and repair shops, they are primarily good at replacing parts. Anything involving troubleshooting of any kind tends to stymie them. Add in that each sibling ferociously protects his or her turf, and you have a problem. My mother said to always get the name and number of the folks you deal with in a dispute; a diary of sort, chronicling what transpired. I don't do that enough, but I'll try to convey the story as accurately as possible. Besides, you don't need or want to hear all of the minutiae.
The first time we sent the Jeep to be repaired we agreed to meet and drop it off. I signed a contract at that time. The wheels began to fall off the tracks soon after that. My salesman had recently moved to the new New Braunfels store, where he claimed to be residing while they waited for the alarm system to be installed. Shortly thereafter, calls went unanswered from him. When we finally connected, he said he had been on a bender and apologized. Soon after that, I could not get in touch at all. This time the salesman was supposedly sick and in the hospital. I found this out after days of not being able to contact him. When I finally got a hold of someone at the dealership, they had to rustle around to find both the Jeep and the paperwork from the transaction. A week or so later we drove all the way to New Braunfels, picked up the Jeep, and signed another set of papers (the originals had now expired according to the finance company). Five miles or so down the road the check engine light came on again. We drove it home and had them come out and pickup the Jeep at their expense. That took almost another week. All along I had no central point of contact and I was dealing with both the finance and floor manager. The dealership attempted to return the Jeep with supposedly all new (4) 0/2 sensors. A couple of miles from the house, the light again illuminated and they returned to the dealership. But not before they gave me another set of papers to sign. A week passed and there was no news so I started calling. The shop dealership said they were going to send it out to have the catalytic converters changed. I started an e-mail campaign to the owner of the dealership at the behest of the New Braunfels store, as they seemed as fed up as me. Eventually someone called from the dealership, claiming to be the new Quality Control person. He asserted that the Jeep was at some troubleshooting shop and that I would have it by the end of the weekend. Monday came and went as the porter and salesperson that were supposed to deliver the Jeep could not make it. Tuesday came and the Jeep finally arrived home; with a new set of papers to sign. It was filthy! I called the Quality Control guy and told him he obviously had a job ahead as the interior of the Jeep looked like a construction yard, with wires and fasteners strewn about; there was even a license plate and frame on the floor. On top of that, the fuel cap was missing. Missy drove the Jeep to work and the very next day; you guessed it, the light again came on. In the meantime the dealership sent someone all the way out to the house to have me sign yet another set of papers. I wrote a vitriol fueled e-mail to the owner telling her I didn't want the Jeep and to come and get it with a full refund in hand. Again silence. I finally called the New Braunfels dealership and they told me that the owner had given them carte blanche to resolve the situation. Geez, when were they going to call and inform me of that? They first offered to take the Jeep to a specialty shop and have me deal one on one with the management there. At this point, Missy was fed up and I really had had enough conflict and stress out of the deal. The dealership had a 2010 Ford F-250 4x4 Supercab with the long bed. It is an XL instead of an XLT, which basically means it doesn't have all the bells and whistles. As a tow vehicle it will more than do the job, plus it had under 50,000 miles on it! I offered them the same deal as on the Jeep with my current truck tossed in and they accepted. We now have the F-250 conditionally-they want to be sure we are happy with it. It runs great and seems to be a solid truck. However; the "wrench" and TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) lights are illuminated and the tires are shot. I won't accept it till all that is resolved. I'm sure a follow up is coming!
In with the new (to us) out with the old!