I take my 2014 Jeep Wrangler to the Jeep dealership for warranty service, because that’s where I bought it. When I added the old 1998 Sahara to my garage, I started taking it there, too.
When I bought the ‘98, I took it to the dealership for a good going-over, and they gave me a list of things that needed fixing. I told them to fix everything. When I picked it up, my friend and I headed to downtown Atlanta for a conference. We were rolling down Hwy 316, and I kept hearing an intermittent growl from the center tunnel. “Aw, honey,” he said, “it’s an old Jeep; it’s gonna make noise.” But this was a new noise, and I decided to exit the highway and head back to the dealership.
I flagged down the service writer, and he hopped in to go for a ride around the dealership property. Miraculously, the growl actually manifested itself. But as I turned the corner to approach the service bay, the steering wheel CAME OFF IN MY HANDS.
Chew on that for a minute.
I was so shocked that I didn’t even curse like a sailor. I pushed the steering wheel back on as best I could, and we walked back in the dealership. Of course, there were abject apologies and a free rental car. It really didn’t hit me until some days later how bad that could have been if I hadn’t returned immediately to the dealership.
Oh, the growl? The tech had not fully returned the 4-wheel shifter back to 2-wheel. Thank God, or I would’ve have just kept driving. Might not be typing this right now.
Two days later, I had the old Jeep back and everything seemed OK, although I found a few body panel screws rolling around the floor, and the door switch for the dome light had been snapped off (I found a set of 2 switches on eBay for six bucks). Plus the steering wheel was off by about 6 degrees. Jeez, I guess if you’re gonna be sloppy, you don’t clean up after yourself either.
Summer comes, and the A/C starts blowing hot air again. I take it back, and they say the evaporator is shot and I’m looking at $800. I point out that they’d replaced the evaporator 8 months prior and that it should still be good. I ask if they’d replaced the drier during that repair—oops, no, we forgot. The price, unsurprisingly, goes down. I rent another car and they say it will be done in 2 days, once they get a new evaporator from their supplier. Two days come and go, and it isn’t ready because the tech got pulled off to rebuild two diesel engines. I offer my sympathies to the tech, but I want my baby back.
Finally, a week later, I get the ‘98 back, and it is actually blowing cool air, and they claim the compressor is OK and there are no leaks. It ain’t spittin’ ice cubes, but I’m happy with anything cooler than the humid Georgia swelter. This time, there’s a mystery spring in the cup holder, a couple more body panel screws on the floor, and a line item for “door switch.”
You know where this is going.
Rainy season, I put the top back up, drag the temp control into the blue…and feel the tepid dog breath of warm air. Coupled with that, the airbag light comes on and stays on.
I give up on the dealership, and poll the denizens of WranglerForum.com to find a private shop. Unanimously, they recommend AllSouth Autosports in Buford, GA. I drive up to get acquainted. The gentleman at the counter, Roland, walks outside with me and says, “Oh, wow! Nice one! This is in really good shape!” I sense some actual affection for Jeeps, and begin to feel that there’s hope.
Long story short, I’m at AllSouth right now, with my feet propped up in the comfy lounge chair, listening to country music videos on the big screen (instead of “The View,” which poisons waiting rooms with HarpyVision everywhere). They’re going to fix the leaking Schrader valve on the A/C, the sticky throttle body butterfly that causes the Sahara to lurch at low speed (no fun in the woods), straighten the steering wheel, and replace the wonky clockspring that’s triggering the airbag warning light. All for about $400.
Now we’re talkin’.
Epilogue: Three hours later, I’m out the door. Everything works. No spare parts on the floor. Nothing new broken. I’ve found my guys. What a relief.
Newer vehicles just need simple attention such as oil changes, tire rotation, software patches (whaa?), and that’s what dealerships do. When it comes to repair work, the tech runs a code, figures out what black box has gone south, yanks it, and stuffs in a new one. I don’t get the sense that most line technicians at dealerships have the troubleshooting instincts that old-time shade-tree mechanics do. I suspect that when my 18-year-old Sahara shows up in the bay, the guy with the short straw gets stuck with it, muttering the whole time about what a piece o’ shit he thinks it is.
Not to worry. You won’t be seeing it again.