The Auto Warranty Scam

“We don’t actually send out any paperwork without receiving a down payment.”

This from an article by ConsumerMan, written in 2008, addressing the onslaught of fraudulent extended auto warranty offers by mail and by phone.

And here it is, 2016, and the tide has not turned. In the last couple of months, I have received virtually dozens of these solicitations to purchase an extended auto warranty (the companies not realizing that my Prius is already at 165,000 miles in 9 years, and hence ineligible by anyone’s standards.) Here are just 3 examples:

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An article at Edmunds.com also addresses this ongoing plague. Granted, there’s no way of telling just from a solicitation that any given company is fraudulent or reputable, but the fact that there are so many of these things hitting my mailbox and email and even my phone is a pretty good indication to me that there is a huge and lucrative market for these things, and wherever there’s money to be made the roaches will scurry out of the woodwork.

By the time your manufacturer’s warranty has expired – many of them run up to 7 years or 110,000 miles or even more – your car’s pretty much past its day and you should think very hard about whether purchasing an insurance policy (that’s what these are) is really worth it.

Beware of high-pressure sales tactics and “limited time” offers. Research any company and/or policy carefully before sending any money to anyone. And for heaven’s sake, if a salesman tells you, “We don’t actually send out any paperwork without receiving a down payment,” run away fast.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Sir Vival: The future that never was

Reblogged from a post at lafinlarry.net by Pepelaputr. I had never heard of this wonderful bit of bizzarrity, and thought it should get wider exposure.

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Walter C. Jerome of Worcester, Massachusetts was a man possessed by a mission to make the world’s safest car. In the end, he failed to advance auto safety but Jerome’s segmented sedan might easily qualify as the world’s strangest car.

Primarily concerned with head-on collisions, Jones split his car in two, hoping the front section would absorb collisions, leaving the passenger cabin untouched. Using a heavily modified 1948Hudson sedan as a rear section, he built a raised turret to provide the driver with maximum viability, a goal he furthered with a 360 degree wrap-around screen that constantly rotated past built-in squeegees to wipe it clean.

Wrap-around rubber bumpers protected the Sir Vival’s bodywork from errant motorists in slow speed collisions but they were just one of Jerome’s innovations. The Sir Vival was years ahead with seat belts, a padded interior, and built-in roll bars.

Auto safety has two parts: passive safety concerns passenger protection once a collision occurs, and active safety, or a car’s ability to avoid accidents due to handling and braking qualities. Like most Americans, Jerome focused only on passive safety, ignoring the fact that his car’s awkward separation into dual modules necessitated atrocious handling.

The Sir Vival appeared on magazine covers. Jerome had fancy two-color sales brochures printed that extolled its virtues. But its fifteen minutes in the spotlight quickly elapsed and it sunk without a trace. Amazingly, the eccentric Sir Vival turned out to be a survivor after all. A little the worse for wear, it remains in the care of Bellingham Auto Sales in Bellingham, Massachusetts.

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The world is so full of a number of things…

The Old Wolf has spoken.

RTFM, and never trust the dealer.

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Eight years.

Eight years of frustration could have been avoided had I simply taken the trouble to read my 2007 Prius’ Owner’s Manual when I bought the thing.

Now, I love my Prius. I hope it lasts forever because she’s been really good to me. But it has a few annoying quirks, and one of my biggest complaints was that with the smart key system, you touch the driver’s side door and the driver’s side door unlocks – but only that one. (Touching the other doors would unlock all of them, but I wouldn’t generally do that when using the car alone.)

I’d get in, go to work, and then try to get in the back door or the hatchback to get a briefcase or something, and the door was still locked. A first world problem to be sure, but when it’s raining out, it was a major pain to have to get back in the front door, press the “unlock button,” and then be able to open the other doors. Finally my patience had worn thin enough that I decided to see if it could be fixed.

I called the dealership where I bought the car (now 60 miles away), and asked them if this feature could be programmed. The first lady I spoke to said, “Sure, just bring it in.” Wonderful! Then my cynicism meter redlined, and I called a Toyota dealership closer to me. “No,” they said, “no, that function cannot be changed.”

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Dang. Whom to trust? I called the first dealership back again, and explained what the other had said. I didn’t want to drive all the way up there only to be told, “Oh, we were wrong.” I got a plate of waffles this time: “Well, we need to have you come up and have the technician hook up his computer and see if your vehicle allows for that function before we’ll know for sure. The diagnostic charge will be $ABunchOfMoney, and if he can change the function, it will be $ALotMore.” Thank you, I appreciate your time. Click.

Good thing I didn’t drive all the way up based on the first “Sure, we can do that.” Now what to do? Once again I put it on the back burner.

About a month later, I decided to do some more searching on the internet, and  I finally discovered this video. Fully half of it is advertising, and the remainder is almost unwatchable, but props to whomever made it because it led me to a solution. The first thing I noticed was that the kid in the video had pulled out the Owner’s Manual. At that point I stopped watching the Cloverfield-style camera work, and went to drag out my own.

Really? You mean, the answer might just be in the Owner’s Manual?

The 2007 Prius has a slightly different manual than the 2008 shown in the video, but sure enough, after a bit of searching I found something in the “Smart Entry and Start System” section; I had to hunt around because the index in the manual was probably written by a drunken lemur pay attention Toyota.

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So it turns out that if I held down the “lock” and “panic” button together for about 5 seconds, the car makes a bunch of beeps and the unlocking pattern rotates to the next option in the cycle. Done. Free. Heaven knows how much Dealer A would have charged me, or if they would have even been able to figure it out themselves.

I’ve learned a couple of lessons here.

Lesson 1: If I ever buy a new car, I’ll be sure to Read The Freaking Manual cover-to-cover and take notes. Yesterday as I was happily telling my wife about my triumph, she noted with her usual dry wit that I might even discover other wonderful things if I were to do so with this one. Make it so.

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Lesson 2: Never trust a car dealership to tell you the absolute truth. Some will outright lie to you, and others just won’t know. Dealer 1 told me that they could fix my problem just to get me in the shop, without even really knowing if the issue was fixable or not. Dealer 2 was ignorant. In the interest of fairness, folks who work in such places are just people; car models change every year, each car has a myriad of different features, and it would be hard for even a top service technician to keep abreast of all of them. Moreover, after 8 years there’s a high probability that the folks working there have only been on the job for a few years and don’t know as much about “older models.” That said, there is a certain expectation of competence when one reaches out to a dealership, so I was left with some residual disappointment that nobody bothered to give me accurate information.

But I’m pleased. A small burr has been removed from under my saddle, and the relief is palpable.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The driverless car: 60 years on, and still on the drawing board.

In a story published in 1953 entitled “Nobody Here But…”, the Good Doctor Asimov wrote,

“We were especially interested in the automobile angle. Suppose you had a little thinking machine on the dashboard, hooked to the engine and battery and equipped with photoelectric eyes. It could choose an ideal course, avoid cars, stop at red lights, pick the optimum speed for the terrain. Everybody could sit in the back seat and automobile accidents would vanish.”
They promised us flying cars, too,
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but this idea looks like it’s going to happen a lot sooner.
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The Google driverless car is a reality. Watch Steve Mahan, a blind individual, get taken to Taco Bell. These cars have now driven over 500,000 miles without a serious accident when the car itself was in control. While the technology is not yet perfect, it does not need to be; as long as the driverless car reduces accidents – in other words, if it’s better than human drivers – there is no reason why industry, including the insurance companies should not get on board. It will save lives, and reduce insurance costs dramatically.
That’s not to say that the technology is easy to develop:
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Google’s engineers are dealing with problems like this increased by an order of magnitude. But based on results, they are doing it.
Right now, the technology costs about $75,000 to $85,000 per vehicle, more than the car itself. But I fully expect that my grandchildren will be able to make full use of this technology, long before flying cars are ever – if ever – practical. And the Good Doctor Asimov would be proud.
The Old Wolf has spoken.

Plexiglass Pontiac, 1939

I’ve posted pictures from World’s Fairs before; you can see some taken by my uncle (go ndéanai Día trocaire air) of the 1939 exhibition.

The plexiglass Pontiac “Ghost Car” was proudly exhibited at the General Motors Highways and Horizons pavilion; it was built on the chassis of a 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six. It was a collaborative effort with Rohm & Haas, the developers of plexiglass. It is the only one ever built in the United States.

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You can see a whole raft of additional superb photos at Twisted Sifter.

The see-through sedan was sold at RM Auctions’ St. John’s auction in Michigan on July 30, 2011, for $308,000.

What a lovely piece of memorabilia.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Livin’ the Tiny Life

Road tripping with a BMW Isetta. All photos found at the Airstreamin’ Facebook Page.

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There is something terribly attractive about the thought of living so simply that you could pull up stakes and travel anywhere at any time. I’m not sure I could give up my books, though – just about everything else could go. You’d need to be a real trooper to feel comfortable sleeping in such cramped quarters, but I know there are lots of folks who could. More power to them.

The Old Wolf has spoken.