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lou's garage

I regularly receive phone calls from my customers in need of immediate advice. One such occasion materializes when they are sitting in a sales office after agreeing to buy a vehicle. The dealer’s business manager is working them over, trying to get them to lay down a few thousand extra dollars for an optional warranty. They don’t know what to do, and just like a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, they use a lifeline and phone a friend.

It is really difficult to answer this question in the two minutes I am typically given while on the phone, but the short answer is always a firm maybe. All joking aside, it depends on the brand you are purchasing and how many kilometers you drive per year. Warranties, whether offered by a new- or used-car dealer are a sales tool for them to pad some extra dollars into the deal. The dealer buys that warranty and sells it to you at a marked-up price. The warranty provider is not in the business of losing. They have done their research, and they know how to make money, so proceed with caution.

Every driver out there should know approximately how many kilometres they drive per year. Frequently, people purchase optional top-up warranties at the original point of sale without doing the math. Most expensive repairs fall into the vehicle’s midlife-crisis range at approximately 125,000 to 175,000 km. A fair amount of vehicles don’t travel enough kilometres per year to get into the range where the big repairs exist, and the warranty expires. Wait a couple of years and top up the warranty if need be once you get to know the car. Most people get pushed hard when purchasing a new car to buy the optional warranty, but if you push back a bit, the sales staff will usually admit that you can come back for it later on.

Vehicle-reliability reports must be studied before you find yourself sitting in that sales office. If you are buying a vehicle that has a history of complicated repairs and is generally rated as unreliable, then yes, you need to consider the warranty.

Third-party warranty companies usually take a loss on big European luxury sedans, only to make it up multiple times over on simple econo-boxes that have far less electronics.

Research your prospective warranty company. All warranty companies will have a certain percentage of unhappy customers, because saying no to covering repairs in any capacity will often lead to dissatisfied, angry people. That being said, some are better than others.

This brings me to my final point – the bait-and-switch warranty. Imagine the unscrupulous salesperson who sells you a car and a warranty that they claim covers everything. I’ve lost count of how many people walk into my shop with a warranty in hand thinking that everything is covered simply because they were verbally told so at the time of purchase. Yes, it happens. The salesperson charges you the full price for the top-of-the-line warranty but actually signs you up for the middle-of-the-road warranty and pockets the difference. Pay attention to what you are buying and read the small print. Car warranties are similar to life insurance. Your own personal risk threshold is one of the biggest factors.

Your automotive questions, answered

Hi Lou,

My wife’s 2016 Rio EX has a minor annoyance that happens about once a year. When you turn off the ignition, pull the key and open the driver’s door you get a beep, beep, beep. I checked to see if any other doors were ajar, but none were, and yes, the car is in park. When I exit the car, close the door and attempt to lock by remote, “beep, beep,” and it will not lock. I put the key back in, restart the car, and then everything is all as it should be.

When we described it to the Kia dealer, they suggested the car thinks the key is still in the ignition and it should be lubricated. Luckily, I didn’t, because on the next trip to the dealer I was told that standard graphite lube will mess up the key-detection system!

So it happened again a week ago. Pulling and replacing the key did not solve the problem, but restarting the car and then pulling the key solved it. This could easily become non-solvable, in which case I won’t be able to lock and leave the car! Any suggestions?

Bob M

Usually located at the base of the ignition-lock cylinder is a micro-switch that is depressed by the tip of the key when inserted. The idea being that when the key is removed, the switch will disengage, indicating to the onboard computer that the key has been removed. The fact that the door chime is beeping and the doors won’t lock confirms to me that the dealer suggestion is accurate. The micro-switch is sticking and remaining in the depressed position. The question therefore becomes, will graphite grease damage the ignition lock or key-detection system?

My family physician sometimes reads this column. To quote him as he warns me about my cholesterol level: Everything in moderation. The same applies here. I’m sure a little bit of lubricant won’t hurt. The alternative is to replace the ignition-lock assembly as the micro-switch is usually not available separately.


Sadly, I don’t have a vehicle concern. I drive a 2005 Tundra. Enough said. I just wanted to thank you for the honesty that permeates in your weekly column. I also look forward to the detail you provide. Your work is clear and concise. It’s one of the big reasons I subscribe to the Globe and Mail. They could give you more space.

Respectfully and thankfully yours,

Dean in Saskatchewan

Thank you Dean. I never in my wildest dreams thought that as a simple auto technician with no formal literary education, that I would be here at this point, where people frequently state that they enjoy my ramblings. I am humbled and want to thank each and every one of you who has taken the time to send in a question, to post in the comments section or have sent me an e-mail similar to Deans. I especially want to thank Peter from Comox, B.C., for the lovely thank-you card I received in the mail from him.

I must also acknowledge The Globe and Mail. They are a world-class organization and have treated me, from the very start, with the same amount of worldliness.

It has been my privilege to write these weekly pieces, and yes Dean, they have given me more space. I’ll try my best to not let you all down.

As we head into the holiday season, give your loved ones a virtual hug and stay safe. Merry Christmas.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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