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lou's garage

Just before Labour Day weekend, a new customer called to book an appointment for her son’s 2008 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4 door. She wanted it checked over before he headed off to university. The Jeep arrived the next morning and we proceeded with an in-depth inspection. What we discovered was a severely neglected vehicle that fell far short of minimum Ontario vehicle safety standards. I explained this to the owner, and she admitted that it hadn’t been to a mechanic in years. I gave her an estimate to replace the complete front end, all the brakes and fluids. She needed a bit of time to think it over and called me back a couple of hours later with a go ahead to fix.

This is where the story starts to go sideways.

The next morning, the technician had already resumed working on the vehicle when a newer black Cadillac sedan suddenly arrived. The driver’s door whipped open and out hopped a man who came storming into the back shop yelling at my technician to stop working on his Jeep. I sprinted to intercept. He blurted out that he was a lawyer, that this was his vehicle, and that he never authorized any repairs. I insisted that he accompany me to the front office so I could call what I assumed was his wife. That was my first mistake, because he proceeded to loudly declare that I was dealing with his ex-wife. Again, I explained that I had complied with the law regarding estimate authorization and that I needed to speak with his ex-wife. She answered immediately, followed by a drawn-out pause when I told her that her ex-husband was standing in front of me. The confusion in her voice was obvious and it was quickly turning into tears as she tried to speak with her son. The son apparently was the one who actually spoke with dad and said he was going to pay the repair bill. As she repeatedly apologized for the confusion, she admitted that she had no way of paying for the repairs. Insisting that I didn’t want to be caught in the middle of their family squabble, I asked if I could put the two of them on the phone together. She burst into tears again and said they were not on speaking terms.

Shifting gears, I told mom that it was okay, and that I would somehow find a resolution with dad and rung off. He was still pacing when I explained that we were well past the point of no return, and that there was no way for me to simply re-assemble the vehicle. So, what would he like us to do? I suggested that the vehicle was sought after, with a great resale value and he could easily sell it to re-coup his costs. In fact, it was worth much more than the repairs and could easily be sold for a very tidy profit now that it would pass a safety inspection. A quick internet search shows used Jeep values of this model/vintage worth well north of $10,000. He was not interested in anything I had to say, and it became clear to me that this was an opportunity for him to stick it to his ex-wife and nothing more.

I find sometimes that saying nothing is the best path and eventually he offered for me to keep the Jeep as payment for the repairs. While personally I don’t get the whole Jeep thing, my three daughters who are all arriving at driving age do get the Jeep thing and were happy with the addition to the family. Sadly, it appears to me that the only loser here was the son. What do you think I should have done?


Your automotive questions, answered

Hi Lou, I experience a power loss during the post ignition process with my 2013 Infiniti G37x that has 8 kms.

From time to time, after the car starts up and is in the process of automatically setting the driver seat and steering wheel positions, it will stall. Most of the time, it will start up after a second attempt. I do get the rare occasion where I need to start it a few times to get it going. This has occurred in all weather conditions and also when the car has not been operational for a few hours, overnight or just a few minutes.

The Infiniti dealership could not reproduce the problem. I’ve had the battery and cables replaced by my mechanic and he even cleaned the throttle bodies.

Any thoughts? Regards, Charles S.

That’s not much to go on but here are my thoughts.

You haven’t indicated if any Malfunction Indicators Lamps (MIL) are illuminated, but I’m going to assume that none are present. The absence of a MIL and the intermittent timing of the failure is really going to make this tedious and frustrating for you.

I am also going to assume that both the dealer and your mechanic have checked the most obvious failure sources. I would then focus on the not so obvious, starting with the Variable Valve Timing (VVT) systems. I go into more detail here.

One of the Intake Valve Timing (IVT) solenoids may be failing and leaving an intake camshaft hung up in an advanced timing position, which would produce a difficult start/stall.

Secondly, I would have the timing correlation parameters inspected for a stretched timing chain. Also, a leaky fuel injector, while not as common as the first two, may be your issue but is difficult to diagnose. Unfortunately, checking these items is going to require an experienced technician with an advanced scan tool. Other than that, you will have to wait for the condition to worsen to the point where the on-board electronics can detect and record a problem.


Hi Mr. Trottier,

My question is about Chrysler’s Can Buss. I have a 2012 Town & Country. A few weeks ago it went crazy. The wipers came on, the dash components went off and on, doors would not lock, signal lights wouldn’t work etc. The dealer replaced a computer module for $1500 and then indicated that because the buss system is similar to the old style Christmas lights they would have to go through the entire vehicle at their hourly rate and could not give me a price for the repairs. This vehicle only has 115,000 kilometres on it and at 8 years of age, it seems like it should have a lot more life. It was $50k to buy and now is just a lump on my driveway. Would you have any advice?

Dale W

Alberta

The Controller Area Network (CAN) buss is the digital network system that interconnects all the components within all newer vehicles. It allows one computer module to speak to another and exchange information over a single set of wires. Describing it as old-style Christmas lights doesn’t really indicate its complexity, but I get where the dealer was going with that reference.

If the computer module that was just replaced did not fix the problem, this would suggest to me that it was misdiagnosed, and you might have a recourse to request a refund. Other than that, you will have to grin-and-bear-it and pay the hourly fee to have if fixed, as letting it sit in your driveway unused, surely is costing you more.

A common failure point is in the driver’s door wiring harness. This harness gets stretched and fatigued due to the years of opening and closing that door. The CAN bus signal wires that go to the power window switch may be damaged and rubbing against bare metal, causing an intermittent short to ground. A short to ground anywhere on the CAN bus circuit, will result in the erratic behaviour that you have witnessed.

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

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