Monday, January 12, 2009

Do You Laugh or Do You Cry?

Back in 2004, Tonya and I bought a Kia Spectra. (The photo above looks almost identical to it, but ours is dark blue rather than the lighter color shown above.) We shopped online and on the lot at countless car dealerships. We did all the homework we could. We asked tons of questions of friends and family. We looked for the best gas mileage. We did all the right things.

When we finally decided upon the car, we took a test drive and the car drove like a charm. Seemed to be the perfect car, with the perfect price for us--the cheapest car in town at the time. The purchase process was easy and we were in and out of the dealership within a couple of hours.

The day after our purchase, we noticed that the cruise control wasn't working. So, I called the dealership and scheduled a time to bring the car in for repair. No big deal. I think it only took about 30 minutes for them to replace the cruise control switch and it was working great.

A day or so later we were out driving on the interstate and got up to highway speed. As we cruised along, with our cruise control set, we noticed a whistling sound coming from the front of the car. Whistling sounds shouldn't be coming from the front of the car, or the rear of the car, for that matter. But, at around 65-70 mph, the car whistled. It didn't whistle dixie or any other tune that we recognized. Just a steady, loud, and consistent whistle.

Another call to the dealership and back I took the car for repair. This time, they were stumped about the noise. So, they put me into a rental car for the day so they could work on it. Within a few hours, the problem was decided upon--there was a leak around the windshield. The simple answer was to remove the windshield and reseal it. Repair done.

Off I went on the way home, only to get to highway speed again, and the same whistle coming from the front of the car. Again, a phone call to the dealer, another appointment set, and another rental car. This time further examination was done. It took several days for them to determine the true problem. A problem had been reported by other Kia owners that a whistling sound was coming from the oil filter of the car. So, with less than a couple of hundred miles on the car, the oil and oil filter were changed. Fixed. Done. Off I went.

Guess what? Not fixed. Done. Or satisfied.

Back to the dealership. Another rental. This time for a week. They studied. They looked. They test drove. By this time, they had put more miles on the car test driving it than I had as the owner! I had owned the car several weeks and I had been in a rental for 15 days or so. This time, the problem was believed to be the small horn that beeps when you lock the doors, you know the one I am talking about? With keyless entry, when you lock the car or press the panic button, a small horn blows. They figured that small horn had a hole in it allowing air to pass through it causing a whistle.

By now, our frustration level was pretty high. You buy a new car and you want to drive the new car. You don't want to be in rentals. And you don't want to listen to the car whistle!

Once again, we were assured the problem was fixed. Their test drives proved it. The service department manager assured us everything was fine! Oh, what planet was he living on! The car still wasn't fixed.

The repair department was at the end of their wits. The service manager was at the end of his wits. Even the general manager had been brought into the situation by this time. He was close to losing his wits. And, so were we.

Their answer, at this point, was that there was nothing else they could do. Nothing. Just live with the whistle. I don't know about you, but that wasn't an acceptable answer! You don't buy a car to hear it whistle as you drive down the road. If anyone is going to whistle it should be you as the owner as you celebrate the purchase.

In total frustation, I contacted the Better Business Bureau in our town. Their response? They would keep my complaint on file, but they didn't take action in situations like this. The Kia dealership wasn't too impressed with that threat!

So, I filed a complaint with the Attorney General's office for the state of Alabama. Now, that got response! The dealership turned my case over to the corporate headquarters. We had several LONG discussions about the car and what had been done. I kept mentioning the lemon law in Alabama and that I would be requesting that the Attorney General help with that case against Kia.

Well, the next day, the dealership asked if I could bring the car in the next day. They were flying in an engineer from California to look at the car and to determine if there was anything they could do to resolve the issue. An engineer from California? YES! The corporation booked a plane ticket that day and he flew in the next day to Alabama.

In 5 minutes, he found the problem. The passenger door was out of line! That was the problem! A few nuts were tightened and the door was realigned and the whistling was gone forever!

Now, I've bored you with way too many details to get to the end of the story. But, the details had to be given so that you could appreciate the entire story. I've oftened wondered how much money Kia paid on rentals for us to use, parts they replaced, repair people's time, and flying an engineer in from California with no advanced notice. We are talking thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. Wouldn't it have been cheaper and easier to just swap out the car? The car only had a few hundred miles on it, why not just exchange it?

Who knows.

Well, 5 years later, I still have the car and it runs great. Never had another problem with the car.

Lessons to be learned? I suppose persistence pays off. I suppose not quitting comes to mind as well. Maybe a more positive answer is that once you work out a problem, something good often comes in the end.

Either that or sometimes threats pay off.

You be the judge.

Thanks Rick for causing this flashback!


  1. You're welcome!

    BTW, the lesson I would glean from this is that while everything may look OK on the OUTSIDE, you never know when you have a few loose screws on the INSIDE!

    Kevin, Kia's are great! Besides, everything turned out OK and they still have the car. Sally loves the Kia I bought for her 10 days ago (which we have already driven over 700 miles!!!! )

  2. Uh. Never judge a book by its cover.
    Uh. Never trust a car dealer.
    Uh. Whistle while you work.
    Uh. I'm all out now.

    Brain is mush today. Can't get past what's up in my life I guess. So much I don't want to forget. So much I can't remember. Ugh! Bet you wish you were me today. Nah.

    Ramblings over. Carry on with yourself.

    Heidi Reed

  3. Heidi...I can honestly, honestly, honestly say that I'm not glad to be you today!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I can't wait to read what you have written.