Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New car problems

I don't know what it is about New Years and car troubles, but it seems to happen almost every year. Last year, the windshield on the bus started fogging in such a way that the defrogger no longer worked. It turned out that the old glass was seperating, and it took the turning of the calendar to really make it unusable. I think I posted on that already. If not, I'll get to it later.

I remember spending New Years Eve around 1988 in a parking garage changing a flat tire while the fireworks went off indicating the start of a new year. Yep, just the start of another round of car repairs for me, though. That year brought many car problems, and, eventually, my getting rid of that car. It was a '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme: olive on brown - probably the worst possible color combination they offered. Maybe if I'd performed the routine maintenance like oil changes and brake pads, it would have treated me better.

I spent my New Years day trying to figure out why my Jetta thinks the driver's door is open when it isn't. The dome lights stay on. The little "puddle light" stays on. That annoying "your door is open" beeping runs continuously. After spending nearly an hour with the ignition on, running the shareware version of VAG-COM into my OBD-II outlet, I couldn't figure it out. A quick trip to TDI-Club, however, showed me that this is a common failure in this kind of car. There's something about the door sensor that fails in these cars with alarming regularity. The replacement door locking mechanism costs $130. Nice for the stealers, not so nice for the owners. There's a neat hack-fix that only costs about $10 for the new switch in the door, but I'm not convinced that it lasts as long as real the replacement part, but it would take 13 of those switch replacements to cost the same as the VW part, so it makes you think.

The story doesn't end there, though. Because the puddle-light is on all the time, my battery has been slowly running down. I don't drive long distances, so the battery hasn't been getting fully charged before I turn off the engine. The hour long VAG-COM diagnostic was more than the battery would take. This morning when I went to start 'er up, I got flashing lights, lots of ticking sounds, but no start. I walked 2 miles in pouring rain to catch the bus. Happy New Year.