Death Wobble: It Never Ends

My truck, which had the misfortune to be conceived in America, hatched in Detroit, financed by bailouts, and built by slobs, needed more service. (Note: The Cummins engine rocks. There’s really no other reason to buy a Dodge. The day the Cummins guys to build a truck is the day that I’ll personally set my Dodge and every pickup in the county on fire in an epic outbreak of pent up rage. Then I’ll sell my soul to buy the new Cummins truck.)

I took it in for the umpteenth complaint about the alignment.

Service Drone: “What seems to be the problem sir?”

Me: “I appreciate your concern for my fellow man, in that your ‘alignment’ no longer points the truck into oncoming traffic. Now it just wants to pull me in a ditch.”

Service Drone: “Huh.”

Me: Speaking slowly, “I’d like my truck to steer straight.”

Service Drone: “Oh, all you need is an alignment.”

Me: “Like the one I paid for a few weeks ago?”

Service Drone: Typing keys at his mental crutch terminal “Hm… you’re right. It was only a few weeks ago. Then it should be steering straight. Are you sure the alignment is off?”

Really? Why should I have to answer questions like that? If you’ve got a guy who drives a big truck (even a pickup) who doesn’t know about “alignment” then you’re talking to someone who should trade the truck in for a bicycle. This lit my fuse.

Me: Leering as only the truly creepiest truck owner can. “Let’s take a drive in my truck.”

Service Drone:”But…”

Me: “You and me. I’ll wind it up to about 70 MPH, take it out on the Interstate…”

Service Drone:”OK but what would that…”

Me: “I’ll let go of the steering wheel. We’ll see how well it’s aligned.”

Service Drone: “Er? That’s really for the service guys to…”

Me: “I’m not afraid to die. Get in.”

Service Drone: Speaking quickly and typing on his terminal, “We can look at it this afternoon. Would you like a loaner?”

Me: “Are these keys to a MINIVAN!?!”

Service Drone: “Eeeppp.”

Mrs. Curmudgeon: “Leave him alone. Can’t you see he’s new?” Steers me out of the service department and toward the loaner.

Me: “But it’s all ‘soccer mom’. I’ll get cooties.”

Ring Ring.

Them: “This is Fuck ’em Over Dodge, Chrysler, Honda, and Studebaker. I’m calling for the Curmudgeon.”

Me: “Speaking.”

Them: “There’s a delay. We need a part.”

Me: “You need a part to do an alignment. Have you been sniffing glue?”

Them: Sounding squeaky, “It’s a ball joint thing.”

Me: “Which one? The right front ball joint that I recently replaced?”

Them: “Um…”

Me: “Or the left front ball joint that I recently replaced?”

Them: “Um… I know you’re pissed but we’ll fix it. Can you just keep the loaner an extra day?”

Me: “I’m driving to redacted location tomorrow. It’s a six hundred mile round trip. Overnight.”

Them: “Look, we really want you to be happy. I’ll talk to my manager and maybe he’ll say OK.”

Me: “I’ll be carrying two barrels.”

Them: “Oh…”

Me: “Nothing would make me happier than to load two 55 gallon barrels into your minivan and haul a seven hundred pound load on a twelve hour trip. It’ll trash the interior but I’m all for turning ‘mom vans’ into ‘work vans’.”

Them: “Um… what’s in the barrels?”

Me: “I’m not at liberty to say.” (Actually the barrels are empty and yes a minivan is plenty to haul some empty containers and a few hundred pounds of miscellaneous stuff I’d need to bring along. However, I couldn’t help hamming it up.)

Them: “Hang on.” Putting me on hold.

Two minutes later they pick up.

Them: “Curmudgeon?”

Me: “Do not ask about the barrels.”

Them: “Your truck will be done at least an hour before close of business tonight.”

Me: “Thank you.”


An hour before close of business I showed up in the minvan (which for a beater/loaner was better than walking) to get my truck. Mrs. Curmudgeon showed up separately in her puddle jumper Honda. (I like the Honda… it’s everything that American cars are not.) This was pre-arranged because we know that this particular dealershop has about an 80% success rate in having the job done when they say they’ve got the job done.

She swooped in for an oil change while I glowered at the service department. There was a long song and dance about how this problem was totally unrelated to the other problems and how steering a heavy truck was indeed a really complicated matter. I mentioned that the Model A steered rather reliably in 1927 and maybe a Dodge truck should rise to a similar level of technology.

Then, because I’m a sap, I parted with yet another wad of cash. I picked up my keys and stomped toward my truck, which was frozen like an ice cube in the parking lot. It takes forever to warm up that huge truck. I sat in it, happy to be out of the minivan but fretting over the money, while the defroster gradually came to life.

As I sat there Mrs. Curmudgeon zipped by in her hatchback. She waved and was gone. I love her and I love Hondas. I felt silly sitting in an iced up battleship waving to a little hatchback that’s a miracle of precision manufacture and costs less than the Ram’s transmission. If it weren’t for the snow I’d be riding my rock solid reliable Honda motorcycle. Maybe I should get a heated suit and a sidecar…

Then came the text. It was from Mrs. Curmudgeon. “$19 FOR AN OIL CHANGE AND THEY VACUUMED THE INTERIOR TOO. HOW’S THE TRUCK?”

I typed back “NOT A MINIVAN.” Then headed out.

I have to admit, when the Ram is functioning well I love the beast (and the engine is simply a joy). It’s just that it’s the perfect counterpoint to the “no hassle built to run cheap and forever little Honda” that is my mental ideal of machinery. Maybe someday Honda will make a truck and install a Cummins engine. Then world will be perfect.

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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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54 Responses to Death Wobble: It Never Ends

  1. Steve_in_CA says:

    Is it the 24 valve Cummins?

  2. Mark Matis says:

    I would posit that her Honda would not do so well if one were to stuff two 55 gallon drums with a seven hundred pound load into same. I would also posit that different auto mechanics have different skill levels. Have you tried another dealership? We no longer deal with Tire Kingdom due to past experiences. And Jim Rathmann Chevrolet in Melbourne, FL, did some memorable service on a Corvette I previously owned…

    • It’s not the best dealership in the vicinity. It’s the only dealership in the vicinity. One of the worst drawbacks of living in the hinterlands is the shallow labor pool.

      As far as I can tell, the same garage has Honda mechanics and Jeep/Chrysler/Dodge mechanics. I think they’re separate and don’t swap work from one group to the other. The Honda guys seem to fix things differently (and by “different” I mean “correctly”). I assume the Honda guys are geniuses who wear lab coats and know calculus. The other group are likely a bit less evolved. Perhaps brain damaged marsupials? I’m guessing if you’re a Honda mechanic with time to kill and the other group needs your help they give you six or seven bong hits and a tire iron upside the head; only after this indoctrination process are you properly trained to work on a Dodge.

      Note: I’m just talking about this dealership. I’m sure there are many good Dodge mechanics that happen to live somewhere else.

  3. skidmark says:

    “I’ll wait for it.”

    Being retired has it’s good moments. Hiring oneself out to wait for someone’s automotive repair is one of those moments. (You buy me breakfast on the way to the dealership/shop and we’re good.)

    Park me in the waiting room. They have wifi – I can either read blogs and mutter under my breath or “discuss” with the nice young thing up front why they should remove the filter that blocks me from guns or sex or right-wing conspiracy politics.

    I told them when I made the service appointment that I would wait for it. Said I had nowhere special to go and what with the vehicle up on the rack no way to get there anyhow. They offered me a loaner anyhow. I took it, drove around the block and took up two spaces parking it right in front of the entrance. Went back inside to wait. That all-day job was finished before lunch. I heard that after the check-out ride the service manager took with me (before I would pay them) he skipped lunch.

    “I’ll wait for it.”

    stay safe.

    • That’s brilliant. Next time they work on my truck I’m moving into the lobby. I’m going to bring my sleeping bag and a BBQ and set up a tent… call it a campout. They’ll definitely pull out all the stops to fix it then. My presence in a showroom lobby would probably bankrupt them. 🙂

      (Although I’d be perfectly happy if they took triple the time if they managed to get the repair right the first time.)

      • Mark Matis says:

        If you happen to have your new flocka pigs by then, be sure to bring them along. As “service animals”, of course…
        }:-]

        Maybe you can also bring an onion sandwich, and pay Julie to explain to them why you are not to be trifled with?

      • Yes! “I need these pigs to uh… navigate the showroom and I brought a sandwich.” I never saw Julie again.

    • PJ says:

      I wait for it at my VW dealer. What I wait for is the young woman who works there and who walks through the waiting room now and then. She is very well endowed, and a joy to watch. Otherwise I have gotten pretty good at napping there, despite drinking gallons of their coffee.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Maybe someday Honda will make a truck and install a Cummins engine. ”
    I will sell my firstborn for one. Perhaps this is a business opportunity for you?

    Had my little Honda puddlejumper for over 380,000 miles and it rarely let me down. Parts were kinda expensive, though. After I realized I could do the dealer’s $500(!) distributor replacement job myself for $75 and 30 minutes of my time, I was a happy camper.

  5. PJ says:

    I share the admiration for the Cummins engine. I just have to look sadly at the poor saps who drive Ford and GM diesels; they don’t know what they are missing. I had a friend who used a 1st gen Cummins to power his hay mower, he was very happy with it and didn’t have to put up with Dodge components for the rest of his vehicle. I had a 3rd gen Cummins which was pretty good actually but got a lot of abuse as a ranch truck by the wranglers.

    However I recently got a Ram 1500 with the little Pentastar engine, which nevertheless has 305hp. It is quite a nice truck. However the fancy ZF 8-speed transmission started leaking oil at 300 miles and required a month sitting at the dealer to replace (the leak went through the casing, not just a bad gasket, so they replaced the whole thing). I guess being a German component in a Dodge vehicle didn’t help much. Anyway I keep my truck running by refraining from using it, always a reliable tactic. I think we’ve had it a year and I have about a thousand miles on it. We also have a Honda Accord which has the personality of a kitchen appliance but it never breaks, so it is what the miles get put on.

    • I must admit that I do put a lot of miles on my truck. I bought it to work it and I’m damn well gonna’ make it earn its keep. I have a feeling I’ll eventually be driving a smooth running Cummins down the road with a heap of trash called “Dodge” wrapped around it.

      A Honda is about a thousand times less hassle. I like our Honda, it’s a manual and shifting is a good thing. For what it is, I enjoy driving it, I just like to haul more stuff than people. I tried hard to get a manual truck so I could really enjoy driving but finding a good used truck with a manual is pretty much impossible.

  6. PJ says:

    I noticed in that other thread, that I can’t comment on any more, that you are interested in boats. I just got done building this one:
    http://www.gaboats.com/boats/whitehalljr.html
    It’s so light I’m still having trouble trusting it in “big waters”, but there is something to be said for having a boat light enough that an old fart like me can carry it down to the water.

    These little drifter trimarans interest me, when I think about sailing:
    http://smalltrimarans.com/blog/?p=4088

    • The boat obsession is new. I stumbled across the Ooze Goose and now it’s stuck in my head. Until I saw that set of ideas I was sorta’ “meh” about boats. Mostly because I didn’t want a big commercial made thing with a racket inducing motor.

      That thing you built looks cool. With oars instead of a paddle I’ll bet it’s more efficient than paddling.

      Light is good. I portage a 50# canoe and it’s not for the faint of heart.

      Also the craft you made looks better for solo. My canoe is too big for one guy (but perfect for two). That critter you made might be the cat’s pyjamas for solo rowing. It probably carries as much payload as a kayak for wilderness tripping. Alas, I’m thinking that I’ve paddled enough for a while.

      I’m almost fearless about “big water” and light boats but a 50# two man canoe is tippy and a 20# oar boat might feel like a peanut in the ocean. Also the wind can strand me even if it doesn’t swamp me. That sucks. I’ve spent a few extra nights out when the wind was against me and anyone with arms smaller than Popeye couldn’t get home. That was a bit unnerving and made me seek something heavier and with sails to use the wind rather than fighting against it with muscle power. Of course it’s all theory. I’ve certainly never met an oar boat or an Ooze Goose out in the wilderness. (Just canoes and kayaks.)

      The trimaran probably isn’t quite right for me. I want to sail only to carry a load, not for the joy of sailing. (Though sailing is awesome.) My goal is fishing and carrying camping gear so I’m looking for more like a tugboat and less like a sleek racer. If I move up to a trimaran I can’t portage so I might as well setup for a bit more cargo and enjoy the luxury as a payoff for staying only in water that doesn’t need a hike. Then again I’ve never tried a trimaran and could be totally uninformed about them.

    • On second thought maybe the trimarans would work for what I want? They have shallow draw and so forth. Maybe plenty of room for one person & gear but not two. Something about not paddling just looks so incredibly relaxing and those outriggers are probably super stable. (Might be good at tangling fishing lines though?)

      • PJ says:

        Those drifters are designed for paddling or sailing. Sorry, you are not getting around paddling with them…

        I got bit by the sailboat bug and bought an old 18 foot boat for pretty cheap. There is a lot to learn about sailing. I took it out one time on Siletz Bay (Oregon) and immediately got it back to the dock and said that was enough – what with river currents, tidal currents and wind, I didn’t want to be rescued from the mud flats. I sold it at a loss. But with those little drifters at least you needn’t worry about capsize, and the ability to paddle and the little amount of draft is reassuring for me. Also they don’t look that difficult to put together.

      • I’ve become obsessed with them. I’ve been canoeing a long time and am just plain aggoggle (if that’s a word) about the idea of a sail.

        Lucky for me I won’t be messing with tides or current. That leaves only wind and some shallow areas. Also there are a few places where the lake is long thin and narrow. It’s no big deal for a canoe to saunter down a couple miles of twisting turning swamp channel that’s 50′ wide and 3′ deep but I’m not sure one could sail it.

        Where I go, in the wilderness and lakes on the periphery of wilderness, its ruled by canoes. I’ve seen only a few different kind of boats. It’s a niche thing? Many ideas that sound good on paper just suck in practice. For example, kayaks seem like a faster sleeker more awesome form of canoe, but you’ll find kayak people grumbling and stumbling at the portages. I would never have thought that it would be a big deal until I met some kayakers in the wilderness. They rocket around the lakes and then flounder in the portage, who’d have seen that coming? Plus they can’t carry much.

        I’ve decided, for this new entirely theoretical craft, to either forgo any lake that requires a portage or tow a canoe behind and cache the “big boat” at the main lake and hike in to side lakes for day trips.

        Either that or I’ll daydream all winter and then just go out with my canoe and muscle power when all is said and done and the ice breaks.

  7. Tennessee Budd says:

    AC, from what we’ve heard of that dealership, you’re lucky they didn’t decide the steering was related to bad spark plugs & start looking.
    Don’t know anything about Honda cars, but I’ve got 3 of their bikes, from ’78 to ’82, and they’re great.

    • I have a Honda motorcycle too. I’ve taken it anywhere I was tough enough to go and the bike never so much as hiccuped. I love that machine. I got a Honda engine on my woodsplitter and that’s ok but not so awesome.

      As for the dealership, the worst part is that I sincerely think they’re doing their best. They suck but they’re not malevolent.

      • Mark Matis says:

        So dontcha have anyone available besides the dealership for non-warranty work? I do as much on my own as I can, but for driveline stuff I hit Advanced Driveline in Orlando, other mechanical stuff I can’t (or don’t want to) handle gets done by Ken’s Performance in Orlando, and tires and alignment are done by Tires Plus in Titusville. And I live in Cocoa, so it’s at least a half hour’s drive to any of them – more like an hour + to Orlando. But they do the job right the first time, so it’s worth it. To me, anyway…

        And no, there are not any “hot women” at ANY of those locations.

      • This was “warranty” in that it was repair of something they’ve already “repaired”… which, now that I think of it was “repaired” under warranty too. They’re not making money on me.

        Once I”m clear of this mess I’m going elsewhere. Unfortunately that’ll be a 2-3 hour drive each way.

  8. Roger says:

    As a long time Dodge owner with over 2 decades in an Auto Repair/ Alignment shop I can appreciate your frustration. When someone comes in complaining about their Dodge truck wandering all over the road, it is usually followed with my Ford, Chevy never did that. Welcome to the world of Dodge. Years ago when Moog was made in the U.S. we could rebuild a front end and know it would go many miles before any new issues. Now the best we can install is AC Delco. That will get 40-50k before things loosen up. The rest of the parts world might make 30k over Michigan roads.
    I have a 90 W250 and a 98 Durango. When we pull a wrecked Durango into the lot I buy it and strip it. I have several Durangos on the shelf at home. I beat the piss out of that Durango. 2 years ago I had 6 leaf rear springs built for it. The 90 gets maybe 7 MPG empty. So the Durango needed to pull anything a heavy half could. I think I have had a Dodge in the stable for the last 30 years.

    Roger

    • Around 1990 I was working with some “fleet trucks” and every single Dodge steered like shit. I bought my truck just a few years ago and thought they’d surely have improved since then. Wrong! (It’s that sweet sweet cummins engine that snared me.)

      • PJ says:

        My new 1500 has nice steering, for the few miles I put on it so far. I was astounded when I looked at the front suspension and saw aluminum lower arms down there. Sorta racy in a way. Maybe they have fixed the steering finally?

      • From what I’ve heard it’s the 2500 and 3500 that have the issue. Probably the extra weight of that Cummins big engine? I think all the big three have the half ton trucks ironed out nicely enjoy your smooth ride while I fret over mine. 🙂

        P.S. For the moment, my truck is fixed and running nicely.

  9. Matt says:

    Consider a used Army deuce and a half, 2.5ton, 6×6 cargo truck? Manual transmission and multi fuel cummins engine. They can still be found on auction and surplus sites. If the heater works it will toast your legs while the top freezes.

    • I’d love one, but totally impractical for right now. The Deuce’s top speed is measured by calendar so a 2,000 mile highway cruise would kill me.

      • Matt says:

        They dont parrallel park worth a damn either. 0-55 in a day and a half with great, realiable, old fashioned armstrong steering, seats that would give you calluses and hemeroids and leaky when raining. They were always a ball of fun to drive though.

      • They sound like a blast for a 50 mile trip and hell for a 1,000 mile trip.

        Sure would make a good firewood hauling rig though!

  10. Southern Man says:

    My very first new car (right after grad school) was an ’88 Honda Accord hatchback. It went 120K miles on nothing but oil changes and a set of tires and ONE light bulb. No other care I’ve owned has been as reliable.

  11. Southern Man says:

    Car, not care. Also, shopping for my first real motorcycle (haven’t ridden since 75cc dirt bikes in junior high). A good used Honda Rebel is at the top of my list.

  12. RogerC says:

    I had a Honda VFR750 that I loved to bits. I eventually gave up biking after smashing it into the back of a Mazda at 70mph, which predictably totaled the bike but also totaled the Mazda at the same time. I even managed to cause the car’s radiator to spring, which is some going for a rear end collision. Or maybe Mazdas are just crappy that way, I don’t know.

    I landed on grass, skidded for what felt like 100 yards and walked away with bruises. I had absolutely no right to. Sober consideration persuaded me that I’d lost any healthy respect I once had for other vehicles and that it was time to quit. Maybe I’ll go back to it one day.

  13. cspschofield says:

    I know I asked this before, but I forget how you answered and can’t find it;

    Why wouldn’t a Toyota Hilux work for you? I admit I first became aware of them through Top Gear (neither I nor my Lady are gearheads, but we find the show funny), but a little research seems to show the Hilux as damn near as indestructible as advertised.

  14. fritz says:

    Damn! it’s a Nissan Titan. but hey! Nissan is good too!

  15. abnormalist says:

    The US version of the hilux (tundra) without the diesel engine is a nice truck… Until the frame rusts out and the truck breaks in half.

    Michigan figured out how to rust proof a truck, (sorta) Japan still is looking into it.

    They make one of those that doesnt get a FRAME recall and i might consider one myself

  16. Frtiz says:

    Well…if the Hilux DID drive to the North Pole. Any of you see the episode of Top Gear?

  17. Evan Price says:

    03 Tundra 4×4 V8. 270,000 miles, original drivetrain.
    Although to be fair Toyota did replace the frame and front suspension under recall…however MINE didn’t need it, the dealership had to work for almost an hour before they were able to find a rust spot that they could beat with a hammer to make into a hole.
    Story I was told by the dealership was that the Tundra (Made in Indiana) had the frames made under contract by Dana Corporation. Toyota’s spec called for the frames to be dip coated. Dana decided to spray coat them, which was cheaper and less equipment. However spray coating didn’t do anything for the inside surfaces of tubes and members. So Dana got to spend $10,000 for each truck that got a new frame under recall by Toyota.
    Living in Ohio I see plenty of Ford and GM trucks with rotten frames. It’s not just a Toyota thing.
    What is different is that Toyota admitted the problem and fixed it. My truck had 196,000 on It when I brought it in for recall inspection for rust on the spare tire mount. When they told me it failed the frame inspection, I figured that Toyota would buy it back and junk it. Instead they put a new frame under it, and anything else that was rusted and couldn’t be unbolted, they replaced for free. Front suspension & control arms. Shackles and spring bushings. Brake and fuel lines. Fuel tank and body mounts. Spare tire carrier. Brake proportioning valve. Everything.
    GM or Ford would have ignored the problem.

    Now, if Toyota would bring their very nice twin-turbo 4.5 litre V8 Diesel engine used overseas to the US market…261 HP, 479 lb/ft torque, all with 20-28 MPG and Lexus-like NVH and reliability.
    I Would BUY ONE.

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