Sunday, February 1, 2015

Check Engine Light: Stupid As Spam

For those of you following my travels on Facebook or through this blog, you might have picked up on some "issues" with my new Tillie2 that I acquired at the end of September 2014. Here's the latest...

Ironically, my previous vehicle, the venerable Tillie the Turtle, a 27' Gulfstream Class C motorhome,  my home/office/vehicle for 9 years (183,000 miles on it), despite the (ahem) sorta chintzy construction, was a pretty reliable vehicle, but gas mileage sucked wind (10 mpg).

Thanks to a small inheritance from my Mom's estate, I was able to (I thought) downsize/upgrade to the Sprinter van. At 24' it is smaller, especially narrower, lacking the abundant storage Tillie had. Diesel mileage exceeds 20 mpg on occasion! It drives like a dream. I've gotten used to the smaller footprint, inside and out. I've got to say my Mercedes-loving Mother is smiling upon me.

Sportsmobile in Austin, TX outfitted the Sprinter, and basically did a fine job, with a few unmentionable caveats that I think are fixed. The insides are cozy but efficient and solidly constructed. I was able to customize, based this time on experience, as opposed to Tillie's purchase when I was totally clueless.

The front end of the vehicle--the engine and dashboard--those are under the Mercedes-Benz warranty. And that's where I've been vexed.

The first sign of issues was back in October when Pat LaMarche and I were on our Babes of Wrath tour to Montana and surrounding states. I had just had T2 for weeks, and had read the manual but had not grasped the finer points. So when the dashboard lights lit up like a Christmas tree, with ominous warnings "Visit Workshop," and symbols that looked like nuclear weapon warnings flashing, well, I was dismayed.

The first time the light show occurred was in the middle of a reservation in South Dakota, far from a MB workshop or any vehicle service station. I kept driving as Pat scanned the owner's manual for clues. Since the vehicle seemed to be operating properly, I tried to not worry. Eventually, the lights went away. I don't know how. But I was happy they were gone.

I visited my first MB dealership for the 10k mile oil change/service thing. They were a tad not helpful, and other than doing the basic service, I didn't get any info about the problems I had encountered. But no lights were on, so I was happy.

But then, like Spam, lights returned. Intermittent. Ominous.  I visited another dealership. Sensor problems. Fixed them. The Check Engine (CE) light again blinked at me. Another dealer. Same routine.

By this time I'm annoyed. In one month I've spent more time in MB waiting rooms than I've spent in doctors offices for the past 40 years. I fired off a civil, but stern letter to the MB CEO. For credibility, I enclosed the mighty fine article the Naperville Magazine ran about me/HEAR US.

Within days I heard from Susan in the Customer Care department, addressing my concerns.  I will say I think she's sincere, and she offered ongoing assistance that makes me feel like I'm not the 2nd class citizen that some of the dealers seemed to convey (or at least I think they did). She volunteered to make a pre-visit call for my next service stop. I agreed. The dealership treated me royally. They addressed the issue properly.

But then (are you picking up on the theme?), the CE light reappeared. I'm en route to KS, so my possibilities were limited as was my time. Susan to the rescue. The dealership got me in and on the way within a reasonable amount of time.

Now I'm CE-light shy. I glance down, almost expecting my favorite little light to shine. I'd like to hide it under a bushel basket, but I worry that it won't be a benign sensor, so I pay begrudgingly attention like I do with my Spam folder, never knowing when the essential message might be lurking among the slime.

I think of Tillie, my gas-guzzling faithful "steed" of so many years. Nah, I'm not going to snatch her back, but it makes me appreciate the relatively trouble-free existence I took for granted (Thanks to Mike's Auto and Truck in DeKalb, IL for years of stellar, fairly-priced and hospitable service!)