Power window comeback 5-27-2010

          I received several polite scoldings this week for failing to comment on how Chris Dresden’s repair shop was unsuccessful fixing his Subaru intermittent power window fault on the first and second try. I confess to being so intrigued with the possibility of alternator-caused electrical interference, I flew right by this situation.

          Intermittent problems are without question the most difficult of all to fix and can cause big headaches for all involved. Frankly, it’s impossible to properly diagnose a fault unless it is presently occurring, or has at least left some tell-tale fingerprints. I’m hoping to assist another reader this week with a problem with her SUV, which stops running–briefly– about once a month. This is a dreadful situation, as there are no clues, no codes, and since the engine restarts right away, it would be tough to solve even if the technician was right there at the time of incident. In this case a manufacturer specific data recorder (much more comprehensive than an OBD-II only device) might be tried– the tool is loaned to the vehicle owner, and a comprehensive movie of all available engine parameters is recorded by the touch of a button, when the fault rears its head. Even this data may not provide the specific cause of the engine quitting.

          This leads us to consider…. I hesitate to udder the words— throwing parts at the car. Done indiscriminately, this is a cowardly way to fix an automobile, but there’s times the situation demands some form of action. Also, in some situations, the cost of a replacement part is less than the labor cost to fully diagnose it. Getting back to Chris’s window, one may feel a window that intermittently won’t close is a significant safety/security issue and needs immediate resolution, even if it’s potentially a bumpy process.

          I’d solidly agree a thirteen year old window motor is a prime suspect in an intermittent non-operation complaint. As a repair shop representative, I’d carefully explain this was our best educated guess, and there couldn’t be a guarantee of success. It’s up to the customer to decide to continue, or wait for the problem to occur more regularly. Guessing a second time, renewing the window switch (I’m on board with the shop’s reasoning here as well) becomes scary, as for all intents and purposes, you’ve now married the window problem. I believe at this point, the shop is on the hook to make the window work, no matter what it takes, or refund all money and politely decline to participate further. In most areas I’m familiar with, it’s customary or required by law to offer a warranty on auto repairs for 90 days or 4000 miles– this gets tricky as well– was a successful repair promised, implied, or not committed to– in writing?

          Auto repair is a tough business. For every two or three jobs that go smoothly and are done at a profit, there’s likely one that goes south and hurts either a little or a lot. A reputable repair shop will try to find the middle ground in a case like this– perhaps the customer pays a bit more, and the shop eats some labor, both sharing in the misery a tricky or intermittent problem can bring. If the shop cares about your family’s auto repair business, and your recommendation to friends, fellow parishioners, and co-workers, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep you coming back. Thoughtful communication is the key to making this work. Should the vehicle owner fail to provide a detailed and accurate description of the fault, or the shop does not take the time to effectively explain options and potential outcomes, somebody is going to become unhappy. nt–>

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