Monday, February 01, 2016

moving to Mexico: car repairs -- or, you light up my dash

I knew the electronics on my new Escape would be a problem.

When I replaced the 2001 Shiftless Escape with a new model two years ago, I was surprised at how many electronic gadgets had been stuffed into the dashboard. Everything from the radio to the GPS to the telephone connection to the indicator lights made me feel as if I had been dropped into the cockpit of an F-111. Actually, it made the cockpit of an F-111 look primitive.

I am a sucker for gadgets. Always have been. So, one look sold me. Rather, it appealed to my "I love this car" attitude. My head was not so certain.

The Mexican Pacific coast is not kind to electronics. My first laptop succumbed to the salt, heat, and humidity within four months of my arrival. Moving away from the beach helped. But everything digital has a tendency to corrode here. My blood pressure wrist cuffs last about a year before the contacts simply fall off.

But, even with those doubts, I bought the car. With the exception of a glitch in the radio that existed from day one, everything has held up well. Until a couple of months ago.

In November, I drove north with my brother to Oregon to clear out some boxes from our mother's garage. After four hours on the road, I stopped at a red light in Puerto Vallarta, and a warning light came on: "Hill assist not available."  Darrel and I decided to soldier on rather than stopping at the Ford dealership.

Then the anti-lock braking system warning light lit up. Followed by the anti-skid warning light. My dashboard started to look like a reservation casino.

Because we had purchased a new tire in Melaque before the trip, Darrel and I conjured up a hypothesis that a sensor in the wheel had either been damaged or was confused when the tires were rotated.

The dealership in Bend confirmed that the lights were working properly. But we were heading south again and did not have time to wait for the parts that needed to be ordered.

Whatever was wrong did not get in the way of our trip back to Melaque. And I was not worried. After all, there is a Ford dealer in Manzanillo.

The service department immediately diagnosed the problem. I needed a sensor and cable -- computer stuff. Both needed to be ordered. That was early December. Five business days they claimed.

I set an appointment with a bit of trepidation. The supply system in Mexico can be a bit unreliable.

When I showed up the next week, mirable dictu, the part was there. While the service department had its way with the Escape, I wandered off to the shopping delights of Walmart and Soriana for four hours.

I thought I would return to a less-lit dash. I was wrong. The dealership had only ordered one of the two required parts.

So when would they get the other part? About ten days. But that would be nearing Christmas. That would make my next appointment during the second week in January.

Fine. And all went as planned. Escape dropped off. Shopping amongst the big box stores. Returned to a repaired car.

So I thought. Ten minutes out of Manzanillo, I drove over one of Mexico's national monuments (a tope). The jolt must have caused the car's memory to revert to lighting the dash. All of the lights that were repaired came on. Rather than turn around, I returned home. For two days, the lights would come on and go off. A loose connection, I thought.

Having paid good pesos for the fix, I started back to Manzanillo the next week.  And you know the rest of the story. No lights. Even after hitting several topes rather hard, nothing. 

I long ago learned that taking a car into a service department when the problem is no longer apparent is a bit like hoping that the government will actually spend tax money for the common good.

And if you think the lights came on again as I drove back to Melaque (because that is what usually happens in these tales of woe), you are wrong. But the problem seems to still be there. Now and then, the lights will make a brief guest appearance, and then go out. But they have never stayed on while I am in Manzanillo.

And the moral of this little essay?  Like A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Forum, morals are for tomorrow.  It is comedy tonight.

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