This is mainly for my own records, but feel free to peruse, on the off chance you are needing to be talked out of buying a Chrysler/Dodge vehicle. This is current through this afternoon; list to be updated as will, undoubtedly, be necessary.
April 2006: Bought 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Van. Has less than 35k miles on it and was in excellent condition. We’re thrilled.
November 2006: Ran over object in road which punctures the gas tank, resulting in over $1500-worth in repairs to replace said gas tank. On the surface, this wouldn’t appear to be Dodge’s fault. However, the object was a small one — it was flat, in fact. Apparently it bounced up when I nicked it with the tire and did the damage, which leads to a question: what kind of idiot designs a vehicle with the gas tank placed in a position where it can be punctured by random small objects?
January 2007: I attempt to start the van and find the key will not turn. No amount of muscle or wiggling or reinserting does any good. It is late at night so I can’t call anyone. It occurs to me to Google the problem and I discover that this is a well-known and widespread issue with Dodge vehicles. The only “solution” is to replace the ignition shaft to the tune of several hundred dollars, and the problem is equally likely to recur with the new shaft as with the old one. I read about a quick fix, which is to whack the key firmly into the ignition with a solid object, after which it will turn. As of 8/7/08, I have gone from having to whack the key once every few weeks to get it to turn to now having to pound it a number of times nearly every time I want to start the van.
Date unknown, 2007: Van won’t start at random times and needs to be jumped. Turns out to be a bad battery cable. Fixed, but after two visits to mechanic.
Date unknown, 2007: Check engine light comes on. There’s a leak in the evap line. It’s fixed fairly quickly, but at our expense and inconvenience. Also fixed while we were there: the back seat seatbelt which, inexplicably, has become unscrewed from its lower mooring.
October 2007: The long and horrific Computer Saga begins and drags on until January 2008. During these three months, I have use of the van for less than 24 hours, total. Thinking about it makes me vair, vair tired so I will just provide links: Dodge Wars Episode I: The Saga Begins, Dodge Wars 2: Electric Boogaloo, I Fought the Dodge and the Dodge Won, The Resolution.
Spring 2008: Brakes begin making godawful noise which sounds like metal-on-metal grinding. (“Tonight on the Auto Fetish Network: Naked Brake Grinding! Hot metal-on-metal action!”) Take it in for repairs (NOT at local Dodge dealership); never quite sure what it is that is wrong, as they didn’t explain it and I, frankly, am SO over it. I’m just thrilled to get out of there in under 24 hours and for less than 200 bucks.
July 2008: Robert arrives in California with the van and says, “Oh, by the way, it started making a clunking/banging noise on the drive out here.” (Robert: “We should have it looked at.” Me: “F**********ck!!!”) When parked, one front wheel is tilted inward. Parents’ mechanic neighbor takes it to his garage and finds the entire front wheel apparatus is hanging on by a thread. As in, we should be happy that the whole damned thing didn’t fall off while Robert was driving down the highway. This is #2 on the list of Things About This Van That Could Potentially Have Killed Us. Neighbor reattaches appendage properly and we have the wheels aligned the next day. Begin wondering if I can hire a hitman to kill van and make it look like an accident.
August 2008: Effing check engine light on again. I take the thing to the guys in Norman again. There’s another leak in the evap line. Either the previous mechanics did a crappy job fixing it the first time or it’s just poorly made. Knowing what I now know about all the elements involved, I’d say the odds are split about 50/50 in favor of either explanation. One of the horde of salesmen who are circling the repair lounge, vulture-like, says they quit making Ram vans a few years ago, to which I reply, “Really? I can’t imagine why.”
Same day: After the Norman Dodge guys told me to come back at 1:00 so they could look at the van, I take the kids to lunch. When we come out of the restaurant, the van starts and we drive away. A half-mile down the road I realize that none of the lights on the instrument panel (blinkers included) nor the stereo are working. It’s completely dead. I report this when I give the keys to the associate. A few minutes later he comes in and says that everything worked just fine when he started it to move it inside, and that is must’ve just been that the key didn’t click back after I turned it all the way to start the engine. Whatever. Everything is normal the rest of the day and this morning. However, as I’m driving home around noon, I hit a bump — and the instrument panel goes dark. Stereo shuts off. Blinkers dead. When I get home I turn off and restart and everything comes on.
Keep in mind, folks, that the odometer just turned over to 70k miles yesterday. We shouldn’t be having all these issues. And, yet, I see another trip to Norman Dodge in our future. They can fix whatever the bloody flipping hell it is that’s wrong with it THIS time, plus the damned thing needs new shocks, too. Then maybe I’ll have them take it out to the parking lot, strap five hundred pounds of TNT to it, and blow it into a million itty-bitty chunks of scrap metal. I wonder if that’s covered under the warranty?
Another addition. Big surprise.
Week of August 25th: Van dies two different times as it’s idling in the driveway. For reasons you may be able to understand, I choose to convince myself it was a fluke and there’s really nothing wrong. It runs fine for a few days after that but then, on August 30th, it dies twice as I’m driving down the road. It took me a few tries to get it started again. We then drove it on Sunday and it was fine all day. Monday I looked into taking it to a mechanic but they couldn’t get it in until Thursday, September 4th. I took it in on Thursday to the garage. They dinked around with it until Friday afternoon and decided all it needed was a simple $250 tune-up and it would be fine. “Um…okayyyy” was my thought, but who am I to argue with the “professionals”? So we picked the thing up and it was fine….for two days. On Monday it commenced again with the croaking. Most inconvenient when one is driving down the road.
So, off it went, back to the garage. They had it for three days before handing down the proclamation that we should put some new gas in it and run a gas cleaner through the tank. Okay. Righty-o. Because that has happened to SO MANY PEOPLE I know. Cars dying on the road right and left, and all because the owner is lacking the miracle cure of a bottle of gas tank cleaner. Oh, and their excuse? “We couldn’t get the problem to duplicate when we drove it.” Sound eerily reminiscent to anyone else?
Robert decides to use it on Saturday to take some stuff to our new house because, by the way, we are moving and need the g*ddamned van to help with that. He leaves the house and, as I know for a fact he’s only going there and coming straight back, I expect him back within thirty minutes. An hour-and-a-half later I decided I’d better go look for him. Turns out, he’d made it to the new house, but not until the van had died about twenty times on the way there. Once it took about twenty minutes before it would start again. By the time I got to the house, it had deteriorated to the point that it won’t even run for more than a minute or so. You turn it on, and idles and then it’s like someone flips a switch and it just shuts off.
We ended up driving the thing to our friends at Norman Dodge where they discovered a bad code stored in the crank shaft computer. They replaced it and it solved that problem. (Cost: $500 range)
October 15: On our way out of town, van overheats. We make it back to the mechanic and it’s a bad water pump. We have to rent a car to take our Dallas trip. The new water pump and a new serpentine belt are installed October 20th. (Cost: $400)
October 21: 18 hours after picking the van up from the mechanic, I attempt to start it to take the kids to school. It won’t turn over; makes an “rrrrr-rrrrr” sound and the dashboard lights fade in and out as it does so. When I do get it to turn over, then catch, it immediately turns off again. Van has been towed back to mechanic.