2008.08.27 How about a class action against stupidity?

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I was excited recently when I saw a notice of a class action lawsuit covering repairs to certain GM vehicles. A year or two ago I wrote about discovering that I wasn’t the only one who had spent big money on manifold repairs to their Buick.

According to the notice of the class action, the problem extended to several GM engines and the Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and GMC divisions as well as Buick. With the settlement promising up to $800 in reimbursement, I headed to the class action website for more details.

Unfortunately, my hopes were short-lived. It turns out that $800 is available only to class members who paid over $1,500 in repairs during the first four years the car was in service. The older the car was before it needed repair, the less money you were entitled to.

In my case, the settlement will pay me back a whopping $50 of the $1,200 repair cost, but only if the Buick’s original owner bought it late in the 1998 model year. If he bought it in late 1997 or early 1998, seven years will have passed and I’m out of luck entirely. I need to find out the car’s original sale date to see if filing a claim will get me a minuscule return on my expenses or be a total waste of time.

I did dodge a bullet a couple of weeks ago in the car repair arena. I’ve had a slow leak in a tire for about a year now. Not enough to cause a problem, I just needed to add five or six pounds of air every month when I checked tire pressure. Then, I started to get vibrations in the steering wheel when I drove over 53 or 54 mph.

In late 2006, I had bought a new set of tires. They cost almost $400, by far the most I’ve ever spent on a set. Usually, I buy the cheapest tires I can because my vehicle will normally give out long before I need tires again. This time, since I was planning on keeping the Buick for a while, I sprang for a set of Goodyears. 

The tires even came with free rotation for life, a feature I never had before. “Just bring them in every 6,000 miles,” they told me. That advice went in one ear and out the other, tire rotation being an alien concept to someone used to buying a different junker every year or two.

Now I would have to return to the tire store and depending on their findings, have to confess to tire neglect. Sure enough, I was informed that the tires were “cupping” severely and possibly ruined. Then came the question, “How long has it been since you had them rotated?”  There was no use trying to get around it, they had the odometer reading right on my receipt. “Not quite 18,000 miles,” I said.

They weren’t very happy to hear that, especially when I could have gotten it done for free. They did offer to put it on the rack and see what they could do, if anything. That’s where they discovered  the tire with the slow leak had a bolt in it. It’s amazing it was there so long and didn’t ruin the tire. Another customer at the business wasn’t so lucky.

A Morenci man was also there to have a flat tire looked at. His low tire pressure alarm went off a few miles from home and by the time he pulled in his driveway, one tire was flat. They discovered the flat was caused by, of all things, a deer antler he had apparently run over.

Most likely, it was a piece of an antler left over from a vehicle-deer collision or a shed that somehow ended up on the road. The unlucky driver never even knew he hit it, but the tire was ruined and it was $200 for a new one. I told him that sounded like a column idea and for helping me out, I’d leave his name out of it.

I told a hunter friend the story and he said the Morenci man was fortunate. He knew of someone who lost two tires to deer sheds in one day. That man wins for the unlucky tire story for this week. And I ended up being the lucky one.

My tire shop friends fixed the tire with the bolt, did the free rotation and worked enough magic with wheel weights and their balancing machine to fix the vibration without replacing the tires. After extracting my blood oath that I’d return in 6,000 miles for an inspection, they let me go after charging a mere $24 for everything.

I feel fortunate that I got away so cheaply when I could have been buying four more tires. Now if I can just get that $50 from GM, maybe that “I’m a stupid idiot” feeling would go away. While I’m thinking about it, maybe I should go check my oil.

  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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