2008.08.27 How about a class action against stupidity?

Written by David Green.


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.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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