Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Brake for Idiots

            I realize I am in danger of writing Jalopy-opolis, instead of Joniopolis, but you will not believe what just happened.
            I’m in the car with St. Bob and we pull out of the driveway to run errands.  On the way, we decide to pick up our mail, which arrives down the block, in one of those multiple-family mailboxes they’re using these days.  I thumb through the bills and magazines as we head to the freeway.
            I’m still opening mail as we get on the freeway, and I see one envelope with a red stamp on it that says, SAFETY RECALL NOTICE.

            Well, it must be for a small appliance, I decide.  Something wrong with a blow dryer or a blender, no doubt.  Probably a cord overheats, or a button falls off.  I tear it open.  But it’s not from Conair or Cuisinart—it’s from Chevrolet!  Hey, we just bought a—uh oh.

            Sure enough, it’s about the car we renamed Baby Bugatti, to keep me from riding around in a misspelled car (which you can read about here).  Chevrolet says they apologize and they’re concerned for our safety.  Not concerned enough, however, to get it right the first time.
            This is like those recordings that say, “Your call is important to us,” but not quite important enough to hire sufficient staff to answer it.

            I keep reading.  “Brake assist may be intermittently reduced or lost,” it says.  One of the sentences ends with, “increasing the risk of a crash.”  Oh, only a crash. 
            And then they choose to capitalize this line: PARTS ARE NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE.  But when they are, Chevy will provide them, and the phrase they decide to put in bold lettering is at no charge. 

            Wow, is this our lucky day or what?  No charge!  Why, I would fully have expected to pay for Chevy’s death-defying blunder out of my own pocket, but they have stepped up in wild generosity and agreed to cover it themselves!  Almost brings tears of joy to your eyes, doesn’t it?
            “So let me get this straight,” I say to Bob.  “We are hurtling down the freeway, and our brakes don’t work.”
            “Well, they work a bit,” he says.  A bit!  Well, that’s all you really need, I believe.  No wonder Chevy chose snail mail instead of a phone call or email.  It’s only the piddling, little, unimportant brakes.  And when will parts be available?  No mention of that.  Hey, maybe Chevy will send us a Christmas present—the essential brake parts! 
            I sigh.  Really, I shouldn’t be surprised.  I mean, how much attention to detail can you honestly expect from the maker of a misspelled car?  Chevrolet, at least you’re consistent.
Hey, have you ordered any of my books, yet?  I promise you will not receive a letter recalling various defective pages, and promising to send the correct ones later. 


  1. We just got a phone call that our 2004 Honda Van has defective air bags. For over 12 years we thought we were safe if ever in a crash. They set an appt at our best time as soon as we wanted...they do have new air bags for us, so good for Honda.

  2. We should form a support group... at the hospital!

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  4. I own a 2006 HHR which shares many of its parts with the Cruze. I also maintain it myself. While the original brakes are short-lived, they are safe. That recall is about brake assist, not brakes. If the electronic bit which failed in a small number of Cruzes should fail in yours, what you will need to do is push harder. Brake assist is an electric version of power brakes. When it fails, you still have hydraulic brakes.

    To make your brakes long lived and effective, replace the disks with Zimmermans and pads with EBC. Don't sweat the brake assist. Those parts are available only through GM. To remove it from your car would be a major effort comparable to turning it into a race car. I have seen a few Cruzes in SCCA regional racing, they do OK but are not top in class.

    If you really want to be safe, learn to drive after the assist fails. You just pull the fuze for the unit then drive around an empty parking lot. After you get used to the higher effort it's not that hard.

    General advice, learn to drive and control your car at the limits including a failed part. Don't live in fear