The Story of Babe

So things don’t always go as planned. We picked up Babe in the afternoon from the dealership on July 1st and headed back to Fajardo. Everything went fine until we pulled onto the highway-and then it happened. There was what felt like an engine misfire and the check engine light came on. Since it was a solo occurrence and everything felt fine for the rest of the trip, I didn’t think too much. Our friends Bill and George have an OBDII reader (engine code reader) which they had bought to diagnose their Suzuki, so I borrowed it to check out the codes.

After two months, he’s finally resting at CasaAnolis.

I was expecting to see a misfire code, which can be a common error as the electrical components age. The usual remedy is replacement of things like the coil packs, wires and plugs. In other words, an old fashioned tune-up. Mmmm… not so. Turned out to be a transmission code. So I reset the computer and that evening we went out to dinner. We didn’t even get to the highway before the transmission bumped again and the light came back on.

Not good, not good at all.

So the next day we ran the car back to the dealership and with a little back and forth, the head mechanic suggested that they reset the computer and instructed us to drive the vehicle for at least 100 miles. Now, in all fairness, I had researched this issue-love internet forums- and it is known that with extensive sitting the electronics can act up, and driving usually straightens that out. So they reset the computer and we started off back to Fajardo again. We didn’t get too far before the code tripped again, so Dean and I pulled over to discuss the options. After a bit of back and forth (mostly my indecision) we decided to take the truck over to the big Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealer, Alberic Colon, on the other side of San Juan to see if they could look at it. I was fortunate that I got a very good service rep, who after listening to our story agreed to get it into their shop to have their mechanic diagnose. The rep came back to tell us that it could be a variety of things but that only getting inside would let them know exactly what the problem was. She did say that if the light did not come back on after the reset this time, that it could be fine. Surprisingly they didn’t charge us anything for the diagnosis. This is a dealer that I would recommend! We thanked them for their time and since it was getting late, started back to Fajardo. No sooner than we had left the dealership than the code kicked back on. Ok, this was not looking good.

The next day (July 3rd) we went back to the dealership, told them what the Chrysler dealer said and gave them the keys. The head mechanic promised to get to it right away, but given that the 4th was the next day, I didn’t hold out much hope. As it turned out, we had to leave the island with the car still at the dealership, with our friends Bill and George promising to pick it up and check it out as soon as it was ready. Fast forward to Sept, 2nd. After much back and forth, the truck went out to a local rebuild shop. Apparently the problem was not that easy to isolate. There were a couple of false “it’s ready” trips before we got the word that it was finally done. My on-line research had been pointing to the culprit as being the transmission solenoid pack, which is what actually shifts the gears and is a common failure. The last go-round with the head mechanic indicated that they were indeed, waiting for this part.

Now, I understand Island time. This was a bit of a stretch, though. Granted, it was not the dealership as they sent it out to a specialist, but still, it did take an agonizingly long two months to fix. Yes, they knew that we would not be back for a while, but it is always nice to know that that problem is solved and that things are good. On the 2nd of September George and Bill went down and picked Babe up for an uneventful trip back to Fajardo. George even sent me a video of the trip back showing the truck’s speedometer climb past the previous check-engine trip points as he put him through his paces.  Fingers crossed, problem solved! George is going to continue to occasionally use Babe to make sure that the problem remains solved, but if was all caused by a faulty solenoid pack, then it all is good for at least another 100k miles.

OK, so I can recommend the dealership Dominguez Auto in San Juan where we purchased Babe. While it took a bit to get the car back, that was not necessarily their fault. What is good is that they stood behind their reputation and took care of a major issue without any prompting. So if you are in the market, check them out.

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