To whom it may concern: (Ron Strayhorn)
I just want to say right up front that we genuinely desire to resolve these issues equitably and professionally. We have gone the extra mile. We desire real action and help.
2008 Saturn Aura XR
Purchase Date: 7 Dec 09
Current Mileage: 21,800
Dealership: Rancho Grande Motors, San Luis Obispo, CA
(An Authorized GM dealer)
Total Days of Ownership: 48
Total Days in Service/Repair: 24
FINAL DISPOSITION: Rancho Grande Motors Purchased Vehicle Back and Paid off the Loan.
Vehicle Service History
I. 07 Dec 09, Purchase / Delivery
II. 07 Dec 09, Identified wheel-finish defect
Shortly after finalizing our financing on the vehicle but prior to leaving the dealership, Dell Amir and I identified what appeared to be a manufacturing clear-coat defect on all of the rims. Dell Amir brought this to the attention of service manager, Brian who agreed to help work through this problem with the regional Saturn representative.
III. 11 Dec 09, Identified Right Front Wheel Noise
After having a few days to drive the vehicle under varying speeds and conditions (e.g. hwy vs. town), we identified a rumbling noise that varied with speed and appeared to be coming from the right front wheel. Brian had contacted us that same day and stated that the dealership would attempt to refinish the wheel defects previously identified on the day of purchase. We dialoged about the wheel noise and scheduled the vehicle to be brought in on Monday 14 Dec 09 to have the wheels refinished and to address the noise concern.
IV. 14 Dec 09, Vehicle Service Appointment: Rancho Grande Motors
The vehicle was delivered at 1703L on 14 Dec 09 to have the service department address the following:
1. Right front wheel noise
2. Steering wheel squealing noise inside the cabin
3. Wheel spoke / clear-coat pealing issue and refinishing identified on the day of purchase
4. Remove and replace the right rear tire (non warranty item)
5. Top off the fluids in preparation for our holiday trip
V. 18 Dec 09 - Vehicle Service Pickup
We were contacted by Rancho Grande on 17 Dec 09 and told that the vehicle was ready for pickup but that the wheels could not be refinished and would need to be ordered. The approximate delivery date was 29 Dec 09. The right front wheel bearing was found to be bad and was replaced under warranty. The service advisor stated that an alignment was not required. (I later confirmed this with an authorized Saturn dealership in Bakersfield, California.) The service advisor continued and stated that the steering wheel squealing issue is a problem GM is still attempting to resolve. The steering wheel noise was less of a concern over the wheel bearing and slashed tire. After a cursory inspection when the car was brought to the service area, I discovered that the fluids had not been topped-off as requested (specifically the antifreeze). I brought this to the attention of the service advisor and he immediately dispatched a mechanic to top off the fluids.
VI. 18 Dec 09 – Identified Vehicle Pull / Bounce / Imbalance
The car drove straight and true the week prior to 14 Dec 09, however, on the way home from the dealership after the new tire and wheel bearing had been installed, I noticed that the car was pulling to the right and I felt a bounce at 60mph from what felt like an imbalanced tire. We were slated to leave on vacation the start of the following week and it was too late to return to Ranch Grande to address the alignment problem or bouncing issue.
VII. 18 Dec 09 - Vehicle Service Appointment: Discount Tire – Santa Maria, CA
After leaving the dealership that evening, we stopped at Discount Tire in Santa Maria to address the bouncing problem. They balanced the tires and rotated the newest tires to the front in preparation for our journey over Mt. Shasta. The bouncing problem is still present and is most prominent between 55 – 60mph. The visit to Discount Tire cost $70.00.
VIII. 20 Dec 09 – Vehicle Service Appointment: COSTCO, - Santa Maria, California
I took the car to Costco in Santa Maria to have all 4 tires re-balanced and pressure checked. The problem was still present. The visit cost $16.00 for a complete rebalance.
IX. 21 Dec 09 – Identified Transmission Shudder
First day of Christmas vacation: In addition to the alignment issue and tire bounce, I noted several concerns that appear to be transmission related. In an attempt to stay off the brakes during our journey over Mt. Shasta, I used ’manual’ (M5) quite a bit while traversing down the 6% grade. When the car was transitioning from acceleration to deceleration between 50 and 60mph, the transmission would unload and give a bounce / shudder until it was put back under load or placed into M6. The shudder was significant. Most of the trip was steady and on ‘cruise control’. The car behaves very well in 6th gear. We experienced a stretch of bumper-to-bumper traffic in Portland Oregon. The transmission was in normal drive mode and our speed was between 10 and 20mph. The transmission would engage hard on the 1-2 up shift and disengage hard on the 2-1 down shift. However, the more it occurred, the more I realized that it wasn’t a ‘hard shift’, rather it felt more like slop from the transmission twisting and engaging / disengaging. The same happens when decelerating in M5 anywhere between 55 and 60mph. When decelerating in M5 from 60mph, the transmission will unload and almost ‘clunk’. If the accelerator is then depressed to gently accelerate, the transmission re-engages and again a ‘clunk’ can be felt. There is no gear change occurring.
X. 23 Dec 09 - Vehicle Service Appointment: Saturn of Puyallup, Washington
Third day of Christmas vacation: The transmission issues were of great concern so we took 5hrs of our vacation and had the dealership in Puyallup Washington take a look. They stated that it was possible the torque converter might not have been locking up correctly and so they reprogrammed the TCM. No improvement.
XI. 24 Dec 09 – Identified Transmission Whine on Remote Start
The morning of the 24th, we remote started the vehicle from the hotel and when we approached the car we noticed a whine coming from the front of the vehicle. It sounded like a bad power steering pump but the sound was coming from the left wheel well area. This sound is present when the car is started cold and is NOT in the vicinity of the power steering pump, rather, in the vicinity of the transmission. We unlocked the vehicle and when the key was inserted and turned, the noise would cease.
XII. 27 Dec 09 - Vehicle Service Appointment: Discount Tire - Renton, Washington
After enduring six days and 1300 miles of bouncing, I took the car to Discount Tire in an adjacent city and they discovered a tire with a high spot. Before they replaced the tire, they rebalanced all four tires again but discovered that the right front tire would not rebalance. They rotated the tire on the rim to line up the heavy spots and dialed it in as close as possible. We still experienced a bounce and suspected that the right front tire was bad. We did not have enough time to return to Discount Tire to have them replace the tire. The balance problem presented after the 18 December service visit at Rancho Grande.
XIII. 28 Dec 09 – Continued Transmission Shudder / Whine / Vehicle Bounce / Imbalance
The new TCM programming as installed by Saturn of Puyallup did not rectify the transmission problem and we experienced the same shudder / loading / unloading issues on the return home. At 1640L, I made an appointment with the Rancho Grande service department with the intent to leave the vehicle to rectify the imbalance, wheel refinishing, transmission issues, engine whine and alignment.
XIV. 29 Dec 09 - Vehicle Service Appointment: Rancho Grande Motors
Dropped off vehicle with Rancho Grande service advisor to address the imbalance, wheel refinishing, transmission issues, engine whine and alignment. A copy of these issues was given to the service advisor and service manager.
XV. 5 Jan 2010 - Service Checkup: Rancho Grande
As of 5 Jan 2010, we had not been contacted by the service advisor as to the progress or status of our vehicle. I was going out of town on business and wanted more information on what had been found and/or rectified. The service advisor was contacted on or about 1530L with a request for an update on the vehicle. He stated that the majority of the issues had been addressed but they were still loading new ECM / TCM program that had been built by GM engineers. The service advisor stated that the vehicle would be ready that evening but I elected to pick up the vehicle the following day to give them time to ‘operationally check’ the new programming and ensure all of the issues had been rectified. I agreed to let the service manager drive the vehicle home for the evening to personally inspect the programming and other fix actions that had been performed over the last week.
XVI. 6 Jan 2010 - Vehicle Service Pickup: Rancho Grande Motors
We drove to SLO and were told by the service advisor to speak directly with the Service Manager, Tim Vanalstine, who was personally handing our vehicle. Tim proceeded to explain the details of how they went about addressing the problems.
1. The transmission ‘slop’ was one of my greatest concerns but the final service note was ‘20770 could not duplicate cust concern - working fine at this time’.
2. The transmission whine or grinding that occurred when the vehicle was remote started was addressed through technical document P.I. #PIC4773B. This document drove the technician to inspect the torque converter. Loose torque converter bolts were found and tightened and the ECM / TCM were reprogrammed as well. This rectified the whine / grinding after remote start operations, and fixed the loose or sloppy transmission issues.
3. The vehicle has pulled to the right since the visit on 18 Dec after the right front wheel bearing had been replaced. on 18 Dec. The problem was cited as ‘Radial Tire Pull’ and attributed to the bad tires that were later replaced. An alignment check was performed and the vehicle was within factory specifications.
4. The wheel finish problem was rectified by replacing all four wheels.
5. The imbalance issues and ‘shake at 60mph’ presented after the 18 Dec visit as well. All four tires were replaced and rebalanced on the new wheels as addressed above.
XVII. 6 Jan 2010 – Continued alignment and bounce/shudder problems
My wife and I both took turns driving the vehicle home. We immediately noticed that the car still pulled to the right. The wheel is off-center (turned left) when the vehicle is going straight and the vehicle tends to wander requiring constant attention. (This is amplified under acceleration due to torque steer). It feels like an old car with a loose or worn rack and pinion or bad tie-rod ends. In addition, at 57-60mph we can still feel a bounce or wobble. When we arrived home that evening my wife asked if it was normal for the tire pressure to be over 40PSI. Using the on-board pressure monitoring system, I verified that all 4 tires were indeed over 40PSI. The RF= 42 and the LF=40 so I equalized them to 37PSI hoping that would fix the pull to the right. The tire pressure did not improve the alignment problem.
XVIII. 10 Jan 2010 - Identified Circulation Fan Chirp / Squeak
On the way home from the LAX, we noted all of the issues addressed above in addition to yet another annoyance. When the fan is on AUTO at a low speed, it chirps or squeaks. It comes and goes but will chirp for several miles while maintaining cabin temperature. It goes away when the fan speed is increased. It becomes quite disturbing when your simulated mouse wants to take a ride with you to the airport. We are not ‘on the hunt’ and our senses are no more ‘keen’ than when we first purchased the vehicle. We simply desire to have any and all problems addressed before the vehicle runs out of warranty.
XIX. 11 Jan 2010 - Vehicle Service Appointment: Rancho Grande Motors
This particular service appointment was at the request of the owner, Todd Reccord. His goal was to have the service manager drive with me in the hopes of identifying and rectifying these haunting problems (alignment / pull and shudder / bounce at 58-60mph) once and for all. The service manager and I test drove the vehicle together and he witnessed the alignment issue which pulled to the right from the left crown of the road. He also felt the bounce / shudder at 58-60mph. The fan problem is intermittent and could not be duplicated on the test drive but Tim is addressing that out of trust, faith and good customer service. Tim consulted the last alignment results and concluded that the caster was within specifications but out of tolerance for where it should be on a front wheel drive vehicle. He stated that the caster should be slightly advanced on the right side to offset the torque steer and it could be the reason for the drift. The vehicle has no caster alignment so he plans to loosen the cradle and move it forward enough to advance the caster and hopefully rectify the problem. A frequency analyzer and/or road force balancer would be used to identify the bounce / shudder and the heater blower motor will be replaced to fix the fan noise.
XX. 15 Jan 2010 - Vehicle Service Pickup: Rancho Grande Motors
Picked up the car from the dealer at 1730L and was told that the tires were put on a Road Force balancer which corrected the ‘imbalance’ issue; the heater blower motor was replaced to rectify the chirping noise and the cradle was realigned to bring the right front camber into a positive configuration and rectify the pull. Within the first 5 miles after picking up the vehicle I was forced to reduce speed from 70 to just under 60 and I immediately noticed that the shudder was still present. At 57-59mph in 6th gear when feathering the throttle there is a prominent pulsation / shudder. I returned to the dealer, asked the service manager to ride with me and he too felt the shudder but said it was simply the characteristics of the vehicle and the design of the transmission. Given what has been replaced (tires, wheels, balancing, alignment), I have to conclude that it is a transmission / drive line / fuel management problem. Perhaps an imbalanced 1/2 shaft or bad torque converter / TCM.
XXI. 20 Jan 2010 - Continued transmission shudder
My wife and I were returning from an adjacent town and again noticed the shuddering problem. This time it manifest on an incline while in cruise at 70mph. I backed the speed down to just below 60mph (while in cruise)...the car downshifted to maintain speed and the shudder was amplified. We crested the hill and the car would shudder while going down the backside as well.
XXII. 22 Jan 2010 - Sunset Chevrolet - Transmission Shudder - Service Visit
We made an appointment with Sunset Chevrolet in Lompoc California and took a service advisor on a test drive to replicate the problem. He and I were able to easily replicate the issue exactly as described in the account on the 20th. He personally commented that there was something definitely wrong and of all the 3.6ltr 6spds he has driven, it didn't feel normal. I briefly told him about the wheel/tire history, the TCM reflashes and other pertinent information. We returned to the dealership and when he ran a history of the car, the only warranty repair he found was the wheel bearing. I pulled out all the records since the first service visit and showed him what had been done.
XXIII. 23 Jan 2010 - Sunset Chevrolet Service Update (phone call)
Service advisor contacted me and stated that the Service Manager wanted to check the tire / wheel balance. There was no update on the transmission concerns it was brought in for. I reminded him of the new wheels and road-force tire balancing that had taken place prior but authorized the dealership to verify the balance if it would help them eliminate the possibility. I am concerned that it will 'undo' the former work if they do not use a road-force balancing machine.
XXIV. 27 Jan 2010 - Sunset Chevrolet Service Update
The dealership called and said the car was ready for pickup early afternoon. They said they called the GM technical help-line who told them that the car has a known issue (vibration) from the 18" wheels on those vehicles. The advisor (corroborated by the manager) stated that they hooked a frequency analyzer on the seat bolt and the car measured within tolerance so there was nothing else they could do. "We cant just throw parts at it and GM wont either", stated the service manager. My issue was that we had still NOT reached a solution...so...I picked up the phone and ironically got the same lady at Saturn Customer Assistance. I explained verbatim what had just gone down and she said all of my additional issues were documented as part of the case and I will be hearing from the district service representative by 1pm the following day. I took 3 personal hours of vacation to drive down and have the service manager drive with me one last time to help duplicate the problem. We strapped the frequency analyzer on the car and off we went...down to my favorite stretch of highway. They dialed it in for 55-60mph and said the tolerances were .03 - .07. The vibration / pulsation / shudder measured .07. Because it was within tolerance, his hands were tied. He did state that they put on a set of 16" wheels from a Malibu and took it out. He said it was remarkably smoother. I suspect it was due to the extra 3" of sidewall but that is just me.
XXV. 28 Jan 2010 - Sunset Chevrolet Service Update
Picked up vehicle from Sunset Chevrolet with no course of action and no money to hire legal representation.
XXVI. 28 Jan 2010 - Call from Rancho Grande Motors Service Manager
The service manager from Rancho Grande Motors called stating that the GM rep would be by that morning and asked if I could bring the car in. Given my work schedule, I was unable to accommodate them but we had a good dialog about what Sunset found with the vehicle and the borderline tolerances that we found on the last test drive. He asked if there was anything I would like to address and my reply was simple, "My desire would be for GM to buy the car back but short of that, perhaps an extended warranty."
XXVII. 29 Jan 2010 - Call from Rancho Grande Motors GM
The general manager from the originating dealer called this morning and said for us to simply bring the vehicle back. He said that they would reclaim the vehicle and pay off the loan with no strings attached. We arranged a time to take the car back the following day.
XXVIII. 30 Jan 2010 - Rancho Grande Motors - Vehicle Buy Back
Case closed. Vehicle was reclaimed by originating dealer.
Central Coast California