In another forum, I mentioned that I'm not a fan of the Chrysler Corporation, and instead of hijacking the thread, I'd like to explain it here.
I know after reading this that you'll probably think that I'm irrational or unreasonable, and you may be right, but this is my rant and I'm sticking to it!
When I was growing up, my parents were fastidious about their cars. The stuff they bought wasn't particularly inspiring, but they were always clean, straight, and safe. Maintenance was always done by the book, and any noise was checked out and dispatched quickly. You could eat off the floors in their cars- hell you could eat off the engines in their cars!
I mention this so you don't get the idea that anything I'm about to tell you has anything to do with neglect or lack of proper maintenance.
Back in the 70s, we would go "camping." I put it in quotes because it wasn't in tents, but RVs which are kind of fake-camping. First in "pop-up" trailers and then in motorhomes.
We had two motorhomes that we took on family trips all over the country. When I say all over, let me tell you that I've been in 47 of the lower 48- maybe just passing through, but no matter how you cut it, it's a LOT of miles.
Both motorhomes built on Dodge chassis and engines. The first one was a "mini-motorhome" with a Dodge van nose. The second was a "full-size" Winnebago built on a Dodge truck chassis.
We had many happy experiences together (my dad, mom, brother and myself) and I have the pictures and memories to back them up, but those two Chrysler products caused some of the worst experiences in my young life. I swore that I would never buy a Chrysler product again, and all these years later I intend to keep that vow. Now that Chrysler is part of the Fiat conglomerate (like another formerly independent automaker we're all familiar with) it muddles the issue, but if/when I'm in the market for a new car I'll deal with my conflicts then.
Some examples of trauma- rear lugnuts shearing on a very busy section of the New York State Thruway. Engine refusing to fire after launching a small boat at a very steep boat ramp. Other problems with starters, transmissions, carbs, overheating, etc. To be honest, I was so young I can't remember them all- probably a good thing!
The worst was a planned cross country trip from Long Island, NY to San Francisco and back. About halfway to Cali, the engine starts acting up, losing power then coming back. Miles of this. Remember- this on interstates, now in the midwest. Lots of corn. Not lots of anything else!
At the first available rest stop, we pull in to diagnose what we can. Obviously getting spark, it's running so it's getting fuel, battery is OK, oil looks good with a proper level, trans fluid OK, air filter clear, all wires seem to be in place- basically, nothing obvious. Always a problem...
Anyway, back on the road, going well for a couple of miles, then problems again. Now the engine is bucking! We can't keep up with traffic and we pull off the side of the road in some random midwest state with nothing in sight but corn.
Did I mention that it was hot as h*ll?
A/C? Well, yes and no...
During the heat of the day, it was problematic to run the A/C driven off the engine due to cooling issues (poorly designed cooling system for the task). We had an auxiliary A/C that we could use by running a gas generator, but that didn't cool things adequately during the day by itself. After sundown, it was OK- of course by then we were (hopefully) in a campground with an AC power hookup so we didn't need to run the gennie. Also- the camps were usually in a wooded area, so they were naturally a little cooler.
So- no A/C during the day meant the opportunity to stick your head as close as you can to an open window funneling 100° air at your face while the rest of your body is broiling in a big tan tin can rolling down the road. I hope I didn't make it sound too glamorous!
Back to the side of the road- little to do but let it cool down and hope that it can be nursed to a phone somewhere (it's the 70s- only Captain Kirk had a cell phone!).
We limp to a phone, and my dad has to locate a mechanic and a heavy duty tow. My brother and I are miserable, overheated pre-teens whose only aspiration at this moment are to get to the next campground with a pool. After feeding the pay-phone, he gets a tow and we wind up at a Dodge truck dealer.
These are not the kind of guys that are interested in dropping what they're doing to help a few stranded New Yorkers and their fancy motorhome. So we wait. For hours.
When they finally get around to us, they try to start it and guess what? Yes, of course you know... no problem... So- nothing to fix! Drive it around the block a few times and see if it happens again. Look! All OK now! Here's the bill, See ya!
I wish I knew how much dad donated to Chrysler on this trip.
OK- to shorten this tome- the same thing happens over and over- at LEAST 7 times! Each and every mechanic says that he fixed the problem and we can be confident that it won't happen again.
If it weren't for these reassurances; if my dad thought that the the problem was terminal and unfixable for a long period (like if it threw a rod or something like that) I know that we would have stopped the trip where we were, fly home, and try again next month or next year. He was a smart and sensible guy. He never would have willingly put us through this, but when these "experts" tell you the problem is fixed, what are you supposed to do?
We continue on and drive too far away from the last mechanic to go back to him, and we have to find the closest one to where we are. Sometimes we had to flag down someone to give my dad a lift to a phone or mechanic.
You can imagine how many hours were spent roadside waiting for a heavy duty tow truck to show up.
So, this is putting a lot of stress on all of us. My parents are doing the best they can (not their fault after all) but when you're spending your precious vacation on Interstate roadsides and at Dodge mechanics in two-bit midwest towns with the sun beating your brains out, it's impossible to not come unhinged. We are all furious with one another. Every little sigh or dropped fork becomes a battle royale.
Sometimes we had to stay the night in the mechanic's parking lot because they couldn't work on the problem until the next day.
Wanna have a fun, relaxing summer vacation with the family? DON'T spend it a truck mechanic's parking lot in the middle of a Midwest summer!
To be honest, I thought for sure that this was the end of my parent's marriage. We would all take turns not speaking to each other depending on who looked the wrong way at someone last.
I think this is actually the kind of experience researchers use to examine the reactions of people under severe stress. If it's not- it should be!
So, back on the road- happens again. Towed to next mechanic. Guy says "Oh- I know what it is!" he climbs under the BACK of the Tin Box with a screwdriver and a piece of tubing. ONE MINUTE LATER he emerges with a small plastic doohickey in his hand.
Tells my dad "Here it is, you don't need this" and tells us it's a SECOND inline fuel filter near the gas tank before he throws it in the trash. He bypassed it with the tubing.
He tells us that this is very common on that Dodge truck chassis and that the recommended procedure is to do what he's just done- bypass it. (I have no way of knowing how true his statement is, but that's what we were told)
Anyway- he was right! All of the stress and strain was endured by my family because of a poor filter design and a ton of mechanics that were either too busy, lazy, uninformed, or just plain dumb to fix our problem.
Over the course of this adventure my dad bought a few fuel filters for the front (where the primary filter was), plus all sorts of junk and services including transmission work, plugs, wires, a coil, etc.
You're probably reading this thinking "Well, I can sympathize, but that's not all Chrysler's fault- you can't blame the whole company especially after all these years"
You're probably right, I should probably let it go, but that was a truly formative experience in my life. It was much more traumatic living it I can assure you.
Now that that's off my chest, I'm still p*ssed at them, and I still hope to never put another dollar (or lira) in their coffers.
In a future installment, I'll talk about my experience of having a K-car as my company car, and the reception I received at a Chrysler dealer on Long Island when they were selling Alfas at their dealerships. Oh the fun!
Thanks for your attention... this episode of my rant is concluded!