Jason Lindquist (jlindquist) wrote,
Jason Lindquist

sekrit c0dez

A couple of months back, on a particularly hot day, I tried to start my car, and it refused to start. It wasn't a dead battery, the engine turned over, it just wouldn't catch. When I released the key, the dash lights went apeshit--beyond the usual startup self-tests. When they settled down, both the "Service Engine Soon" light and the "Service" wrench light were on. I turned the key again, and it started just fine. I drove home, and the next time I started the car, the SES light stayed on, but the wrench light stayed off. The SES light has been on constantly ever since.

This has happened before, twice. Both times, the Saturn dealership in Escondido told me a raft of DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes) were set, indicating the Transmission Control Module was bad and needed to be replaced. The very first time it happened, there was a noticeable change in the car's shifting pattern, though nothing alarming. Both times, the replacement was covered under warranty, and both times, the dealer's techs and service manager blamed the presence of my Kenwood mobile radio for the problem. They insisted that high-power RF was damaging the TCM and its RAM. Not possible, I insisted, as the tranceiver itself is inside the trunk, with a short antenna lead connecting to the antenna on the trunk lid. This meant nothing to them, they insisted it was still the radio's fault. Once, I might be willing to buy it. But the second time, when the starter and dash behaved in exactly the same way, when I hadn't used the radio in over a month (I'd removed the control head while cleaning and hadn't put it back) I knew they were just grabbing for an excuse.

Now that this has happened three times, I know what to expect from the dealer. Fuck 'em. I stopped by AutoZone today and borrowed an OBD-II code scanner. Many of the same codes were set as the last two times. I wrote them down and cleared the code memory. On the drive home, nothing happened. The SES light stayed dark. These codes are either for nonexistant transient problems (can't read vehicle speed? Please, the speedo works just fine, so that's not real) or serious TCM problems (bad RAM, Flash ROM checksum failure) that should light the SES right up again if they were real. In short: There was no real problem to begin with. Some kind of odd, unrepeatable voltage transient happened when the car started in hot, hot weather that confused the shit out of the PCM, so it set a bunch of codes.

The car is past 59K miles, the warranty expires at 60K, and the "Change Oil" light came on last week. I'm going to take it in for the 60K service tomorrow and have them give the car a good once-over to check for any sort of warranty-covered work that can/should be done. We'll see what they come up with this time...

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