Interesting comment! I have a similar story, BUT y'all will be shocked to learn that SOME OEM parts ARE actually very inexpensive. There is a front air-dam under the bumper fascia on the CAMRY. Unfortunately, it is prone to becoming dislodges when one pulls up to a parking space w/ those concrete barriers. They seem to pose an exact interference fit. At any rate, this air dam is fastened to the vehicle w/ several plastic clips. Just about every time I visit the local TOYOTA dealer for routine maintenance, one of the items I alert the service writer to is to replace the clips that have popped out. They don't charge labor for this repair, but the bill shows "n" # of clips @ 10 cents a piece. HARD to BELIEVE, I know, but that's the price!!!!! (Then again, maybe that's why I have to have them replaced so often. IF they were 25 cents, maybe they'd be made more substantially??? :) )
Charles: Regarding the ball joints fiasco. This was a case where there was a mother & two adult, unmarried daughters living together. No one in the family was automotive knowledgeable, and so they were always very "sympathetic" to the advice of "professionals", in this case, the service writer at the local TOYOTA dealership. Add to that the VERY DETERMINED sister, and it was very difficult to buck the tide, so to speak. The ONLY saving grace in all of this was that money issues were NOT an issue, so they willingly paid the price for "peace of mind", even though there was really no action required. This was just ONE incident in a string of incidences that I could relate. Regardless, my summary comment still holds.... I WISH there was some sort of stricter oversight for these dealerships, service organizations, etc. to cull out the bad ones, and prosecute them more fully. People, especially impressionable women, SHOULD NOT BE USED for personal or corporate profit!!!!!
I should add that I also agree with you on the common dealer practice of wanting to replace ball joints and tie rod ends, Old_Cumudgeon. For those of us who know what to look for, that can be taken as a "heads-up," rather than a "must-do." My problem has always been in advising family members over the phone on these matters. Some people simply don't notice steering issues (some people don't notice any issues), such as whether the car is wandering. That's why I'm always far more conservative in advising others than I would be with my own car.
Notifying the Feds, then showing the Ford people that you did so, should enhance his ability to get some recourse from them. It would also convey to the manufacurer that this is a safety issue, and he could be the first to let the Feds know about it.
On the E300, took it to transmission shop first time. Cost $900.00. Failed 2 years (20k miles) later. That's when I went to the local library branch and printed out the overhaul manual (Ford's, same as transmission shops use). Overhauled it approx. every 20k miles. Cost: Transmission overhaul kit (just like a carburator kit)containing all clutch plates seals and gaskets: $57.00. Labor (mine): About the 3rd time, I got it down to 4 hours on the work bench, 20 minutes to remove from van, 40 minutes to install back in van. All a Saturday job. After 100k miles I decided to replace the torque converter too ($50,00). Got my parts at TransGo.
I, too, ended up trading in my Windstar, Old_Curmudgeon. Various different transmission problems kept reappearing until I finally gave up at 84,000 miles. Of all the cars I owned, it had the shortest tenure. When I traded it in, I bought a Honda Odyssey, which is now nine years old. The Honda clicked over the 198,000-mile mark over this past weekend.
Is your recommendation relate to the safety issue and that others may experience it or the reimbursement of the $600? I ask because the $600 may not be worth the hassle related to the reporting and follow up necessary. But, if it is a safety issue that has the potential to save others inconvenience or injury I would feel a greater compulsion to report it to the agencies you identified.
Related to your E300, I have relatives who had a motor home with the same issue. Big vehicle, itty bitty transmission. Drove to the transmissions shop every two years until they parked it.
Splatticus is right. At the minimum, notify the NHTSA and/or the NTSB. Consumer orginizations also suggest you seek recourse starting with the dealer's Service Manager, then owner and on up the chain to Ford's VP of the division that manufactures your vehicle. You will probably get satisfaction at the higher corporate level.
On the fringes of this topic, I had a 1972 Ford E300 1 ton van where the transmission would fail every 2 years. Had to learn to rebuild it myself and it was good for another 2 years, but never understood why they put a C4 (think Pinto) transmission in a 1 ton van.
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