November 12, 2011

∴ My @Hyundai Sonata Returns Home

Forty-four days after I dropped off my new car for an oil and filter change and a trio of complaints, my car is back home.

I arrived at the dealer's lot a little earlier than expected this morning and found that my car was still on a lift.

I had asked whether the recently announced recall campaign, which covers all 2011 and 2012 Sonatas with 16- and 17-inch wheels and steering that pulls to one side, had been performed on my car when I spoke with the service advisor last evening. Steering pull was one of my original complaints.

A technician had simply re-aligned the car's front end to answer my original complaint. The recall had not been announced back then. Today he went through the process in full and provided an alignment report.

I caught a brief glimpse of Ali, the service manager, when I arrived. She made a quick walk to her office, looking down and away from me as she passed. I'm not certain what that was all about, but her body language was fairly obvious.

Maybe she's just a busy lady.

Just as well, I dealt with Ken, the service advisor. He was very pleasant, apologizing twice for the length and difficulty of this ordeal.

Twenty minutes later the car was ready. Nicely detailed inside and out, it looked factory-fresh. I gave it a good once-over, started it up, and slowly drove around the lot, headed for the exit. But it's never this easy.

Around the back of the building I heard a thump under one tire, then a thud-thud-thud as I continued to drive. I stopped and checked the left-rear tire, where I found a license plate screw embedded about half-way into the tread.

After a quick evaluation, a technician applied a plug to the tire and finally I was on my way.

I drove my usual commuting route, upon which I know every bump and bend in the road. It was a very quiet hour-and-a-quarter drive.

So far I haven't heard a single squeak from the sunroof, despite driving through turns where chassis flex had first brought the problem to light.

The cruise control engaged and disengaged on command, every time, on the way home. I'll be paranoid about it for another couple of months because of the intermittent nature of the original problem, but for now it appears to be working correctly.

Here's hoping there's nothing but routine maintenance ahead for this car.

If you're having problems like mine with your 2012 Sonata, my only advice is to keep at it with your dealer. My pulling front suspension complaint, the one the service advisor seemed sure I had caused by driving over a pothole, turned into a recall campaign in the midst of this ordeal. Be persistent.

Above all, be precise in how you describe your problems, and make sure the service advisor writes what you say. It wasn't until the very last day or two of this ordeal that the Hyundai field engineer heard that the sunroof squeak appeared when the chassis flexed, through a turn or over an uneven bump. That was an important part of my initial complaint that didn't get conveyed to the technician or engineer until six weeks later.

My sunroof complaint was resolved by a revised assembly process from the Alabama assembly line. Here, too, others are having the same problem. Thankfully it's easy to replicate. I wonder if a Technical Service Bulletin will be written to resolve these complaints.

Who knows how long it'll be until the cruise control problem reaches critical mass? I've heard from and read other owners complaining of the same problem in their cars, even that they received the same "can't duplicate the problem" response from their dealer. After a lot of hair-pulling, my dealer's general manager was able to replicate the problem, albeit without electronic test equipment hooked up. That's when it became their problem, too.

Let's hope someone is testing current electronic modules right now, so no-one ends up having an accident as a result of a cruise control malfunction. The cruise control issue is a safety problem, plain and simple.

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