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Severe repair cost inflation: brake light repair @$1500

Posted on September 9, 2004 at 08:08:34
Bambi B


I'm gradually learning why glamourous cars are status symbols. Not only is the pourchse price and insurance outrageous, but small things on modern, highly electronic computer controlled cars can really add up. Impress your neighbours with repair cost prices?

And here's a pip.

My brother has a 1996 Jaguar XJ6 with 60,000 miles. He noticed that the brakes lights would sometimes still be on when he left the car. This increased until one day the lights would stay on all the time.

He is more intrepid than I when dealing with electronics and he eventually replaced a light control module - a used one at $200. This was not the cure, so off to the dealer. They decided there was a short in the wiring harness and took out the seats to the point to which this was traced- $600. This turned out to be a fault also but not the real cause. What had happened was there was a short in the electric seat switches next to the driver. This had gotten wet either from rain when the door was open or from fluid when the door panel was cleaned! The switch and another computer module were replaced -$800.

In effect, in some mysterious way the shorted seat switch is interlocked to the brake lights- and the total cost to get the brake lights to work was $1500.

There are 6 computers to control lights in an XJ6. My brother thinks the wiring diagram for the XJ6 is 6 pages and takes it's design cues from the Space shuttle.

So much for status symbols.

It doesn;t have to be so. I'm thinking of the little screw-in pressure switch for the brakes lights on Morris Minors. I had 5 Minors over years and years that were up to 35 years old at the time and never replaced even one of these switches. They are probably $18 items even today.

This reminds me of quirks when cars get technology complex for their time. I happen to think the 1949 Cadillac 62 convertible the best car of postwar US, but they aparently have a stange behaviour. These have a fluid operated window system and hydraulic seat adjustement. Apparently, if the system is weak, raising all the windows may make the seat drop. Similarly, early (66-69?) RR Silver Shadows have a self-leveling suspension that is actuated by a door switch. Faults in that system could mean that opening the driver's door would cause the car to drop 3". That "sinking feeling" of RR ownership.

My favourite car out of about 40 was my Mercedes 300SEL 6.3 though it was considered at the time it was an overly complex mightmare to work on. Today it sems a simple an straightfowward- easy car. Over 10 years I did all the repairs: worked on the air suspension - replaced an air spring, replaced the timing chain tensioner, fuel pump, and water pump. . I couldn't touch a modern Mercedes as I don't have a German speaking computer analyzer.

Now, I yearn for a nice Volvo 122S. I had 5 of these and today seem a dream of easy diagnosis and repair. For the price of my brother's brake light repair I could buy a 122S AND rebuild the engine!

Anyone else have these quirky problems with complex cars?


Bambi B

PS: I promise in my next post- somthing positive!


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