The Journey Starts Here

Welcome to my odd sense of humor. Not always for the faint of heart.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Car Repair: A Neutral Safety Switch that isn't so Neutral

You can’t expect to drive a car and never have anything go wrong.  That simply goes against the laws of the universe.  If you’re lucky, every once in a while in your life you will find that vehicle where it seems that it will run forever.  Until it doesn’t.

My wife, years ago when we both worked and had money to buy things like cars, decided she just had to have a Dodge Durango.  Not only did she like the look, but she wanted and SUV with lots of room in it.  This was her trying not to LOOK like a soccer Mom, but in reality living like one.   Since a Durango far out classes a freakin MiniVan, I was like, sure.  Let’s see if we can find a nice one.

Let it be known I did have reservations.  I had heard they will horrible on gas, and I had been in one and was of the opinion that the seats were cheap.  They seemed so THIN.  Anyway, being an awesome husband, I decided to go along with the plan.  At least for the moment.

As you may know by now, I am in sales and I drive a lot.  I had already purchased two vehicles from one dealer and had a great experience.  So we contacted the salesman we had been dealing with and told him what we were looking for.  About a month later, he gave us a call.

So off we went to see what he had found for us.  When we got to the lot, there it sat.  A 2000 Dodge Durango with a 4.7L V8 engine, plus the added bonus of the third seat in the back (an option).  It was in terrific shape.  It had been purchased brand new by a family, meaning only one owner, and they had taken very good care of it.  They had ordered it with the third seat as an option because of their kids.  This vehicle was used, but let me assure you it didn’t look used.  It looked brand new and it was 4 years old.  The only real reservation I had after looking at it was the mileage. It had 88,000 miles on it.  After driving it, I had to admit that I loved it.  Even after 4 years, it drove like a dream and those seats I thought were cheap?  Well after 4 years and 88,000 miles, they were unworn.  So, we bought the thing.

Now it’s 2011 and the vehicle has been a good one.  We even drove it to New York city, Niagara Falls and to Dallas, TX.  It has 130,000+ miles on it and the only thing we have done to it is change the oil and get new tires.  It does need a few things done to it.  Mostly just cosmetic.  There is a scratch down one door and the clothes hanger in the back on one side broke off when we drove it to New York.  I’m suspicious of the radio, because I think it is about to go because sometimes not all the speakers work.  But the thing IS 11 years old, so I have counted myself very lucky with this one.

The other morning, however, my wife got in it and it wouldn’t start.  The engine wouldn’t even turn over.  It wouldn’t even make that clicking noise that a car will make when the battery is dead.  Just in case, I hooked up jumper cables, and nothing.

Now I’m not a mechanic.  I don’t work on my own cars that much.  I can change the oil, I can change the brakes, and maybe a few other things, but other than that?  Well, I’m kinda scared to tackle a lot of things.  Luckily, I have a friend who knows how to work on cars.  Being the kind of friend he is, when I called him that day, he said he would be over that night.  We thought maybe it was the starter.  So we took it off and had it tested.  It was good.  The next thing we checked was the ignition relay.  It was good.  So I got on the internet and did some research, as did my wife.  We both found the same thing.  The likely culprit was the neutral safety switch.

The neutral safety switch is responsible for the back up lights and not allowing the car to be started unless it’s in park or neutral.  So me and the friend decided it should be easy enough to fix.

Boy, were we wrong.  First of all, we couldn’t find it.  The parts store said one thing, those repair books you can buy said the same thing, but the neutral safety switch was NOT WHERE IT SAID IT WAS.  So it was back to the internet.  I found a reference to the fact that certain types of transmissions on this model have the neutral safety switch on the valve body in the transmission and to change it out you had to take off the transmission fluid pan to fix.  Well, by now it was the weekend and none of the parts stores seemed to have this version of the safety neutral switch.  I’m talking Advance, Auto Zone and NAPA.  Couldn’t call the dealer, since they were closed on weekends.  So we decided to look for it ONE MORE TIME.  In the course of all of this, we had unplugged a number of sensors on the transmission.  Then plugged them back in.  Needless to say, we finally gave up, because we just couldn’t find it.  We felt defeated and annoyed.  Now we were going to have to wait until Monday (tomorrow) and contact the dealer.

At the last minute, my friend climbed into the vehicle and tried to start it.  Guess what?  It started (facepalm).  If we hadn’t spent all day trying to get this fixed, we might have laughed.  Instead, all we did was shake our heads and be very aggravated over the fact that none of the information we could find helped us.

The only thing we can figure is that one of the wiring plugs we unplugged had some corrosion on it and when he disconnected it and reconnected it, it solved the problem.  But man, what a way to spend an entire Saturday!

Yeah, I'm trying to find the humor in all this but it seems to be on vacation.  But I'm sure you can find it.

1 comment:

  1. I've done this before in the past. And always regretted it. Years ago I had the head gasket go on my car. I was convinced by friends that I' d be able to do it and save money by not having to go to the garage.

    It took all day to do it. And it worked... for around 10 miles.

    Moral of the story - get a mechanicto deal with it first time round. It's cheaper in the long run