What is it with Ford’s ignition locks? For the second time in as many years, Dan’s Ford Focus has had problems with its ignition lock. The first time it happened, we had just gone out to dinner. Dan had driven. He dropped me off at home and Anne and Dan had gone on to the station to buy gas. I got a call five minutes later. They couldn’t start the car, because they couldn’t turn the key in the ignition lock. It was stuck. I drove up to the gas station and there was the Focus, sitting by the pump. I tried to turn the key, Anne tried to turn it and Dan tried to turn it also, but no joy. Even though we were only one block from the auto repair shop and even though it was all downhill, we had to call a tow truck, because we couldn’t turn the steering wheel. It was locked too. That time it cost $300 to fix it, even though we never got charged for the tow truck.
Yesterday, Dan took the Focus into the shop, to fix a flat tire. We got it patched for only $22. Anne goes to pick the car up for Dan and when she turns the key in the lock the lock falls out. The shop guy tries to put the lock back in and it gets jammed.
I called the repair shop tonight after work and get John, a sales manager. They’ve been waiting on parts all day, so nothing has happened. He quotes a price of $425 and then he starts talking about possible damage to the steering column, maybe another $500. I mention to him that this is the second time that this has happened. He checks his database, but can find no record of any such work. He suggests that maybe we took the car to some other shop. We decide to punt until tomorrow. I call Dan and get him thinking about how he is going to get to work tomorrow, without a car.
It was almost seventy degrees today, so I get ready for a bike ride. Anne, bless her, finds the receipt from January, 2007. I call John again, quoting from the receipt; I suggest that because the car has been re-licensed since then, maybe the repair is under that old license. No, they switched computer systems in February of 2007, he says. I mention the original $302 price. He starts to get a little defensive and says he just used what was in The Book. He wants to see the receipt, so that he can see better how to price it?!? So, I make a copy of the receipt, throw my leg over the bike and head over to the neighborhood auto repair shop.
Arriving someplace in full bicycle regalia, certainly makes you standout. In the ten minutes that is takes me to get there, they have the parts and a shop guy is doing the work. I didn’t bring my credit card, but I did bring my cell phone. I call Anne and alert her to come over and pay for the repair. I call Dan to alert him to come over to pick up his car. John magnanimously decides to waive the supposed two and a half hours of labor to diagnose of the problem (it was in The Book) and the price is again now only a little over $300. My work here being finished, I left it to Anne and Dan to collect the car. I got fifteen miles in tonight.
You are probably thinking that just the Focus has an ignition lock problem, so don’t blame all of Ford. You would be wrong! Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I give you exhibit C. Because it occurred in the mid-1970s you might contend that the statute of limitations has run out. I submit to you that there is no statute of limitations on bad engineering. There is an innocent involve and I could use just her first name, Anne, but that would be confusing since it is not the same Anne as above. Let us instead refer to her using a pseudonym. I’ll just call her, Kayak Women, so that no one will know of whom I speak.
As I said, Kayak Women was an innocent, because like Dan she did not buy the Ford in question, like Dan, she inherited it. The Ford in question was a green Pinto wagon. She let me borrow it once to go from her apartment in River’s something or other, to Wonders Hall. I drove across campus and parked in the drop off circle, in front of the dorm. I switched off the engine and went to pull out the key, but the key would not come out of the ignition. I tried and tried and still no luck, I could not get the key out of the ignition. In desperation, I ran upstairs to get whatever I had come for and then ran downstairs again, just hoping to see the car still sitting there. It was of course and I drove it back. Still not able to remove the key, I had to confess this whole story, at which point, I was educated about a button on the far side of the steering column.
I have never driven one of Kayak Women’s vehicles since then. Driver error you might be thinking? No, poor human factors engineering, I say. No other make of car that I have ever driven has had a key release button, let alone a hidden one.
OBTW, my Missouri natural events calendar says that this week river otters start having their litters.