Yup. That's what I didn't do a good job of saying earlier. If the engine sounds normal after adding oil, chances are there's no damage done.
I didn't mean to pick on just your Volkswagen. As far as a dependable product, you're right, but if every car met that goal there would be no need to include a warranty. Many years ago cars were WAY more dependable because they were simpler and built with common sense. Typical complaints had to do with doors that didn't fit right and seat tracks that didn't move smoothly. My grump has to do with all of the unnecessary use of complicated and unreliable technology. We use computers to run power windows, power locks, dome lights, heaters, and wipers. I answer dozens of questions every day related to these things, but not one of those things has ever caused a problem on my older vehicles that don't use computers.
My real complaint has more to do with the business practices of the manufacturers. General Motors, Volkswagen, and BMW are in a tie to see who can bleed the most money from their owners after the sale. You must purchase replacement computers from the dealer and have them programmed to your car before they will work. That means you can't buy a replacement from the salvage yard. GM radios have an extremely high failure rate. To prevent people like me from repairing them at a reasonable cost, they stopped allowing us to buy radio service manuals and parts. You're tied to their grossly over-priced repair facilities. To prevent you from just installing a better radio from Best Buy, they are now building the Body Computer into it. Without that exact radio installed, you won't have power windows or cruise control. If you disconnect the battery on a Volkswagen, on some models the engine won't start and the transmission won't come out of park. Some will start but it won't speed up when you press the gas pedal. They have to be towed to the dealer to have "minimum throttle" relearned. You can't tell me the engineers didn't plan for people to replace their battery every so often. What about the people who want to store their cars for the winter? All of the computers' memory circuits will kill a good battery within three to four weeks. If it runs dead, or if you disconnect it, you have to tow the car to the dealer in the spring. The engineers planned for that, all right.
That's just the top few complaints I have. The things I saw people complaining about at the dealership now have more to do with electronic problems, and it's always related to the "toys" people must have. Dome lights that fade out slowly with a computer instead of turning off with a common sense three-dollar switch. Sliding doors that fail to close due to a computer failure, and the owner can't figure out how to close the door by hand.
Customers even get angry when their new cars are so quiet they can hear the wind noise over the wiper arms. In the '60s, rear view mirrors vibrated because we were driving on rough roads. We're still driving on the same roads, but now a vibrating mirror will get an angry mention on the internet followed by a flurry of replies about the poor quality of that car model.
People's expectations have changed, and there's no arguing fit and finish have improved dramatically along with improved tail pipe emissions, but the same vehicle could be built with the same quality in those regards without any of the unnecessary complexity. When they build another '88 Grand Caravan with it's single Engine Computer that never needs reprogramming, I'll buy it.
Oh well. Thanks for letting me get up on my soapbox. Let me know how you make out at the dealership.
Sunday, June 19th, 2011 AT 7:04 PM