The issue is not the car, it's the lack of attention to when it needs service. You aren't going to have better luck with any other car brand. All batteries fail in about five years, give or take a little. That isn't designed in by the manufacturer. They know how fast the lead is going to deteriorate and flake off the plates and they provide a warranty to take advantage of as much of that expected life as possible. You can't blame a battery failure on the car.
For the steering to feel like it locked up, only at higher speeds, suggests it has speed-sensitive steering. You will not notice that designed-in lack of power assist at highway speeds. If you were unable to turn, as in changing lanes, a binding upper strut mount would be a better suspect. If this happens at lower speeds too you might suspect a slipping power steering belt or a weak power steering pump. A slipping belt is almost always accompanied by a squealing sound. A weak pump will resume working when you increase engine speed a little. Binding strut mounts can happen on any car but they can fail in other ways. The frustrating part for a mechanic and car owner is that often the failure can't be seen or felt until after the struts are removed for maintenance replacement, then the mechanic finds they need to be replaced and has to tell you more parts are needed than what you expected.
The radio problem could be nothing more than a blown fuse, especially if you have been having to jump-start the engine. The surge from using jumper cables or a battery charger often causes fuses to blow for no other reason. Has anyone actually checked the fuses? There will always be two of them. The fuse for the station preset and clock memory will usually be listed as the circuit that it is tied into, like interior lights, horn, cigarette lighter, or something like that. You said, "radio just completely stopped working; with one exception, ... ". So it didn't completely stopped working. Does the display still work? If not, suspect a radio fuse. If the display does work, your car might use a separate amplifier that has a blown fuse. That will cause no sound but all radio functions will work meaning the display, tuning, switching between AM, FM, and CD.
Those lights you mentioned that are staying on are not supposed to stay on for 15 minutes. That safety feature you referred to has been around a long time and is controlled by a highly unreliable Body Computer. Those lights should still turn off with all the other lights. That 15-minute timer is only a backup for when the regular circuit malfunctions or you do something to leave those lights on. Since a computer is needed to turn the lights off, it is also used to turn them on, hence the inherent unreliability. To add to the problem, GM cleverly built the Body Computer into the radio so you can't go to Best Buy and buy a high-quality aftermarket radio. To add to the insult, they will not allow us to buy radio service manuals so you are tied to the dealer and their two grossly over-priced repair centers.
You must understand too that when diagnostic fault codes are read, they never say to replace parts or that a part is defective. They only indicate the circuit or system that needs further diagnosis.
Anyone can stand next to a car they aren't familiar with and say it needs a new Engine Computer, (PCM is Chrysler's term for Power Train Control Module), or it has "faulty wiring". Unless someone snuck in there and switched a couple of wires around, there can be a corroded splice or a wire rubbed through on a sharp edge of a metal bracket but those aren't common occurrences on such a new car. Those ARE the kinds of things your mechanic will rule out first when he addresses the diagnostic fault codes. You have to analyze this statement yourself:
"Because he didn't have the tools needed to check my GM made vehicle, he suggested that the PCM could be bad as well on top of possible faulty wiring".
That means if he DID have the tools he could diagnose it properly, then there would be a different cause. Way too many people fall back on blaming the computer when they don't know what else to check. That is because GM DID have a huge computer problem years ago and so many mechanics are experienced at replacing GM computers to solve problems.
GM DOES have a huge problem with their generator design. That should be one of the first things that is checked. A professional load test will determine if it is capable of developing its full rated output current. If it can not, the battery will have to make up the difference and that will run it down gradually. That results in low battery voltage which computers are very intolerant of. The lights staying on could simply be due to the Body Computer not turning them off because it is confused by the low voltage.
The place to start is by taking the car to a mechanic to have the list of issues properly diagnosed. If the Check Engine light has been turning on and you kept on driving, ignoring what the Engine Computer is trying to tell you isn't going to make the problems go away.
Sunday, August 18th, 2013 AT 2:07 PM