My car is in the shop today, and will likely stay there until at least Monday. It may stay there longer than that. Oh, it’s not that the parts aren’t available, or that the shop doesn’t have time to fix it. The problem is that my beloved 1996 Saturn, which has given me very little trouble in the 150,000 plus miles that I’ve driven it, has a bad bushing in the shifter. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with cars, or with bushings (as I was when the day began) a bushing is typically a small, round, piece of plastic that goes around a piece metal that rotates, filling some of the same function that ball bearings might.
At first I was relieved to find out that the reason I couldn’t shift my car out of third was not the linkage inside the transmission after all, but rather a problem with the shifter itself. After all, it’s got to be cheaper to take apart the center console than the transmission, right?
Well, yes, that’s true. But apparently Saturn has seen fit to take this small piece of plastic and provide it only attached to the clutch cable. Price for the clutch cable? $375. Oh, and another hour or four to install it, since it’s got to be threaded up through the dashboard and over to the transmission.
Total cost to repair the one inch piece of plastic? $750.
I have no light in my radio for the same reason: a $600 job to replace the entire wiring harness. I decided I can live without the light. And it’s not just cars, either. I once had to replace an entire laptop motherboard because the power supply jack got loose. (Thankfully, it was a warranty repair, but still…)
Why do companies DO this? And why do we let them?!?
An open request to Saturn: Why, oh, why, would you design something like this so that a simple repair becomes so darn complicated?
[Update: This entry has more comments than any other post on this blog, with lots of great information on how to fix this problem without spending an arm and a leg.]
[Update to the update: In the 8 years (OMG, really?!?) since I wrote this, it has become possible to get a replacement for the Saturn shifter bushing on eBay.]