It’s been a while since we’ve provided a Lance update on his head gasket problem. Much of the reason for that was that we didn’t have anything new to share… but now we do, and it’s great news. Not to spoil the ending, but here are the three main points:
- When all is said and done, Lance’s engine repairs will be done under warranty.
- The method of repair is going to be to replace the engine with a new one (Booyah!!).
- Hilltop Chrysler Jeep Dodge is freaking awesome.
For those of you keeping score, Lance has been out of commission since December 27th of 2018. No joke. We’re over three months in, so I’m ecstatic to finally be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
About Lance’s Warranty
Back in December when Lance blew his cool, it happened at… get this… 59,900 miles. I couldn’t believe it. I was certain we’d be out of warranty by the time I got him in, so I took a picture.
After a little research, it turns out that Lance actually has a 5-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty arranged by Winnebago through Chrysler Fleet, but I didn’t know that at the time. I don’t know if all model years of Travato have the 100,000 mile warranty, but ours does. Verify that information for your own vehicle before you rely on it.
But the other thing you should notice from that picture is the temperature gauge. Or rather the non-working temperature gauge.
Just moments before taking that picture, the dash had lit up with a “Coolant Temperature High” message and a bunch of beeping. Yet notice where the needle on the “Temperature Gauge Placebo” is. Just a hair below halfway! That’s where it ALWAYS is. 100% of the time:
- Cold start in Calgary in February? Temperature just below half.
- 7000 RPM for 12 hours towing a boat in Phoenix in August? Temperature just below half.
This brings me to this nugget of wisdom for everyone:
The temperature gauge in your ProMaster is less than worthless, apparently by design.
To know what the actual temperature in your engine is, you’d need to install a ScanGauge, or just go by intuition. If you were to cover that original gauge up with a smiley-face sticker, the resulting complete ignorance would actually be more useful.
If you have a picture of your ProMaster temperature gauge at anything except just below half, I’d like to see it. But I digress. Let’s get back to Lance.
When we left off in our last update, Lance was making his way from Stoneridge Chrysler-Jeep-Edsel-Hindenburg-Waterworld and headed to Hilltop Chrysler Jeep Dodge. The experiences at the two dealerships couldn’t have been more different. The crew at Hilltop has been all over things since Lance got there. We’ve been getting regular updates – unsolicited – from the service manager at Hilltop. We’ve also been getting regular updates from our case worker at Fiat Chrysler. Things are happening!
But, of course, there’s a procedure for everything, and Hilltop has to follow procedures. They’ve been careful to do this all along to make sure that everything will be covered.
First, before just tearing Lance’s engine apart, they needed proof that the head gasket was failing. They did this by going to their smog shop to sniff for hydrocarbons in the coolant reservoir. They found lots.
And at some point, while doing one of these tests, Lance belched up a gallon of coolant all over the floor. How embarrassing.
OK. So they had proof something was wrong inside the engine. They got authorization from the warranty folks and tore into it.
They sent me a bunch of pictures of what they found. I’m not a car guy, but I’m calling this “not good”.
And apparently, it had been happening for a while, from the looks of the solidified pink antifreeze residue.
And there was some longer-term damage. At least that’s what I gather from the .010” gap where I’m pretty sure things should be flush.
OK. Definitely some damage and a problem there. But what was the cause?
Hilltop kept going.
They hit something when they tested the thermostat. It didn’t open at 200+ degrees. And apparently hadn’t for quite a while. So the official diagnosis was:
“Blown head gasket and warpage, caused by chronic overheating, courtesy of a bad thermostat.”
I’ll interject here that if the temperature gauge actually worked, I might have noticed this thousands of miles ago. But it doesn’t, and so I didn’t, and so Lance has been suffering in silence for a really long time.
A Quirk with the Warranty
So when Myron (the Service Manager at Hilltop) called to tell me all this, he also filled me in on a peculiar twist with the RAM warranty. While the engine was warranted to 5 years and 100,000 miles… the thermostat is only warranted to 3 years or 36,000 miles. (!)
Myron’s fear was that since the failure was due to a non-warranted part, that the whole enchilada wouldn’t be covered.
I’ll admit it. When I heard this, I blew a head gasket myself!
Why on earth would you put an essential, non-warranted part on an engine with a much longer warranty?!?!? Further, there is no maintenance or replacement schedule for the thermostat. If there was, I certainly would have had it serviced as appropriate. I wouldn’t shut up about this for days.
Well, Myron eventually talked me down. He and I worked together – each of us calling FCA warranty to plead our case. (Because let’s face it, the thermostat warranty thing just doesn’t make any sense.) I’m happy to report that FCA has agreed to cover the repairs under warranty.
Further, these engines really don’t like excessive heat, and the recommended repair is to just replace the engine with a new one. Parts are on order. So in addition to my regular updates from the Service Manager, I now also get updates from the gal who orders the parts at Hilltop… amazing!
Work should begin this week when everything arrives.
The Hopefully Happy Ending
Once Myron and the crew of superstars at Hilltop get done with Lance (they’re just repairing him to stock condition), then Lance will head back over to Gordon at Edge Motorworks to have his second alternator re-installed.
Stef and I will be hosting our group of Winnebago-driving cycling enthusiasts at the Sea Otter Classic again this year, which means we’ll be not too far from the Bay Area in a week or so. We’re super hopeful that Lance will be ready to go by the time we leave the area.
Fingers crossed everyone!