So I'm sitting at a stop light the other day, minding my own business, thinking about all the major problems that currently affect our society ("Why doesn't Chipotle have cheese dip?"). And that's when it happened: the front end of my Range Rover lifted up several inches, entirely on its own. It was at that moment I knew my warranty had just paid for itself.
For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, allow me to take you back to a column I wrote last July, shortly after I discovered that automotive retailer CarMax offers a six-year warranty on every used vehicle in its inventory. I took advantage of this brilliant policy in December 2012 to buy a used Range Rover, which is generally agreed to be one of the most fragile things on earth, sandwiched right up there between a Solo cup and Taylor Swift's heart.
Unfortunately, my first year of Range Rover ownership was rather uneventful. Oh, sure, the radiator was replaced in February 2013 because it started leaking. The suspension's lower control arm bushings were replaced at the same time, because they were worn. Six months later, the taillight filled up with water, and I drilled a hole to let it drain. And then in October, the electronic steering column broke and needed a new memory module. But the total warranty cost of all this was only $1,841.55 – which, in Land Rover terms, is uneventful. "Eventful" would be at least one major engine fire, and also the CD player changing tracks when you activate the windshield wipers.
Fortunately, things are really turning around this year. In April, I reported that the tilt steering column had failed again, which meant a warranty replacement of the entire steering column motor, for $785.19. And then, last week, at that stop light, the mysterious lifting problem.
Now, I admit that I initially tried to ignore this issue. This is a tactic frequently used by Land Rover owners, largely because problems tend to come and go as they please, and you never want to waste your time taking your Land Rover to the dealer unless you're certain they'll be able to repeat the issue. For example: almost every time I start my Range Rover in cold weather, a warning messages appears in the gauge cluster and says – this is completely true – "TRANSMISSION FAULT — REDUCED TRACTION." I have no idea what this means, but it goes away after a few seconds and then the car behaves normally. I consider this to be the Land Rover equivalent to those Welcome messages you get whenever you turn on a normal car.
I'm also reminded of an issue I had a few months ago with my CD player. One day, on a whim, it decided to completely stop playing CDs. That's right: one night I'm driving to dinner listening to the soothing sounds of Jimmy Eat World; the next morning, nothing. It's almost as if the CD player heard my taste in music.
This went on for days: no matter what I did to the CD player, no matter how many times I ejected the CDs and put them back in, no matter how much I turned the car on and off – nothing. So I scheduled an appointment with the Land Rover dealer. And as I'm driving to the appointment, guess what? The CD player is blasting music, healthy as ever, like a coughing fourth-grader who's suddenly cured when his parents threaten to take him to the doctor's office.
The point of all this is that you want to be careful before you schedule an appointment to bring your Land Rover in for service. You'll first want to try an entirely different tactic: Google. That's because Land Rover ownership brings with it the following universal truth: No matter what's happening, it happened to someone else. Truly: you could go on the forums and post that you opened the rear hatch and there was a small troupe of nine-inch-tall baroque dancers back there, doing calisthenics, and people would reply and say: "Oh, yeah. That happens a lot on cold mornings."
So in this particular case, I Googled the problem, and – sure enough – several other people had already experienced it. And while there wasn't much information online for a fix, a few people did mention that "they all do that." Unfortunately, "they all do that" isn't really a solution when it comes to Land Rovers, because it can be applied to nearly every situation. "Electrical fire?" the forum users will ask. "They all do that!" Not much solace when you're on the side of the road staring at the pile of melted goop that used to be your Discovery II.
But it didn't take much time to find out what the problem was. A few days later, as I walked back from lunch, I saw it: the Range Rover was listing to one side like the Titanic about four hours after Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have sex in that car.
So I took the thing straight to the dealer, and the diagnosis was as expected: the right front air spring was leaking and needed replacement. This would've been pricey enough, but the dealer also found another issue: the transmission sleeve was leaking transmission fluid, which — as you might expect — is a common problem with this car.
The total cost for all these repairs was $2,128.24, and my MaxCare warranty covered the entire thing without flinching. All I paid was my $50 deductible and six bucks for some interior bulb that had burned out. For those of you keeping track, my overall warranty repair total is now up to $4,690.52, which means the $3,899 warranty has officially paid for itself. Oh, and here's the kicker: I still have 50,000 miles or four-and-a-half years left before it expires.
I'm eager to see what happens next. I'm hoping more issues develop, so I have more stories for you people. CarMax, on the other hand, probably feels differently. They're probably hoping I crash it.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.