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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Nice headlights

I noted, when I bought my Mazda 3 in early 2011, that the dealership installed xenon headlights for me for an extra $220.

I’ve had trouble with the headlights nearly ever since. They would flicker off and on randomly. I brought it back to the dealer, Mazda de Laval, three months after I received the car and well within the headlights’ one-year warranty but the service department couldn’t find anything wrong.

I took the car out to Laval twice to get this looked at. I also took the car to Mazda Gabriel, which is much closer to my house, and they couldn’t find anything wrong either.

Last summer, the left headlight bulb burned out, which is odd for two-year-old bulb that is supposed to last 2,000 or so hours. The car only had 30,000 kilometres on it. After replacing the bulb myself, the left headlight stopped having problems. Around that time, the right headlight stopped flickering, but would either come on or not come on when I started the car at night.

This past March, the right side stopped its binary behaviour and decided to remain off always. Aha, I thought, this will make the problem easier to diagnose.

The first thing I tried was to switch the bulbs from left to right and vice versa to make sure both bulbs worked. They did.

So I wrote to Mazda de Laval:

Obviously, there is a problem with the wiring or the electrical system, and it has been there since the car’s first year due to either faulty parts or faulty installation. Because the problem was reported within the warranty period but not found or fixed despite my complaint, I feel that your service department should finally find and fix this issue at no charge to us. It should be easier to find now that the headlight is not working at all.

The dealership refused, but did offer me 15% off parts and labour, plus use of a courtesy car.

That was still a better deal than I could get anywhere else, so I drove to Laval and left with a Mazda 2.

Nothing will make you appreciate a decent car more than the hamsters that power the Mazda 2.

I had signed off on a minimum $55 charge for labour for a diagnosis. That’s a half-hour of work, but I would get 15% off.

It took the mechanics 1.5 hours to find the problem, they told me on the phone a day later. I guess I wasn’t a priority, but I didn’t mind because I had the Mazda 2 to putt-putt where I needed to go. The problem was that the ballast was faulty.

The ballast is an electrical regulator that makes sure the xenon lights receive the appropriate electrical stimuli (no, I did not major in electrical engineering). Replacing the ballast is beyond my modest capabilities.

It pissed me off that this same service department installed a faulty ballast in my car in the first place. It pissed me off even more when the mechanic told me it would cost $220 to fix (after my 15% off). That was what I paid for the lights in the first place. At least that included installation, but it did not include the $150 or so I would have to pay for the diagnostic work.

After I expressed my somewhat obscene opinion to the mechanic, he sympathetically asked a manager if they could waive the cost of the diagnostic. What do you know? They did.

So I paid $220 to fix the faulty parts that the dealership installed in the first place and couldn’t diagnose until my warranty had run out. It’s not all bad. I do appreciate the 15% off, the courtesy car, and the waiving of the cost of diagnosis, but still….

Bonus loss:

I’ve lost 12 pounds in the last year by keeping a food and exercise diary app and sticking to its advice. I’m a svelte 165. I could still lose another 20 pounds but to do that I have to stop eating Frosted Flakes while I write a blog post.

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