I’ll go out on a limb and say that no one wants their hand built sports car to blow up in their face, which is why having a warranty is so common on cars not exactly known for their ability to fend off calamity. However, I’m here to tell you what it’s like when you don’t have that important safety net in place, because I willingly threw mine in the trash.
A little more than a week ago, I bought one of my dream cars, a 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage from a man who is so well off that he currently owns two cars ironically. The car, at the time, still had two months of Aston Martin’s unlimited mile, bumper-to-bumper warranty on it.
The same day I purchased the car, I decided to allow everyone in the neighboring counties to be aware of my presence by pulling a fuse that muffled the exhaust. I then drove the car more than 1,150 miles from New Jersey to Florida, where the car now resides.
Although mechanically the car performed beautifully and was surprisingly comfortable on my admittedly rotund frame, it did have one issue that slowly picked away at my sanity, having to do with the audio system.
Aston Martin, at the time, made it a matter of utmost importance to include an audio system that sounded phenomenal at any volume, peppering the interior with speakers and utilizing a well-placed subwoofer right behind the driver, to make it impossible for your ears to know if you were listening to a Skrillex track or were actually being violently beaten by a gang of wayward fax machines.
The Achilles’ heel of the system, however, was a part called the Bluetooth switcher module, which cut off volume in the front left and right speakers to allow for phone calls.
Due to the effects of time and the likely vibrations from going 145 MPH on the Bonneville salt flats, the switcher module only worked properly when you slammed your foot on its location in the passenger’s foot well. All other times, it would make the front speakers cut in and out, turning the Premium Audio system into something that would have likely got someone at the Aston plant a swift paddlin’ back in my day, I tell you whut.
This would’ve been a prime example of me taking the car in for a warranty claim, but that would’ve been way too easy. As I bought this car not only to stroke my ballooning-out-of-control ego, but to learn how the car actually worked, I wagered that this would be a fitting time to do a homebrew fix.
Quick aside - To be perfectly clear to the pedantic Petes in the audience, me attempting to fix this particular component would have given Aston Martin just grounds to void the warranty or dismiss any claims, at least with this particular system. Other components may still in fact be covered, but as I will be taking further steps in the future to correct Aston Martin’s engineering mistakes myself, the current bumper to bumper warranty will not apply in any respect to my ownership of the car.
Armed with a socket set and the knowledge that electricity isn’t magic, I went forward with dismantling the passenger’s foot well area. As I needed to remove the panel that held the module and the front fuse box in place, I removed four T27 torx bits and three 10mm nuts and yanked the aluminum pan out of the car, exposing the offending part, a green barn-looking module that needed fixing worse than Bob Barker’s Chihuahua.
The module came apart with eight small Philips head screws. The circuit board itself was set in place with hot glue, which required some careful prizing with a flathead screwdriver to slide out.
After looking at the bottom of the board and not being able to find any obvious cracks in the solder joints, I figured I would reflow the board with new solder and use a bit more glue than what Aston Martin deemed necessary in 2007.
I globbed a few chunks of the silver stuff where it was necessary, made a small mess of things, but had solid connections, which is what matters, no matter what society tells you.
I then hot-glued the board to the housing like I was paid by the trigger pull, and reassembled the whole shebang and put it in the car. Initial tests were promising, using a high school friend’s folk metal band CD as the test material. Both left and right channels sounded crisp with no break up, no matter how much I batted the module around.
While Aston Martin would’ve likely covered this part under warranty had I made the 45 minute trip to Aston Martin of Orlando, there’s a sense of satisfaction that you get that can’t be replicated in a service shop waiting room.
It’s the knowledge that you mended something on your $126,000-when-new car with $10 worth of materials and 30 minutes of your time, while the dealership would’ve likely charged any out-of-warranty schmuck three hours labor, including a 1.5 hour break for several cups of Earl Grey.
I’ll be doing more to this car as far as repairs and modifications go, but mark my words - none of it, unless I’m specifically paying for it, will come as free labor from the manufacturer, because I believe learning to work on a platform involves the occasional catastrophic failure.