We all knew it was going to happen. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. My Aston Martin’s warranty has already paid for itself, and the car doesn’t even have a real license plate on it yet.
You’d already know that the warranty paid for itself if you followed me on Twitter, because I announced it there yesterday. But you wouldn’t know the story behind it; the reason why my Aston Martin is already more than $5,000 in the warranty hole after I’ve owned it for less than two months.
So today I’ve decided to explain everything in both a column, where you can read what happened, and a video, where a 2-inch-long silver robot has crawled up my shirt and is attempting to gnaw on my face. Both are equally good, though I feel compelled to inform you that the video includes far, far worse music.
Here is the situation. A few weeks ago, I informed you that my Aston had to be towed because it was making a noise like a flock of live parrots going through a meat grinder. This turned out to be exactly what I and many others suspected: there was a small rock caught between the brake rotor and the backing plate, which my dealership removed free of charge. Sounds like no problem, right
Only, there was a problem. As I mentioned then, the car also went in to the dealer with its check engine light illuminated. That was the problem.
The dealer scanned the code and diagnosed the issue as a problem with the car’s timing. Then they spent a few days trying to figure out what was causing the problem, only to reach a rather unsettling conclusion: to fix it, they would have to get into the engine, remove the timing chain, and replace the variable valve timing unit. Interestingly, the variable valve timing unit itself is a cheap part – but as you can imagine, “remove the timing chain” is Aston Martin dealer lingo for “you’re about to spend more on this repair than a Craiglist Miata.”
When the job was done, I asked how much it would’ve cost if I didn’t have my $3,800 certified pre-owned warranty. The answer? $4,409.
Yes, that’s right: four thousand four hundred and nine dollars. Removal of the timing chain. This is the moment you remember that your beautiful, exciting exotic sports car is, at its core, a hand-built automobile manufactured in England by two blokes who use rhyming slang to insult football players on the telly.
For those of you keeping score at home, you can add this latest $4,409 repair bill to my first issue – $738 for a new thermostat, which failed the second time I ever drove the car – to reach a grand total of $5,147 in warranty repairs so far. Bear in mind that that I’ve only had the car for a mere 54 days, and I’ve only driven it about 900 miles. This is not a good start, considering that I plan to own it for another 300 days and drive it another 19,000 miles.
And yet, I’m not ready to give up on the Aston yet.
Over the last six weeks, I’ve received an enormous amount of e-mails from other V8 Vantage owners, and they’ve all said roughly the same thing: their cars are reliable. Yes, there’s an oxygen sensor here, and a thermostat failure there, but generally speaking, they don’t have dramatically more issues than they did with the Porsche they used to have, or the BMW they used to have, or the Audi they used to have. And boy, oh boy, does the Aston sound better.
My dealer echoed this sentiment. My excellent service advisor, Eric, informed me that this was only the second time he has ever seen this $4,400 variable valve timing repair in his several years working at the dealership. It was, Eric told me, a very unusual problem.
So maybe my experience so far is just a fluke. Maybe my car is enduring some growing pains, owing to the fact that it’s being daily driven for the first time in its life. Maybe, just maybe, its troubles are over, and it’s going to spend the next 10 months being the Volvo 240 of sports cars, requiring only a periodic oil change, the occasional tire rotation, and a convenient parking spot at the next neighborhood planning committee meeting, where they’re talking about tearing down a dilapidated historic property in favor of a Jamba Juice.
Yes, this could happen. But let’s just say I won’t be throwing away my warranty paperwork anytime soon.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars, which his mother says is “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.