The other day, I went out to our car and tried to move the seat back from where my wife had set it. The seat sputtered and stammered, but stayed locked in place—it just wouldn’t budge. To add insult to injury, the place where the seat decided to die was a bit too far forward for me and a bit too far back for my wife for comfortable driving.

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I called the independent mechanic I use for most repairs and he said that they would be glad to work on it, but it would probably be better to try the service department at the dealership. He said this was something they seldom worked on and it might be a case where using the dealership would be the quickest (and hopefully cheapest) way to deal with this problem.

So I took the car into a dealership and waited an hour for them to come back and tell me there was nothing I could do but completely replace the seat’s bottom framework and the several small motors it contained. This was going to take about six hours to fix and cost $1,800.

I choked, “That’s about a quarter of what the car is worth!” They replied that there were no less costly alternatives to fixing the problem (without ever really telling me what the problem was). Since my choice seemed to be replacing the seat by placing an egg crate on the floor (I’d seen this done in an old farm pickup) or buying a new car, I almost told them to go ahead. But I just couldn’t bring myself to commit to spending all that money. So I wedged myself behind the steering wheel and drove home.

Once home, I decided to call my son-in-law who is fairly handy at all things I am incompetent in. He didn’t know anything about the problem, but, like every one of his generation, he turned to his computer and looked it up on YouTube. Sure enough there was a video of someone (to me a superhero) fixing what appeared to be my exact problem on, of all things, my exact vehicle. He stated that most often when the seat refused to move the problem was the failure of a small, plastic gear in one of the motors.

This is the power seat motor that contained the faulty gear
This is the power seat motor that contained the faulty gear

The video showed this person loosing a few bolts on the base of the seat, disconnecting three electrical harnesses, leaning the seat back, taking out a couple of screws, and finally pulling out the suspect gear. The gear he replaced was completely stripped. He was also helpful enough to tell me we had to first disconnect the car’s battery cables so that the airbag in the seat would not accidentally discharge.

My son-in-law did exactly what was shown on the video and in less than one hour had pulled out the little gear that looked just like the destroyed one on the video. We looked the part up (the guy on the video even provided the part number) on Amazon. The part cost $16. I also chose express shipping for the first time in my life and found that paying $25 could actually get a part from New York State to Washington State in less than 24 hours—maybe the most amazing thing about this entire operation.

Wore out $16 gear
Wore out $16 gear

The next day, again following the video’s directions, we put the new gear in and, lo-and-behold, when we hit the power button, the seat moved just like it was supposed to. So in less than 2 hours and a total cost of $41, my problem was solved.

Lessons learned:

1) YouTube is a tremendous asset in that you cannot only watch cats play the piano, you can get information on how to do almost anything.

2) I guess I have to accept that the charges for service work are no longer based upon what is a fair price for the job, but rather what it takes to make the service people or company happy and a very, very healthy profit. In recent dealings with electricians, lawyers, appliance repairmen, plumbers, etc., I feel I am paying an awful lot for a few hours work. When did it become the norm to pay caviar prices for canned tuna?

3) Fool me once, but never again. The same vehicle with the seat problem also has a broken fog light. I asked at this same dealership what it would cost to get it replaced—$295. On Amazon a replacement light cost $35 and I am sure my son-in-law could replace it in 10 minutes and feel the steak dinner I bought him was a good tradeoff—but wait a minute, maybe I should check the price of a steak dinner before I commit?

4) If I am lucky, there may be a good YouTube video on how to remove this tooth that has been bothering me?

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All of this is probably just me being cranky, but it just seems that the whole world and our values are a bit askew lately. Like I say, it’s probably just me.

Pet Peeve: How Could It Cost So Much?
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