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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

The thrill is gone for first-time car buyer

By Ray Hanania

Do you remember that feeling when you got your first car as a kid? The excitement and thrill?

My first was a 1962 Corvair. It wasn’t a hot rod, but it was reliable. A real memory.

I feel bad because Kia has prevented my son from having that same experience. I bought him his first car as a reward for getting straight A’s in college. He wanted the Kia Niro, a hybrid, because he is majoring in Environmental Sciences. He wants to save the planet.

Unfortunately, he’s learning a tough lesson. Protecting your personal safety maybe more important than saving the environment.

RayHanania 1

Ray Hanania

The car started having problems a week after we bought it. The “Check Engine Light” came on indicating a serious engine problem. The T-Mobile engine monitor reported a “Cylinder 3 misfire Detected. Do Not Drive … could cause serious damage to engine. Severity High. CODE P0303.” Seemed simple to check.

We brought it to International Kia in Orland Hills, where we bought the car, but no one in the service department could figure it out. It happened again, and again, and same results, Kia just couldn’t find anything. One time, the car braked on its own and came to an abrupt halt while my son was driving with a friend in traffic on 159th Street. Luckily, no one was hurt.

Apparently, the Kia automotive computer codes stored by the ECM, or the OBD (on-board computer diagnostic system) are worthless.

We took it to the dealership, International Kia, but the service department couldn’t find anything. The service manager, Edwin, and dealership manager, Chad, are both courteous, friendly and sympathetic. But they work for Kia and can only do so much.

We got the “We care … but there’s nothing we can do.” We called Kia Corporation and learned they only “yadda, yadda, yadda” too.

My son refuses to drive the car anymore, fearing potential dangers. I don’t blame him. Kia ruined his First Car Experience, putting frightening new meaning in the acronym “KIA.” He’ll take my car when he leaves for college, and I’ll take the Kia Lemon.

I spent Saturday morning in the Kia, doing my rounds. Haircut. Hot dogs at Widens. Upgrading laptop accessories and checking out TVs at Best Buy to replace the Samsung, which is having problems, too.

Guess what: the Kia Niro “Check Engine Light” went on, again.

I drove it to the Kia dealership hoping they could help. Wrong!

By now, they’ve had enough of “my” engine light. The receptionist at the service desk had that rude blank stare, saying she can do nothing.

After failing to get anyone to help, I went back for more abuse, and she reluctantly told me to bring it back “next week.” Can I make an appointment? No, she said. Just drive in. You mean, like I just did, so I could be told to go pound it, again?

The worst part of the experience is the contrast to all the caring they showed when I was first shopping for the car. They loved me when I wrote the check to Kia. I was like family. All smiles and cheers.

The dealership, International Kia, isn’t the only one who can’t help. Kia Corporation won’t do anything either. My concerns are worthless to them.

I expect even less from the Illinois Attorney General, who has a worthless “Lemon Law” that makes buyers jump through hoops while protecting the auto dealers, who donate thousands to election coffers.

I guess I am supposed to wait until the car breaks down so the warranty might kick in. I’m wondering if their warranty has any value at all.

What must happen to get the car fixed? It has to die on an expressway? Maybe an accident before they take the problems seriously? Maybe Kia’s “Check Engine Light” is just a Christmas decoration and a South Korean joke on America!

As cheap and as old as that 1962 Corvair was, it ran. It was easy to fix. I enjoyed it. It was American made, a fading category.

Unfortunately, the only memory my son will have of his first car is the Kia trauma and the jokes about the name, and a dealership that has no idea how to maintain the cars they sell.

Check out more of Ray Hanania’s work at hanania.com.

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