Piston Slap: The Unfixable Automobile's Catch-All Solution

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Anonymous writes:

Hi Sajeev,

As a long-time reader of Piston Slap and TTAC, I never thought I’d be writing for advice. You see, I usually buy new or manufacturer-certified cars with warranties and loaners and all the benefits that the extra money affords. Surely, any problems would be handled lovingly and without hassle by the dealer and maker. Mostly that’s been the case, but not this time …

I bought a 2013 BMW X1 xDrive35i as a certified pre-owned car last year. Shortly after I took delivery, the stereo amp crackled and went out completely. That amp is responsible for all the sounds in the car, so no parking sensor beeps, warning chimes, Bluetooth calling, etc. The dealer replaced the amp and, after waiting a week for parts to arrive and repairs to be made, I was back in my car.

Since then, I’ve gone through two more amps. And we’ve also realized the problem is that water is leaking into the interior and shorting the electronics. Every time it rains, I pour a couple cups of water from the storage bin near the rear wheel. There’re droplets behind it and under the cargo tray.

The dealer has had the car for nearly two of the thirteen months I’ve owned it, always unable to duplicate the leak. Meanwhile, all I have to do to replicate the result is park outside in the rain. So a few days ago, I picked the car back up from the dealer un-repaired again. The rear speakers presently don’t work. I’ve requested help from BMW of North America, but they and the dealer both declined to help me replace the car (other than trading it in and buying a new one).

I paid extra for the BMW CPO program and “Ultimate Service” thinking I’d be taken care of. Do I have any recourse?

Sajeev answers:

Sorry to hear this.

Thanks to your detailed analysis, the only answer is the one I hate to offer: the catch-all solution to an unfixable late-model automobile. I’m glad you didn’t tell me which state you live in, as I shouldn’t give legal advice in this column.

Piston Slap’s mission is more about fixing problems, especially finding solutions as a community. Or it is about people calling me Sanjeev, proving the value of LS-swaps, and masterful foolish attempts to make you embrace Panther Love. But I digress …

Googling about the Lemon Law nets plenty of information, some without the bias of a law firm wanting your business. Perhaps it’s right for you, perhaps not.

Best and Brightest?

[Image: BMW]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 85 comments
  • Static cling Static cling on Mar 16, 2016

    I'm glad I saw this article. It might be a "bottom up" leak. This happened to me with my 2002 Audi A4 Avant (wagon) recently. After leaving the car outside in the rain, my amp sitting in the back trunk would short out. It was especially bad if my car was parked uphill, so naturally the water would pool at the back. The headliner would also be wet at the back of the car, so my mechanic started to look at the sunroof, roof rails and also the rear deck light. But he wasn't successful in the first attempt and the car continued to leak. Then he started to think out of the box and looked at the drainage holes at the bottom of the car near the rear door. He found the source of the problem where years of leaves and dirt accumulated and blocked the drainage holes. And there are about 4 drainage holes, but one of them was blocked. So when it rained, water actually pooled up behind the rear pillars and spilled over to the side rear tray where my amp was. Problem solved. If that's not the problem, then check with the new model Ford Edge forums where they are experiencing water leaks that flow into the front carpets. They found that Ford had bad welds during assembly on the front pillars causing leaks. Perhaps you have that problem. Good luck.

  • SPPPP SPPPP on Mar 16, 2016

    GM put buyers of the first-generation Equinox models through a similar torture test as a result of improper assembly. The cars were built without sufficient seam sealer around the rear body seams, and also around the front shock towers, cowl, and windshield. They could get buckets of water in the rear hatch area, or have water leak behind the dash, short out the TPS, and put the car into limp mode. A very dangerous build defect that GM never recalled. Perhaps BMW made a similar error here? Or, as mentioned, perhaps the car was wrecked and poorly repaired at some point? It might be worth buying an AutoCheck report to be sure.

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.