Sunday, June 4, 2017

$400 Washers / Circlips

Several weeks ago, back in April, Dr Desert Flower and I drove down to South Point beach in her Volvo C70 convertible with the top down, as it was a beautiful Southern California day.  When we arrived at the Point State Park parking lot, I pressed the center console button on the car to put the top back up, so that
a) no birds would poop in our car
b) no opportunist miscreants would steal the $150 parking hang tag from the rear view mirror

As I waited for the roof to emerge from the trunk, and un-shuffle itself in a truly remarkable "transformer-esque" unfolding (it's so cool to me, as an engineer, that I try to wait for small children to be walking by when I initiate the sequence outside a store in a parking lot, so that the little kids point, and I tell them with a smile "this car knows Bumblebee" as I get out, and they're amazed) ... the roof Suddenly Stopped!  The unfolding / un-shuffling stopped, and Would Not go up, not down, 1/2 way through the sequence.  Merde.  This was not good.  You can't drive the car with the roof 1/2 way up.  I could hear the servo motors whirring, but there Was No Motion.  The roof was stuck.

As a good engineer, the first thing you do is "read the manual" and hope that the manual was written by someone who had English as a first language.  As I got out and inspected the 1/2 way retracted roof, looking for anything obvious that might be jamming it, like debris, leaves, a branch, a broken linkage, and also sniffing for any smells of burnt plastic, cooked lubricant, or any odiferous by-products of extreme friction, DDF read the manual.
She found an instruction for the convertible roof, that was really straightforward:  'If the roof ceases to retract or deploy, hold down the roof actuator button and continue to hold it for 2 minutes.  You'll hear a beeping sound. Depress the button as the beeping sound continues.  Do not release the button until the roof is completely up.  Have the roof serviced immediately.'  So I held the button, listened to the beeps, and continued to do so until FINALLY the roof actuators over-came whatever was preventing their progress.

I already knew that Hugo's - who has done my oil changes, brake & suspension work, and tune ups since we moved to San Diego County - in Encinitas did not service convertible roofs, and deferred that to the dealer.  So Monday morning I reluctantly called the dealer and schedule my Volvo to be brought in the next day to have the roof actuator mechanisms serviced.

Late the next afternoon, I get a call from the Volvo Service manager, with an accusation as his first words: "Who has been working on your car?"
"No one has touched the roof since I bought it" - which was the truth.
"Well, we found some washers inside the roof liner; I had my best man on it, and he nearly didn't see them, but after we'd gotten the whole roof apart we found them all magnetized and bunched up together on the sensor.  I saved them for you, in a small box. You can have them when you pick it up this afternoon. It'll be $400."

So I rode my bicycle down to the Carlsbad Volvo dealer, were they are 2 blocks from the coast, and 350 feet elevation lover than my home, so the net ride, though there were two 100 foot hills to climb, had an appreciable positive potential energy differential.  When I got there, I was handed the little box of "washers" pictured above.  I would not call them "washers" as I was taught, back in the late 80s when Matt T and I began working at Michelin Tire that these were called "Circlips" or "External retaining rings", used to hold a clevis in place on a trunnion, or to keep a shaft from moving axially (google search "circlip" and you can see multiple examples).

According to the senior technician who found them,  all of these little circlips had bunched up, and found their way to the magnetic sensor near the rear view mirror in the center of the windshield's frame that detected when the roof was fully up, to tell the control system to stop putting power to the actuator, since the roof is assumed to be "fully in place".  They were wedged BETWEEN the cloth head liner, and the metal roof, and over-time, they had become magnetized (clumping together).  "There are not supposed to be any of these in the roof assembly whatsoever" the head of the Service Department told me in his Scottish accent, hence his insistence that someone had put them there.
"Could they have come from the factory, where accidentally, in Belgium, someone had dropped some?" I inquired?
"Doubtful...  but... maybe" was his incredulous reply.

If they didn't come from the factory by accident, then someone "sprinkled" or "wedged" broken retaining clips (circlips) between the roof panels and the elastomer seals... but that kind of sabotage would take patience, time, and access to the car with the roof down... something we don't ever allow, because of avian excrement and the possibility of thievery and mischief.

While the circlips themselves are probably worth about 10 cents each, extracting them from the roof assembly, and then re-assembling the entire roof in an "as new" condition, without tears, dirty finger prints, or any cosmetic indications whatsoever, was worth a few hundred dollars, as it was something I could not have done with finesse or without frustration.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.