PermaLink Man, we've had some weird hardware issues lately04/28/2009 03:20 PM
...and not just computer things.

Nora and I were up at a major rabbit show in Cortland, New York this past weekend. It's the Eastern Regional Flemish Giant show, and it draws several hundred giant wabbits and several dozen major breeders from all over the Northeast and Canada. This is our third time there, and our second time showing. The girls did pretty well, considering they were by far the smallest in their classes. Sam, alas, was absolutely last place out of 12 on Saturday, so maybe it's almost time to stop showing him. All the judges like his head and ears, they sometimes like his fur, but they all hate his butt.

On the way home, a large piece of hardware decided to fail. A rear wheel bearing failed on the TDI, resulting in some truly thrilling handling until we got the thing shut down and pulled over. On my previous cars, like the Saabs, the rear end was built so that you have an axle stub, a wheel backing plate bolts to that (and has the wheel bearings in it) and then you put the brake rotor on and sandwich it between the backing plate and the wheel itself. If the bearing comes apart, it won't usually throw a wheel.

On the Volkswagen, though, the brake rotor itself is your backing plate, it bolts to the axle stub, and then the wheel bolts hold the wheel to the brake rotor. One less component, but if the bearing fails completely, as this one did, the only thing holding the wheel on is the brake caliper, and that could shatter and launch your wheel into space.

We pulled over just south of the New York border on I-81, called for a tow, and then got down to the north side of Scranton, Pennsylvania, specifically Dickson City. We had the driver drop the car at a hotel about a mile from a Pep Boys, I called the Pep Boys to verify they had the wheel bearing, and the next morning took the car slowly up there. The bearing was readily fixed, but they suggested I also replace the heavily-worn rotors and pads. That then led to the realization that the left rear caliper was stuck and could not be compressed back to where it belonged, so when the smoke cleared, we had done wheel bearings, rotors, pads, and a new caliper, totalling over $600.

But it drove and was much quieter, so we came home. Bert had been out all weekend, and was too stupid to go out and eat the barn cat's food, so he went in and ate. We put the rabbits out in the barn after finishing the doors on the third hutch (for the girls, Samantha and Eleanor). I was already tired out, but before I went to sleep, I popped open the MacBook nano (my MSI Wind laptop that runs OSX) to discover that since the last time I opened the lid, less than 24 hours earlier, the keyboard had failed. I mean, failed. Even the BIOS doesn't recognize it now. Drivers and OS are OK, because if I plug the Apple USB keyboard in from my ancient iMac, it works just fine. Attempts to reset the BIOS, per postings I found on MSI Wind fanboy sites, were for naught. I really, really hate when shit works one day, doesn't work the next, and there's absolutely no apparent reason for it. No driver or OS updates, no droppage, no spillage, nothing. It just... didn't feel like working.

It's supposedly a $30 part, so I guess I'll get hold of MSI and see what I need to send it in under warranty. I guess I'll back it all up first. Still sucks.

And the only thing I hate worse than something breaking without warning and for no obvious reason is any situation where I'm told, "that part is no longer available." Sure, I own lots of ancient things, and I really don't expect to be able to call up Ford and ask them for parts for my 1949 Ford 8N tractor -- even though they do, in fact, still make lots of parts for them -- but in this case it's a brand-new Bissell vacuum.

I don't remember if I mentioned this. I bought this vacuum specifically because we were going through too many bags in our other upright vacuums when it came time to vacuum up wabbit poop, feed and hay, so I went out and bought a brand-new Bissell Momentum bagless upright at one of the major home centers. It worked fine, but the rabbits decided to chew through a little white plastic hose at the rear of the unit, producing a vacuum leak. After yelling at the wabbits, I figured, well, I'll call up and get the part and it'll be fine.

In the owner's manual, they list a bunch of things as parts. Not that hose. Cheap, ten-inch flexible white hose, probably costs thirty cents to make. I checked their website (see link above) and found that the only parts available were the same lame ones mentioned in the owner's manual. A call to Bissell's customer service phone, though, generated the real annoyance.

"That part isn't available to consumers."

Their excuse? Supposedly, any part that involves having to open the case isn't sold to end users to "protect" us (or more likely, protect them) from doing something dumb. The fascinating thing is, you don't have to open the case to remove and replace this shitty little hose. You actually DO have to unscrew part of the casing to change the belt, but I guess they figure we can't kill ourselves doing that, and thus, the belt is available.

They insisted I call an "authorized service center." Since there's one a little ways from work, I did. They called Bissell, and to their amazement were told, "sorry, you have to call an authorized service center." The guy had to rather forcefully remind them that they were, indeed, an authorized warranty repair center. The next round of stupidity involved the fact that the stupid plastic hose was not actually available as a separate part, it only came with this absurd clear plastic casting that completely surrounds the brushes and belt, something that man, if you have to replace that, the vacuum probably got thrown off a cliff or something. I said scruit, order whatever'll get me that hose.

$42 later, the part was ordered. I got a call a week or so later saying it was in, and went down to pick it up. With well-practiced skepticism, I opened the box to discover... no hose.

Big, plastic expensive casting I'll never need, but not the shitty cheap plastic tube I really wanted.

More calls to Bissell by the guy at the vacuum place. They told him, "oh, that part is no longer available. It's no longer included with the housing." And, apparently, it has not been superseded by any other part.

Are you fucking serious?

It was somehow magically available a week and a half ago, and now it isn't? The guy at the vacuum store was as flabbergasted as I was. Essentially, they're telling me that because they didn't feel like selling a fucking little piece of white plastic hose, a $110 vacuum is now junk? There was much more discussion, and how it was left was that the guy at the Bissell parts line was "going to look around and see if they can find one somewhere," and the guy at the vacuum store is going to attempt to build me a hose that will fit and seal properly. If they can't manage to do that, Bissell will send me a new vacuum.

How's that for a screwed-up business model? Suppose Toyota worked like that? "Um, we don't bother making your radio knobs any more, so we'll just give you a new car instead."

I would tell you, "don't buy stock in Bissell," but they're privately held. I think that's a good thing. If actual stockholders heard about crap like this, there'd be a riot. I sent a writeup about all this to, figuring they might find it amusing.

BTW, when I tweeted about this, I got auto-followed by WeMeanClean, their Twitter account. It took a lot of will not to tell them to bite my touch-hole.

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Blabber :v

1. Bill Brown04/29/2009 02:18:15 PM

You might see if something like the conduit tubing they run fiber optic cables through would work. Pretty stiff, but not likely to collapse under the vacuum.

2. Turtle04/29/2009 11:02:25 AM

Come on, Bob, you know me better than that. Of COURSE there's duct tape on it now. Didn't help.

3. Bob Balaban04/29/2009 04:57:58 AM

Have you tried duct tape?

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