Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - 8:00PM

The Freestyle's last ride

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This video clip from the dashcam shows my final minute of driving the Ford Freestyle, pulling it into the service bay at Bert Wolfe Ford yesterday. The deep, steady grinding noise you hear (under the loud rattling of the dashcam) is the reason for the shop visit. I got the call today that the noise is from a failing bearing in the transmission, in this case a CVT that came standard with first-generation Freestyles. The repair involves a full replacement of the entire transmission, to the tune of $5,400. Yes, that's five thousand four hundred dollars.

I've had a love-hate relationship with this car (an SUV/wagon 'crossover') over the past 4 years. I chose it strictly because of its spacious, storm observing-friendly interior and good fuel economy, and for those purposes, it has been an excellent vehicle. But it has had serious reliability and repair issues since the first major breakdown during our 2006 Plains weather expedition in Bismarck, North Dakota (that stranded us there for 4 days). If I were to go ahead with the transmission replacement this week, it would put the Freestyle's total repair bills at over $9,000. For a 4-year old car with 154,000 miles on it (95% of those are highway miles), that's far beyond an acceptable repair record.

Facing a repair bill that is more than I owe on the car (and possibly more than it's worth period), it's safe to say that the Freestyle's days are over. So tomorrow will feature a serious talk with Ford over what to do next. For a purchase price of $27,000, I definitely didn't get my money's worth out of the car, by any stretch. By tomorrow night, I'll have either a very positive or very negative review of Ford depending on whether they make good on working out a fair deal. Namely, covering the remaining amount of the loan (which would have been paid off this October) in exchange for me purobserving a new Ford vehicle. So, stay tuned.

Here is the last photo of the Freestyle in action at Statesville, NC during the snowstorm on Sunday:

click to enlarge

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