Noah McDonough of Redwood City man said he took meticulous care of his beloved Jeep Wrangler and yet was blamed when the engine suddenly broke down and was declared a total loss. The carmaker claimed he was running the Jeep when it was low on oil.
"It was impossible. No way it was low on oil,'' McDonough said. "I always take it to the dealership for service, always on time. Nobody ever saw it low on oil."
McDonough says it was devastating because he had fallen in love with the brand years ago while on vacation in Hawaii. He happened to rent a Jeep Wrangler and had a blast driving it off road in the wide-open terrain.
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After he got home, he bought one for himself. "There's a sense of freedom, being open, top down, being able to ride off road, there's nothing like it."
He also bought a lifetime service warranty that covers engine repairs. And he took the Jeep in for every service recommended by the authorized dealer since he bought it brand new in 2011.
The problem came out of the blue one day last December. "I was pulling in the parking lot and I heard a knocking in the engine,'' he said.
McDonough checked the oil and said the level was good and no warning lights came on in the car.
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He took it into the dealership to see what was wrong and after weeks in the shop, he got the bad news. "They found metal chips in the oil pan and told me the engine was destroyed," he said.
He made a claim on that warranty and Jeep maker, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, sent an inspector. It took weeks, but the inspector rejected his claim saying McDonough had been riding the car low on oil.
He pointed to all the receipts for services he got at Putnam Chrysler Jeep Dodge, the authorized dealer. Dozens piled up on his desk revealing all the oil changes. He had an 80,000 mile service seven months before the knocking and wasn't due for another service for another month.
However, Fiat Chrysler denied his appeal and his claim. The car sat, useless, in the shop, with the engine pulled out. "It was a terrible feeling,'' he said. "This is the brand I love, I've been so loyal all these years so to be treated this way was horrible.''
He contacted ABC7 News' 7 On Your Side and the team contacted Fiat Chrysler. The company reviewed the case and questioned the Putnam manager about McDonough's history with the company. And it decided to cover the cost of a new engine after all, saying it was "based on the fact that Mr. McDonough had all of his oil changes performed at the dealer and was a loyal customer.''
McDonough was thrilled. The jeep has a new engine and a new clutch. He estimates the coverage saved him $8,000. Now, he's back on the open road, top down, wind in his hair. "You guys were my last shot, my Hail Mary,'' he said of the ABC7 team. "I think 7 On Your Side is excellent."