The Car That Cried WolfThe Car That Cried Wolf

My wife and I were happily driving down the road when her car emitted a system alarm. The displayed show red, so I knew it wasn’t good. First was an icon of a car on a hoist, implying a need for service. Next I noticed the word brake, suggesting an issue with the brakes. I tested the brakes and nothing seemed amiss. I continued driving, albeit with care, as Candy pulled out the owner’s manual to learn the extent of the problem.

What she discovered caused great concern: “vehicle electronics failed” and “you cannot continue on your journey; contact your dealer.” The only things I could think of that was brake related and so dire was not enough brake fluid or a ruptured brake line.

It was Sunday, and we were far from the dealer. We had no real option but to continue driving, though I did test the brakes before each red light and allowed ample room to stop. When we safely returned home, I parked the car, and Candy emailed the dealer.

When the service department finally got back to us, the situation was much less ominous: either the brake pads were worn or the brake pad sensor had malfunctioned. They said we could continue driving the car, but should have it checked within a couple of weeks. That’s far different than “you cannot continue your journey.”

So the next time her car beeps and flashes red, I’ll give it far less concern. Even if the warning is genuine, I’ll likely dismiss it, because that’s what happens when a car cries wolf.

[This is from the May 2014 issue of Peter DeHaan’s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

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2 Comments

  • Cara Posted January 21, 2015 10:46 am

    Peter, this is very helpful — pretty much sums up what happened to my mini. I have 2007 Cooper with 47K miles. Curious what maintenance you ended up getting — and perhaps if you could provide a cost range I’d very much appreciate getting prepared! Thanks, Cara

    • Peter DeHaan Posted January 21, 2015 2:25 pm

      Cara, my local mechanic fixed the brake issue (brake pads and sensor) for about $200. As I recall, the dealer gave a verbal quote of over $500.

      I wish you the best in your repairs!

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