While I was on my most recent California trip, I had my pickup truck dropped off at the dealership for some more warranty repairs. If you’ve been following this story for a while, you know that my GMC Canyon has a storied past of issues with the transmission, even though it has just barely over 12,000 miles on it.
As a reminder, just under a year ago, I did an owner’s review where I listed off all the problems I had encountered during my half year of ownership, one of which was a lurching and jerking transmission. The worst part about this was that all the dealerships I brought it to said that the transmission was working as intended, and everything was in fantastic shape. AutoNation Buick GMC Henderson sent it back to me twice saying that my transmission had no problems, and when I asked a Cadillac dealership that was fixing my flat tire, they said they did an inspection and found nothing wrong either.
Not long after my issues with AutoNation Buick GMC Henderson, I discovered that there’s actually a class-action lawsuit against General Motors for their 8-speed automatic transmission that’s currently in my GMC Canyon. After figuring this out, it all “made sense,” and it was clear why my truck was just being sent right back to me with the claim that everything is fine—General Motors was allegedly telling the dealerships to do exactly that. I enrolled as a contributor for the class action lawsuit and worked with a lawyer initially, but haven’t heard back with anything more. I did a bit of digging recently, and apparently the latest in the case is that General Motors filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Eventually, the transmission lurches got so bad that I felt like I still had to keep trying and take it back to a dealership. Even if they wouldn’t fix it, I still needed to have all this logged in the vehicle’s history so if I do pursue legal action, I have plenty of evidence demonstrating that I attempted to get it fixed. Seeing as AutoNation Buick GMC Henderson’s technicians were wildly unhelpful and disconnected my dash cam, which made me suspicious of them, I decided to go with a different GMC dealership, AutoNation Buick GMC West Sahara.
Now, I already wasn’t really a fan of AutoNation Buick GMC West Sahara, because I actually initially tried to purchase my vehicle from them, but my salesperson stopped responding to me, so I went and bought the vehicle from AutoNation Buick GMC Henderson instead. Regardless, I went online and set up an appointment with West Sahara, then followed up with a phone call to let them know that I would need a loaner vehicle while my truck was dropped off. Aaron said that he would call me back and let me know when a loaner would be available, but he didn’t call me back for a month.
Literally a month later, I called them back and spoke with Aaron, asking him what was going on. Apparently, they had zero loaners come through for the past entire month. Now obviously, that could mean one of two things: either Aaron was lying and he just forgot to call me back, or they are actually literally so bad at fixing vehicles that they have been keeping people’s cars and trucks in the shop for over a month at a time, which in the latter case, I wouldn’t want them to be the ones fixing my truck anyway.
At this point, I just wanted answers, so I went to a highly-rated private mechanic in southwest Las Vegas. I asked them to do an oil change, and while they had my truck, I also requested a multi-point comprehensive inspection. Within an hour or so, they had everything done and said that there was severe damage to the transmission, and that the problem had not been addressed for so long that the transmission had irreparable damage that would cost about US$8,000.00 to fix.
Now at this point, I was a little conflicted as to how to feel. I was relieved that at least someone acknowledged I wasn’t going absolutely insane and that there was indeed a problem… but the repair cost that they quoted me was unusually high—higher than what I would estimate it would cost to replace my current transmission with a brand new one. So did that imply that the transmission had damaged other parts of my truck too?
Regardless, the repair cost didn’t matter, because the private dealership refused to service my transmission. They said they would not make me pay several thousand dollars to fix a transmission that is still under warranty, and the service manager helped me schedule an appointment with another different dealership so they could actually look at my truck. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of coordinating and waiting for a loaner, but the timing was fortunate enough that I could drop it off before my two-week California trip, so that’s what I did.
Fast forward to now, and I picked up my truck at Fairway Buick GMC. My service advisor was surprisingly competent and professional, and he realized that what he was about to tell me wasn’t something that I wanted to hear, but he said that the problem with my transmission wasn’t actually as severe as I may have thought. He is unsure why the private mechanic thought there was $8,000 worth of damage, but he said that the mechanics were able to fix the transmission’s shifting problems.
According to the service report, my guess is that they took the steps covered by this service bulletin:
Problem: One of the more common 8L transmission problems is excessively hard or abrupt gear changes.
Solution: The TCM may need to be recalibrated with the latest control software. It could also be caused by one or more of the clutch fill times not being learned by the TCM. In which case, the Service Fast Learn (SFL) procedure will have to be performed. Should the problems persist, the valve body will need to be replaced.
I’m not sure if they pretended like all they did was a recalibration, but they actually replaced the transmission or something, and they’re not allowed to tell me because of General Motors’ orders. It’s very possible that the private mechanic was just telling me what I wanted to hear to make me a happy customer. I’m not an expert with the inner workings of automobiles, so I may never know.
But my truck’s transmission is buttery smooth now.
It drives like the day I bought it.
I feel like, after this, I think I might have even more questions than answers, but at this point, I’m just thankful that my truck doesn’t jerk backwards like it crashed into something every time I accelerate from low speeds.
That question was obviously a result of my recent blog post about my Indonesian stingray rowstone belt, in which I also referenced my white smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt, both belts being made out of unusually exotic leathers. Now I definitely think that stingray and crocodile fall in the realm of “normal” when considering types of belts, but when other people say “normal,” I imagine they’re thinking about less exotic leathers, like cowhide. I have an Italian full grain leather belt hand-crafted in Rutland, England by the British Belt Company, which they designed as part of a partnership with Massdrop. I actually got this belt for free because Massdrop (today known as just “Drop”) used to be partnered with Tempo Storm, and as part of the partnership, they sent me a care package with a bunch of Massdrop goodies. Back when they first sent me my samples, I did an unboxing and review of the Jessica GMK Plum custom keycap set and GMK Carbon add-on keycap kit, as well as a photoshoot and review of the NuForce EDC in-ear monitors. I was planning on doing a review of this belt as well, but Massdrop ended up not renewing their partnership with Tempo Storm, so I never actually got around to doing it. I used to wear this belt a lot when jeans were my pants of choice a few years ago—I would throw on this natural brown leather belt and wear brown leather boots to match. Nowadays, I’ve gotten quite a liking for slim-fit, ultra stretchy, Asian-made biker pants. They look slightly stiff and bulky on the outside, which makes them seem uncomfortable considering how tight they fit, but they’re actually the most comfortable and flexible pants I’ve ever worn. A vegetable-tanned, natural brown leather belt doesn’t really match too well with those kinds of pants, which is why I opted for black and white exotic skins. Regardless, the Italian leather belt is actually really nice. One of my favorite features about leather products is when the clean cuts are shown on the sides and aren’t covered up in any kind of glazing or edge paint; this belt by the British Belt Company shows those raw cuts. It also has an everlasting aroma of leather (I got this belt over two years ago and it still has the rich, pleasant leather smell), and it’s one of those leathers that develops a gorgeous patina over time. I believe you can snag one of these for less than $50, which makes it one of the most affordable leather products in my wardrobe, and if you’re a new leather goods enthusiast (or one on a tight budget), this is definitely a great starter item. Although I don’t actively wear mine anymore, I’ll be keeping it safely stored in my closet, because my dress preferences will almost certainly change as time goes on, and this belt may compliment some of my preferred outfits again in the future.
I post pictures of my truck on my website once in a while, and with my recent ravaging rant about the Tesla Cybertruck, people began to pick up on the fact that I might be a car guy. Unfortunately, they would be terribly wrong, because I just happen to like pickup trucks a little bit and am not really that knowledgeable about cars… but that didn’t stop people from asking me the age-old question, “What is your dream five-car garage?”
When other people are asked this, they list off their five favorite supercars. What’s interesting about asking me this question though, as opposed to anyone else, is that I actually hate supercars. I think they’re some of the most non-functional and non-practical machines in existence, and I would never buy a supercar unless I was provided one such that I could sell it and make a profit.
With that being said, in order to maximize my profits, my dream five-car garage would be a Bugatti La Voiture Noire, Rolls-Royce Sweptail, Bugatti Centodieci, Mercedes-Maybach Exelero, and Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita. At today’s market rates, I would sell all of them for just shy of US$50 million, instantly retire, and set myself up for the rest of my life. … Yes, I literally just Googled “the most expensive cars in the world.”
That would be a very boring way to answer that question, though, so I’m going to follow along with the spirit of the question and give you the perspective of what five vehicles would compose a dream five-car garage of a not-car-guy and someone who hates supercars.
#1. RAM 1500 Rebel
Right off the bat, a vehicle that is notably missing from this list is the GMC Canyon, the truck that I currently drive. When I first bought my truck, I thought it was the best truck ever, then a bunch of problems kept coming up, culminating in me discovering that there’s literally a class-action lawsuit against General Motors in regards to a defective transmission that my truck has. That, combined with the fact that every GMC service center that I’ve been to so far in Las Vegas seems to be wildly incompetent, and, even though I think GMC and Chevrolet trucks have the nicest exteriors, I never want to deal with GM ever again.
Instead, I want to swap out my daily driver with a RAM Rebel. I’ve always been a fan of this truck, and after I randomly got it as a rental vehicle when I went to Nebraska to meet up with Jordan King and go on a road trip to Minneapolis and basically test drove it for 1,000 miles, I received confirmation that the RAM Rebel is an awesome truck.
Similar to my current GMC Canyon, I would probably modify the RAM Rebel a moderate amount—enough to make it stand out from other RAM Rebels, but not so much that it looks like a ricer. I’d start with the functional essentials: a tonneau cover so I can use my bed for storage, bed liner so the stuff I keep in my bed doesn’t slide around too much, and ceramic tint on all windows so I don’t melt to death in the Las Vegas sun.
Something else I consider a borderline essential is a grille guard, which I ideally would get in the form of a full brush guard. I noticed that there aren’t really any grille guards available for the RAM Rebel (and I imagine that you can’t just stick a normal RAM 1500 brush guard on because the Rebel is wider), so I’m not sure how I would proceed there.
As for visual improvements, I’d stick with a conservative leveling kit (I think massive lifts look a bit silly and just put you at greater risk of rollovers); and get my tow hooks, brake calipers, and badges painted in matte gold (I initially thought about red tow hooks and calipers, but I realized that red is a bit overdone).
I’m actually more of a fan of the RAM 2500 Power Wagon than the Rebel, but the Power Wagon is just a bit too big to be realistically usable as a daily driver. Even my current mid-size truck is 220″ long with a crew cab configuration and an additional ~8″ of grille guard; when I park in parking lots, I can usually hang my bed over a divider or something, but when I park in parking garages, I back into the spot with literal inches to spare and I’m still dangerously close to jutting out into the road. The Rebel is almost 10″ longer than my GMC Canyon, and the Power Wagon is almost another 10″ longer than the Rebel… so it becomes safe to assume that I would have a lot of trouble managing the vehicle as a daily driver.
#2. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
For some reason, I’m absolutely obsessed with the front fascia of modern-day Alfa Romeos. I love it so much that I almost bought an Alfa Romeo Giulia as my first vehicle back in 2018 before realizing that trucks are far more functional and useful, and got a pickup truck instead.
Even though I would use a RAM Rebel as my daily driver, there are still instances when having a much smaller vehicle is nice. Even in my narrow-body mid-size pickup truck, I’ve still had instances of trouble navigating in and out of small parking spaces in downtown areas of heavily-populated cities with small roads and tight parking lots. So, if I know I’m going somewhere where I know I’ll have troubles, I would use an Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
One of the reasons I’m going with a Stelvio instead of a Giulia is because I’m notoriously bad at avoiding obstacles in the road. That’s also one of the very many reasons why I got a pickup truck—having enough ground clearance and suspension travel means that I don’t have to worry too much about my apparent inability to see what’s in front of me. (To be clear, this is stuff like curbs and dips in the road; I’m not rampaging over literal solid obstructions in my path.) I wouldn’t say the Stelvio has a lot of ground clearance, but it’s definitely more than a sedan, which is helpful.
… And that’s about it. Those are the only two vehicles that I really need—one fun pickup truck and one nice-looking crossover. Of course, if I just end the list here, it would almost be as un-fun as just listing off the five most expensive cars in the world and saying that I would sell them all, so I’m going to continue… but the next one is a little unconventional.
#3. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Airstream Atlas Touring Coach
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to work from anywhere I want. A fun fact about me that most people don’t know is that I was considering buying a Chevrolet Suburban, stripping out the second and third rows of seats, and converting the back into a little livable area with a mattress and desk. I would then live in my SUV, traveling the country and avoiding paying rent. I planned on booking an Airbnb once in a while if I wanted to settle down for a week or two, but otherwise, I would constantly be on the road, taking showers at public gyms and eating almost exclusively at restaurants.
After thinking more carefully about it, I realized that that kind of lifestyle doesn’t really fit my personality style. I also discovered how great of a city Las Vegas was (I had been living in Los Angeles prior to that point), decided to make Las Vegas my new home, and also received some housing benefits from my employer that would allow me to break even with housing costs. I ultimately settled down and lived a normal life, and just got a small pickup truck instead.
A part of me still wants to travel the country and live out of a vehicle, because I’m a very curious person who gets bored a lot and likes experiencing new things. I think the biggest part of that lifestyle that conflicted with my personality would be that I would always be going in and out of public places for food and hygiene; because I’m a very private person, I would feel uncomfortable doing so. The thing that would make it okay for me is if there was more to my vehicle than just a mattress and a desk. That is to say, if I lived out of an RV instead of just an SUV, then I think the mobile lifestyle would be fun.
Being a Class B+ RV, the Airstream Atlas would come with a complete bathroom with a stand-up shower, toilet, and sink built straight into the vehicle. I’m actually very comfortable with being in small spaces, so I feel like getting one of these RVs and experiencing something new everyday would make me very happy.