Wanted to update on two incidents that happened with my car.
The first one, I was returning to Hyderabad from Pondicherry after an excellent vacation when suddenly, just an hour into the return home, I see TPMS alert for my rear left tyre. I gently pull over the shoulder to inspect the tyre, to find a small animal bone stuck deep in the sidewall of my rear wheel. Since I was just 20 KM away from Tindivanam, managed to drive there to get a temporary fix. The guy who fixed it was confident it would last awhile, but was not confident of the 600 KM journey I was to make back home. The placement of puncture was pretty awkward, just on the sidewall, where there is maximum pressure. Tried to take a cautious approach and called up Volvo service in Chennai. The Service Advisor I spoke to also recommended getting it checked since I was traveling along with family and the last thing I wanted was to get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The temporary fix on the Tyre
So, with a slight detour, we made it to the service center in Chennai. The SA and the mechanic looked at the tyre and recommend we replace it. The major reason was, one, the puncture was a little big, two; it was on the sidewall where there would be a maximum stress on the wheel and there are chances of tyre giving way when driving for long at relatively high speeds with a loaded car. However, they mentioned I would not get any insurance money for the tyre replacement. Even though I had a comprehensive package including tyres, they exclude punctures.
I consulted with my SA in Hyderabad and shared pictures with him as well and he also could not give a re-assurance that I could travel back safely. I contemplated for a while and decided to err on the side of caution and went ahead with the tyre replacement from Volvo itself. That set me back by 25K. They did not have a Michelin in stock, so had to go for a Pirelli. The replacement itself was fast and efficient and was back on the road in an hour.
I recorded the Journey from Pondy to Hyderabad on my dashcam and posted it on YouTube, for those interested can have a look here:
The second incident happened last week when I was going on a quick getaway from Hyderabad to a small town in Chhattisgarh called Keshkal. Somewhere on the Chhattisgarh roads, a few hours away from my destination my car hit a pothole hard (But not the worst I have been on) and after that I started hearing creaking/groaning noises from the front of the car near the tyres, especially when turning them and when they hit an uneven path of the road. A quick examination revealed it was coming from the springs. Nothing we could do at this point, so drove down to Keshkal and showed it to a local mechanic with the hope that if it was a minor issue, it could be fixed. He looked around and observed some broken plastics from the top of the suspension springs and promptly advised not to drive the car and get Volvo to fix it. Now knowing that the problem was bigger than I originally thought, called Volvo RSA who arranged the car to be picked up and sent over to Volvo Raipur, which was around 150 KM away. The flatbed reached my location in four hours, and they loaded my vehicle in 30 minutes and were on their way. By the time the flatbed reached Raipur, it was around 11 PM on Friday night, so it would only be the next day anyone would look at the car.
A heartbreaking sight to see your car being loaded on to a flatbed
Next day morning sharp at 10 A.M, I called Volvo Raipur who connected me to an SA, and I explained the problem with my car and the urgency to get it fixed as I need to travel back to Hyderabad on Sunday and currently it was Saturday. The SA said he would look at the car and get back to me. I also expressed my disappointment on something like this happening on a pothole which makes it un-drivable basically anywhere in India.
The SA called me back a few hours later and explained that the shock absorber copper mounts on both sides in the front have broken and need to be replaced and worst part; they did not have them in stock, so he had placed an order for them and the earliest they would receive it would be on Monday and depending on when he would receive it I would get the car Monday Evening or Tuesday. This was disappointing for me since I would now have to stay back for a few days to get my car. The only silver lining was Volvo would replace the parts under warranty, as it is unlikely that both mounts would fail together, so there was no cost on the repair/replacement involved.
Therefore, I planned to stay in Keshkal till Sunday as part of our original plan and, once my friends head back to Hyderabad, I would go to Raipur.
I remembered that the RSA had offered me a cab to Raipur when I called them initially; (The Roadside Assistance form Volvo has Cab fare covered for up to 100KM and they would arrange it as well) So, I called them back, but they refused, saying that it needs to be taken up at the time of the incident and not later. A little back and forth later, they said they will talk to the Dealer. A lady from Volvo Raipur called me and told me they would arrange a pickup and realized that the day I wanted a pickup was a Sunday and they would be closed, again I expressed my displeasure and requested her to help out, she said she would come back to me and an hour later I get call from Volvo RSA saying they would arrange a cab for me. But I need to pay for extra KM. From my location to the hotel, I booked (near the service center) was 175 KM and they would calculate return as well, so total would be 350 KM out of which 200KM Volvo would pay and for 150 KM I need to pay. The cost was still less than what I would have to end up paying if I hired a cab of my own and so I agreed for a cab to be sent to me at 9 A.M on Sunday. The lady from Volvo Raipur called me to check if all arrangements were made and gave her number to reach out to for any assistance while on the road or in Raipur.
At this point, I must say Volvo Raipur really impressed me. The lady I spoke to was really good, empathetic, understood my issues and pulled strings with Volvo RSA to get my cab arranged and gave me her number in case I needed help. This was great customer service from her.
I spend Sunday twiddling my thumbs and called the SA first thing Monday morning. Luckily, parts have arrived, and SA started work on priority. After fixing parts, they did an elaborate test drive and since I was driving back to Hyderabad; they gave a quick check up to the car and then a nice clean wash, all this for no charge. I finally got the car in my hand in the evening and started going to Nagpur. I took a short night halt in Nagpur and started early morning to Hyderabad and was at home for lunch. The car did throw up an airbag alert when I started from Nagpur and I was pretty confident it was a software issue, a cold reboot of the car took care of it.
The Airbag alert which went away after a cold reboot
My final observations:
- RSA is a must, makes life easy if you are stranded. My Volo RSA expires after two years from the date of purchase. After that I need to check if I can extend it. Most insurance policies also offer it. My existing insurance has it but itís not as comprehensive as Volvoís.
- The problem with cars like Volvo is their service coverage. By sheer luck, Raipur had it. If not, then I would have been in a world of trouble. Imaging if it had to be taken back to Hyderabad or Indore for service.
- Can their RSA be trained to do minor repairs and carry common parts? Not sure how feasible this is.
- There was no network coverage of Airtel for most of my route in Chhattisgarh. Imagine beings stranded completely with no way to call. I will buy a cell one/ Jio sim and keep it in the car. Luckily, I was not immobilized.
I spoke to the SA why this could happen, and he mentioned the vehicle weighs a lot and thus needs stiffer suspension to support the weight and sometimes stiffer suspension setup might become vulnerable to such impacts. Again, just speculation.
Volvo India should localize a little, understand the road conditions, and strengthen parts to withstand wear and tear of the road conditions. There was an Eco Sport riding along with us and they were fine when going through the same pothole. Might not be a fair comparison, but makes a car that costs 50L + on the road appear fragile. A little disappointed in a brand that focuses heavily on safety.
Also, a shout out to the folks at Volvo Raipur, this is the premium service we expect from a premium brand, great ownership, considerate to the customer and good follow up and timely updates. They made the total experience less painful.
Will this hinder my road trips? No, but you bet every time I am going on an Interstate trip, I will be pro-actively looking for service availability at destination and everywhere in-between.