Issue with my 2012 Volt and Onstar pricing

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The usual. As I have two large solar PV systems here, and my lab assistant just put one in, and others are interested in things like this, here's where that stuff goes. This is mostly for things that work now, not "gee someday a fusor will do this" -- we know that, but it's not someday yet.
The hope is to save anyone embarking on this sort of thing a lot of wasted time and money, as at least I have been off the grid since 1980 and have had a lot of practice (and made mistakes you won't have to).

Issue with my 2012 Volt and Onstar pricing

Postby Doug Coulter » Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:41 pm

Well, one at time here. I got an "engine light" on my 2012 Volt. I pushed the OnStar button and they said it was an emissions issue, no big deal, get in the next week or two. I kind of assumed they meant I could probably wait a bit longer, since I drive less than most (13000 miles since Oct 2011). At any rate, running the engine some on a trip slightly out of range turned the light back off, and I forgot about it. Later on, it came back on, and running the engine a bit (had to do fuel maintenance, so it was a long run that didn't help my mileage any) and that didn't fix it.

So, I call up the stealership, in this case Pinkerton Chevy in Salem, VA, and make an appointment - the earliest they can give me is the next week, Monday AM.
I show up, but their Volt guy didn't. I need an inspection sticker, and frankly, the only reason I drove all the way up to Salem (way out of battery range) was to get that light turned off, as my local guy won't pass a car if it has so much as a bug on the windshield, much less an error light. Needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed at that point. They offered to at least put an inspection sticker on it, for free (nice of them), if I'd wait for that, and reschedule for the engine light deal.

Well, I have a CCW and in fact had a gun (Taurus .38 ultralight Ti, crimson trace for the gun guys out there) in the umbrella tray, so I pointedly removed the gun (in a holster) and shoved it into my back pocket, with the grip hanging out, mentioning that I didn't want to be liable if it fell into the wrong hands. This got me a look of utter shock and fear from the service manager, and a wink from the biker-looking dude (mechanic?) standing next to him. I proceed to their waiting room, as their sales guys all find a way to avoid me asking for a loaner while they recharge my Volt as promised. With the gun visibly hanging out my back pocket, I proceed to watch an excellent but very violent movie (Captain America, the Winder Soldier, highly recommended for a good portrayal of how slick evil can be and how easy it is to fool good people, if you can get past the biff-pow stuff or enjoy that anyway). This made some of the other folks waiting quite nervous. The other old-farts like myself just pulled out their own gadgets and played on them themselves.

Needless to say, my car was ready very very quickly, but of course, no charge in either $ or watt-hours. Kinda funny in a way. I have no idea if this trick would work for solar_dave or not - here people tend to freak out easily over guns in large cities. It's interesting that the other old-farts didn't think a thing about it - they have more practice judging character?

So, I go get in the car out in the lot, and call OnStar, since they long-since stole my initial minutes on the carphone, to buy some more, and get directions to a friend's house I rarely get to visit. I discover that minutes are still nearly a dollar each (ugh) and still don't roll over very long, so I buy the minimum number, about 30 bucks worth. The OnStar rep, not as polite as what I usually get, reminded me my 3 year free trial runs out in November, and wants to use my credit card to renew - 1 year for $300 or 29.95/month (automatically charges your card each month). Well, that's three times the cost of a GPS, and I use directions and connections perhaps one minute a year...kinda expensive on a per minute basis eh? The only service this appears to offer is that they will actually look to see if there's say, a good restaurant nearby - GPS does everything else.

So, I told the rep this is utterly ridiculous (I actually asked if they were kidding on those prices) and nope, they mean it. So I told them to opt me out of renewal, and bitched that I should NOT HAVE TO DO THAT AT ALL - it should be opt-in. They promised to cancel my CC info, and indeed, I got an email today saying yes, the free trial is running out and they'll be charging my card at the higher monthly rate. Shades of Sirius! So I replied to the email with information on how to contact my attorney, which of course, bounced, since they don't listen to their customers or make it easy to actually get ahold of them.

Not to worry, they'll meet my lawyer if they charge my card. This isn't a charge-back issue, it's a matter of principle.
So today, I'm the proud new owner of a Garmin Nuvi 52 from Amazon, for about $100. It seems to work great, it even seems to stick to the windshield well.
I just took a test run with it, and it was within a few feet of my actual location - just as good as OnStar. I've not checked out the directions to places I don't know how to get to yet, but I will and report on how that works out. Frankly, no service I've used gets it right around here, they send you all over hell, might look OK on their map, but their maps don't necessarily show the tight switchbacks with a cliff on both sides on a difficult unpaved route vs a good way to get somewhere alive.
At least the Garmin got all the street names right, and around here, that's a real challenge even for those who live here. Many roads change names 4-5 times along their length - named after the farm you're going by and such. There are roads you can drive in a circle 25 miles in circumference, and if you don't turn off, just go around forever, as well as roads that change name and number as you drive across the top of a T. No kidding, this is a place to get lost, but the Garmin showed it knew it all, even where the creeks and rivers are and where they're near a road you're on. Kewl. So, for something under 1/4th the price of OnStar for one year and one vehicle, I got a Garmin, which BTW comes with charging cords etc and a mount - don't fall for the extra junk on Amazon if you don't need it - which works on BOTH my vehicles - also my 2007 Honda truck that came without such frippery.

And oh, after driving to my friend's shop and home (all on gasoline by this point) and then home to my place (another 55 miles), the engine light went out and has stayed out since. Probably some insect crawled into an O2 sensor and died or something, though it ran perfectly light on, or not.

Sadly, my mileage since Jan 1, 2012 till now went from 242+ mpg to 235 as a result, and my lifetime (first few months were all gasoline to break it in so I could put in good oil) from 141 mpg to 139, half of which I got back already. I'm still at 250+ for this year since Jan 1 2014, so I guess I can't bitch too loudly.

I found out something else I think I've mentioned, but I should again. The Volt will burn almost anything flammable at all. But it DOES get vastly better mileage on better gas, best is 93 octane with no ethanol, which has exceeded 41 mpg on just gas (and that was on a super highway and going quite fast, not hypermiling like I usually do). If you get the cheapest ethanol regular it goes down to 26 mpg - hypermiling. That variable cam timing really does work! Obviously, this is more than the difference in price would indicate - you're better off with the better stuff even at a much higher price for it.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Doug Coulter
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Re: Issue with my 2012 Volt and Onstar pricing

Postby solar_dave » Sun Sep 14, 2014 9:00 am

Hey Doug what was the final diagnoses on the emissions problem? Our 2011 was over filled by the dealer and saturated the charcoal canister.

While no CCW permit is required in AZ, most businesses are posting signs that no weapons allowed and so if you have one there it is a violation of the law.
My 2012 Volt will run out of Onstar in about 2 months, I'll let you know how it goes with them. I read someplace that if you let it expire they will come back with a better price about a month later.

I guess you should change my login as well to Dave Shiels. ;) ;)

The wife's 2011 (#2140) lifetime MPG is 381 with about 11K miles and my 2012 (#8885) is 326 with about 25K miles and mine has several road trips on it. So far these are the cheapest to operate cars I have ever owned, just a couple oil changes and tire rotations and one alignment on the 2012. Both are really solid vehicles. Our percent EV on both is about 90%. The wife got burned on a Fuel Maintenance burn a couple times, she has both gas anxiety and range anxiety so tends to add too much gas annually, otherwise she would have a much higher set of numbers. LOL :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Dave Shiels

My TED 5000 power monitoring
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Location: Phoenix, AZ

Re: Issue with my 2012 Volt and Onstar pricing

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:44 am

OnStar never gave me a code number, and the Volt tech wasn't available. It either fixed itself or was one of those code reset things from just the dealer hooking up their computer to the CAN bus (OBDII).

A CCW is required here (for concealed, and in winter, what you gonna do, strap it to your hat?), and open carry is only done by very few. I find that out in the country, no one really notices, or if they do, the response is obviously positive - they know me and know I'm a good guy - a smile goes a long way - the twinkle in the eye says enough. Move just a few miles toward a city, it all changes dramatically. I've even had guys twice my size (high school bullies who never grew up?) get up in my face about a permit for open carry - when none is required, if I was near say, Blacksburg where there was a school shooting a few years back. One wonders what would be going through the mind of that guy since I could obviously just blow him away if I wanted to, with him (attempting) starting a fight in front of witnesses. I just grin and say, yeah, I have a permit (and don't mention it's simply the 2nd amendment). I guess I just don't look enough like an off duty (or even undercover) cop to suit some people. Seems all too many think only cops should have guns at all. I'd guess the founders of this country are now puking while spinning in their graves due to the lack of quality of the people that's now being displayed, along with the sins of government. Or just weeping.

The dealership had no signs for "no guns". It's simply "not done" in that area to have one, so they didn't think of it, I suppose. We have a group here called VCDL which is like NRA on steroids, I'm a member - they have handout cards with the actual laws on them (handy for when you run into a cop who thinks there must be one that doesn't actually exist) and also for "no guns, no $ from us" to leave at businesses that do have the signs. They've been pretty useful and have had a bunch of municipal over-reach laws overturned, as well as educating the cops and 911 operators to ask questions like "is the gun in a holster?" when some self-panicked soccer mom calls the cops and says "there's a man with a gun in this restaurant" and hangs up. On a couple occasions, when the cops did show up, they found the owner of the place very glad to have a VCDL meeting in their place - no fear, we're good guys, and good business for the owner when 40 guys show up for food. It's all about perception. Most of us make people feel safer.

I kind of suspect that yes, OnStar will be like Sirius and go to ever lower prices the longer you hold out. Since I have my own music (around 6k albums) on mp3 usb sticks...well, Sirius at least, is toast. The fidelity stank anyway, and I care. And there's this thing called broadcast radio which isn't quite dead yet.

Yes, one of the funnest things about the Volt was that time I sat in it and my butt hurt. It was because of a huge excess of cash in my wallet, due to not buying gas anymore, but not yet having adjusted my cash withdrawal plan from the bank. Boy was that ever a great feeling! And yes, the thing has been rock-solid, a great hypermiler when I want that - enjoy the ride and view - and also still kicks butt on ricky rice-racer on the twisties. Just a great car. GM's for sure made some turkeys, but this isn't one of them, and I've been life-long lucky not to ever have had one that was. In fact, the only car that's ever stranded me was a pinto (timing belt snapped). The only actual issue I've had with the Volt is the too-weak spring on the charge door, easily fixed with some MoS2 I had around anyway (bullet lube for benchrest shooting ammo). Non conductive, unlike graphite, and lasts "forever".

I get engine maintenance burns and fuel maintenance. I've found the best way to keep the latter low is to just not have much gas in there, so you don't have to add much to get that turned off. Just burn off the old stuff, then add new - no big deal if you were only carrying a quarter tank in the first place (burn half that), then you add very little to turn that mode back off. Bonus is you're not carrying that extra weight all the time either. I think their stale gas indicator is a little quick - probably calibrated for winter-blend high ethanol that goes bad quicker. It's been my plan to try and always have "summer blend" gas in the thing, but it "goes off" a bit quick and I sometimes have to buy a little "winter blend" gas to shut that off. You probably don't have that issue where you are, but we do. They go to high vapor pressure-lower energy/gallon gas here for winter. The Volt couldn't care less, having the hugest "starter motor" on the planet, and the summer blend is far more BTU/buck.
I wouldn't notice it starting if not for the dashboard display.

I'm still at 250+ for 2014. I'll probably burn some more gas on purpose in the cold months, for once, you get it all - waste heat for the cabin, energy for the drive/batteries. I wish it had a feature sometimes that would shut down charge at 90% or so - you could get the full benefit easier and start right off warm in the winter without any waste at all - the engine won't charge an already full battery, and my first few miles are downhill anyway. I often don't have spare shore power in the AM here to preheat the thing. And in any case, an 800w ceramic heater does the job with a lot less watt-hours on shore power than "pre-starting" does.

Hey, I can change your login if you like. The only reason we've been pestering the new guys is that many of them aren't actually here by invite (I opened registration for a few days to save myself some work when there was a huge flood of requests - 20k in two days), we don't know them and so on - yet. You and say, Starfire (John Hendron) we know, and we know you guys are cool. Yeah, I know, mixed message problems. I get accusations of elitism, but I tend to shrug them off. There really is a range of quality in humans, and this is my ball and bat. If they want, they can start their own board, but no one will want to join because if you let anyone in, there's no quality there, or it's buried. And there's already plenty of other sites.

What interesting is that the few I missed during that open time now are applying via the correct method and with real names...but if you let people do it, they all want to be anonymous trolls, it seems. Or people assume we have secret forums for members, which we don't. Funny old world (projection?). At least this time I was able to avoid nearly all the spambots. Most of them appear to use a pure-random character generator for usernames, whereas people who use silly 'nyms at least look like human-generated stuff. Of course, 'nyms like 666pureEvil666 I simply ignored. Duh, really?
Surely they jest - this is a civilized place, for grownups. If you bothered to read any of this, it's obvious. If you didn't - we probably don't want you here anyway.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Doug Coulter
Posts: 2944
Joined: Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:05 pm
Location: Floyd county, VA, USA

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