I had a Mercedes SDL odometer reading approximately miles During...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

I had a 1987 Mercedes 300 SDL, odometer reading approximately 32,000 miles. During a recommended change of antifreeze at the dealer's, I asked to purchase a new cigarette lighter for the dash. The mechanic, experience 38 years plus, told parts I did not need a lighter, that he would fix the problem. When I picked up my car, the mechanic told me he had tightened "something" and spread "something." I thanked him and left. The first time I tried to use the lighter, it did not pop out, the car caught fire and was totaled. My insurance company compensated me for the "replacement value," but the dealership has refused to take any responsibility for this. They say that somehow the fire was my fault. Was it?

TOM: I doubt it Norma. Not unless you've been tampering with your fuses in your spare time.

RAY: It seems pretty clear that the mechanic adjusted the cigarette lighter a little too tightly. And as a result, the lighter failed to pop out and the wires overheated.

TOM: What SHOULD have happened next is that the fuse should have blown. That's what fuses are for; they're supposed to sacrifice themselves in order to prevent a fire.

RAY: But who knows why your fuse didn't blow. Maybe the wrong fuse was in there? Maybe there was no fuse in there at all? At this point, it's going to be almost impossible to prove one way or the other.

TOM: All we've proven is that this particular dealer--by blaming you-- is not very interested in keeping you as a customer. So if I were you, I'd take my "replacement value" and replace the Mercedes somewhere else.

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