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Published March 01, 2010, 04:41 PM

Warranty woes: The lost attribute of lasting

TOWNER, N.D. — They just don’t make ’em like they used to. It seems like I’m becoming more of an old codger making grumpy quotes like that everyday, especially every day that something just a few years old quits working.

By: Ryan Taylor,

TOWNER, N.D. — They just don’t make ’em like they used to. It seems like I’m becoming more of an old codger making grumpy quotes like that everyday, especially every day that something just a few years old quits working.

I’ve pretty much given up on DVD players. I think we’ve been through four of them since we started having kids. The last one only made it about two months. You can successfully train kids to not demolish the delicate little movie player, but as soon as we get one trained, we have another little destroyer in that prime 12- to 24-month-old range to take a whack at the latest digital disc investment.

I’m either going to see if I can get a good deal on a dozen of them and dole them out every few months after kid-induced crashes or quit buying them altogether until the youngest enters kindergarten and the player has some chance of survival.

But I guess you can’t expect much for $24.99. I get a lot more excited about the big-ticket items that go to heck early in their life.

Timed obsolescence

Warranties from manufacturers give us a little hope that things might last. My diesel pickup had a seven-year, 70,000 mile warranty. I’m too old to cruise Main Street, so the pickup odometer rolled over pretty slowly as I saved it for heavy hauling and bigger jobs.

At the end of seven years, it had 69,000 miles on it. Six months later, it started running rough and they told me it needed a new injection pump, a little $2,000 repair that was just hanging on while the warranty lapsed.

The pickup cost plenty when it was bought, but now it’s higher yet. $40,000 to replace the pickup, $2,000 to replace the pump — we picked the pump. You’d kind of think a $40,000 machine would at least make 100,000 miles before any major repairs.

In hindsight, I kind of remember the motor having a hiccup before the warranty ran out. I guess I should have hustled it to the dealer instead of turning the radio up.

Cold storage

The fanciest fridge I ever had breathed its last cool breath at 7 years of age, just two years past its warranty when its compressor died.

The ice maker quit a month ago. Then I opened the freezer door for some ice cream and found pure cream, no ice to it at all. The repairman said for the cost of a compressor, we’d be better off replacing the fridge.

I’m sure the old one will make a nice thousand-dollar shelf in the shop. I can keep grease cartridges in the condiment shelves and bolts in the vegetable crisper drawer.

So for now, we’re without a refrigerator in the house. We moved everything out of the new fridge and into the “old fridge” in the garage. Our old fridge is the 1975 model that we bought for $75 at a yard sale that probably cost $75 a month in electricity. But at least it works, and its 35 years old.

That fridge is a Montgomery Ward, the retailer that closed its department stores in 2001. My parents had a fridge made by International Harvester, the same folks who built tractors; that still was going strong after 40 years when they unplugged it.

You can’t get a fridge from either of those outfits anymore. I suppose their appliances lasted so long they never got any repeat sales. That’s the harsh business reality of making things that last forever.

But I know at least one guy drinking a warm glass of ice cream who’d give them his business if they were still around. No warranty required.

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