I purchased full coverage insurance on a classic Mercedes Benz diesel car, a Toyota used for daily transportation and later added a 4X4 truck purchased from a dealership.
Labor Day 2011: The Mercedes was in a hit & Run accident where it was parked in the driveway. State Farm refused to come to my residence where the car was parked and was demanding I tow the car to a body shop. After several months, I was able to get an adjuster to examine the damaged car and provide scope of damages. I was issued a check that will not cover the repair cost as determined by an independent body shop located five miles away (the nearest repair shop). Its been over a year and my car is still smashed from this accident when the car was parked in its garaged space at my residence.
April 2012: all three of my vehicles were vandalized by someone pouring pinesol in all the under hood fluids on these vehicles. This includes the brake fluid, power steering, engine oil, radiator, automatic transmission and the diesel tank on this Mercedes.
The Toyota car was smoking; lacked power and the brakes suffered a total failure within a few days. Discovery of fine abrasive dirt was identified in the engine oil and power steering fluid. In addition, the brake pedal was very hard and would not apply the brakes from the foot pedal. The disc brakes were dragging constantly due to the fluid contamination in the master cylinder. Upon removal of the master cylinder, the fluid was jelled up and would not discharge through the brake lines or allow the fluid to return to the reservoir. I have been quoted $587 to replace the damaged brake parts after
the hydraulic system was flushed out with an approved solvent. *The complete braking system was installed on this vehicle six months before this vandalism occurred.
The Toyota engine was very sick from having soap in the engine oil, dirt has sandpapered the internal parts of the engine causing damage to all load bearing surfaces. The engine was burning oil and lacked power. I had two import dealers examine the engine after the engine was flushed of contaminants. Both dealership technicians reported the engine has low compression and considered the engine to be bad. One of the service writers wrote an estimate of $3,500 to replace the engine with a used part from a salvage yard. The engine oil was changed and sampled after 209 miles and the lab determined a particle count at a critical level indicating 80,000 4 micron particles per ml. Abnormal levels of particulate matter was identified at 6 microns, 14 microns, 21 microns and larger sizes that may not pass through the filter media. Wear metals were not identified through a standard test, but the engine oil appeared to be in very good condition as reported by an independent lab.
I have endured out of pocket expenses and loss of use from this vehicle during the diagnostic process and subjected to over twenty hours of shop labor performed on my own time without any compensation. It is unlikely State Farm will ever repair this vehicle back to its original condition or issue compensation for the labor and materials consumed. This Toyota car has over $4,000 damage to the engine and braking system making it a total loss, the car was insured to $3,000 when the policy was written.
The Chevrolet truck was purchased on the 3rd day of April 2012. Two days after taking delivery, the hood latch was pulled out of the kick panel inside the truck. The motor oil was overfilled and had a very dark brown color. The truck was just serviced by the car dealer and not due for service as indicated by a decal in the window. After 500 miles, the transmission began to shift in a strange way. The transmission was serviced and there was a discovery of dirt inside the filter and oil pan ($100 service). I have the belief the transmission fluid was gummed up with a household cleaning
product such as pine sol. The laboratory confirmed the transmission fluid is too dirty to remain in service and identified fuel dilution in the transmission. How does fuel get inside the transmission fluid? The lab reported that the fuel dilution could be any type of solvent including pinesol but there is no way to identify the difference as it showed up on the flash test. A fluid exchange was performed for $200 with no improvement. A chemical flush additive was used followed by a second fluid exchange and the transmission began to shift better but not as it did before the fluid contamination. A naphtha based transmission conditioner was also added to the fluid and showed some improvement with normal use. I spent over $500 to get the transmission to work at an acceptable standard. I am looking at spending $2,000 to get the transmission rebuilt to repair the damage caused by vandalism.
Dirt was discovered in the engine oil; it was immediately drained and refilled to prevent further damage. This truck was purchased to haul our personal belongings before we moved to a new house. It was also used to tow my classic Mercedes to its new home. This truck engine was severely damaged from the abrasive material poured I the motor oil and diluted with pine sol. I have reason to believe this happened at least two times until there was a catastrophic engine failure. After cleaning out the engine with solvent and new engine oil, the engine runs smoother. However, the fuel mileage is very poor and a heavy grade of oil was added to determine if the oil pressure would improve. The oil pressure increased 10 psi; State Farm told me a drop in oil pressure was not a concern. The low oil pressure remained after the oil was changed with the proper grade of oil (5W30). I observed a rod knock the last time the oil was changed indicating excessive wear inside the engine. This engine only has 40,000 miles on it since it was replaced and this type of engine typically runs 200K miles before it begins to develop issues from normal use. I am looking at spending a minimum of $3,000 to replace the engine due to criminal mischief.
The power steering began to squeal and there was very little power assists making it very difficult to drive this truck. The fluid was sucked out of the reservoir and saved for oil analysis. New power steering fluid improved the steering but there was particulate matter in the power steering pump and steering gear box. It is questionable if a fluid flush will fix the problem of erratic steering due to concerns of public safety. The lab identified the power steering fluid was very dirty and should be taken out of service. I am estimating $1,200 to replace the steering box and power steering pump as a safety precaution.
The brake fluid was also contaminated with something that caused the brakes to fade and was unreliable to stop a heavy vehicle. A Chevy dealership just bled the brakes before I took delivery of the truck in April and new fluid was sold to me; there should be no problem with the brake fluid. State Farm sampled the brake fluid and lost the sample; how does that happen? The insurance company lost the evidence and wanted to collect more fluid after it was diluted with new fluid. The braking performance improved by adding new fluid. The Chevrolet dealer quoted me $600 to replace the master cylinder and flush the brake lines. The entire brake system was dismantled, the master cylinder disassembled and cleaned. There was more jell in the master cylinder damaging the seals. The brake lines were reverse flushed, orange colored fluid came out of the ABS module indicating fluid contamination. After flushing the entire braking system with clean brake fluid, the truck will stop properly as it did after leaving the last dealership when the brakes were initially repaired In April 2012. This repair cost me four hours of shop labor to purge the contaminated fluid from the brake system using a pressure bleeder, three quarts of DOT 3 fluid, the system typically only holds one quart of fluid and other shop supplies.
The Mercedes Diesel Car:
This car just had a replacement engine installed and there was the same type of abrasive contaminant in the engine oil. The engine would not run because the fuel tank was also filled with pinesol which is now in the replacement engine. The fuel tank was cleaned out, the power steering flushed out, the brake system flushed out and the transmission flushed out to prevent further issues with fluid contamination. However, there is no way to determine how much damage was done to this diesel engine without teardown. None of the shops in my area know enough about small diesel engines to even look at this car, State Farm is demanding an independent opinion to assess the damages. *A reconditioned engine is well over $10,000 plus installation labor.
State Farm hired a paper review company to dispute my claim and hired a law firm to assist them in disputing my claim. I received a letter stating their attorney was conducting examination under oath to prevent me from suing them for damages. I have never been contacted by that law firm but the claims department was calling after I was in receipt of a notice indicating State Farm retained a law firm to represent their interest in my auto claims. State Farm also stated that my claims will no longer be considered because the vehicles have not been torn down at my expense by a repair facility. There is no doubt this expense will exceed the fair market value of all three vehicles in question.
State Farm is very demanding and will not accept the fact I am an expert in mechanical repair as that is my primary occupation. I have a college degree in both business and heavy diesel repair with additional training into the automotive field incorporating modern technologies. I am currently ASE certified in both Automotive and Heavy Truck as a technician.
The mechanical expert sent out by State farm has an impressive resume but lacks the hand dexterity to do automotive work, this was identified as he became frustrated with a hand pump used to collect fluid samples. This is an instructor who teaches adjusters how to spot fraudulent claims. This guy was chosen to dispute my claim as State Farm has no intention of covering my loss due to vandalism.
The vehicles were never driven to assess the drivability complaints or the braking performance. The adjuster from State Farm has the opinion there is nothing wrong with these vehicles after repairs were performed due to the incompetence of State Farm by refusing to send out an adjuster in a timely manner. State Farm only agreed to inspect the vehicles after I filed a complaint with the state insurance commission (two months later).
State Farm still wants me to pay for new vehicles or invest thousands of dollars in repair costs well beyond the value of these vehicles. These are examples of the labor involved:
Toyota engine requires 35 hours to tear down and recondition at $60 per hour plus materials. This is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 (labor) and is more than the replacement cost due to a known failure as identified from previous testing of engine compression and oil pressure (I was quoted $3500 for a junkyard engine). The engine in this car only had 80,000 miles on it and run synthetic oil since it was new. Remember the brakes that failed, over $500 to repair. State farm instructed me not to repair the brakes until their investigation is complete. I have not been given anything to determine the scope of damages from State Farm Insurance. Estimated damages:
The Chevy Truck: 45 hours to tear down the engine and recondition, an additional 17 hours to recondition the transmission and an estimated $600 to repair the brakes. I dont have an estimate to repair the power steering but one can expect 6 hours of shop time to replace the contaminated/damaged parts. A replacement steering box and pump from a quality supplier would be around $1,000 for the parts on an exchange basis. Damages are estimated at $7,500 for repair.
I am estimating 80 hours labor to tear down the diesel engine in the Mercedes if I can find a shop with the qualifications to do that kind of work. The head will have to go to a machine shop to clean out all the soap and crud in the valves that was in the fuel tank. This is a very expensive process as most of these Mercedes cylinder Heads are not repairable due to weak castings. The car was insured to $4,000 and repairs will exceed that figure.
Bad Faith, Breach of Contract and a lot of frustration is all State Farm has have ever given me on full coverage auto claims.