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Old 01-03-2013, 10:35 AM   #1
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Big Trouble with rental Jeep! Help!

Im reposting this from "Off-topics" becasue I think I missplaced it there...

Hi guys,

I went to Aruba for the new years eve of 2012/2013 with friends and when we were there we decided to rent a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (in this case, it had automatic transmission) to travel around. It so happens that a 4wd is required to go to some places of the island, specially to the Natural pool. So we decided to rent the car for 2 days such that we would be able to visit the natural pool and other far away beaches. For the first day, the car was fine, but we didnt need to use the 4wd at any time. In the beggining of our second day of rental we went to the natural pool. To get there, you take a normal paved road until you are about 2 kilometers from the pool, at which point you are off road and have to engage 4wd. The road is not really sandy; its basically dusty and rocky. Anyways, we managed to get to the natural pool no problem. But when we were driving back to town, we noticed that the car was loosing power. We managed to climb aound 3/4 of our way back. The car was getting so weak that, after taking a wrong road, we tried to come back to the main road by engaging the reverse gear, and then unfortunatelly the car had zero power in the reverse gear, so we got stuck.

So we got the car towed away. Two days later, we get a bill to the front desk of our hotel in the value of 6.250 dollars. There were a lot of costs that made up to that value, but basically we had a 4.500 dollar charge just for the parts of the car that needed to be replaced. The car survey reported that the transmission system was damaged, so they had to substitute everything. They said that it was our reckless driving that caused the destruction of the automatic transmission.

I have some questions regarding this situation, because I feel like they are trying to screw us big time. First of all, is it possible to utterly destroy the automatic transmission of the car by (so called) "recklessly driving" it for about 1 hour (that is approximately how long we managed to drive it before it stopped moving), assuming the car was in good conditions to start with? Oh yeah, and the guy that towed the car said the transmission oil was burned out. Could our missdriving have caused that? Might not it be the case that the oil needed to be replaced? Secondly, in the list of parts to the replaced there were 2 transmission sets, each one worth around 2000 dollars. Are these prices reasonable? Is it even possible to damage both transmissions of the car simultaneously? Heck, does this car even have 2 transmissions? ANY help would be very much appreciated!

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Old 01-03-2013, 10:48 AM   #2
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First off, it's a Jeep, not a car.

Second, this sounds like something you may need to retain a lawyer for. I doubt we're going to be able to offer you much help since this has little to do with the fact that it's a Jeep.

But I'm curious, what year was it? How many miles on it? Did they say that there was any physical damage to the tranmission (ie did you hit a rock hard enough that the fluid leaked out? Is that what they meant by 'burned out'?)? Are you sure it was the transmission and not the differential?

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Old 01-03-2013, 10:50 AM   #3
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You can try to appeal your case and usually will turn out in your favor. The insurance should cover the damages. Many people who rent 4x4s don't even know how to properly use 4x4. It may not be u that caused it but u were unfortunate enough to have it fail during ur time of possession.
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:53 AM   #4
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Bad things happen to good people in Aruba.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:10 AM   #5
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First off, it's a Jeep, not a car.

Second, this sounds like something you may need to retain a lawyer for. I doubt we're going to be able to offer you much help since this has little to do with the fact that it's a Jeep.

But I'm curious, what year was it? How many miles on it? Did they say that there was any physical damage to the tranmission (ie did you hit a rock hard enough that the fluid leaked out? Is that what they meant by 'burned out'?)? Are you sure it was the transmission and not the differential?
Yeah well I thought Jeeps were cars too, lol.

Well I dont know great details about the car. I was not the driver by the way, but a friend of mine, who drives one of those 4x4 himself (i guess his is manual though).

They didnt say anything about damage due to collisions and/or oil leakage. At any rate, the survey was very dry (no details at all). I am pretty sure it was the transmission (or both of them, as they say) because they sent a list of components they would need to replace, and in this list there are two transmissions. I think the only difference between the transmissions in the list is that one is 4wd and the other 2wd, but they are roughly 2000 dolars each.

The person that said the transmission lubricant was burned out was not from the rental company, but it was actually the guy that towed the car away. I think what he means by burned out is that it looked pretty dark and smelled burnt.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:16 AM   #6
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You can try to appeal your case and usually will turn out in your favor. The insurance should cover the damages. Many people who rent 4x4s don't even know how to properly use 4x4. It may not be u that caused it but u were unfortunate enough to have it fail during ur time of possession.
We were using the Visa Platinum insurance, and I believe it only covers collision and fire damage. That actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it, because if the insurance covered any kind of damage, the rental company wouldnt have to keep spending money in the maintenance of the cars/jeeps (they could just let people drive until it broke and then have the insurance company pay for the repairs).

Well, I certainly dont know how to drive a 4x4 but the driver knew pretty well what he was doing. Actually it was quite irritating, because he was driving very cautiously and slowly (i would have gone much faster myself).

We surely think it was not our driving that caused the damage. Thats why I am here asking for your help... I am seeking advice in order to help me prove that it was not our fault, or at least that it cant be determined who is to blame, so that we dont have to pay for the repairs.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:18 AM   #7
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Do you recall the bottom of the Jeep impacting the terrain at all? From what it sounds like, you were taking it easy. The Jeep & it's transmission can normally withstand a lot of abuse, so it's highly unlikely you guys caused the damage. It seems like there were prior issues and you were probably just the unfortunate ones who were driving the Jeep while while it broke. Time for a lawyer.

Off-roading like this video below, if done carefully, would not cause any damage at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=VyyLHqHCZ9
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:19 AM   #8
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Oh, by the way, I believe the car had a little over 60.000 miles (it might have been kilometers) on it (around 65.000 or so). I have searched the internet and foud some places saying that you need to replace the transmission lubricant at most every 60.000 miles. Maybe I should ask them for proof that they had replaced the lubricant?
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:22 AM   #9
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Do you recall the bottom of the Jeep impacting the terrain at all?
Well we certainly werent having the smoothest of the rides. We might have bumped the car around a little. But as I said before, the guy was driving veeery slowly. And lots of people drive jeeps to the same place we went everyday. It shouldnt have been a big deal, really. Most probably we didnt hit the bottom of the car, but only the parts around the wheels.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:22 AM   #10
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One if the 2 parts is the transmission and the other is probably the transfer case.

Did your friend leave it in 4 wheel drive once you got back to the pavement? Your not supposed to drive very fast in 4 wheel drive. I think about 45mph or so if in 4high.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:23 AM   #11
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I guess the major question that is going to come is this... Did you have to sign a waiver that says that you will not take the vehicle off-road at any time while using it?

I've had to sign those waivers when renting 4WD vehicles before. If you signed that, it might be a tougher battle.

But really, you need to talk to a lawyer and not rely on internet advice.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:24 AM   #12
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So you were not the driver? Who cares then?! Lol
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:29 AM   #13
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One if the 2 parts is the transmission and the other is probably the transfer case.

Did your friend leave it in 4 wheel drive once you got back to the pavement? Your not supposed to drive very fast in 4 wheel drive. I think about 45mph or so if in 4high.
No, we only put on 4wd when we went off-road, and we didnt manage to get back to paved road before the car stopped moving. The driver knew about that. As I said, he drives those cars. When we were off road, we couldt go any faster then, say, 20 mph.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:30 AM   #14
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1. Get a witness statement from the tow truck driver who noted it was out of transmission oil or the oil was "dead", he is your best defence.

2. Post a copy of the survey of repair (all items) some experts here may look at it and based on the parts determine what the actual problem is from that.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:32 AM   #15
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I guess the major question that is going to come is this... Did you have to sign a waiver that says that you will not take the vehicle off-road at any time while using it?

I've had to sign those waivers when renting 4WD vehicles before. If you signed that, it might be a tougher battle.

But really, you need to talk to a lawyer and not rely on internet advice.
No, we didnt sign anything saying we wouldnt take the car off road. But the contract did say that any damage sustained while off road would be paid by the renter. Maybe that is exactly the same thing? I dont think so, because the car was not damaged by us... As I see it, it simply broke while we were using it properly.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:38 AM   #16
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U said 60k miles. Wranglers have like a 5 year 100,000 mile warranty. But since its being rented, I'm not sure how that works.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:38 AM   #17
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I dont think seeking help with a lawyer is the easiest way to solve this... For now, we are trying to charge back the 6250 dollars, because they have no written document authorizing them to charge that value. If we manage to charge the value back, I am not going to wonder about that anymore... we will just let them do whatever they want (sue us if they like the idea). The problem about a lawyer is that I live in Brazil, and I dont even know how to get a lawyer in Aruba, but that seems like a very expensive maneuver.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:47 AM   #18
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Did your friend leave it in 4 wheel drive once you got back to the pavement? Your not supposed to drive very fast in 4 wheel drive. I think about 45mph or so if in 4high.
We're fairly new to the Jeep family (3 days now). I know that 4L has a fairly low speed limit but I thought when in 4H it was about the same max speed as 2H. Is there something I missed in the owners manual? The guide says we can change between 2H and 4H at speeds up to 50 mph.

Yes, I know about the turning thing on dry pavement when in 4H/L.
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Old 01-03-2013, 12:07 PM   #19
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You can just retain an attorney in Brazil and they can make whatever arrangements are necessary for your representation in Aruba.
Certainly, it won't cost as much as the $6250 they're trying to extract from your collective wallets.
In the end, since you're not there to take this up face to face an attorney will be the most cost effective solution. You might get lucky and spend a couple hundred dollars for the attorney to write a letter that causes them to drop the whole issue when they realize you're not gonna roll over, call their bluff so to speak. But do it with authority (an attorney)..just my 2 cents....by the way, it usually costs very little to nothing to speak with an attorney and have him/her tell you if you have a leg to stand on.
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Old 01-03-2013, 12:12 PM   #20
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if you get "high centered" and do the forward/reverse/f/r/f/r, etc you'll burn up an automatic transmission. I know people who have done it.

Like others said, your rental could have been the last straw to break the camel's back. None of us were there.

I'd call your insurance agent, perhaps they or VISA might toss you a bone or give you worthwhile advice. (some premium cards cover some of that automatically).

Not fun being held hostage.... Good luck.
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Old 01-03-2013, 12:31 PM   #21
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I would first ask for proof that it was you that damaged the transmission and/or transfer case (not sure what they mean by two transmissions). Don't pay anything yet!

Ask to see photographic proof of a collision that caused the parts in question to fail. If it failed due to poor maintenance and/or defective parts then its in no way your responsibility.

You should, or your whom ever signed the documents, should review them carefully for language that says your are responsible for anything that happens "off road". If no such language exist then write a letter to the rental car company asking for this proof and maintenance records so your attorney can review them. I bet they drop the claim since they cannot prove you did the damage. Aruba's legal structure is directly related to that of the Netherlands and theirs is very similar to ours so reasonable proof must be provided in these types of claims.

Good Luck! Just keep fighting it.
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Old 01-03-2013, 12:53 PM   #22
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It is possible that you did cause the damage if the Jeep did not have a transmission cooler and the transmission began to over heat. If you continued to push the vehicle without letting the transmission cool and operated it in that "loss of power" state, then the oil would start to burn off at a rapid rate. However, this would take a lot of forcing the Jeep to try and keep driving, and the vehicle would not move much. Naturally, you would probably stop and try to figure out what is wrong and that stopping would be long enough to let the transmission cool. But, if they had not changed the fluid and it was already in bad condition, then that would have added to the problem and made it easier to burn the transmission oil causing a failure.

I have a 2012 Wrangler, about 25,000 miles on it, and twice already I have had my transmission over heat in deep sand even with the equipped transmission cooler. I experience that lack of power and coming to a stop because of it. At that point, I let the vehicle rest for 5-10 minutes and I can usually continue to drive without a problem. I mention that, because to me it means the transmission does not handle heat well. I've driven other vehicles in deep sand before and they've never over heated the transmission. I love my Wrangler, but my confidence in what the transmission can handle is low.

Good luck! As others have suggested, getting a lawyer involved even if it is just to write a letter will show the other company that you won't sit back and take the blame. It does sound like they want to put all the fault on you, whether or not it is even your fault. You have to show them you'll fight back!
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:00 PM   #23
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The vehicles in the islands are a scam. Most of the rental places have make shift garages in the back or next to them. I personally believe they do that so the vehicles fail so Americans and foreigners have to pay out the ass for damages already present. My wife and I went through 3 vehicles in a week when we went. Even the cabby warned us when we got there.
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:04 PM   #24
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It is possible that you did cause the damage if the Jeep did not have a transmission cooler and the transmission began to over heat. If you continued to push the vehicle without letting the transmission cool and operated it in that "loss of power" state, then the oil would start to burn off at a rapid rate. However, this would take a lot of forcing the Jeep to try and keep driving, and the vehicle would not move much. Naturally, you would probably stop and try to figure out what is wrong and that stopping would be long enough to let the transmission cool. But, if they had not changed the fluid and it was already in bad condition, then that would have added to the problem and made it easier to burn the transmission oil causing a failure.

I have a 2012 Wrangler, about 25,000 miles on it, and twice already I have had my transmission over heat in deep sand even with the equipped transmission cooler. I experience that lack of power and coming to a stop because of it. At that point, I let the vehicle rest for 5-10 minutes and I can usually continue to drive without a problem. I mention that, because to me it means the transmission does not handle heat well. I've driven other vehicles in deep sand before and they've never over heated the transmission. I love my Wrangler, but my confidence in what the transmission can handle is low.

Good luck! As others have suggested, getting a lawyer involved even if it is just to write a letter will show the other company that you won't sit back and take the blame. It does sound like they want to put all the fault on you, whether or not it is even your fault. You have to show them you'll fight back!
Thats most probably just what happened to us...

Thanks a lot for all your advice guys!
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:23 PM   #25
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The vehicles in the islands are a scam. Most of the rental places have make shift garages in the back or next to them. I personally believe they do that so the vehicles fail so Americans and foreigners have to pay out the ass for damages already present. My wife and I went through 3 vehicles in a week when we went. Even the cabby warned us when we got there.
I was thinking this as well. Taking advantage of tourists is nothing new.
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:45 PM   #26
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Do you have any pics from your trip of the terrain you were negotiating? When the Jeep was powering down were there weird unusual noises or just a loss of power/performance?
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:02 PM   #27
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Ive been to Aruba and know exactly where you went and how you got there. For those of you who dont know, it is a real rough road and it is possible that they could have potentially bottomed out and hit the tranny.
However...when we were there, we also did rent a Jeep and ours was also in pretty rough shape. The tires on ours were ripped up and we even got a flat because the side walls were so gouged up. The thing to do in Aruba with jeeps is to head down to that natural pool and if you dont know what youre doing, you can rip up a vehicle pretty quickly. Im not saying that you did it, but for the 60,000km of driving before you got in to it, Id say a good 20% of that was off roading by rubes on vacation who just beat the crap out of it. I bet the rental company never changed the tranny fluid or did any other maintenance on it at all and you were just the unlucky ones that were driving it when it did fail

For those interested, heres a writeup I did on Trip Advisor with some pics of the trail and a shot of the lacerated tire that blew out. All the sidewall hits were not from me driving

Big time adventure, but not worth the trouble - Review of Natural Pool, Aruba, Caribbean - TripAdvisor
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:11 PM   #28
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I guess the major question that is going to come is this... Did you have to sign a waiver that says that you will not take the vehicle off-road at any time while using it?

I've had to sign those waivers when renting 4WD vehicles before. If you signed that, it might be a tougher battle.

But really, you need to talk to a lawyer and not rely on internet advice.
X2 on this one.....Had to sign my life away on Maui once for a Jeep. No off pavement, etc.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:16 PM   #29
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It's pretty obvious that they're charging you for the upkeep of the rental car. Get that charge reversed.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:24 PM   #30
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You are getting hosed. Call your credit card company immediately and tell them the story and to cancel the card. Do it now, or you will be sorry. Scratch that. Call your credit card company and cancel the card immediately.

Rentals on the islands are never maintained, are serviced poorly, and this is how they make their money, by ripping off tourists. Next time, book with an American Express and you won't have this problem.

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