Doing things my way is the right thing to do. The world would be so much simpler for everyone if it went that same way, but Honda has finally seen the error of its ways and has changed in response to my complaining (and others as well, I imagine). What was the problem? It boils down to a fundamentally simple thing. They didm’t take the time to understand their user base at all. They invented this wonderful system to make life easier for people without actually considering the actual people. In the user experience and interface design world, this is what we harp about constantly – KNOW YOUR USERS. And it’s a better way to design computer interfaces and a better way to design everything, including customer service initiatives.
Honda developed this wonderful simple maintenance minder system whereby the car gives you a telltale message when the car is scheduled for repairs. Now you don’t need to think about what service needs to be performed when you hit 60,00o or 90,000 miles. The car will tell you. Wonderful idea, except for one thing,, they neglected to take people into account.
As I know all too well from my work designing user interfaces, people don’t necessarily react like you want to things the way you want. Honda’s system was predicated on people, all people, ignoring the maintenance of their cars until the car itself told them to do something. Every so often, the car dashboard would put up a wrench and a letter designator. The wench meant you needed service and the letter told you which one. “A” was go change the oil and get a basic $99 inspection of stuff. “B” was do that plus balance and align the tires and check the hepa filter; “C” added check the transmission and inspect the drive belts. And so on down the list. You never had to worry about what to do at which miles ever again. Except you did because the system failed its users.
And why didn’t it work? People like me seem to think that cars are expensive (probably because they cost tens of thousands of dollars) and should be maintained to a higher than minimal standard. They’ve improved the efficiency of their engines to get nearly 40 miles a gallon and they’ve improved the reliability of modern cars to the point that the need for repairs is getting less and less. Cars are more reliable than they were when I got behind the wheel of that ’65 289 Mustang for the first time. Back then you had to do regular maintenance or you’d ruin the engine.
I’m not waiting to change my oil every 10,000 miles. My experience says that if I change my oil more frequently than required (I.e., take better care of my car than they recommend) it will last much, much longer. When you add my care to the higher levels of quality found in cars, it usually means I’ll grow tired of a car long before it wears out. When I had cars that recommended a change every 5,000 miles, I did mine at 3,500. So when I got the Fit even though it said I could go 10,000 miles between changes, I changed the oil every 7,500 miles like clockwork. And that’s what I’ve continued to do every 7,500 miles.
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty simple maintenance minder system and it’s in general keyed to two cyclical patterns – the oil changes at 10,000 mile intervals and and aligning and balancing the tires at a 15,000 mile intervals. When they change my oil, they reset that little idiot light mechanism so it doesn’t come on soon after I change the oil. Unfortunately, that’s also the triggering mechanism for telling people like me about the other maintenance things. You’d think that if they think I need to have the belts checked at 60,000 and 90,000 miles they would just create an indicator that tells me that (or put the information in the manual where it used to be) but they didn’t.
If I just ignored preventative maintenance I would have gotten the message when they wanted me to have it.
If they understood their users a little better they wouldn’t have had to create a paper chart of when my car needs what. It wouldn’t have been at all difficult to create an indicator that came on for oil changes at regular intervals and other maintenance issues, it’s just a matter of timing. Why they would tie it to the same reset mechanism is poor engineering and poor customer service. I now know my car will need around $1,800 in repairs over the next 40,000 miles, though, now that they created that little paper chart for me today. If they hadn’t created it, I’d still be in the dark. There’s a hepa filter in the heating and air conditioning system that should have been changed five times before this – it’s still untouched wherever it is.