08 March 2015


I learned a couple things this week that deserve a little sharing. So here they are:

1. Seat belts

I have two cars, a Honda CRV and a Ranger truck. The former is the vehicle I drive, the latter is to carry the camper that I occasionally take out on the road.

A couple years ago I was having the Honda serviced at a Honda dealer, and the service tech said, "Hey that seat belt is not retracting properly, we'll fix that for you." A little discussion ensued and I learned that all Honda cars, if I recall correctly, have LIFETIME warranties on everything connected with the seat belt system. If there's any problem with the seat belts, Honda fixes them. Free. Forever. Damage is excepted, but the warranty applies to all wear-and-tear and normal use. Honda replaced my belts and retractors for about $400 worth of parts and labor, for which I paid nothing.

Last week, I had a problem with the Ranger seat belt. So I took the Ranger to my local mechanic and asked about getting it fixed. $229 for the replacement buckle, $60 for the labor to replace it. "But what about the lifetime warranty?" said I. "Where'd you hear that?" says the service manager. "Regular warranty applies, but you're long past that."

Over the past ten years or so, American cars have improved a lot compared to their European and Japanese competitors. But it seems that American manufacturers just can't build their cars good enough to guarantee essential safety equipment, and/or they don't think it's important that the safety equipment actually work.

I think I'll stick with Honda for my next purchase.

2. I bought a nice belt online a couple years ago. Paid $35 or so, which seems reasonable compared to what I had seen in stores. A few months ago, it started cracking, and then, over time, completely cracked cross-wise across the belt. I cracked it some more to look at it, actually tore it apart a little (how could I tear leather?) and was surprised at what I saw.

I took the belt to a leather shop and said, "Is this what I think it is?" The leather expert said, "Well, if you think it's the 'particle board of leather,' then yes, it's what you think it is."

Further discussions revealed—this from a leather expert—that virtually all belts sold in the US are not "real" leather but instead are leather pieces chopped up into tiny chunks, mixed with sticky stuff, and turned into the leather equivalent of particle board.

As you know, particle board is "wood"—i.e., wood chips and sawdust. So too are belts "leather"—leather dust and glue.

So the take-away from this observation is: be very suspicious of anything you buy that is supposed to be leather. The leather guy told me there are no labeling laws like with food or even furniture, which require the producer to identify the materials used—i.e., they can't label something "solid wood" if it's plywood or particle board with veneer. Unless you know and trust the source, or the item is really expensive, or the labeling eliminates the possibility of "composite leather-like substance," you are possible at risk for buying imitation leather. According to the leather guy, virtually all belts fall into this category.

You'll be happy to hear that I have a new belt which is verifiably "real" leather and came—as one uncut, unadulterated piece--from an actual tanned cow hide.

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