Back to Jeep Cherokee

Jacobs Mileage Master torture

Jacobs Electronics: Fool me once, shame on me

While trying to find a starting problem, I also installed a Jacobs Mileage Master. The Mileage Master was supposed to give me quicker starts, higher fuel economy, and more power. Quicker starts? No. Higher fuel economy? Maybe. More power? Probably. Untimely failure which masked my CPS fix and caused me to waste lots more time and money? Yes, yes, yes!

At the initial stages of debugging what eventually turned out to be the CPS problem, I carefully switched between the original ignition and the Jacobs ignition schemes. Whenever the car wouldn't start, it wouldn't start with either system; likewise, if the car started, it started with either system. Eventually, I convinced myself that the Jacobs system was reliable and was not contributing to the problem. Oops. I left the Mileage Master hooked up while I continued to track the starting problem. (Perhaps the Jacobs system has a mind-reading function that detects when you've dropped your guard?)

After soldering the old CPS (this step actually fixed the problem), then replacing the CPS altogether (what a pain) and soldering it in place... still no start! One of my more cautious friends suggested bypassing the Jacobs stuff. "I've already tried that," I boasted. He would not be so easily swayed. So we connected the original coil straight to the distributor cap, and... crank, crank, vroom! D'oh!

Next, I try to return the defective product! (Hint: it doesn't go well.)

Jacobs Electronics: my Enemy-for-Life

The CPS problem took a while to sort out, so I was perilously close to the end of the 30-day warranty on my Jacobs Mileage Master (and cap & rotor, and plug wires, etc... I got the whole package). Over the period of a week, I worked closely with Jacobs tech support trying to find out where the problem was. They wanted to send me a new unit right away. (In hind-sight, this tells me that their units fail frequently, in which case I would have another failure-prone system with me on the trail.) I wanted to debug the system to make sure the problem wasn't with my XJ or my installation. So, we tried everything from checking the hard-to-see debug LED lights on the unit to replacing the battery. Finally, it became clear that the Mileage Master was defective.

Here's where the real trouble starts. They would take the system back, but I would be charged a "re-stocking" fee. I would receive no refund for the cap/rotor/wires, and would not get a refund for the shipping cost. After busting my butt to confirm that their system was broken, I have three problems:

One: Try as I might, I could not convince the tech support person that you can't charge a re-stocking fee for a part that's broken. The hilarious part of this ping-pong match was his insistence that I had been told about the fee. "It's in all our magazine ads." I reply, "I don't have a magazine. I bought it over the internet. Tell me where on your web site this policy is listed." He says, "Well that's our policy. It's written in all our magazine ads." Repeat endlessly with minor modifications.

Two: My old cap, rotor and wires were fine. Unfortunately, some of the old wires broke removing them to make room for the (excellent, but too expensive) Jacobs wires.

Three: The Jacobs Mileage Master is broken and I'm damn sure going to get a full refund, including shipping.

Jacobs Electronics: Q&A

Q: I wish to be severely taunted by my friends and other 4x4 enthusiasts who look inside my engine compartment. What should I do?
A: Buy a Jacobs Electronic ignition!

Q: What's the best way to waste $100?
A: Buy a Jacobs system, then (after it fails within 30 days) try to return it! To save yourself time and aggravation, just send $100 to Jacobs. Even simpler, light a $100 bill on fire!

Q: Surely Jacobs systems are wonderful and worthwhile! Aren't you just a bitter sour-puss looking for reasons to complain?
A: Right. And when I'm not "looking for reasons to complain," I burn spare $100 bills just for fun. Unconquerable misery is my favorite pastime!

Finally... resolution

After being tortured by front-line tech support staff, I was able to speak to a manager. "OK. I'll let you speak to a manager, but he's just going to tell you the same thing!" (That statement--along with the attitude--is the reason I wrote this page.)

Finally, I receive total satisfaction from the tech support manager, Chris. I just need to send back the unit and have it tested. If the unit fails, I'll get a full refund, including the shipping and cap/rotor/wires.

It turns out that Jacobs used to have a liberal return/testing policy... way too liberal. Any time within 90 days, they would pay to have the system shipped back and tested for free. Less than 10% of the systems were bad, though. Ninety percent were installation problems. So Jacobs changed the return policy entirely too far the other way. Realizing this, Chris has been lobbying for moderation in the policy, and offered the totally reasonable solution... if it's bad, full refund. I even get a special RMA number that includes an obvious "test this" character at the end.

I'm nervous that--once back in the factory--the Mileage Master will magically work again. I call Chris to get an update on the status of the testing and return and receive some surprising news. My return was received and accidentally sent to the grinder! About a week later, I received notification of the full refund.

Industry Figure | Berkeley | Back to Jeep Cherokee