So...with some reservation, i'm deciding to post a follow-up as i can't guarantee my problems are gone, but so far so good after a few days.
so...amidst a lot of busyness at home (newborn baby among other things), with the recall i received in the mail and a small coolant consumption, i went to our local dealer to have the car looked at. along with a long list of items, i mentioned two rattle issues:
- A-pillars (which i had solved with a felt disk and a parking permit stuffed between the pillar and the window)
- my annoying instrument cluster rattle which is temperature dependent (not too warm and not too cold, it's there) as well as misc sounds in the dash which are very intermittent and tolerable.
anyway, after an awful experience with the service advisor up front, i took a test drive with the tech with the expectation that the rattle would be hard to hear since it was a cool morning. yet, shockingly, the tech had very keen ears and could pick up the murmur of my annoying rattle (which on a scale of 1-10 was a 1 that morning while riding with the tech). he said because he heard it, he would investigate.
to make a long story short, he worked hard it and in the end *may* have found it for me. he said there is a bolt which holds the instrument cluster mount to the dash. it itself was tight, but he noticed there was a small gap which allowed play in the dash and he could replicate some sounds by moving the dash/cluster around. so, he ended up sticking a washer between the assembly and the play dissapeared. he said after that fix, he couldn't detect the noise again. i agreed with him, that at least when we drove together afterward, i didn't hear the sound at all.
that was 4 days ago. i admittedly haven't driven much since then and its been relatively cool weather (for CA) but i think there is a greater than 50% chance that he found the problem. at the very least, he fixed something that could have been causing a lot of other misc rattles i have heard since owning the car when i am on the "right rough road."
i'll follow up more if the sound comes back or if i am 100% convinced, it is gone.
but i write this post to offer encouragement that there are a few techs out there who really care about noises the customer brings in. also, he shared his experience with other techs at the dealership since this was a new one to him. he said there seemed to be a design flaw or perhaps, the quality control of panel/part alignment wasn't very good with my car.
anyway, here's at least one positive experience at a dealership. YMMV.
oh, i almost forgot: the A-pillars. i asked kindly if he could come up with a more stealth solution than my fixes: he did...he took apart the A pillars and speaker grills and reinforced everything with foam tape so that there is no longer any play in them.