By on June 30, 2015

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I grew up in the back of two-door family cars ranging from a ’67 Camaro to an ’83 Civic 1500 “S”. It never seemed like a hardship to me. Nor does it seem like a hardship to have my six-year-old son in the back of my Accord Coupe. He knows how to let himself in and out of the back seat. It’s no different from having a four-door sedan and letting him out of the back door. Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t even think about it.

The other one percent of the time is when I clean the interior of the car. It takes the strength of Hercules and the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil headliner to get the explosion of fast food, Legos, school paperwork, and miscellaneous unidentifiable items out of the cave behind the front seats. And then I have to condition the leather, you see, which would work better if my arms were between six and eighteen inches longer. So having done all that this past Sunday, I figured I’d do my other least favorite job: brake dust removal. I was already in a bit of a bad mood, crouching next to my Griot’s Garage bucket and shaking out my favorite horse-hair wheel brush, when I saw it.

Oh, hell no.


It was just a two-inch scratch on the rim of the rear wheel, from parallel parking downtown. Most people wouldn’t think twice about it. But I just about lost my mind, because:

a) I don’t scratch wheels. In more than fifteen years of owning cars with low-profile alloy wheels, I’d only scraped one wheel prior to Sunday.
b) That wheel also being one of the wheels on my Accord. I’d scraped it a few months ago on a curb. But two weeks ago I had the tires rotated as part of a 22,500-mile service, which meant that this was a second scrape, likely from the same thing.

The idea that I’d scraped two wheels in under a month was enough to make me consider tearing up my license and riding a bicycle downtown from now on. I was still in a foul mood as I put some Armor All on the front tires, which were torn up from a couple of trackdays.

Wait.

I’d just had the tires rotated front to rear. By rights, the worn shoulders should have been on the back now. But they were still up front. And a quick check of the other three wheels revealed that none of them were scraped. That was good news because it meant that my lifetime wheel damage count was stuck at one. But it meant that I’d been walljobbed.

Car and Driver’s brilliant and innovative technical editor, Patrick Bedard, wrote a column entitled “The Wall Job” back in the magazine’s glory days. A “wall job”, if you haven’t already figured it out, is when a shop takes a car in for service, parks it against the wall for a few days, then returns it to the customer along with a bill for work that the customer cannot readily verify. The various consumer-protection laws that require  the customer be given the option of getting the “old parts” back are meant to address the wall-jobbing problem. I don’t know how effective they are. To begin with, most people can’t tell the difference between a control module for a Rolls-Royce Ghost and a distributor cap for a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and they aren’t interested in getting a bag full of mystery junk with their credit-card receipt.

Furthermore, much of modern automotive service leaves no parts behind. The five hours of diagnosis with a Bosch “Hammer” tool that your dealer supposedly put in before figuring out why your 964 Carrera stalls at lights? The road testing that was necessary to figure out that mystery vibration? How do you know how much of it was done, if any?

The first thing I did when I realized I’d been wall-jobbed on my tire rotation was to pop the hood on the Accord and look carefully at the oil. Oil changes are famous walljob candidates, but in this case the dealer had done right: the oil was clear and clean. The filter, too, looked new. So that much, as least, was correct. On the other hand, I had serious doubts that the “multi-point visual inspection” required by Honda, and paid for by me, had been performed.

I looked at the receipt and saw that I’d paid $19.95 plus tax for the rotation. That’s something I can do myself, but it takes me a bit of time and annoyance to do it. Twenty bucks to save a dirty half hour of my time is a deal with which I can live. But twenty bucks for nothing? The hell with that.

This morning I called the dealership. My service advisor was brusque at first. “Why do you think your tires haven’t been rotated?” I explained. She seemed doubtful. “What do you want me to do?”

“I want my twenty bucks back.”

“Are you willing to bring the car by so we can look at it?”

“Absolutely.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the tires have been rotated.”

“Not in this case.” And then I discussed the nature of my part-time job as an automotive writer and how I could earn twenty dollars back by mentioning the name of the dealer in an article.

“We’ll call you back.” Which they did, an hour later. Good news! My entire seventy-eight dollar service had been refunded. And they’d be happy to rotate my tires for free. I told them I’d handle it myself, and that I was satisfied with the deal. In truth, I wasn’t. Not really. From now until the time my car is out of warranty, I’ll be verifying everything they claim to have done myself. I could change dealers, but what’s the point? The new dealer could be just as bad, or worse. Better to deal with these people. Maybe they’ll be more likely to do the work now.

I’ve written time and time again about how far more of the car business revolves around dealers than most people realize. Everything from product mix to warranty terms is a product of interactions with dealers. They are enshrined by state laws that the dealer associations purchase at considerable expense. They are the true customers of the manufacturers. And when their interests conflict with yours, they will nearly always win the battle.

After hanging up the phone, I asked myself if this incident would keep me from buying another Honda. The truthful answer is: probably not. I don’t like Honda dealers in general, and I’ve yet to see one that treats the customer with the consideration and truthfulness that I’ve experienced as an owner of BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benzes, and even Land Rovers, but that’s what you get for shopping in the discount aisle. Wal-Mart doesn’t treat its customers the way that Nordstrom does, and Honda dealers don’t treat their customers the way that Audi dealers do. Moreover, Honda can’t do much to change the state of affairs any more than a husband in a thirty-year marriage can dictate terms to his wife, and for pretty much the same reasons.

If the manufacturers had any real power on the ground of customer/dealer interactions, they’d make damned sure dealers didn’t endanger their next thirty-three-thousand dollar transaction to make a quick twenty bucks on a walljob tire rotation. But dealers don’t look at it that way. They see the chance to make a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars, every day. That adds up in a hurry, and it makes a lot more difference to the bottom line than another “mini-deal” to some jerk who has the invoice price and the incentives printed out in a manila folder and doesn’t want to pay a penny of net profit on his next car.

So from now on, I’ll treat my dealer like Reagan treated Gorbachev. Trust, but verify. And if the day ever comes that my opinion or my vote might possibly matter to anyone as regards the possibility of manufacturer-owned stores in Ohio, I’ll be right there in the ballot box. But really, what chance is there of that? What chance do mere voters have against people who make twenty dollars a shot all day, every day, for precisely nothing? How do you out-vote someone who uses your own money to buy votes? Didn’t there used to be a political party that promised to rebalance the scale in the favor of the consumer? What about the Supreme Court? I hear they’ve been doing a lot for individual liberties lately – but when it comes to dealer franchise protection, they sided with the multi-millionaire “little guys”, not the customer.

I guess you really can put a price on change. That price is $19.95.

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160 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Walljobbed....”


  • avatar

    Rim Repair for this is about $100 per rim here. $175 for cracks.

    I try to buy tires with sidewall protection – deeper space betweeen the rim and tire to have the tire take the damage.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    As someone who knows this side of the business, 9/10 “wall jobs” like this are purely the result of ineptitude or laziness of an individual rather than an actual conspiracy on the part of the dealer to rip you off. More likely the tech took that last .3 to have a coffee and smoke instead.

    • 0 avatar
      mike1dog

      Yeah, I’d say ninety percent come down to that. We had a tech who moved on, and we found piles of stuff under his table that had not been put on. It was mostly maintenance stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I was gonna say something to this effect- I wouldn’t rule out the tech simply screwed up (or screwed off). Of course, he or she is getting paid not to screw up and his supervisor is getting paid to make sure he doesn’t. None of this matters to you, the customer, because you did business with the shop and not with the tech.

      “Factory trained” techs with the company stamp of approval. Gotta love it.

      Mid 1980s the local (brand name irrelevant at this point) dealer had a good reputation with the local middle class. After a few years, the dealer didn’t have such a good rep with the manufacturer because they tended to back up their customers on warranty claims. You can guess how this story ends…

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      I am sure that you are right in that…

      “9/10 “wall jobs” like this are purely the result of ineptitude or laziness of an individual rather than an actual conspiracy on the part of the dealer to rip you off.”

      but, this observation does not let Management/Ownership off the hook. (Not that you said that Danio) They know or should know what is going on in their shop. They willfully ignore such problems because they benefit in that they still collect the revenue and their tech gets a perk. It also allows the shop owner/manager to see what works and what doesn’t for the 1/10 case.

      Edit: does anyone have a link to original car and driver article?

      Oh and since it just happened yesterday, Any reaction, Jack, the the Jalap article on the truth about press cars?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        No of course it doesn’t let the dealer off the hook. They should have someone verifying the work if they discover their employees have a habit of “forgetting” things. Some shops employ a foreman who’s responsibility this falls under, in smaller shops it can be the service manager. In a well run shop, it usually isn’t necessary. However in this case they may find that it is.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Management is not off the hook, but how do you watch every action (or non action) of every mechanic? Pay 10 people to watch 10 mechanics? Spot checks by supervisors can help, but with the current shortage of qualified mechanics shops actually have very little leverage: any reasonably productive mechanic can quit his job in the morning and have a good job lined up before dinner.

        Just as most retail theft (shrinkage) is done by employees, most shop fraud is committed by technicians. That is a tough nut to crack.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Typically a foreman will look at the work order, give the car a once over then give the work order to the tech. A good foreman knows whats going on with each job. If he never sees the wheels come off a vehicle that had a tire rotation billed out, he knows it wasn’t done.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            The problem is that even in a small shop, a foreman is too busy to pay attention to small maintenance jobs. Most Honda dealers have “lube techs” that perform basic oil changes, tires, and rotations. I would say that most likely the guy here just missed the rotation on the work order.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Perhaps now said foreman, if he exists at this dealer, won’t be too busy.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          The local Ford dealer finally installed a CCTV system out in the shop to watch the techs. This dealer learned about “trusted employees” the hard way – his trusted office manager of 20+ years embezzled $2.5 million that supported her gambling habit at the riverboats in Rising Sun, Indiana. Screw me once, your fault; screw me twice…

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          Seen some special service managers in my day. Back in the late 90s Ford had a recall on air filters for the Taurus/Sable. Across the street from the dealer was a supermarket. Manager would send the lot person over to get VINs off of all the Tauri and Sables in the parking lot and submit a claim for the recall on those that were due. Unfortunately about a half dozen of those customers got a survey from Ford asking them about their recent service visit. Soon thereafter was a visit from the warranty audit team from Ford, and about $500,000 was charged back after they went over all warranty claims for the past year.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Had to go read it real quick.

        I don’t get press cars, not as a rule.

        I’ve had one press car in 2015, two in 2014, none in 2013.

        The reasons for this are many and varied but it’s basically 50% the manufacturers not wanting me to share my opinion with the public, 25% people hating me for having sex with female journalists who turned them down, and 25% people hating me in general.

        • 0 avatar
          chevron

          But those add up to 100% and you haven’t included a ‘me being a dick’ category.

          One of the benefits of living in a snow state (or Canada) is that you have to have your tires rotated twice a year anyways and its very easy to check if they did it or not.

    • 0 avatar

      This might explain why Lexus seems better at not defrauding service customers, or at least at sweeping the problem under the carpet, despite the incentives it the OEM-dealer relationship being the same as for Honda.

      Also, I found that, for a certain brand “X”, there’s an enormous difference in willingness to mistreat the customer between two dealers in the same town. If the economic incentives were the driver, they would’ve been about the same, but apparently it all comes down to whoever running the service department tolerating the mischief (in exchange for brown-nosing by techs and advisers, presumably).

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        A big part of the problem as some others already noted is that the dealership environment is inherent to high turnover. Usually because they don’t pay enough or provide nice enough working conditions for their employees to stay. The end result is a revolving door of employees that never quite reach competency. Not all dealers are like this of course, but many are and those are the ones that get remembered in places like this.

        • 0 avatar
          Erikstrawn

          This. I was a dealer technician many years ago, and when the dealership is charging $75 a flag hour and paying you $13/hr, there’s a strong incentive to make sure you get a paycheck out of it somehow. When your service writer keeps manipulating customer pay jobs to warranty jobs that pay 1/3 as much, your general manager is stealing salesman’s commissions, and you’re busting your hump to make a liveable income, your sense of what’s right can get tweaked.

  • avatar
    AlfaRomasochist

    The first time I ran across this was when a college buddy paid something like $60 for a “well regarded” indy mechanic to replace the serpentine belt. It took me about 2 seconds to see that all they had done was wipe it off so it looked nice and black, but you could still see small cracks in the grooved part. Clearly done with intent.

    A different well regarded shop in the same town wall jobbed me on a tire rotation just like this. All I had to go on was tire wear but the more worn tires were still clearly in the front, and this was on a relatively powerful FWD stick shift car driven by a college aged idiot (ahem).

    Now I’m at a stage in life where I can afford to have someone else deal with this kind of crap, but I still end up doing way more work on my own than I probably should. Mostly because I don’t trust the average wrench any further than I can kick them.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It’s because of stuff like this that I do my own maintenance. It’s hard to find anyone willing to do things right.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Agreed. The number of similar stories that just TTAC readers could relate is appalling.
        I have a friend who used to work as a service writer at a Ford dealership. Their policy was to replace parts “before they break”. Ostensibly, it was to avoid problems down the road; in plain English, to do unnecessary work and keep the dollars flowing in.
        He had his own car’s V8 engine rebuilt at the dealership where he worked. When he later discovered 7 identical pistons and 1 entirely wrong one, they would not stand behind the job – even for their own employee.
        Like you, I’m doing all my car maintenance work that I’m capable of for as long as I can still turn a wrench.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        You and me both. Plus it is less hassle to throw the car up on my lift at home than make an appointment, take the car in, get rides back and forth (or a loaner), etc, etc. If I have to pay, I’m just going to do it if it is anything I can do easily. But while BMW is paying, more power to them. But I still check everything after.

        One amusing thing for my car is that since BMW does not recommend tire rotations they won’t pay for them under the free maintenance. But for the first couple years I had my wagon, the Service Advisor would STILL try to get me to do a $300 rotation, balance, and alignment every time I came in for service. Uh, no. BMW doesn’t recommend it (says so in B&W in the manual), the tires are worn almost perfectly evenly, it wears snows 5 months a year anyway, it tracks like a train and will do 130mph without a trace of vibration. I need my $300 more than you do, sister. 4 years and probably 20K miles on them and the tires are still worn about as evenly as tires wear. One rear tire has just a trace more wear than the rest. I’m actually annoyed that the @[email protected]$# runflats won’t wear out faster! I’m too cheap to replace perfectly good tires. She did finally get the hint and doesn’t ask anymore.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    My personal pet peeve is shops that neglect checking the tire pressure. (Both my local VW and Toyota dealerships have screwed that up.)

    And those that slam on the lug nuts with an impact gun, and don’t even make an effort to limit things via an imprecise torque stick. If a shop has touched my wheels, I always break loose the nuts, grab my $10 HF 1/2″ clicker, and re-torque the lugs.

    (When I do the wheels myself at home, the lugs go on by being “blipped” with my electric impact, but not tightened that way.)

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      This is a particular pet peeve of mine. I’m a pretty strong guy and using the factory lug wrench, I find it almost impossible to remove the lug nuts after just about any shop has been at the wheels. I imagine someone without my upper body strength would be hosed trying to change a flat at the side of the road. And that doesn’t address the question of what that over-torquing is doing to the brake discs.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Thanks for ruining my morning, guys. Lug nuts over-torqued by an impact wrench set on “stupid” are a huge pet peeve of mine! You just HAD to bring this one up!

        Note- lug nuts properly torqued by any method (including impact wrench operated by a competent tech) are a-OK in my book.

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Over-torqued sucks, but not torqued at all scares the stuffing out of me now. Had a rear brake job done at a very reputable indy shop about three years ago, used them previously, never a problem. Car walk-around looked fine, drove it home about four miles, including one exit on the freeway. As I entered my neighborhood, the vibration began. I immediately pulled over to check and found the left rear held on by two hand-loose lug nuts. The remaining three were started on the thread, but completely loose. Called the manager to give him a piece of my mind and got nothing but a half-a$$ed apology in return. Never gave them a bit of my business again.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            Pep Boys failed to properly tighten my lug nuts once. Scared the sht out of me the next morning and I had to call in from work because I was afraid to drive. They checked it and fixed it and were quite apologetic, but I don’t use them for much other than state inspections since that happened.

            But hey, at least I know they really did rotate the tires!! :D

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Just have to find a good reliable independent service shop after you’re out of warranty! I drive about a half hour out of my way to go to mine. I’m never in that part of town otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        That’s why I do my own maintenance. I’ve had to jump up an down on the factory lug wrench to change a flat because of sloppy use of air impact wrenches. Also hate how when others change my oil and over-torque the oil filter. Its a real PITA for DIY work when something requires a longer lever arm to break it loose than the ground clearance of my car. I’ve also caught shops using the wrong oil.

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          I just did a Fiesta last weekend, and the FACTORY filter was on way too tight. My “Jaws of Death” pliers completely mangled that thing (including tearing a couple holes in it) before it came off.

          (I can usually remove the filters I attach without any tools at all)

        • 0 avatar

          Glad it is not just me. I HATE the impact wrench torqued bolts. The 88 ft/lbs that BMW recommends, or the 90 that Acura wants, is just tight plus maybe a half turn….a breaker bar plus an impact socket plus a long pipe isn’t the way this should go. It has taken me a while, but I finally found a guy who does tires, roadforce, and wheelsmithing only. He is good, not local, and not cheap. I go and willingly pay.

          Also, I’ve read that the torque is important for heat transfer from the disc to the wheel, which acts as a heat sink. I’m not an engineer, so I dont’ know if that is correct.

          Other pet peeve…tire pressures are never right-I have ONE shop that gives the car back with 35 x 4, but I’ve also seen 45×2, and 28, 35 and 40 x2. Thanks guys.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Back in the Before Times, I had my first car, an ’89 Metro LSI.

        Once I had to call AAA because I *bent* the factory wrench trying to get off a wheel someone had impacted on.

        Now I always carry a four-way wrench, so that doesn’t happen.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Got burned on the side of the road one time when I was younger, from over-tightened lug nuts. Been so long I don’t remember the final outcome, but I think I got something for my troubles from the shop that did it to me. Since then, if I have tire work, etc. done in a shop, I at least test the lug nuts to be sure I can remove them when needed.

  • avatar
    autojim

    Well, at least they changed the oil. Honda stores seem to have a problem with wall-jobbing. I’ve seen the aftermath of a few, but none quite as spectacular as the grad student with a mid-80s Accord that we put an engine in.

    Car had about 45k on the clock. We heard him coming down the street — rod knock is hard to miss — and it spit #2 and #3 out the side of the block as it turned from the street up the (not steep) drive of the shop. The owner, a sincere-but-not-remotely-technical theological grad student, said “It’s running rough. I think it needs a tuneup.”

    One of our techs took one look at the mess under the hood and said “Plugs, cap, and rotor aren’t gonna fix that”, and walked back inside.

    The pan was pretty well full of coolant by the time we got to look at it, but under the cam cover, it was a sludgefest — dark, black sludge, no contamination, just old oil. And I’m looking at the filter, and it’s not the Honda dealer filter, it’s the factory filter. Mopped up the puddle and went under — the drain plug had never been touched.

    “When was the last time you changed the oil, sir?”

    Cheerfully: “Oh, just about a month ago. I always get it done at the dealer I bought it from in my hometown. Here are all my receipts.” Yep. Full service records showing diligent oil changes no more than about 5000 miles apart.

    Yep. Wall-jobbed. His hometown was about an hour and a half away, and the Honda store there knew he was away at school, and they took his money and gave him a new oil change reminder sticker and did NOTHING to the car for more than 2 years.

    His neighbor in our town was a long-time customer of ours, so when his car started running badly (and was out of warranty), the neighbor recommended us.

    When all was said and done, we’d put a brand new Honda factory engine in it, with the sourcing help of our local store and the district rep, both of whom were appalled and confirmed that the car had never really been serviced, the store in the guy’s hometown paid for it plus a lot more in legal fees, and Honda of America investigated, discovered that store’s large number of engine replacement warranty claims had roots in that store’s SOP, and found a way to yank their franchise for fraudulent actions.

  • avatar
    92golf

    The one I recall is the charge I saw on the bill for filling up the windshield washer fluid. Apparently a 2 litre container that wasn’t empty could magically hold a full 4 litres because the dealer said it could.
    “Oh, we’ll just remove that charge from your bill sir.”

    Forever leaving a bad taste that ensures the car (and the bill) is checked over carefully each and every time.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Brutal. The shops I deal with fill the washer fluid as a courtesy.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Who charges separately for washer fluid? In the bulk quantities the dealer buys it in, it’s what, 75 cents a gallon? I’d think it could be safely tucked under the “shop supplies” line-item.

        And I’d be shocked if they had any idea how much they put in; it’s just a bulk spigot… (I know Jiffy Lube dispenses it via a hose coming out of the floor.)

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          The answer is dealer chains with MBAs on staff in tough markets. I’ve seen surcharges for ‘overhead,’ shop supplies, waste disposal, as well as charges for fluid fill ups on the same receipt. It was at a Porsche-Audi dealer too, not a discount store. The Porsche was having a heater control valve replaced deep in the dash. The service writer said, “there are two and they’re next to each other.” “It’s only a $40 part, so why don’t we do both while it’s apart?” The bill had full book rate for labor for replacing each part separately. They also replaced the battery with a new Porsche item because the old one was due based on the calendar, as if batteries really fail the moment they’re off warranty. I learned some expensive lessons from my BMWs too, and I watched other BMW owners learn that free maintenance and warranty repairs are often deferred maintenance and repairs.

          This isn’t to say Honda dealers are equal to their cars. When I moved back out here in 2007, I found a great Honda dealer that did work on a drive-up basis in beautiful service bays that you could watch from their well-stocked waiting room. They did good work for prices that seemed free after 21 years of German cars.

          When the economy tanked, they started looking at maintenance as a revenue stream instead of a sales loyalty effort. Prices went up and eventually the excellent staff was replaced by people that shouldn’t deal with the public. They also started padding maintenance requirements. Who wouldn’t want to pay for valve adjustments three times as often as Honda requires? Fortunately, there are independents for maintenance and the car outlived its warranty without ever needing anything.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            ““It’s only a $40 part, so why don’t we do both while it’s apart?” The bill had full book rate for labor for replacing each part separately.”

            Oh wow, smh.

            I sure hope that my arguments in favor flat rate post (farther down) doesn’t come across as in favor of removing common sense from the shop-customer relationship.

        • 0 avatar
          Firestorm 500

          That hose coming out of the floor has a direct line to the urinals.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I think almost every Ford dealer fills up the window washer fluid with an oil change/tire rotation or any other service.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        I make a point of filling the washer fluid myself before bringing a car in for service. The cheap crap used by every shop freezes up around 0° and I want fluid that’s good to -20° so I have to prevent them from putting in their crap.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          In the summer I may not care, but in the winter, I am 100% with you.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I’m glad I don’t live in a place where the temperature routinely gets lower than 0°.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Detroit in the winter is like an urban, snowy Mad Max.

            “My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.”

            That’s how I feel about winter.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You can use the front of your MKT as an ice breaker, since it’s shovel shaped!

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          This is a pet peeve of mine at my current employer. Mercedes on average have over 2 gallon capacities for their washer fluid. All we get is a small bottle of concentrate no matter how empty it is. If it’s empty, it will not handle freezing conditions to well.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m convinced that the coolant replacement I paid for a few months back in my car wasn’t done. I have no proof either way, it LOOKS like there was some coolant residue on the lower hose. Either way, I’m also convinced they didn’t use the right type of coolant. This is why I try my darnedest to do things myself. I won’t be back to a shop for fluid changes in the future.

    On the other hand, my wife had her Z4 in to the dealer for a state required inspection. They talked her into preventatively replacing her rear brake pads and rotors on her car with 30k miles which she drives 15 times per year. She was told she’d need to replace them “very soon” since they wouldn’t pass inspection in the future.
    Of course, being the stubborn anti-social person she is, she didn’t bother to ask me about it until after she okayed the work – via text message. God forbid she tell the guy at the counter to hang on while a woman calls her husband who lives for cars. I responded back that it didn’t seem necessary but I’d have to look at it to be sure. She said that it was too late so I instructed her to get the parts they took off. Surprisingly she followed through on that request.
    When I got home I looked at her car, they definitely replaced them, however the parts they took off looked about as close to new as you can get. No lip on the rotors, over a half inch of meat on the pads.
    And of course when I tell her all this, she gets mad at me for not always going with her to deal with her car.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I would go back and talk to the service manager. High line dealers are under pressure to get good surveys. If you show him close to new pads, that they told your wife needed replacement, he will more than likely refund your money. We had a lady come in, and the writer sold her the recommended services for her mileage based on the maintenance sheet. Her husband came in a few days later, through a fit, and they refunded everything.

  • avatar

    A friend in college payed (well his parents paid) nearly $800 for an alternator on a accord at the Honda dealer. And that was 10 years ago. For the most part I have never seen good service at a Honda dealer. I guess it’s a good thing the cars are reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Was it a late 90s V6 model? The alternators, per my mechanic, were shoehorned-in Delphi unit. Regrettably the replacements were increasingly inadequate refurbs. I had the alternator in my 98 replaced four times before I gave up and sold the thing.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        They had two different alternator suppliers: Delphi and Denso. The Delphi alternators failed prematurely while the dealer claimed to have never changed a Denso alternator.

        • 0 avatar
          Sam Hell Jr

          Shame I didnt get a Denso, then. Tack on some front brakes that werent made of sun-dried Play-doh and I’d still be driving it.

          • 0 avatar
            Firestorm 500

            I heard a long time ago that Honda alternators didn’t fail very often. But when they did, they were $800.00. I guess that was true.

            May still be.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    I am good with my mirrors and have plenty of experience city parking a half-dead F-250 and I’ve still had at least a handful of Braille-method incidents since I bought my tC. Not your fault, Jack – without upmarket electronic nannies, it is just darn hard to place all four wheels of a modern car in parking maneuvers, even one with sightlines as decent as the Accord’s.

    I have a soft spot for Accord coupes but even by two-door standards they have weird rear seat ingress/egress. It’s okay for passengers but getting back there to clean or access cargo is not a task for bipedal humanoids. Something about the relationship of the b-pillar and the released front seat just doesn’t quite connect.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Convex 2″ side mirrors are great for parking and passing. $5 at AutoZone and 60 seconds sticking them on will make driving easier and parallel parking a breeze. No surprises in your blind spot, no more scratched rims. Bonus points if your neck does not swivel like it used to.

      Once you have tried them you will never go without them again.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Many years ago a friends father had taken his Chevy to the local small town dealer for a number of attempts to fix the same problem with no success. When he brought it back to the shop (again) he parked the car with the nose to a wall and put a snowball behind the front passenger side tire.

    The dealer called a couple of days later telling him the car had been fixed. Dad walks up to the car, and sure enough the snowball is intact: the car had not moved. He walked into the General Managers office, invited him outside and showed him the snowball. A loaner car, properly done repairs, and apologies ensued.

    That was his last GM product.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Once upon a time before I took on the task of maintaining and modding my own cars I allowed an import specialist in MA to do some work on my then daily driver 944. Their lot was graced by a number of P cars and BMWs including a 2002tii and an 8 series. Among the simple tasks to be performed were an alignment and a tire rotation. My car had staggered Fuchs wheels. They rotated the tires AND the wheels rather than dismounting the tires and rotating the tires. I noticed the incorrect wheel placement when I arrived to collect the car. Up it went on the lift to put the wheels back where they belonged. I don’t remember if I was still charged, I probably was.

  • avatar
    Mieden

    Mark an “F” and “R” (or any type of identifier) on the inside of each tire in yellow chalk or paint. Insurance against this type of fraud.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I use a black Sharpie to make a small mark in the zeros in the tire code (no one would spend the time looking for them).

      My tires WERE rotated last time (oil changed, too). But, I was overcharged for the oil change/tire rotation, and charged for a full emissions test (<5000 miles/year in PA – you only need an "exempt" sticker, so it's 15-20 bucks cheaper).

      I paid the $120 bill, but responded to an e-mail survey with what happened – got an e-mail back asking me to return to the dealer so they could run my debit card through for a $40 credit.

      Thanks for the survey, Chevy!

  • avatar
    Fordson

    “So from now on, I’ll treat my dealer like Reagan treated Gorbachev. Trust, but verify.”

    And you are just now coming to this epiphany? How in your extensive automotive ownership and journalistic career have you managed to avoid absorbing this lesson thus far?

    For oil filters, you put a good, deep scratch into the old one – right down to the metal. No way to hide that.

    For rotations, just take note of the various wheel weight combos at all four corners – they’re never the same from wheel to wheel, and you can track the movement of each one and see not only that they were rotated, but how.

    Or just do this stuff yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      EMedPA

      Good advice about the oil filter.

      But not everyone has the time/skills/inclination to do their own mechanical work, Fordson. Doing your own maintenance is fine if you have the free time and a garage and tools. If you live in a small apartment complex and park in a lot, you’re SOL.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        That’s why the part about doing it yourself was an “or,” with the majority of the comment devoted to walljob avoidance.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          I have three cars and three motorcycles for which I’m responsible, maintenance-wise. The Honda’s still under warranty so to the dealer it goes.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Understood, but your oil changes and tire rotations are not done under warranty – i.e. they’re not free. So nothing about it being under warranty is keeping you from doing it yourself or making you take it to the dealer.

            Hopefully, you have given them some religion, but I don’t know how long that lasts…generally, my rule for any dealer or shop is:

            If you show me that you are either unwilling or unable (or both) to do the job completely and correctly the first time, you don’t get another crack at it, and you don’t get my business again.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Tire rotation for $19.95? A tire rotation (even at the dealer) is $9.99 in my area.

    Fortunately the quick lube at our GM dealer doesn’t have a waiting room but they will allow you to sit there on a folding chair in the bay area and let you watch the action.

    I did get “walljobbed” on a tire rotation at the local PepBoys once, I don’t go there anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The VW/Audi dealer I used to go to had an area that you could watch them work on your car. I called it the death room. Many sad people could watch their German car be pronounced dead (or too expensive to kept alive).

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        The Audi dealer I’m using now for service (and have been very happy with) has panoramic windows from the waiting area overlooking the entire service bay. It’s like sitting in a sky box. It’s a great way to pass the time for a drop off and wait.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Hell, my tire shop does them for *free* for life on tires they sold.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I check their work, fluids before leaving the shop. Short story, long, I’ve damn good reason to not trust techs and even hated them. They’re all hacks and criminals until proven otherwise. Mistakes happen, but it just seems pathological. Passive aggressive even.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      More likely it’s just bad HR.

      Some shops won’t pay the transaction costs of finding high-quality candidates and bringing good people on board. Some won’t pay the wages necessary to keep them around. Some won’t give their supervisors the resources to manage staff performance.

      All of this is hellishly expensive and hard to get right, in any line of work.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        +1. Bad HR can destroy certain departments, like a captive tool and die shop within a large plant. Blue collar tech is very difficult to get right.

        A warning sign is the slow disappearance of basic discipline (like showing up on time) because of hiring headaches. Part of THAT problem is HR’s wage inflexibility and market ignorance…

        Large Corporate HR is filled with neo-marxist eff-tards who spew all sorts of social justice phrases to appeal to the little guy… But they won’t contemplate paying a supervisory CNC machinist with 25 year’s experience over $100K — “cuz they’ll earn more than some staff.”

        • 0 avatar
          Sam Hell Jr

          Part of that is, the HR departments themselves have trouble getting and keeping good people, just like the operations end.

          Even still, in a big company, market wage sensitivity like you suggest, in real terms, means expensive salary surveys and performance review data and analyst work-hours. Most HR departments with which I’m familiar would love better data, but this is a very difficult pitch to senior management – “So I have to spend money to learn how to spend more money so you can then theoretically save me money?”

          Thus do you end up with with how wages work in most places – kiss-from-your-sister annual increases and bigger adjustments only after good people leave for markedly better offers.

          This goes double for hourly, blue-collar positions, which the purse-strings folks tend to regard as fungible.

      • 0 avatar

        That may be so, but there’s a difference between a technician who isn’t well-trained and a technician who deliberately commits time fraud by taking a smoke break instead of doing the work that was billed out to him.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        I think it’s rare to find a dealer where heavy turnover isn’t accepted as a fact of life, in any department.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Yet you’ll see local TV ads from these same dealers ad nauseam – so you know where their priorities lie.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    You may have to wait like 2 hours, but Discount Tire always actually balances and rotates my tires every 5k miles… A local shop my workplace brings their trucks to charges something like $40 each time to balance and rotate…

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I used to have a visceral dislike of all Japanese brand car dealers. This goes back to the mid 70s when the likes of Honda and Nissan were just getting popular. Although young, I was not easily swayed into paying for “additional markup” and worthless mandatory dealer installed options. There was also the little point that our local Honda dealer was an arsonist who torched his previous dealership to get the money to buy the Honda franchise. He got away with it with the help of a good lawyer and some dupe who did the dirty work for him and took the rap.
    Although he was probably an exception, I viewed all of the Japanese car dealers as very thinly reformed white collar criminals due their rapacious business practices.The salesmen were even slimier.
    Fast forward three decades, and things have changed considerably on the sales side. I went car shopping last summer, and stopped by the local Honda dealer to see if things had changed. It was a totally different experience than my last one in 1999. The sales people were both knowledgeable and polite. But best of all, met my needs by procuring a decent discount without much back and forth. The only part of the transaction I disliked was the F&I guy who worked like hell to sell be a dubious third party warranty even after I told him there was a greater chance of a meteor crashing through the roof and killing one of us than me buying said warranty.
    Here is my theory on why the dealers have changed their stripes on the sales side. The real money is in the F&I and service side of the business. The whole purpose of selling new cars is to make money on extended warranties and financing followed up by service over the life of the car.
    My local Honda dealer went so far as to print a counterfeit service manual with 3750 mile oil changes even though the car has an oil life monitoring system. I ended up changing the oil at 8500 miles with 20% calculated oil life remaining. Nice try. Even though they do oil changes for $30 to keep you coming back, I hate to waste money on unnecessary maintenance.
    Before you 3000 mile oil change monkeys start yelping and beating your chests, I tested the oil change monitor in my previous car. I changed the oil per the monitor (7500-8000 miles) over 10 years and 250K miles. The engine still ran like new with no more oil consumption than new. Case closed.
    I live in PA which has a very thorough annual inspection that I use to ensure that the basic systems are in good order so the manufacturers “multipoint inspections” are not an issue for me.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    This!

    I can’t stand being wall jobbed. It, I believe happened to every car owner in America.

    At this point, I have the bulk of my repair work done at my local Les Schwab tire and auto center. (I do NOT work for them, with them whatsoever). The guys let me stand there and watch them perform all of the work, literally five feet away. I get to ask questions, when I get a chance get underneath to have a quick look see at the undercarriage. I am looking for the same things they are; leaks, worn bushings etc. I want to see them with my own eyes prior to authorizing any repair.

    They treat me well, I ussually have the same tech and in the past I have accidentally dropped off a 12 pack when I felt they had taken good care of my car for a reasonable price. They replaced an axel bearing on my Chevelle twice with zero complaints. We determined the first part that was sent was defective and they paid for a more expensive one the second time around to ensure the problem was solved.

    I am not a fan of the dealer work experience. The work takes 3x longer, your car disappears from view and you have very little input as what is actually occurring. Flat rate techs have three bays working at once so an oil change magically takes an hour. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      My friends and I have been screwed by Les Shuab several times. Claiming things were needed when they werent on my car. They ruined the hub on one side on a buddy’s 1992 4Wd Ranger during a brake job, as if that wasnt enough, two days later, the brakes totally failed 40 miles outside of town and I had to drive it back very carefully using the parking brake and forcing downshifts for engine braking.

      But what takes the cake is that they rotated the tires on a friend’s 88 Taurus and the next morning, the right front fell off on the highway. Thank God he didnt crash. Had it towed back and they told him it wasnt their fault, it was the aluminum wheels that didnt belong to the car (they were factory!!!) and sold him four new black steelies and two new tires, totaling nearly a grand. I bet you ANYTHING that they didnt torque the lugnuts on that wheel properly and that caused them to work themselves off. They kept the aluminum wheels, the tech that fed him that line of BS probably scraped them himself.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Not this guy! In the 8 years I’ve been on the road, I’ve had two alignments done, and one set of tires changed by a shop. Watched the alignments, didn’t bother with the tires, hard to mess those up. Everything else has been done myself. Breaking down and mounting tires, DIY alignments, rebuilding carbs, everything (I think) short of rebuilding an engine or trans. Newest vehicle was 20 years old all the way to 60+ years old.

      I know I’m “privileged” but I enjoy doing it, its very rewarding and relaxing.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Les Schwab is great for tires.

      I refuse to do brake work there because literally – as self-described policy – they want to replace your calipers with every pad change.

      Brake calipers are not a wear item in the way pads are, and their demand to treat them as such means they don’t get my brake money, convenient as it would be to give it to them.

      (Once, long ago, my old Toyota pickup had managed to lose a pair of bolts holding part of the front suspension together; I took it in to LS and they spent an hour investigating the noise, and patched it up with a temporary bolt, *gratis*. [I then ordered the replacement bits from a Toyota shop and put the proper ones in.]

      They’ve earned some loyalty with things like that.)

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        To be fair to the idea of replacing calipers with every change… depending on the age of the caliper or how hard it’s been driven, it’s not unusual for the seals to go or the pistons to jam on or shortly after a pad change. Rebuilt calipers are usually pretty cheap (cheaper than paying the shop to do a seal kit on the caliper you already have) and help prevent callbacks, which are the bane of any shop doing brake jobs.

        (It’s one reason the labor charges and/or parts markup for brake jobs is so high; the callback rate (especially due to noise) is kind of high, even if the shop does everything they are supposed to to keep things quiet.)

        • 0 avatar
          bnolt

          Unless you drive like Sébastien Loeb this is utter nonsense. Have the brake fluid flushed every 3 years. In over 40 years of car ownership I’ve replaced/had replaced exactly zero calipers (and our vehicles are driven into the ground).

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            A couple of exceptions that proves the rule.

            A long time ago the rear calipers (ATE brand at least, not sure if the Girlings shared the same problem) on Volvo 240s were known for seizing. One or sometimes both pistons would get stuck enough that they wouldn’t work under light braking. Mash the brake pedal and they’d work though. Usually “exercising” the piston would free it up (pry it all the way back into its hole then pump it back up again with the pedal, repeat a few times). Usually this didn’t happen until past 100k miles and/or about ten years.

            Funny, we were talking about the Lumina Eurosport a few days ago (and still today…) and the rear calipers on the regular Luminas sometimes liked to seize for some regular owners. Apparently not a problem with fleet vehicles (probably because of more frequent use). Don’t know if it was the sliders or the piston in those though.

            Anyhoo…

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Agreed. Calipers get sold way to often in the auto service world. 9 out of 10 times, it’s not the calipers. Uneven pad wear is usually caused by the pads seizing to the caliper mounting bracket. They need to be cleaned and well lubed before new pads are installed.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    Finally, I’ve become that guy I’ve leered at who smugly claims to be too busy to do his own automotive maintenance. As my interest and body decline in capacity, I find myself considering farming out more stuff I don’t want to make time for, particularly tire rotations. I’ve already had to call out an independent import shop for not actually rotating the tires on my ’10 Kizashi. Of course, that experience has only bolstered my naturally distrustful nature to the point that I’m devising fail-safes on my new car.

    I’ve already done my first oil change (at 1,000 miles) on my 2014 Jetta Sportwagen 2.5, but am currently trying to devise a way to keep the dealer honest on cartridge filter changes. Doing the job myself was actually pretty tolerable, but the thought of dumping it off at the dealer for an oil change on VW’s dime, along with a rotation, is too tempting. Anyone have suggestions on how to ensure the cartridge filter is changed without arousing suspicion? I’m so distrustful of others, that I’m concerned asking for the spent filter might net me someone else’s or get me marked for sabotage in the future (think Seinfeld’s doctor charts).

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I have not had good experiences with Honda dealers even by the standards of mass-market brand dealers. Many of them still have the attitude that it’s 1992 and Honda products are quite obviously the best on the market.

    And all it takes is a moment of inattention for the wheel scratch to happen. I’ve got two separate road-rashed wheels on the G8. One was from an early date with my now-wife, when I was paying too much attention to her while parking in a tight spot on a narrow Georgetown street in DC. The other was a misjudgment of a very weird, heavily off-camber street corner built into the side of a cliff in Seattle. Stuff happens.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Let’s pile on! My wife took the Acura to the dealer for some mundane maintenance, they charged her $75 to change engine oil and $180 to change the interior air filter. Guess which task involved lifting the car and using special tools, and which task involved opening the glove compartment.

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    My sister in law on Long Island had an interesting experience in a local Toyota dealer with her RAV4. Over the course of a year she has been screwed out of some significant money for some shoddy and or unnecessary work. It began with an oil change and tire rotation ($81.95! holy crap, local Ford dealer offers a works package at $39.95 with a $10 mail in rebate for any make or model) which included a multipoint inspection. They upsold a valve cover gasket for 2.5 hours labor (I confirmed later on that it is only one hour with my local Toyota store), and tried to sell front stabilizer links for 2 more hours. Unfortunately I’m 200 miles away so I can’t be of much help with the dealer. A week later the car is on the hook back to the dealer for a no start (yet the multipoint inspection had given the battery condition as excellent). They then sold her a battery and alternator. I’m not sure if the alternator was needed, but it’s a 2005 so it is possible. Next issue was a check engine light with a P0171 lean code. Wary of the dealer she brought it to an indy shop and they tossed an O2 sensor at it. One week later, light was back on, brought it to the dealer, and was told the aftermarket (Nippondenso) O2 sensor the indy shop put on (funny, Nippondenso is the OEM part) was the cause of the P0171 code the car presented again, and chastised her for using an indy shop. One week later, I’m in NY visiting, the light is back on. Free scan at Autozone and sure enough P0171. She’s fed up at this point, so I take the car back to Massachusetts to work on it. Fuel pressure check is good, no vacuum leaks, I pulled the fuel pump to check the tank and screen for debris and it is pristine. Next check the MAF sensor and sure enough the hot wire is filthy. Clean it up, change the oil, replace the worn front links, and on the road test without clearing the code the light goes off on it’s own. I gathered all her paper work and looking it over found they were charging her for 5 qts of oil at each LOF, yet the spec is 4. They also charge for fluid top off during their $81.95 LOF and tire rotation. Moral of the story, find a mechanic you can trust, and avoid the dealer unless you need warranty service. The sad part about dealerships is they tout the factory training and skill of their techs, yet most aren’t actually trained completely, and are no more qualified to fix a sandwich, never mind fix your car.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    A few points on maintenance shop operations-

    1) Insurance and liability sometimes means that customers aren’t allowed in the work area.

    2) Some places get around (1) with fishbowl rooms for customers. Certainly a good thing to have in your business model but renovating an existing shop to provide one of these is expensive.

    3) Flat rate makes labor costs predictable and transparent for the customer. You don’t have to wonder if the service writer is making it up as they go along- the estimates are in print for anyone to see. It comes out in your favor if your rustbucket car has stuck bolts or some other time-consuming challenge. It comes out in your favor if the tech assigned to your car happens to be slow (inexperience, makes a mistake, etc.). Of course it comes out in the shop’s favor if the tech is a beast (good techs can beat the flat rate estimate, great ones can beat it by a lot). So that is incentive for the techs to be good at their jobs. The downside is there can also be incentive to cut corners if you think you can get away with it.

    All in all, I believe that flat rate is a good practice.

  • avatar
    brianyates

    Took my wife’s Mazda 6 for service at a local Mazda dealer(not where we bought the car from) and went for lunch until the car was ready. We received a call during lunch from the service advisor to tell us that the front rotors were badly worn and needed replacing (this at 70.000kms, we had the rear rotors replaced under warranty at the same dealer at 50.000kms) We said O.k but we wanted to see the original rotors. We paid the bill and promptly took the old rotors to an independent dealer who with a micrometer checked the wear, they were well within condemnable limits and had another 20.00kms left. I phoned the owner of the garage and he eventually refunded us the costs of the parts plus installation, I’ll never use that place again.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I understand why shops use mileage-remaining or percentage to express brake wear to their customers (because customers ask, “How many miles will this part last?”), but it really helps to use what the manual uses, and that is thickness (in inches or in mm). Thickness of the part, thickness when new, and “replace when” thickness in the book.

      Miles gotten out of inches thick varies widely (giggity!).

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’ve never been walljobbed–that I know of–but I’v had enough examples of incompetence/forgetfulness that I’m very wary of any shop: a front-end alignment to “fix” a problem caused by worn out suspension components, sparkplugs installed finger tight, sockets left on the engine (hey, free tools!), and the best one, a bolt left off a brake line, allowing it to rub on the steering gear, eventually resulting in a leak and almost complete loss off braking ability. Good times.

    If you can find a small shop with an honest owner who actually wrenches, solid gold.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Just experienced the potential reverse (or converse?) of a wall-job. Took wife’s tC in to the dealer for 60k servicing. I’m thinking that since she wants to keep the car (and keep it properly documented), I’d take it to the local Toyota/Scion folks. Soooo…the “basic” 60k service was damn near $300 (and the only “real” labor I could see on the list was the oil change, tire rotation and filter change). Of course, the “recommended” service was closer to $500! I should have listened to that little voice inside my head (or was that the wife screaming at me?) to run. Instead, I let them do the “basic.” Naturally, the next morning they call and tell me the brakes are shot and need to be replaced. Feeling rather fed up, I denied the approval and took the car to the local service shop across the street from our house and let them look at the brakes. While they did wind up confirming the front brake pads needed replacing, they also confirmed the rear brakes were fine and even went so far as to let me look at not only the brake pads, but also the condition of the brake fluid (which said Toyota dealership never mentioned and would have either, A) not done, or B)not done and charged me for). I’m a huge fan of finding a trusty independent shop, and should have known better. Given the relative newness of her tC, I thought I’d be doing a good thing by keeping it at the dealership, but years and years of working with good indie shops should have taught me better!

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    The only times I let a shop/dealer change my oil are when Im on a road trip (they tend to frown on such at rest areas), working heavy hours (last job I had, we put in 12 hours a day for 7 days a week for months on end…yes I know thats against OSHA code), or like recently when my parent’s Taurus hit 60k and I wanted a multi-point inspection (watched them through the window, they did an excellent job).

    Once on a road trip through Texas, I stopped at a shop and asked if they had Motorcraft oil and filters. “Yes.” was the reply, so I said go ahead and change the oil/filter in that Tempo out there using Motorcraft 5w30 and Motorcraft FL400S filter.

    I watched through the window as they pulled the Tempo in, lifted it, drained the oil, and immidiatley walked to the door and said “all we have is Penzoil and Fram.” I was so angry, I couldve blown the place up by sheer will power.

    I stopped at a Ford dealer in the very next town and told them what happened. They checked my oil, 1.5 quarts low. I had them change it with Motorcraft.

    That car NEVER used oil, EVER! Id change it at 6,000 miles (not something I did often, letting it go that long) and it was always dead full. Either the asses at the indi shop underfilled it or my Vulcan simply didnt like Penzoil. Either way, I now ONLY go to Ford dealers for service when Im on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “… change my oil are when Im on a road trip (they tend to frown on such at rest areas)”

      You should check out the WalMart parking lot (or Canadian Tire, if you’re north of the border). Hehehehe, just being facetious. No, but seriously…

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Hey, Im not lying, Ive thought about it! Lol

        I have been north of the border in the very same Ford Tempo in that story. I took it to Ford’s Centennial Celebration in Dearborn, Mi, and then crossed the border and met some “internet friends” in Toronto, then spent a week or so in Montreal. Amazing city, I walked from “the village” (Im sure you know where Im talking aboUt) to the historical district and it was great. This was in June, so the weather was absolutely perfect for such a walk. I then drove by the “thousand lakes” I believe its called on my way back to the states.

        Edit: I still use mayonaise on my fries after trying it in Canada. I dont care much for ketchup, but mayo is great, especially on thick fries.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          “still use mayonaise on my fries after trying it in Canada”

          They turned you into a monster and sent you back to an unsuspecting America.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “mayonaise on my fries”

            Freakin’ awesome! That should make them pass through before the carbs can be absorbed. Like an ablative coating.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Well, Ive never cared gor ketchup, unless its with fried fish, so I was happy to find an alternative that I love. Works great on homemade fries or those OreIda steak fries.

            Doesnt work with McDonald’s puny fries, but Ive stopped going there anyway. I prefer Jack In The Box if Im in an area they serve, else Ill usually go to Wendy’s. Im not into fast food at all really, this is mostly if Im on a trip or in town between doctor’s appointments (speaking of which, gotta have ANOTHER MRI this week -oh joy, just hope they dont screw this one up).

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Lots of regional cultural things going on in Canada, mayo on fries and/or burgers being just one of them.

            You should try salt and vinegar on French fries (it tastes sorta like salt and vinegar chips–or fish’n’chips, imagine that–now don’t be a frickin’ wuss and chicken out before you at least try it). White vinegar (clear) vs cider vinegar is a matter of personal preference. Make it as strong as you like- just enough to nip at your taste buds or all the way up to pour it on so much that the back of your neck starts to sweat.

            Enjoy!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “mayo on fries”

            When did Canada become part of Belgium?

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Try vinegar on the fries, or chips as they are known across the pond…beats either ketchup or mayo for taste, and not as fattening, either.

      • 0 avatar
        dingram01

        Actually, you’re not supposed to change your oil in Walmart parking lots, as they are strictly reserved as a disposable diaper dumping area.

        Jack, glad your car is full of new oil. But how badly did they overfill/underfill it? I have never had a dealership fill anywhere close to the full line, and usually they are a good quart above. Like WAAAAAY overfull. I always check now and make them fix it before I leave. But usually I do the oil changes myself.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Canadian Tire parking lot, featured on Top Gear’s British Columbia expedition.

        I wonder how Canadian Tire was able to get such prominent placement?

      • 0 avatar

        Or Autozone, or Advanced. I always see a ton of people working on cars right next to the “no working on cars in parking lot” signs.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    That’s odd, Jack…I have a buddy in Powell, OH with a year-old Odyssey who was walljobbed on a tire rotation at the local Honda dealer. I bet it was the same place. Coincidence?

    You didn’t mention the name of the dealer, so I won’t either. Maybe it isn’t “germane” to this discussion.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Could a dealer differentiate himself from the (generally substandard) pack by having all service videotaped? And giving such video to customers who ask?

    Or would any dealer considering such a thing wake up with a horse-head in their bed, courtesy of their State Dealer ‘Association’?

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

    When my dad passed away last year, I commented to the owner of our independent garage that he was probably their longest serving customer at 40 years. The shop’s changed franchise names, owners, and even locations several times, but they built a trusting relationship over the years that keeps us still going there.

    I sometimes wonder whether they’re 100% honest, since I bring my own synthetic oil and it would be so easy for them to switch it out. But I can usually tell they use what I bring because there’s zero oil oxidation after 6 months.

  • avatar
    turf3

    My experience with Japanese dealer service started in the mid 80s and it was pretty terrible. In those days Mazda were particularly notorious.

    My brand new ’87 Mazda 626 has the steering wheel slightly off from straight. No pulling, just a minor misadjustment. So, I take it in, should be a quick warranty fix, right?

    I get it back that evening, and the steering wheel is now straight when the car is going straight, but the car pulls to one side like the devil. What the heck? So I pull over at a gas station, check the tire pressure: 15 psi on one side, 50 psi on the other side. Reset to 32 all around, pulling eliminated, steering wheel not straight.

    That night I just crawled under the car and reset the toe myself using a vise grips to hold the tie rod end, a wrench for the nut, and the tip of a flat bladed screwdriver as a gauge for how much I was backing it off.

    My wife’s new Toyota was pulling. Multiple dealer alignments (under warranty); still pulls. They start giving me the “well, it pulls because of the crown on the road” excuse. Blah blah blah. Finally I take it to the tire place that gives you a printout of the alignment – front wheels A-OK, rear wheels totally NFG. Call the dealer, they say something like “oh, you mean you’re supposed to align all four?” (FWD car with independent rear suspension.)

    When I was a kid my mom’s Pontiac came back from a dealer service with a 12″ long file lying on the radiator shroud. How it stayed there all the way home without falling into something important, I will never know. I still have the file; the ’66 Catalina is long gone.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      My mechanic, while overall a good guy who is transparent and shows me the details of his work and doesn’t pull profit shenanigans like the Porsche heater core labor X 2 example above, he has left all sorts of tools hanging out of my car. Dirty rags, that cylinder thing that you use to compress ball joints, vice grips, and a really nice Snap On rechargeable LED lightbar with a hook at the top. I always bring the stuff back, I wanted to keep that light though.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    So if Ive for a couple of these battle scars on my wheels, are they worth fixing?

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

    Jack, speaking of removing brake dust, I use a product called Dry Shine. I believe FW1 is similar. The product is essentially a detailing spray combined with carnauba wax and naphtha. It has all of the cleaning power of a bug and tar remover or acidic wheel cleaner, and none of the rubber staining and residue of a dedicated chrome/metal polish or car polish. It only works if you use a large microfiber cloth, so toss those 1 foot squares and use a 2×3 foot microfiber terry cloth.

    In fact, it’s replaced all my waxes/paint cleaners/wheel cleaners/bug and tar spray/detailing sprays. YMMV.

  • avatar
    7402

    As a teenager a friend who worked at a Ford dealer as a lot boy (seems they call them “porters” now) confirmed that it was common practice to siphon a small amount of gasoline out of most cars in order to fill employees’ cars.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I use an independent who is honest.

    However I do sometimes wonder when he tells me not to do something. Such as “don’t change the coolant yet it is still good” or “if you flush the transmission fluid on that old crate it could cause trouble by jarring something loose”.

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      I too have an independent shop telling me “you don’t need it” for coolant and trans. fluid. Finally when my car was 10 years old I insisted on the changes. (I hope they did it). I left my Lexus dealer because on 2 major services, when I opened the hood the engine was filthy and full of leaves. The manager assured me that it had, indeed, been serviced, but they had slipped up on the cleaning: the 20 something service writer assured me that cleaning battery posts was NOT part of the $800 service, where upon I pulled out the computerized bill and showed him where their paperwork claimed it was. My local Honda dealer was great for years then was sold to a giant chain, which now on every intermediate service wants to put in a $25 oil additive which I have never needed in 40 years of Honda ownership and reading their manuals.
      Face it….we now live in a third world nation where the only honest hands are at the end of your own arms.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You have a mechanic that’s telling you that you *don’t* need wallet flushes? Stick with that guy. I’m serious.

      “if you flush the transmission fluid on that old crate it could cause trouble by jarring something loose”.

      He’s right about this. Most major manufacturers now have technical bulletins advising their dealers against these types of flushes just for that reason. Sometimes they come back with transmission damage.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I won’t use a shop that won’t let me in the shop to talk to the mechanic and watch at least some of the work being done.

    I won’t watch start to finish unless I know and am on very friendly terms with the tech doing the work, but I like to introduce myself, make a little small talk and show that I care both about my vehicle, the work being performed, and the guy doing the work. Seems to have worked well. Never been walljobbed that I know of, and never had a repair not work out.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Not a bad practice. You will also find out what’s really going on with your car. Writers have a way of translating a very solid common sense diagnosis into sounding like the biggest scam. You should always be able to do it.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    How did you notice this? That just looks like a manufacturing seam.

  • avatar
    hotdog453

    Being a Columbus local, and having read your original “two guys in an Accord coupe” article, I have to wonder if the dealer is the same as the one mentioned in that article.

    Part of me is tempted to call each one in town and get a quote on a tire rotation. But thankfully I’m lazy and short attention spanned.

  • avatar

    I am leasing a 2014 Accord Sport
    I have a few things to say here, these 18 inch wheels get scratched so easily that you really don’t have to hit a curb to do damage on them, at least once I scratched one with my ring when I checked the air, also, car wash rails put their mark on them.
    I was always skeptical about dealers work on my car, I used to do almost everything on my old cars by myself and when it was time to take it to the shop I was right there in the shop chatting with my mechanic while he is working on my car, i knew exactly what is done and how.
    It’s a different story now when I take my car to the Honda dealer, I still look at the oil before and after an oil change and I do look at the wheels before and after a rotation, what I hate is the service reminder on the dash, if this would be my car, I would not change the oil after 6700k miles as what the reminder call for but since I got free maintenance from Honda, I don’t really care, I can see they use synthetic that is extremely hard to distinguish old from new, I would easily keep the oil for at least 10k.

  • avatar
    craiger

    I remember Bedard’s walljob article!

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    not a walljob, just sloppy:
    Today I brought my Mazda 6 in for oil change to Dealer. they include some “inspection”.
    The good thing is, automatic transmission fluid level is OK per the checklist. Odd, since my car has 3 pedals….
    Another good thing is that my brake pads gained 1-2 mm since last year (4000 miles) and went from nearly “yellow=replace” to “green”. My tires also gained 1-2/32 tread. If I keep driving i can make money by installing old pads and tires since my car seems to re-surface them…

    Now I’m tempted to take the splash shield off to see if they replaced the oil filter….

    Good comments above on the “fishbowl” shops. now I will call around to find a shop that let’s me see the work. Coincidentally I just went on a binge to buy the Haynes manual, OBD reader ans some other tools to measure/inspect.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      FWIW, Haynes manuals are still decent and a lot of us B&B learned to wrench with them (they used to be better when only a few jobs were “best left to a specialist”) but Haynes manuals plus youtube self-help videos… now we’re talking!

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        yeah, you always should check youtube. The Haynes manual says oil filter gets removed with a generic tool. Haynes also didn’t mention the splash shield being in the way. I found a youtube video showing the 2.3 l engine needs special procedure and tool.

        Some basic things in Haynes are not covered. but they include complete engine rebuilds… like some regular guy buys a manual and rebuilds his engine right after he found out where the oil filter is…..

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I have another oil change horror story. My friend drives a 2000 Volvo S60 (non-turbo) SE. She asked me to check her oil pan as the oil change place she uses refused to do an oil change because it was leaking very badly. So, i put it up on ramps, oil pan is fine. The leak is coming from the filter. Took the filter off and there were THREE (3!) old gaskets stuck on there! THAT was what caused the leak!

    Whats worse, the next place she took it put the drain plug on with an impact and rounded it off as smooth as the paint. I worked for two hours trying to get it off with no success (my back was KILLING me and I was forced to stop trying as a result). Ive gotta try again later. I tried a pipe wrench, vicw grips, pounding on a slightly smaller socket/wrench, nothing worked. Wont surprise me if we dont end up having to drill it out using an “easy out”.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Good grief. Time to teach your friend how to not have a (FWD, bad era) Volvo, or to find a good, independent mechanic. Preferably, both!

      Perhaps replace with a D3 Sable.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        So… replace a Volvo with a closet Volvo? (ducks)

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          To his credit, itd have a Ford drivetrain that would be cheaper to maintain and repair. The 3.5L Cyclone and the GM-Ford 6spd in my parent’s ’12 Taurus has been absolutely flawless for going on 70k now. Ive done all the oil changes except for the first (because: free) and at 60k during Ford’s The Works promotion mostly because I wanted the multi-point inspection and tire rotation.

          I bought a bundle of new Motorcraft filters for the 3.5L on eBay for dirt cheap.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Lol, OH please. In platform only!

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Yeah, Ive suggested she find something cheaper to maintain and repair, but she’s the type to drive a car into the ground. The Volvo replace a Buick Aztek (not even going to attempt to spell its actual name, but was the Aztec clone), which self destructed with fatal electrical issues (SHOCKING, I know!). The Buick replaced an 84 Sentra with more miles than the space shuttle.

        I told her to just let md do the Volvo’s oil changes from now on, instead of some snot nosed kid who couldnt tell a Volvo from a Mercury Topaz if his pimply life depended on it.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          “the type to drive a car into the ground.”

          On a 2000 S70, this occurred in 2006. Hehe.

          RENDEZVOUS, it’s fancy and European don’tcha know. You sound like a good friend to have around.

          With her record, her next car should be a Northstar STS. Or a Montego AWD. x.x

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Lol. She got the Buick for $250 from a friend when it died on her. New starter and battery, it was fine…until the electrical gremlins got ahold of it.

            What Id like to find her is an 04-07 Taurus with the torque converter already stripped out so itll be über cheap. Fix it myself and it should be good to go. I prefer my smaller, lighter 95 Taurus personally, but a 4th gen isnt a bad car in most respects, especially considering how cheap they go for. Safe, comfortable, should get 28 +/- MPG highway (what our 97 Sable Vulcan averaged) and crappy torque converter aside, pretty dependable.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The MY00 (taurus) I had consistently did 20/27, exactly for the seven or so thousand miles I had it in 2007-8. Uncanny.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Whats even more uncanny is that my parents car gets about the same, and thr only thing it really has in common with old Tauruses is its name and place of assembly (well, my 95 is an Atlanta car, which is neat for me as I got to tour it in 2006 just before it was shut down).

            When I drive the 2012, the average drops to 25 mpg. Cant figure out why, maybe its all those Altimas and Camrys I keep blowing the doors off of with it, LMAO! I swear I dont see how someone could call that car underpowered. Maybe compared to a 300C or A8, but c’mon, its plenty powerful for what it is, down right quick for being a base model engine IMO. Im seriously interested to know what itd top out at if the limiter were disabled, because it has a lot left to give at the whatever limit it has now.

            I know the limit is set slightly higher than a 3.5L Altima’s. I had one run up on me and swerve to the left lane at the last second to pass, laughing as he went by. I had no choice in the matter, my foot hit the floor, I caught him and got by him and there was nothing he could do (the highway was virtually deserted except us, like 0 traffic). I was slowly putting distance on him until my turn off came up and I let him go back by. I know that [email protected]$Г@rd wouldve kept me from passing had his limiter not prevented it. As smug as he was, it burned him up that a Taurus handed him his @$$ on a silver platter.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    I had a wall-job-like tire rotation experience on my out-of-warranty Honda Element at a quickie oil change center. I had taken it in for an oil and filter change and noticed that they advertised tire rotation as an available service, so I told them to do that as well. I was curious as to how they would do this, as their oil service used the typical drive-over pit. Watching from their glass-walled waiting area, I did not see the car put on a lift or otherwise jacked up to permit tire rotation.

    When they called my name and said the car was ready, I verified that I had in fact been charged for the rotation and asked the obvious: “Did you rotate the tires? I didn’t see you lift the car off the ground.” They admitted that they “forgot,” and pulled it around to the side of the building and jacked it up with a floor jack with me watching. I’m inclined to believe that they really did forget. If they intended a wall job for a 30-minute service with the customer sitting right there in a glassed-in waiting area, they’re not even very good wall-job artists.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    A guy at work took his truck into the tire dealer for free tire rotation, and a month later he took one of the wheels off and discovered a broken wheel stud.

    The least the dealer could have done was to admit they had broken off a stud, and have him come in at a later date to have it repaired at no cost. He wound up replacing the broken stud himself, and never went back to the tire dealer again.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ” Blue collar tech is very difficult to get right.”

    THANK YOU for this ! .

    Being a Journeyman mechanic I’m at the other end of this .

    IMO, most wall jobs are the fault of the mechanic .

    Agreed any Service manager worth his/her salt should know what’s going on buy time and time again I have been simply _appalled_ by the sheer laziness of most all Service Techs .

    Even when caught they have zero shame .

    -Nate

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