By on February 6, 2019

It’s an eventuality of car ownership. The odometer rolls around to a certain figure, a special orange light on the dash tells you there is an issue, or you hear a pow bang from somewhere underneath your automobile. Often, one or more of these is accompanied by a feeling of dread.

Today we talk horror stories from the often unpleasant experience everyone has in common: taking a car in for repairs.

For some people (including yours truly), the simple action of handing over some keys brings that feeling of dread. Hyper-awareness and an eye for small details make said feelings worse. Sometimes they’re totally unjustified, but other times they’re not. A story is incoming.

In July of 2017 I’d scheduled for the replacement of the Takata airbag in my Infiniti M35x. The usual bad feelings were eased somewhat by a professional-looking service area at the dealer, one which seemed well-managed. Upon pickup the same Friday evening, all seemed well, and I was assured the airbag replacement went smoothly.

Unfortunately, on the way home my hand grazed the passenger seat, only to feel fingers instantly coated with oil. At home, a bright flashlight revealed the cause of the issue. Though the tech in charge of replacing the airbag put a plastic cover on the driver’s seat, per dealership policy, they didn’t do the same for the passenger seat — where they were working all day. Many times over, dirty overalls massaged oil into the light stone leather. Another notable (and irritating) issue was a big scratch on the interior trim of the B-pillar, which looked as if scraped by a screwdriver. Shreds of plastic hung down, taunting.

I called the dealer shortly before close that evening, informing them of the issue. “Saturday” they said, “we really only do oil changes. You’ll have to come back Monday.”

Monday appointment made, I refused to leave the oil on the seat for an entire weekend to marinate on the leather. After spending an hour cleaning it, I turned up at the dealer on Monday and was greeted with… disbelief. Upon mentioning the oil, the reply was “It looks clean to me.” After explaining how I didn’t want to let it sit all weekend, I got an additional “Okay.” On to the trim…

“I don’t think we did that.”

Except there weren’t any front seat passengers in recent memory, and the hanging plastic shreds indicated very recent damage. The look and extended pause provided via my face was enough to get a half-hearted promise to fix the issue, but I’d have to make another appointment. This one was time-restricted to when the interior guy was there.

The airbag replacement and damage occurred on July 7th, and the issue resolved itself via heat gun on July 25th. Safe to say I won’t be back at the dealer unless absolutely necessary. It could’ve been worse, but this was bad enough to leave a sour taste.

Let’s hear your worst service experiences.

[Images: Corey Lewis/TTAC]

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97 Comments on “QOTD: Sloppiness at the Service Center?...”


  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    This really isn’t my *worst* experience from a cost and stress perspective, but it definitely p*ssed me off the most. I took my wife’s BMW into a dealer service center to have 2 recall items performed. They told me it would take 8 hours to perform – drop it off at 7am, car will be done by late afternoon. Long story short – they had her car for 4 days because “no techs were available.” I cornered the service manager and blasted him over it. His excuse “We’re sorry these things happen, but warranty and recalls take second priority to repair jobs.” In other words, we make more money gouging other customers than off you, so you can wait.

    I let BMW corporate know how p*ssed I was, they couldn’t give less of a hoot.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Kia dealers seem to do better than that. I took my daughter’s Forte Koup in during the Christmas holidays (while she was home from college) to get the SRS control module replaced (actually, they just plugged in an adapter harness). It was in and out in an hour, with no evidence they’d even been in there (it just requires removing the center console to access). I could have skipped the courtesy van ride, and waited on it.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      The only thing worse than BMW dealers is the contempt that BMWNA has toward the end buyer of it’s cars and SUVs. 15 years ago this was not the case, but it is now. BMW and it’s dealers have done a 180.

    • 0 avatar

      It is BMW not some lowly VW. Did they give you latest greatest new BMW as a loaner at least?

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Back in the year 2000 I got in a bad car accident with my 1994 Nissan pickup. Person pulled out right in front of me – damage to my hood, quarter panel, bumper, the whole front clip basically. The other person got a ticket and I ended up in car repair hell.

    Apparently the insurance company “authorized repair facility” had a hard time getting parts for the truck, which caused an extra two+ weeks of delay. They finally suggested that I call Nissan via their hotline to expedite the parts.

    So I grudgingly call – go through several different support people, explaining the situation each time. And then I finally got hung up on. And that’s the last time I bought a Nissan.

    When I did finally get the truck back, the window trim wasn’t glued on correctly; and the wipers would randomly go off/on by their own. But I was angry enough that I didn’t bring the truck back but just lived with the mistakes. Truck was sold a year later.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    2005-2009 mustangs had a common issue where the “smart” junction box, located in the passenger footwell on the outer wall, was not properly sealed off from water.

    Just my luck, my 2006 mustang GT suffered this issue. Rainy day, electricals of all kinds started to act strangely. Power windows, key fob, lights, everything really

    I took it in, car was still well within original warranty and there was a known TSB for this exact issue.

    Ford refused to cover it under warranty and quoted me upwards of $4-5k to troubleshoot the source of the leak, replace the junction box and wire harnesses and seal off said leak.

    Ultimately I let it dry out, replaced a few grommets, placed some protection around the box itself and never had another problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      Ford warranty sucks. The dealers don’t make as much on warranty, so they pretend you don’t have a problem, or that it’s not covered, and then try to bilk you out of all your money.

      I had the ’05-06 Mustang GT popping strut top problem. I took it in twice under warranty and they claimed they couldn’t hear a thing. Just out of warranty I took it back in for a “free oil change” and mentioned the popping and that I’d had it looked at twice. They said, “Yup, it’s popping. It’ll be $800 to fix it.” I mentioned it was a condition that existed prior to the end of the warranty and that it had been documented and the dealer refused, saying Ford wouldn’t pay up.

      I fixed it myself, added camber adjustment, and installed lowering springs for under $400.

      Don’t ever buy a Ford with the expectation they will honor their warranty.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Bad car repair experiences…this thread could get long.

    I took my Suburban to a local indie shop, because you know dealers gouge you. I was having intermittent power failure where the radio would turn off and on etc. The google machine kept telling me it was the ignition switch. I took the Suburban to the shop which several had recommended. They replaced the ignition switch and proceeded to hand hand me the ‘what also needs to be done’ list which totaled to approximately $2500. One of which was the special oil change with their top secret additive for $100, and tie rods, and ball joints and fluids of every kind.

    Long story short, the intermittent power failures continued, which had me stewing. No BS, about a week later I woke up in the middle of the night startled to the answer. Got up, went down to the garage, grabbed the 10 MM open end wrench and tightened the negative batter terminal. Problem never happened again. I am still irritated at the shops lack of problem solving skills. It took me awhile for sure, but I don’t repair cars for a living. Needless to say that shop is a no go.

  • avatar
    deanst

    My recent experience reflects more on the crazy mandatory emissions testing, not my mechanic – whom I like. I take my car in for the test, and it fails. I soon discover that the emission test is no longer done at the tailpipe, but merely catches whatever code your car is throwing. I tell the mechanic that I know the thermostat is throwing a code, as well as a purge valve problem – just replace them. No, he has to do another test to satisfy the province. Well, $75 later, he finds that I need a new thermostat and purge valve. The GM dealer demands $200 for a thermostat, and the price of the purge valve is so high the total exceeds what I’m forced to do for a first time fail. I look at him like he’s crazy, and tell him that a thermostat can’t be more than $30. He says if I can find one, he’ll put it in for me. 2 days later, Rock Auto ships it across the continent, across the border, for $25. He installs it, and about $200 later the province is happy. I also get the purge valve for about $35 from Rock Auto and put it in myself in 15 minutes. (Hint: soaking plastic parts in warm, soapy water really does make them easier to install!)

    The worst part is that the whole testing regime is being cancelled in a few months. I could have claimed to be out of the country, got a free 6 month deferral and avoided the whole mess!

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @deanst….My 05 Mustang GT required an E test in December. The car is garaged October -April . Hopefully the mandatory E test is gone when by then.

    • 0 avatar
      christophervalle

      They instituted an emissions testing and certification process in Minnesota in the ’90s, despite the fact that there were only two intersections in the whole STATE that exceeded federal clean air guidelines, and both locations had already shown twenty straight years of annual CO levels dropping. They built multiple dedicated facilities that looked like they cost a fortune, and then shut them down a few years later. Whoever allowed that to happen, and whoever profited from it, well, I would like them to experience less than fully comfortable circumstances. Blessings on the right, honorable Jesse Ventura for shutting it down.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    My experience wasn’t at the dealership but rather my local back yard mechanic (isn’t this is what most of your friendly dealership mechs are anyways)? had a new exhaust system installed on my 03 Silverado, thought I would save a few hundred by ordering my own and having my local guy put it on for cheap, hey, he said he could do it! Getting my check engine light off depended on it, well, guy said it was ready to go however it was gonna cost a little more than the original quote he had given me, had a hard time getting it to fit, he said, well upon picking it up it sounded good and no check engine light, yea, now I could go get my tags knowing it would pass inspection. after a few days and a hundred miles later just as I was about to pull into the safety site, yep , the dreaded check engine light came back on! Arg!!! after taking it to another real shop they showed me that said mechanic had left a big gap between the pipe and converter, they would fix it by cutting off a piece and welding a new one in place, problem solved? Nope, couldn’t get that light off, as I hardly ever drove the truck anymore (3rd vehicle) sold it, problem solved!

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    After being run off the road and through a ditch in my 94 Chevy Silverado, I took the truck to a local body shop to repair a small dent in the rear fender corner. The repair required that the rear bumper be removed and replaced. The truck stayed in the shop longer than it should have and I kept calling to see if it was ready. Finally I was told to come pick it up. The repair looked good, but the guy said “you know your tail lights don’t work”. I said they worked fine, along with the brake lights and signals when I brought it in. They just shrugged and said they checked the bulbs but otherwise had no clue, and we don’t do electrical work. I told them they caused something to happen and I wanted it fixed. They said we send all our electrical work to another shop so go there and have them bill us. The shop they sent me to did automotive sound system installations. They guy there said he was busy but leave the truck and he would get to it in a few days. I said thanks and left.

    I know that many mysterious automotive electrical issues are related to improper or missing ground connections. So that night in my garage, I got under the truck and found the problem. When the body shop removed the rear bumper, they didn’t disconnect the ground wire from the bumper bracket to the wiring harness. Instead they had broken the wire. I spiced the ground wire back together and every light at the rear of the truck worked as it was supposed to.

    I few days later I got a customer satisfaction survey from the body shop. I was not very kind in my response. I will never use that shop again.

  • avatar
    micko4472

    This one happened a long, long time ago. Traded in my 1969 Plymouth
    Valiant (a great car that I loved) for a brand spanking new 1975
    Plymount Valiant (note that 1975 was the first year for catalytic
    converters and other emission controls). Right after purchase, took
    the car on a 5000 mile cross country trip. Nary a problem. Get home
    from trip mid afternoon, unload car, put things away, then get in car
    for a trip to grocery store. Car will not start. Turns over, won’t
    start. By now dealer service is closed. I wait overnight, and next
    morning take car to dealer, who keeps it for a day or two and can find
    nothing wrong. Take car to my local indy mechanic, who keeps it for a
    week and who discovers that the problem is the FLOOR MAT INSTALLED BY
    DEALER, which keeps the choke on the carb from setting properly when
    pressing gas pedal to the floor before trying to start.

    Mostly since that time I have avoided dealers, until recently. Service
    dept. at my local Nissan dealer is excellent. And the prices are
    actually reasonable, in line with local independents.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I take my Elantra GT to the Hyundai dealer for the annual state inspection. They do the inspection for free as a perk for me buying the car there. Since my inspections fall during wintry months I combine the visit with an oil change so I don’t have to crawl under it in gawdawfulcold weather.

    Last year I picked the car up after inspection/oil change and began to notice with a day or two a strange growling noise when accelerating through a turn. I only really noticed it when driving aggressively, but the harder I drove the more obvious it was an intake noise. They had opened the airbox (not necessary for inspection or oil change) and not snapped it closed again. Probably wanted to check the air filter to see if they could pitch me their $60 air filter replacement service ($9 part from Amazon) and since I didn’t need it they couldn’t be bothered to close it right.

    I’d hate to think what would happen to someone’s car who never drove aggressively enough to notice their air filter wasn’t installed properly.

  • avatar
    theBrandler

    Not necessarily a repair issue, but I’m having a hell of time with a Toyota dealer because last year I leased a Sienna from them with the explicit demand that it be able to tow. They assured me it could, could tow 3500lbs even. Great, so I can tow a camper? Yes no problem. Just schedule a service visit to have the hitch installed.

    A few months after I had leased it, I called their shop asking for a quote on installing the hitch. He calls me back and says that Toyota doesn’t offer a towing package or hitch for that vehicle. I was really annoyed, and confronted the dealer who essentially blew me off.

    I then escalated to Toyota – who btw have freaking fantastic customer service – and still didn’t get a response from the dealer. After a few more calls with customer service all in an attempt to get the dealer respond to my complaint I get one short phone call from the dealer and am essentially brushed off again.

    Last week the van was due for service, so now, the sales manager can’t get away by hanging up on me, since I’ll be at the dealership. I confront him, he’s immediately aggressive and denies that I wanted the vehicle to be able to tow when I bought it. I stand my ground, so he drags in the service manager to backup his story. Both men try to argue the van can tow, just go down to U-haul and have a hitch installed.

    I push back telling them politely that towing on a vehicle without an oil cooler and all the other kit that comes with a tow package would break things. The look on their face was priceless at that point. It was an “oh shit he knows what he’s talking about” moment.

    I then get a promise that the service manager would contact Toyota. He calls me back today to tell me what I already know, that Toyota says it can’t tow without a factory installed towing package. He also says the sales manager should be in touch today to go over options for trading out the van with one that has the towing package. I’m not holding my breath.

    So I’m stuck making lease payments on a vehicle that can’t do one of the two things I purchased it to do. Haul my family and haul my toys.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I dunno on this one..

      My eyes have told me that seldom if ever do I see a Toyota van pulling anything at all.

      Sequioa? yup.
      Sienna? Nope.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Honestly, who buys a Sienna to tow anything for a long distance, especially a camper? That is most definitely the wrong vehicle for the job.

      And then to take delivery of one without a hitch? There is more to this story than meets the eye… If you have the opportunity to trade, go with the Sequoia. Never count on being able to tow for a long distance at max GVWR.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My new 05 Odyssey was a lemon from the day we brought it home (power sliding door, no turn signals, among other issues).

    First dealer visit: they didn’t fix the turn signals. But they did fix the door, the rear seat release, the cup holder, the brakes, and the alignment – on a 2-week-old car.

    Second dealer visit: they provided a loaner (Corolla, not a 7-passenger minivan), and never called us for a week after the car was supposedly ready.

    Third dealer visit: they said they were ‘stretching’ the wiring harness for the door.

    Fourth dealer visit: they dented the rocker panel while fixing the door. Furious, I had them pull out the dent and repaint it.

    Fifth dealer visit: door broke a day later.

    And yes, each visit added technician dirt to the interior. Over 20 months of ownership, the car was out of service over 30 days and had maybe 12 repair visits, plus about 30 separate contacts with Honda to address the issues. I started keeping a spreadsheet log after a month, once I realized this could become a long-term bad relationship.

    I told the regional manager that I wished I had bought a Chrysler because they were far more reliable and the dealer service was better. His look of disbelief was precious. In truth, I’d say no to that dealer before I say no to Honda.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Before we took delivery of our Sienna , we had them inspect a faint brake shudder, it was probably damaged in transit. They turned all the rotors,inspected alignment etc. But I noticed faint swirl scratches on the drivers. As a former detail guy at a car dealership I immediately asked to have a body guy buff it out. Instead the service writer said he has some good “wax” and proceeded to use half a gallon on a microfiber towell .I have to admit it was amusing to watch him Daniel-son his way into mild coronary before giving up and calling the body shop who were now all at lunch by now. They called one back early to buff it out.

    I have to admit you really do get a better experience at a Premium marque store.I never had scratches, messes, etc from Infiniti, MB , or our LR. Even the Cadillac store had excellent service, where I took our MB for courtesy oil changes was excellent.
    I’ve been pretty lucky with German car indy repair shops too.

    I think it’s all about expectations. I seriously doubt most Toyota customers care. So the dealers don’t either.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    1. Cooling system blew up on our B5.5 Passat 1.8T. Dealership flushed and replaced almost everything in the cooling system to the tune of $2k.

    ALMOST everything…

    A few days later, the expansion tank bubbled over and leaked empty. Turns out that while the dealer installed a brand new ET, they somehow re-used the ET cap from the old tank, which apparently couldn’t hold pressure anymore. They were embarrassed but fixed it pronto.

    2. BMW recall for passenger airbag on my E46. I drove off the lot and immediately noticed a rattling sound behind the dash. The dealership is closing and I have to get home, so I decide not to turn around.

    I found the official repair procedure online and cracked open the dash. The bolts holding the airbag module down were not at all tight. A few turns with my torque wrench and all was good again.

  • avatar
    jatz

    My Kia dealer is swell! Won’t buy anywhere else after two excellent ownership experiences.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I should say I’m responsible for another episode. I didn’t want drive to the dealer so I took our 12 Sienna to local NTB which had been good to me regarding Tire Rack tire installs. I had them do an oil change and the rookie ,her 1st week on the job , tech slammed the hood on the prop rod which she failed to secure and dented the hood from the top, right under the clear bra too.
    Ultimately they let me choose the body shop and provided an Enterprise mini van for 2 days. But what a hassle with 2 little kids and car seats to switch.
    I swear she though she was closing the hood on 73 Le Sabre the way she slammed it. I saw it through the window.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      cimarron – needed a cheap oil change on by baby, my 97 Pontiac GP (still driving it) so went to Walmart, same thing as I was looking through the window the older man who changed the oil was doing a final look under the hood, then SLAMMED it so hard I felt the pain! No damage done but felt like slamming him ! ;-)

  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    I know a guy who took his BMW to the dealer for a recall (he always used independents for anything that wasn’t a recall because he didn’t like the dealer), and while the tech was working on it he dropped a screw or two into the intake. Apparently he didn’t notice or didn’t think it was important, so he put the car back together. A couple hundred miles into a road trip later the car goes into limp mode and the dash says “shut off engine immediately”. He pulls into a truck stop and has to get it towed 45 miles to the nearest BMW dealer, which was still 200+ miles from home. After all this, the dealer who did the recall insists that he has to have it towed another 200 miles to them so that they can “make it right”. Obviously he didn’t do that, and the original dealer had to pay the second dealer to do all the repairs and get him a rental.

  • avatar
    SirRaoulDuke

    It’s been about 12 years ago…A Ford tech actually threw a tool at my car. The Ford dealership actually didn’t tell me and hoped I would not see the dent and paint damage to the passenger side, but another tech tipped me off. The Ford dealership service manager was called every name in the book by me. I threatened to beat the tech’s arse. The police were called; the cop said he would be beating arse’s as well. Ford dealership general manager bucks up, has my car repaired and gives me a new truck to drive for a few days while mine was in the body shop. Thanks! I never went there again for anything, and would cheer if it burned to the ground.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Biggest Chev dealer in a GM town left grease/oil on the drivers seat of my wife’s Caprice. Wifey picks the car up , and gets a nasty stain on a new .very expensive suit. Wifey is spitting fire .

    The dealer denies any responsibility . That was more than 30 years ago.. … I can’t count how many GM vehicles new and used, along with countless parts, I’ve bought since then. I have never so much as “walked the used car lot ” at that dealership ever !.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    As I mentioned a couple of weeks back in the separate Lincoln dealership thread, my recent service experience was sub-par.

    The thing that really torques me is when service techs leave their tools in my car. The first time, it was a Snap-On 1/2 ratchet in the passenger footwell at an independent shop on the West Side of Manhattan. That went along with the failure to properly reposition the cam cover gasket such that it was hanging out of the gap and *clearly* visible for anyone to see. I know it was bad of me, but I didn’t bother to return and said ratchet is the only Snap-On tool in my possession.

    This time, the service tech replaced the trunk logic model to correct a problem with the automatic trunk mechanism. He left his Snap-On battery drill-driver in the space between the trunk liner and the fender. I got a frantic call 30 minutes after leaving the dealership. I pulled over, pulled back the liner and there it was. “Could you bring it back?” “No”, I replied, “I just fought my way through 30 minutes of traffic and it really isn’t my problem. But I will drop it at the showroom for you as I happen to be right outside” The service department is 1.5 miles from the dealership in the heart of Jamaica, Queens. Not going back there…

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My dad got some free metric tools after taking his 1982 Celebrity (his first vehicle with ANY metric fasteners) to the dealership for some routine work. Tech left tools behind. They never called. Dad kept ’em.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I deeply dread allowing anybody else to touch my car. Over the past three decades, I can only remember two times a paid “professional” worked on my car and I wasn’t disappointed in one way or another.

    One particular event which truly angers me is when I was experiencing transmission failure in my 2001 Mazda MPV. I took the car to a local independent transmission shop recommended by a friend. I took a test drive with the tech, and he determined the first planetary and drum (actual hard parts, not just typical wear items replaced in most rebuilds) were the issue.

    A repair estimate was provided. I noticed $500.00 for removal and replacement of the transmission from the car. I then told him I would R & R the trans myself to save some money (and to keep somebody I don’t know from effing up my car!).

    Trans was out, taken to shop for rebuild, returned a few days later. I reinstalled the trans. Guess what? The re-builder only replaced the normal bands and gaskets…did not replace the planetary and drum as indicated on the repair order. The rebuild did NOT address the problem. I was PISSED!!

    The service manager offered to fix the problem properly, at no additional expense. He said he would have his tech do the R & R this time as well…all at no charge.

    Car was back, functioning properly three days later. Then, it would not start one morning for my wife was she was leaving for work. Why? The battery ground cable, which bolted to the transmission case…was just hanging. I also noticed that the various wire harnesses and lines were a bowl of spaghetti. All the careful work I had done with cable ties to keep everything tidy under there had been ripped apart by the Pro.

    Three weeks later, my wife called from the mall parking lot. The right front wheel was at a 45 degree angle to the road. One of the two bolts that held the strut to the spindle had fallen out. Yes, these bolts were removed to get the trans out. Luckily, I was able to effect repair in the parking lot to get the car home…where I then spent many hours double checking every aspect of the trans installation.

    I HATE when other people work on my car.

  • avatar
    tdavis1338

    In 2010 I took my 2007 Nissan Altima in to my insurer’s specified body shop to have a new bumper and bumper cover installed. They had the car for 3 days, and when I started to drive it home, I got about 5 miles from the body shop when the splash guard fell off the car. I picked the splash guard off the road and immediately returned to the body shop.

    When they examined the car, they said the clips that held the splash guard on did not line up with the bumper, and they could not get it to stay on.

    I commented that it seemed the bumper may be incorrectly installed. They said they would fix it while I waited. When I got the car back, I inspected it, and they had put holes in the bumper cover and splash guard, and used bolts to attach the splash guard.

    I not only never returned to that shop, I changed insurers.

  • avatar
    TimK

    The service department at most car dealerships is setup and operated as an independent business. So complaining to the general manager or a corporate weasel about a repair issue only goes so far. Yes they can speak to the repair manager, but in most cases they have no direct authority to do squat.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Corporate weasel who works for the manufacturer yes.

      General Manager of the dealership? oh you betcha.
      Dealership Hierarchy:
      Owner
      GM
      GSM – Service Director – Finance Director
      Sales Manager – Service Manager – Finance Manager
      Sales person – Service Writer – Technician

  • avatar
    e30gator

    Oh boy, about two years ago I needed a new family hauler and was looking to trade my old minivan as it was starting to have too many issues. I settled on a CPO ’12 Buick Enclave from the local Buick dealer in Venice, Fl. I paid about $19k with trade for it thinking I got a good deal on an inexpensive family appliance, but began having nothing but trouble with it and the dealer from day one, including…

    -a finance department that somehow screwed up the paperwork so that, basically, my plates were invalid (luckily, no cops noticed), and my loan information was not processed properly until TWO MONTHS after I bought it.
    -a rat’s nest under the hood that I noticed once I began to smell burning on my way home from dealer
    -four trips to service for a leaky moonroof (that was never fixed properly) and disconnected drain tube (careless mechanic)
    -clunking coming from suspension that no one could diagnose (turned out to be a bad strut bushing) this took 4 trips to the dealer before it was rectified
    -bad transmission control module
    -IN-OP backup camera
    -cracked and broken seatbelt latch assemblies that dealer refused to pay for
    -leaking power steering rack
    -exterior door trim falling off
    -bad O2 sensor
    -front and rear AC evaporators leaking
    -ETC,ETC…

    What a joke.

    For a vehicle that had supposedly underwent a CPO inspection, the Enclave spent more time at the service dept than my driveway. Literally.

    I also had to pay for my loaner out of pocket once due to bad communication from the service department to notify me that the car had been “fixed” and ready to pick up.

    Less than a year after buying it and faced with the prospect of paying out of pocket for repairs since the CPO warranty was almost up, I drove it to the nearest Toyota dealer, took a $4k hit on trade-in and bought a CPO Highlander. Best decision ever.
    Goodbye, GM. Goodbye, Buick. GOOD RIDDANCE!

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      CPO programs today seem like a cash grab by lazy dealerships who do a visual inspection, perhaps replace worn tires and brakes, detail the car, fill out the checklist and print a window sticker.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      e30gator – that’s why I now like to buy/lease brand new! I’ve got a friend who thinks I’m a schmuck since he gets such “good deals ” on used vehicles, until they need afixen and quit tickin!

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        Trust me, that dealer would have sucked just as bad at servicing a new vehicle. Fool me once… Plus, I loath the idea of taking the depreciation hit on a new domestic vehicle.

        I know they’re not perfect, but so far this CPO Toyota I bought after my Buick debacle has been solid and trouble free. The dealer has also been top-notch. I’ll keep coming back.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        Trust me, that dealer would have sucked just as bad at servicing a new vehicle. Fool me once… Plus, I loath the idea of taking the depreciation hit on a new domestic vehicle.

        I know they’re not perfect, but so far this CPO Toyota I bought after my Buick debacle has been solid and trouble free. The dealer has also been top-notch. I’ll keep coming back.

  • avatar
    tdavis1338

    Another horror story:

    I took my Chevy Cavalier (I know, I know) to the dealer for an oil change. They kept the car all day, and when they called me to pick it up, they directed me to the back lot to get it.

    When I got to the car, it would not start, so I walked back to the service department to get them to look at it, and they apparently disconnected the wiring harness for some reason, and did not reconnect it properly. I inquired as to a) why they disconnected the wiring harness instead of just the battery, never mind doing either for an oil change, and b) how they got it to the back lot without the wiring connected, and the service guy said it must have come loose while they were moving it.

    I started the car and drove off. I got about a mile from the dealer when the check engine light came on, and the engine started running rough. I returned to the dealer immediately, and they found that the service technician had not secured the wires correctly, and they did it again. No further problems, but I never went back there again.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    For me, my worst case is still when I owned my Volvo 850.

    I was young and dumb, didnt know much about repairs and what not. I picked up a ’96 850 with a CEL not knowing the hoops you gotta jump through (like the prolonged, specific drive cycle).

    I take it into to a European specialist (big mistake) on 3-4 separate occasions, each costing around $200 usually. Their rule was “unlimited smoke tests until the CEL is fixed”, I reached this “unlimited” limit at 3.

    Afterward I just sold the car and washed my hands of any newer Euro-stuff, looking back I shouldnt have bought that car from the getgo with the issues it had. Still, it was a rotten shop. Months later I took a Volvo 240 up there for a starting issue and they ask for $100 just to inspect it! I just told them “no thanks” the clerk got upset, but I just left. Eventually the issue fixed itself even if to this day I dunno what the issue was.

    I never did use another Euro-specialist though, I dont trust them. Unless if the cars an antique it shouldnt need a “specialist” for basic repairs.

    In a more silly and much older case, we had an old VW Bug that we tried to get past safety, and it failed because the mechanic apparently didnt know how to shift a manual!

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    I bought a 91 2.5 liter Caravan new and immediately converted it to propane.
    A few months later it started running horribly and the dealer diagnosed it as 2 burnt intake (!) valves, charged me 1.5 hrs labour and quoted $1,350 for he repair as the propane voided the warrantee.
    I bought it because it was simple and I have a great home shop so I decided to do it myself. I found the very common failed head gasket when I opened it up and the service manager came over to look at it. I had it up on my hoist and obviously I knew what I was doing and he gave me the royal treatment and paid me to fix it and covered all my costs. If they did it, I would have been billed the $1,350 and they would have gotten a warrantee claim payment.

    Since then I have gotten very proficient at doing 2.2/2.5 Chrysler head gaskets and have 6 failed ones hanging on my wall.

    Moral of the story: Buy a simple vehicle that you will not be afraid of.

  • avatar
    gglockster

    Where to start:
    – VW Jetta diesel, needed an oil change before a 500 mile drive. Dropped it off at the stealership “it will be ready by lunch time”. At 4 pm was tapping my foot waiting for it to be finished. Proceeded with said 500 mile drive. Next morning woke up to a puddle of oil and no measurable oil on the dip stick. Had to get a flatbed tow to a local shop. Stealership had “forgot” the crush washer for the oil pan screw.
    – Another time same car, started having a rattle under the hood. Pulled over and found mechanic’s screwdriver stuck in the air vent.
    – BMW, sensors indicated bad front brakes. Went in and $ 1000 later new front brakes. 3000 miles later, same bad front brake sensor. This time “oh you need a software update to the brake wear sensor”, and charged $ 200 for that.
    – BMW, picked up car and did a walk around. Noticed the plastic engine cover was missing all but 2 screws. “Not sure how that could have happened we quality check all our work”
    – BMW insurance claim over epic pothole. Work supposed to include alignment. Left stealership and car felt “off”. Went to local tire store to check alignment. Unable to align from bent tie rod. Took back to stealership to have them fix the damage. Of course if stealership had ACTUALLY performed the alignment they would had noticed this.
    – BMW Takata passenger airbag replacement (of course they don’t have the parts to do both at the same time). Poor fitment. At least they fixed this gratis when it came time for the driver side airbag to be replaced.

    The reason I hate driving a computer these days is that I have to go to the stealership for the proprietary electronics. It just isn’t that they charge so much for their work. It now is also a matter they don’t even do the work I am being charged for.

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      There once was a time that BMWs were driven by car enthusiasts and BMW catered to knowledgeable customers.
      Now BMW has realized that most of the current customers are well heeled easy marks that don’t know much about the appliances they drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        +1, Add Lightness – My family’s first (and so far last) BMW was a lemon, but the dealership service was good. This was many, many years ago; annual sales volume in the US was less than 15% of what it is now. The warranty repairs were many, but the dealer didn’t shirk them. The service department eventually taught me, as an 11-year-old, how to replace the fuses.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        BMW – Be Modest, Whatever!!!

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    I have had nothing but GREAT experiences at Kuhn Honda in Tampa. I am not associated with them or Honda, I just think they deserve to be recognized. I went in with an emissions related check engine light (which are difficult to pinpoint). They cleared the code and replaced the gas cap (for free). The CEL came back on. I brought it back in and was talking to the service writer while it was back up on the lift. The tech came back and said my emission canister smelled strongly of gas. The writer concluded that I was handy with a wrench and I told him I had access to a lift. He suggested I go to Auto Zone and get a new canister for like 30 bucks and try replacing it. That was 4 years ago and the light has never come back. That’s a big reason I keep buying Hondas. P.S. Don’t ever “top off” your gas tank after it clicks off. That’s why the canister filled with gas!

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Bought a used Miata from a local New car dealer who did not sell Mazda’s. They said they had changed wiper blades, done a brake job and an oil change. The brakes clunked badly until I bought a parts kit and put in the clips that they forgot. The oil drain plug had been over tightened so bad that the aluminum gasket was smashed around the head of the plug. The wiper blades were OK

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This is where being a car guy becomes a problem. We all expect people to take the same care and appreciation of our cars as we do. I feel like when I take my Subaru to a Subaru dealer the techs should be protective of my car because it’s something they know an enthusiast owns. But the reality is the people working there are not necessarily enthusiasts, or interested in cars at all. Many probably only work there for the paycheck and that was who hired them. They don’t care about my Subaru any more than they would my Buick.

    So any time I have to take my car in, I have to prepare myself for the worst. I have marks in my driver’s door card at the handle where they tried jamming a screwdriver in to pry the trim off (there’s a screw and it pops right out). The bodyshop didn’t clear coat the underside of my hood and used a Depo replacement headlight where the estimate called for used OEM. The dealer forgot to plug the flasher button back in after the airbag replacement on both my and my wife’s Legacies after visits separated by 5 months.

    I have to take my car in for an inspection this month and I have to mentally prepare for the steering wheel to be covered in oil afterward and to finish cleaning all the old glue from the previous sticker off my windshield.

    Part of the reason I love having a leased car is that I am not attached to it and if anything happens to it it doesn’t bother me. It’s a spectacular feeling.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      funny, I still treat my leased cars like my own, I never know if I might want to buy it or buy/sell to a friend or family member or just handing it back in knowing that the new owner is getting a well cared for auto.

  • avatar
    volvo

    No specifics as with 55 years of driving experience and at least a million miles I have had numerous less than professional repair shop experiences

    However I will say that up to about 10 years ago I avoided dealerships because of their cost and quality of work. I would find reliable independents.

    In my part of the world (northern california) that seems to have changed.

    Now:

    Independents charge hourly rate maybe 10% less than dealerships. ($110/hr vs. $130/hr). They no longer charge time and materials but use flat rate book times and part prices are comparable to dealerships. Upselling very common.

    Small independents with integrity are being replaced by larger shops sporting 4-6 bays, service managers and front office personnel.

    I understand that the larger independents will be the only ones surviving because of efficiency of scale which includes equipment costs, labor costs, regulatory costs and insurance. But I find myself now going to the dealerships for work since in my recent experience their work is no worse that the independents now available and they seem to own up to and correct the inevitable mess up more readily than the independents.

  • avatar
    James2

    Decades ago I had a ’86 Mazda 626. I took it to a General Tire store my dad recommended since he had them service his company’s fleet. They forgot to tighten the left wheel nuts, which I found out by getting on the freeway on-ramp and the tire is racing ahead of me. On the way back to the shop the tow truck driver says, “Don’t be mad. Everybody makes mistakes.” Nevertheless I was still fuming, but I didn’t spit fire at anyone. They apologized and reinstalled the tire and made sure the others were tight. Fortunately, the Mazda wasn’t damaged. The shop is long gone by now.

  • avatar
    gator marco

    Biggest issue I’ve had is with just how darn long it takes to get through service for even routine repairs.
    Five years ago, I bought a 2014 Tacoma, from the new “Big Store” dealership. Got 2 years free maintenance.
    Try as I might, schedule an appointment morning, noon, afternoon, weekend, I just could not get something like an oil change done in under 2 hours.
    I’d get to the service line 15 minutes before appointment, wait 15 to 30 for anyone to even wander over to greet me, then they had to have me talk to “my” service advisor, who tried to sell me additional service (really? an air filter for a truck with 10k miles?). Always trying to sell their super duper oil additive, for $79, that was supposed to protect my truck’s engine in the hot weather of Florida. (So, is my warranty void if I don’t buy your product? What does Toyota say about that?).
    Eventually they take the vehicle back, and I wait. And wait. And wait. In the waiting area there is a big board with names, and the crowd cheers when it finally changes and they see their name.
    After 1+ hours, I head over to the service desk, I can only talk to “my” service advisor, who is always with another customer. Eventually “my” service advisor says he’ll check to see if the oil change is done. Sure I don’t want the air filter or the oil additive?
    After a while on the phone, the advisor says “It’s waiting in line for the complimentary car wash.”
    I don’t really want a car wash, can one of your guys just bring it around so I can leave?
    Well, while it is car wash, do I want the $499 paint protector, to protect the finish from the blazing sun in Florida? No? Well, it will just be a few more minutes.
    Head back to the waiting area, finally after another 30 minutes, I see my name pop up on the big board.
    Again I have to wait for “my” service advisor to finish the hard sell with another customer.
    Well, let’s see what items the dealership can try to sell me on a truck with 10K miles. Air filter $35 (it’s really dusty in Florida)
    Super Duper oil additive $79 (already said NO twice).
    Paint protector $499. (No, thanks for asking)
    Four wheel tire alignment $299 (how bad is it?) Well, not too bad, but service suggested since it looks like I drive this vehicle off road. (No thanks. I don’t drive off road unless you consider the Magic Kingdom parking lot off road.)
    Looks like that’s it, no charge, your vehicle is over on the side lot, have a nice day! Come and see us again!
    Whew.
    After the 2 years complimentary service at the Big Store, I now take the truck to a local mom and pop place that does oil changes and minor repairs. Yes, I replaced the pesky, dusty air filter at 50K, for $12. Even if I stand around and chat with pop, they have me out of there in 30 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      great story! love the crowd cheering, I have a long wait at our local Buick dealership also, they text you when your cars ready, usually I get the text after I’m half way home!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Four wheel tire alignment $299 (how bad is it?) Well, not too bad”

      My local Toyota shop does a 4 wheel alignment (not much to align on a solid rear axle to be fair) for $100. When I go in there with my ’96 4Runner I always end up having a good experience. The one time I went in with my work badge and laptop with my wife’s newer Camry to diagnose a faint wheel bearing noise, they came up with a $2000 estimate (wrong wheel bearing, totally replace rear brake system over a minor pad-dragging issue that was solved with a metal file and a new set of pads). Different service advisors, I should mention.

  • avatar
    brettc

    My 2012 Jetta wagon had a few issues in its short life before the buyback.

    First thing was an annoying rattle coming from the passenger’s side not long after I bought it. I took it back to the dealer I bought it at, and they basically told me to pound sand since it was out of the 5000 mile “adjustment” period that VW had, even though it was still under the bumper to bumper warranty. They wanted to charge for a couple hours of diagnostic time, I said no. I ended up taking it to the other local VW dealer and they found that a stone was wedged between the car and the fender liner, problem solved for free.

    Again with the original dealer, the car was in to replace the visor since the mount broke. I got it back and the steering wheel had a big gouge in it like someone had sanded the edge of the wheel with 40 grit sandpaper. They ended up replacing the steering wheel under warranty and denied that their tech did it, told me the VW wheels have soft leather or some BS.

    Back to the alternate VW dealer that fixed the stone rattle problem on my car.
    I took my wife’s 2014 Jetta there for the yearly inspection and they of course washed it as they like to do. The hood had scratches on it like it was washed with a dirty shop towel and there were black scuff marks on the hood. I was not happy. I contacted the service manager and told him I didn’t do it because the car had never been through an automated car wash in its life and I couldn’t figure out how the scuff marks could even have happened. I did know they weren’t there when I hand washed the thing a few days before. He ended up taking the car back and having their body people buff the hood. Still looked like crap until I spent some time with it along with some Meguiars compound and a DA polisher, but it was better than it was in the first place.

    So anyway, the 2 local VW dealers near me are not great, unless you don’t really care about your car.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Well, I can’t fully blame the dealer for this, but it was a 6-week nightmare.

    The GM speed sensors for ABS/Stability Control leave a lot to be desired. Failures of the sensors or the wiring is pretty common.

    Back Story: I was driving my 2011 Chevy Avalanche through a parking lot when suddenly I heard a loud crunch and felt a shudder. My immediate thought was, what the Hell did I just hit? I got out to find a Prius had backed out of a parking space, oblivious to the 6,000 pounds of truck occupying the lane behind them, and had essentially broadsided me. Their rear bumper cover was all but torn off. To say I was unhappy would be an understatement.

    Much to me shock, and after an extensive look around, my truck didn’t even have a scratch. It turns out they didn’t back out straight, but at an angle, and it was the corner of their rear bumper that slammed into my truck – dead center on the passenger side rear wheel. No bent metal, no scratches, nothing.

    I had it inspected that day on a lift. No broken seals, no play, no funny noises. I got off lucky, so I thought.

    About six months letter the ABS/Stability Control light would come on intermittently. Shutting the truck off and restarting would clear the light, and ABS/Stability Control would work normal again.

    About three months after that I rolled over 100K miles. My plan is to keep the truck until the wheels fall off so I decided to do the full dealer service. Differentials, transfer case, all fluids, tune up, etc. etc. etc. While I was in there I mentioned the intermittent ABS/Stability Control light, service advisor and I both agreed given the age and mileage likely an errant speed sensor. Code history indicated back rear-wheel. By this point, I had forgotten the smack. Ya, go ahead and change that sensor out.

    Big…mistake.

    Drove less than 25 miles, lights came back on and this time didn’t go away with a restart. Back to the dealer.

    Three days in. They can’t recreate. Reset the code, put some dielectric grease on the harness connectors, all is good.

    Drive less than 50 miles, lights come back on and don’t go away.

    Six days at the dealer this time. I found a couple of items on the Internet on possible problems and TSBs to look at, gently recommend. Think they have it solved. Get it back. Light is back in less than 10 miles and won’t go away and now the ABS is engaging at the wrong time.

    Eight days at the dealer, regional rep comes out, I get a penalty box Malibu as a loaner. They pull everything to inspect, swap out the speed sensor in theory that the part was bad from the word go, make sure tone ring didn’t move in the axle (location in the axle on GMT900).

    It’s good, we got it, come get it.

    I don’t even get out of the parking lot. The ABS pump is pulsing away the second I put it in gear and it won’t go away. I leave it in drive, set the parking brake, run in. Tech comes out to a Christmas tree dashboard, ABS pump pulsing, they put in on the rack grab codes.

    I’m now contemplating getting rid of the Avalanche. Almost two weeks at the dealer with regular updates and that awful loaner Malibu. To make matters worse one of my semi-collectible cars gets totaled while this is all going on, and I had sold the Holdenized G8 in the spring.

    Come get it, it’s fixed.

    Tone ring. They tell me that they pulled the tone ring and found that it had a nick in it on the inside. The pulsing would occur if everything lined up in the right spot, triggering the warning light.

    Reason for the nick? My speculation is it goes all the way back to that feckin’ Prius hitting me. In the end I was taken care of with a loaner, not being charged for all the diagnostic time after the first repair, and only having to pay parts on the final repair. Everything worse perfectly now. But I was without my truck for 6 out of 8 weeks.

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    I have no hard numbers to back this up, but my impression is that half of mechanics are clueless, a quarter incompetent, and a full third outright shysters. Realizing this was part of why I became one. While it put an end to being taken for a ride by unscrupulous greasemonkeys, it offered new glimpses of what’s under the hood, so to speak, of the car repair business.

    A few years ago I worked for a small indy shop. A 5-pot Jetta came in with a CEL, a misfire code that only happened after sitting a while, and a novel’s worth of receipts and notes from the local VW dealer that charged $4000+ to replace the cylinder head, among other things. Nowhere in that novel was any mention of diagnosis beyond reading codes. I let it sit over a freezing weekend, and did a cold dry compression test* first thing Monday morning. Four cylinders healthy, one very low. Squirted a bit of oil into the bad one and it tested healthy. My half an hour with a $40 tool showed a piston ring problem, nothing to do with the $4000 cylinder head.

    In another case, I watched a certified Toyota mechanic with a fancy-$chmancy scanner try to interpret misfire codes on a Tacoma that barely ran. He got nowhere. Later, I took five minutes to install a $40 fuel pressure tester that showed about half of normal pressure. A new pump fixed it.

    Diagnosis is half of car repair, the first and more important half. Diagnoses have to come from the brain, not where the sun don’t shine. Like opinions, everyone’s got the latter, but half of people have below-average intelligence (and ethical standards) and mechanics are no exception.

    *Compression tests should normally be done hot, unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Back in college, I was hired at a very very large GM dealership … service department to be exact. I was given a “Mr. Goodwrench shirt”. Actually, I was given a whole pile of them. I did mostly oil changes and brake jobs, even though I had very little experience. I told them I had experience and they took my word for that. The three mistakes I remember most:

    1) Did the first oil change on a nearly new vehicle. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the oil back in. After I drove it for a few minutes, I noticed the knocking did not stop, then I realized my mistake. So, I shut it off and ran back to get the oil. Put the oil in it and never said a word to anyone. It seemed to run fine. I always wonder how that one worked out.

    2) On one of my first brake jobs, I screwed up and got the brake bad on backwards … metal to metal. The customer came back the next day and complained, so I got the vehicle back. I saw my mistake … the rotor had deep gouges … no problem. I flipped the pad around and sent the happy customer on my way. Another secret.

    3) Once I pulled a vehicle into the stall. Then, I hit the lift .. but I forgot to push the pads under the lift points. Turned out the car still went up, but the lift picked it up by the doors. Fortunately, it was a large dealer, and no one saw me. I abandoned the vehicle in the stall after wiping my prints off the car, then went and got another vehicle for repair. The customer was out of their mind, as was the management. They did a big investigation, but never figured out it was me.

    I went on to get multiple engineering degrees. No more car repair. Hope those vehicles did not belong to you.

    • 0 avatar
      David Mc Lean

      Just curious Jimmyy, what city/ brand dealership were you working at?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This is EXACTLY the reason I avoid dealerships, especially large ones at all costs. They will hire anyone and there is little to no training. Sure there might be a few decent techs there – old timers they have experience or someone that actually went thru all the certification classes and wasn’t high or drunk at the time. The problem is to 95% of them its just a job, if they are not passionate about the brand or model its going to end badly. The only way to make money is to rush thru cars as quickly as possible, so the entire system revolves around speed not quality. Stories of scratches and interior damage abound.

      I own a Corvette now and it requires some special care. The composite body means special jacking pucks are required for lifting it. The dry sump oil system is foreign to just about everyone. It has two drain plugs and you can’t check the oil level when cold. Thus you either find a specialist or DYI to ensure its done right.

      I was once getting tires for the wife’s car at the local tire place because they actually do a good tire work. They mentioned the brakes were looking worn and gave me a laughable estimate to make things right. I took the estimate and went line-by-line with them questioning various things. The guy behind the counter turned red with embarrassment that I had called his bluff. Turns out the car needed new front pads – nothing more. I told him I would have them swapped out in 20 mins for $40 in parts. He just nodded his head in silent agreement as to not tip off his boss who was standing there that this ploy to extract money from me failed. I believe its a scare static, because brakes = safety and I bet most people pay out of fear.

      I took our Volvo in for something once (it was always breaking a part that you couldn’t find anywhere else) and they offered to replace the wipers while doing other various “recommended” services like tire rotation and oil change. I figured why not since I was already there. However they charged me like $70 for the wipers plus $30 to install them. I saw the bill and said hell-no, then made them put the old ones back on because this was robbery. If you ask nicely (and act stupid) the local auto parts place will put your $20 wipers on for FREE!

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      goes by the nick name “no conscience jimmyy”

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Had a Saab 9-5, and Saab paid for the first timing belt change at 96,000km. Took it into the dealer and had it done. What I didn’t know what that Saab also recommended the tensioner be changed at the same time, and they didn’t tell me. 5,000km later the tensioner fails and everything piles up. It’s an interference engine and I had vent valves. Naturally, I’m also 300km from home.

    So I get the bus home, borrow a truck and trailer and bring it home. Talked to the dealer and my options from them are a used engine for $7700 or a new engine from Sweden for $12K. At this point a running car is probably worth about $8K.

    So I stripped the engine down, sent the heads to a machine shop for new valves and put it back together myself for about $400 in parts. Never went back to the dealer, and of course Saab is gone now. 150,000km later the car is still running nicely.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    If there’s one thing dealer service centers hate, it’s customers who bring in their cars with squeaks and rattles. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s cars that have squeaks and rattles. So we probably shouldn’t have bought a 2000 Saturn SL2, but we were treated super nice, and the car was amazingly fuel efficient. Only a handful of times over the course of 90,000 miles of ownership did it ever get less than 35 mpg.

    One of its more annoying traits was a nasty rattle that developed at the back of the interior. I had taken it to a few local dealers to try and get it diagnosed, but one of two things ended up happening: 1) the repairs were ineffective or 2) I was blown off entirely.

    During my senior year of college, my parents let me take the car to campus, which was about 3 hours away and not far from another Saturn dealer. On a day off, I took it to that store to see if they could fix it. I immediately knew this was going to be a much better experience when the technician asked me to take a drive with him to start troubleshooting. Upon hearing the noise, he ordered me to pull over onto the side of the major US highway we were on, at which time he lowered the folding rear seatbacks and proceeded to crawl into the trunk. When he was situated, he told me to start driving again. I obliged and after a few minutes he said to head back to the dealer.

    A half hour later, he comes into the waiting area holding a set of plastic clips in his hand. He rubs them together, and they were making the exact noise that had been driving me crazy for darn close to a year at that point. The parts in question were the lower retention clips that held the back glass in place. New parts were installed under warranty, and the car was quiet as a church mouse for the next 3 years.

    I made it a point to contact Saturn customer service to sing the praises of this technician, and apparently word got back to him because when I brought the car in for a routine service a few months later, he came out and thanked me for the kind words. It was the least I could do.

  • avatar
    stuart

    We have a 1993 Ford E-350 passenger van with the old pushrod 5.8L V8. The engine burnt a valve around 177k, so I bought a rebuilt engine from a local Ford dealer and installed it myself. That engine failed about 7k miles later, same burnt valve (cyl #1).

    At the time (2010), Ford offered a good guarantee on rebuilt engines and transmissions: free replacement for 36 months or 30k miles. I took our van back to the Ford dealer.

    They didn’t blame me for the failed engine, and they did eventually replace it, but they kept the van for almost three months. And when we got it back, there were lots of loose bolts &etc. everywhere. I was obliged to replace the water pump gasket two years later. Today, at 215k, the replacement engine has a pronounced tappet click, probably a loose pushrod…

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Two avoided repairs.
    One, drivers seat is loose. Service advisor says the complete frame that bolts the seat proper to the car is replaced as a unit, even if its just a single bolt that’s bad. Believable, because Porsche. I’m crammed into the space pretty tightly anyway (Cayman)so I didn’t think too favorably ly of the $400 part cost when I could go anywhere anyway. I was in the process of selling my house, and when I moved I had a indy shop change the oil and filter and replace the water pump, and if you would please, see what you can do with the slightly wobbly seat. Picked it up and it was 1/4 hour charge to install a new fastener – but probably not hand machined by white coated technicians.
    Two, wife’s Camry didn’t have a autodimming mirror and she usually didn’t flip the adjuster tab on the manual mirror. I decided to call the local Toyota dealer. MSRP on the OEM thing is about $125 + install. Parts guy tells me that this would mean replacing a lot of the wiring harness. I thanked him for the misinformation, bought a Gentex at half the price and had the indy do it.

  • avatar
    manu06

    My biggest complaint are dealerships whose service department isn’t open on Saturdays.

    On a good note, I took my wife’s Pathfinder to a Nissan dealer to deal with a cracked manifold.
    We had bought the vehicle used two years prior and it was out of warranty, both age and mileage
    but Nissan covered the repair and gave us a loaner overnight . They got our business when we
    bought next time.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Bought a 2017 Chevy Cruze from the local Chevy dealer last spring when I returned home from deployment. Within days, noticed several “wonky” electrical gremlins. Long story short, car sat at the dealership (in Huntsville, AL…just so folks living in the area know!) for the first six weeks I owned it. Comms from the dealership were few and far between. I kept getting the “we’re working on it.” The tried a few times to tell me it was fixed, only to have me pick it up and immediately return it, still exhibiting the same behaviors. They finally replaced body control module (it took six weeks to figure THAT out?) and I was off and running. For about four months. And then the stupid car started to hesitate, idle very roughly and dang-near stall under acceleration. Back to the dealership. A full replacement of rings and pistons later and we have the car back. The only saving grace in all of that was that the piece of excrement was still under warranty. But come on…should a virtually new car with well under 30k require that much work? And how incompetent can a dealership be?

    I found out again with our 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan. Same “family” dealership in town. Again, when I got back from overseas, the brick started to exhibit a significant tick under the hood. $1300 later in rocker and camshaft replacement. And two weeks ago, the van started to do kind of like the Cruze did. Rough running, near-stalling, etc…it sat at the dealership for a week and a half before they even looked at it. Remember, I’m a good 7000 miles away through all of this. They tell the wife “we can’t find the engine noise you described.” Uh, we didn’t bring it in for any engine noise. She brought it in because the damn thing nearly killed her because it wouldn’t run. Oh, and did I mention the failed door latch mechanism for one of the sliding doors (that the mechanic even admitted to being a common fault) that is costing us $500 for parts and another $500 in labor? What’s that thing made of? Gold-plated unobtainium? A week and a half to diagnose. $2000 in repair bills. For a three year old vehicle. $3000 in repairs in just over a year of ownership.

    So, now I have two wonderful vehicles, both that I have zero faith and trust in…and under the service of a family of dealerships that rate customer service right above getting a root canal without Novocain. I equally frustrated with the complete lack of ability by the dealership (cough…Landers McLarty…cough) as I am the abject lack of quality in both the Chevy and Dodge. I guess I should have known better.

  • avatar

    Never had issue with my Germans. Honda, OTOH…
    My 08 MDX had two flaws. The cats died at 90k, and Honda had a limited recall for the lot just before me, but magically I missed it…..

    The disaster was a torque converter….they’d die and the car would feel like it was running over a rumble strip. Mine dies still in warranty. I got to dealer I bought car from. The Service Writer tries to charge me 3700 for the job. He was unhappy when I pulled the TSB out of my bag. I should have run there.

    The Acura dealer has the car for a week. They give it to me all happy, I leave. Car runs OK, I get home. Next morning, driveway is full of fresh ATF. Yea. I’m not pleased, they come with flatbed and get truck. I go to dealer, we have words. Truck comes back. Turns out someone forgot the gasket between tranny and transfer case, so the whole job needs to be re done. They do it, truck comes back.

    Just over a year later, my wife calls…she’s on the way to work but stranded on the side of the road…”the truck won’t go”. I rescue her, and find the truck has pumped all the ATF out as the nipple has broken off the radiator-acura uses one radiator for both tranny and water. I take to my trusted indy. He fixes it (new radiator) and asks…have you ever been in an accident ? No, why ? Because half of your bots and fasterners were missing, and I thought maybe a body shop had hacked you…..

    AAAAND that’s why I will never go back to the Acura dealer in northern Westchester, NY……

  • avatar
    downunder

    Almost the same dealer bad feeling. I own a 2015 Fiat Freemont, which, as we all know is a Dodge Journey clone. The dealer was a Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/FIAT/Suzuki/Kia & Hyundai combined lot. Still operated under the FCA (FiatChryslerAustralia) banner. Got the recall for the cruise control issue and rang up the dealer to book it in to get done. The service manager apologizes and says that they can’t do it any more as FIAT won’t pay for it as they are no longer a FIAT dealer. I reply, “You are still a Dodge/Chrysler etc.. dealer expect for FIAT?”, “Yes we are.”, “So, isn’t FCA still paying for the work?”. “No Sir, we are no longer a FIAT service agent. and FCA will not pay us for the work”. “Hang on, FCA dealer, you know Dodge Journey etc…, Yes sir.But we do not service FIAT’s anymore.”, “Dodge Journey, FIAT Freemont, whats the difference?”. You have FIAT not a Dodge!.”
    Hang up phone gently and proceed to bang head against wall.

    I even checked with FCA HQ in Melbourne. They confirmed that as the dealer “Newspot Motors Group” based in Salisbury North,. had dropped the FIAT franchise, there was nothing they could do………………..
    Now I have to go across town to see a FIAT dealer, who is a FCA Chrysler/Dodge/Alfa Romeo/FIAT service center…………………..

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Ouch ;

    Ask anyone who’s ever worked for a dealer and they’ll tell you most of the ‘mechanics’ are just parts changers who don’t know squat .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    What always gets me is we as consumers tend to expect better service from a “premium” dealership. In fact one VW/Audi dealership I went to even had a separate counter for Audi customers, but the same people fixed the cars. So in the end all we seem to get is a better waiting area, perhaps with free lattes instead of just coffee.

    So to my story, I don’t have a specific one so I’ll share my brother in law’s story. He had been through several Cadillacs as a company cars and his job in sales had him driving a lot, mostly between remote customer sites. So finding he needed service while in another city, he left it at the local dealership for an oil change. He picked it up at the end of the day and after getting out of town he gets a flashing oil light. Tow back to the dealership only to find the tech putting the oil in didn’t realize the car was a manual, thus requiring more oil than an automatic. So the transmission was toast. They got him a loaner and he went back on his way. Later in the week, gets a call from the dealership asking when he is bringing the loaner back. Had they got the parts yet? No. He was too far away to make bringing it back practical. So in the end they billed him for the extra days and the mileage. He took the issue all the way up to GM corporate and got nowhere. He is now on his second Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      In Europe you can get your Audi serviced at any Skoda or SEAT garage – same engines, mostly same components, they have the new electronic service books etc.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Stepfather had no luck with GM era Vauxhalls.

    Bought a Vectra VXR – similar to a Saturn Aura but with the 2.8 twinturbo V6 from a Saab. Took it to the dealer for first service, it came back with the interior covered in oily boot prints (which ruined one of the special edition floor mats) and dashboard completely off. He ended up looping in the dealer principal as he kept getting the runaround from the service department.

    Then at another Vauxhall dealer, he bought a nearly-new Insignia VXR – same car as the Buick Regal GS. On the test drive the dealer insisted it be kept running while he put some gas in it. Ran it a few weeks then it would die – the alternator had went. The dealer had apparently known this. Took it in, dealer said it was on backorder thanks to the Peugeot takeover but wouldn’t give a courtesy car. Left him carless for a fortnight.

    I went with him to a 3rd Vauxhall dealer to get a trunk liner, queued behind a cab driver who was angrily arguing with the service manager that something on his diesel Vectra would not be covered by warranty.

    And GM-era Vauxhall wondered why they had an image problem. I can only hope that Peugeot can fix this – always found Citroen dealers great to deal with.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice to say, the local Audi dealer was so bad that I gladly drove 1.5 hours each way to go a different one. Once the warranty expired, no more dealer service.

    The first dealer used the wrong oil and broke/lost things during the first service. Things only went downhill from there. At the first warranty transmission replacement, they damaged all kinds of things, some of which didn’t show up until later. I suspect the CV axles usually last more than 30K of mostly highway use. Other damage was quite visible.

    The far away dealer was great. They offered recommended services based on common sense. This was during the middle of the 1.8t sludge fiasco where people may have been using the wrong oil and/or running it too long (the OE recommendation). They would charge for an oil change and have me come back for a free one in 6K miles – both with the proper syn. oil. They replaced all the interior touch surfaces that were peeling off (that my local dealer said was normal wear), etc.

    If I were to ever own another Audi, I would make the drive.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    Shortly after we moved here, while driving to dinner with my wife on a date night in her BMW 135i vert, the engine suddenly died at 60mph, and the engine temp warning flashed red, and the car would not start again after I guided it on coasting power to the shoulder. I suspected either the water pump died or the radiator had blown. Got it towed home, and then towed again the next morning to BMW. They called me and said that since it was a ‘catastrophic failure’ it needed a new engine, but since the N54 was no longer made, its successor the N55 was still available new and would fit right in….for $28,000 + labor and tax. (!!!!!!). Did I want to fix it or would I rather just speak to someone in sales about a BMW?

    Every Spanish curse word my mother muttered under breath at my siblings and I when we were in REAL trouble escaped my lips…and I never really learned the language or would be considered bi-lingual by anyone.

    Had it towed again to a local indie specializing in German cars. Water pump shot, and tested the coolant hoses for leaks (all clear) – $1800 (included taxes and labor). Also checked and topped off the fluids, got the air pressure in the tires to spec, and given what the BMW quote said about likely engine damage, their tech actually looked at the pistons inside the engine as part of the diagnostic…..no scoring or melting. Some carbon build up. Quoted me a price to clean that (which we did later), but otherwise a clean bill of health.

    So, they got not only all of the service for the BMW, but for my Audi too.

    In short, BMW tried to get a years worth of college tuition out of me for a bad pump. And while my wife loves her car, and would buy another BMW, I will NEVER, EVER use their service centers again except for a recall.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    ” But the reality is the people working there are not necessarily enthusiasts, or interested in cars at all. Many probably only work there for the paycheck.”
    Yup. Think about this from the position of the tech fixing cars. There is little incentive for techs to learn anything and or do good complete work. The dealer does not want to send the techs for training as that costs them money. There is constant pressure from management to work faster. Since the techs are usually payed by the job they could work for 8 hours and get paid for 3.
    A historical report for some perspective: When I worked at a dealer, long ago, the brand had a promotion to get quick service done “In half and hour”, such as oil changes, while the customer waited.
    One of the most expensive cars that the brand had came in for an oil change first thing in the morning about 7:30. There was some sort of screw up between the service writer and the dispatcher. The car was supposed to have been finished and eventually the customer went from the waiting room to the service dept to see if it was ready, but the car was still parked where it had come in. There was some more confusion, but the oil got changed. Then when the car was lowered it would not start. The guy doing the oil change was not a tech. He did oil, battery, and tire changes. He tried to get help from the shop foreman who hid somewhere. The customer, now several hours late for work, talked to the service manager who had a very short fuse. Manager yelled at the oil change guy. After the manager walked away the guy asked for my help. Since I was working nearby I heard the no start and had an idea as to what the problem was. A quick check with an electrical test light revealed that the ignition switch had failed. Not good for a car with less than 10K miles. Now the shop foreman reappeared and told the oil change guy to get ready to test the FI system. The foreman left again and the manager returned and yelled, “Why is that car still here?!”. The oil change guy said it needed an ignition switch. The manager said to “PUT IT IN!” and not to charge the customer. Of course the oil change guy had no clue so I helped him install the switch, about a 5 minute job.
    As the customer was driving the car out the back door, it was now after 11:00, the foreman walked up with the FI tester and told the oil change guy to bring the car back to test it. Oil change guy said that it was fixed by replacing the ignition switch. “Who told you to do that?” asked the foreman. The guy pointed at me.
    I was given warranty jobs for the next week and made less than half the usual pay.
    I am certain things like this still go on. A series of errors, mistakes and failures. The customer bears the brunt of it. Techs are often not happy either.
    Cars are much more complicated now so what others have mentioned, a proper diagnosis, is even more important. Often techs are not paid for diagnostic time or not very much.
    I got a laugh reading that some still think that the diagnostic time should be deducted from the total repair bill. It can take much longer to diagnose a problem than to make the repair.
    If you fell off a ladder would you expect a doctor to charge for the cast on your arm and not the x-rays?


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