QOTD: Sloppiness at the Service Center?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd sloppiness at the service center

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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  • Newenthusiast Newenthusiast on Feb 08, 2019

    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.

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Feb 09, 2019

    " 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?

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.