Tales From the Service Desk: Dropping the Hammer

During my brief time as a service advisor/writer, I worked in two types of shops. One was an “express lube” – meaning this shop only did basic maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations. Cars that needed more complex repairs were sent across the parking lot to the main service bays – the full-service ones.

The other type of shop I worked at was a full-service one. This dealership had no express lube – techs did everything from oil changes to fluid flushes to warranty work to major customer-pay jobs.

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In the Future, Will Car Dealerships Exist?

Car dealerships are a conundrum. For decades, they’ve prevailed despite changes in every aspect of what occurs at a new car dealership. The big question is whether they will continue doing business as they have, or will there be changes to a system that’s out of touch with buyers today?

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Tales From the Service Desk: When the Wheels Fall Off

It was a bright summer day when our regular customer, a woman in her 30s or 40s who had a haircut that we’d now deem a “Karen”, was leaving the dealer with her brood after a routine service, probably an oil change and tire rotation.

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Tales From the Service Desk: The Buick That Had a Secret

Hi there! You’ve probably learned a bit about your author during my time at TTAC, but you might not know I toiled in the service department of various car dealerships early in my career.

I started as a porter in high school, then eventually worked as a greeter in the service bay (basically, managing the flow of cars and customers in the service drive), before finally working as a service writer (aka service advisor). I did that final job both in an express-service lane at a dealer (think oil changes and basic maintenance) as well as in a capacity as a “regular” advisor (not just oil changes, but all types of repair).

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Dealers (Maybe) Using Service Department Revenue to Offset Sales Downturn

For a variety of reasons (the post-recession binge finally cooling off is the biggest), new-car sales are down in the United States. One would expect that would hurt the revenue of new-car dealerships. Not so much, it turns out, as dealers have found other ways to generate revenue. Or at least that’s what a Bloomberg report says. But there are caveats that suggest the Bloomberg piece may be generalizing. In other words, maybe some shops are seeing more revenue from more work, but other shops aren’t, even as they get busier, due to other factors.

Traditionally, new-car dealerships have always generated revenue and profit from their service and parts departments – and those departments outshine sales at many stores. So it’s not surprising to see dealers turning to a reliable profit center when sales slump.

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Ford's New Patent Eliminates the Remaining Reason for Opening Your Hood

It’s no secret that vehicle owners are becoming more hands-off when it comes to vehicle maintenance and repair. Some of that blame can be attributed to the increasing complexity of modern cars, and automakers are using that to their advantage as they attempt to make cars even more hands-off. The tool roll and spare tire you’d find in older cars have been replaced with a can of fix-a-flat and a roadside assistance card.

Changes like the disappearance of the spare tire are the result of chasing fuel economy standards, though others — like increased use of plastic engine covers — seem like the automaker’s way of telling owners they’ll need to subscribe to a service plan instead of trying to turn a wrench on their own. A recently published patent shows someone at Ford had the idea to take this to next level — so owners will never have to open the hood at all.

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Cracked, Welded Land Rover Transmission Case Comes to a Close

The saga of a welded transmission seems to have come to a somewhat happy ending.

The Reddit whistleblower at the center of this story, who is an employee of the dealership in question, provided TTAC the details on how the repair came to be. A representative from Jaguar Land Rover was also able to confirm that the incident was resolved, resulting in a satisfied Land Rover owner.

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Dealer Technician Drops, Cracks, Welds and Attempts to Stuff Transmission Back in Land Rover Without Telling Customer

The “Just Rolled Into The Shop” subreddit usually shows an array of some of the worst maintained vehicles that customers bring into shops — but a post today showed negligence isn’t solely limited to those bringing in vehicles for service or repair.

User Valkyrier posted a picture of a welded transmission and explained the circumstances: that a dealership technician dropped and damaged it during an engine replacement and was planning to reinstall it … after welding it back together … without telling the vehicle’s owner.

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Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin' Over CVTs (PART VI)

TTAC commentator Patrickj writes:

Sajeev, an update:

My 2006 Ford Freestyle that started this series has been traded in after 184,000 miles. It’s replacement is a 2015 Subaru Legacy, so I guess I wasn’t scared off by the CVT.

The reason for getting the Subaru is mostly because of the second A/C failure of the summer in the Freestyle, though it also needed four struts, assorted bushings, and a steering shaft (u-joints doing a weird stick-slip thing). CVT and engine have been been fine to the end, with only two transmission fluid changes.

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Tesla Quietly Killed Its $100 Flat-fee Home Service Program

Sometime this year, Tesla Motors quietly ended its Ranger program that would dispatch service technicians to fix or send for service Tesla cars for a flat rate, Automotive News reported.

The program, which was touted by the company in 2012 as “ transforming automotive service” said the service would cost $100 “regardless of how far away owners live from a Tesla Service Center.” Tesla’s service page now says: “Tesla Ranger service may be available in your area. Service begins at $100 per visit and increases based on your distance from the nearest Tesla service center.”

A four-year, prepaid service plan for the cars, which cost $2,400 and included unlimited Ranger service visits, now only costs $1,900 without mentioning Ranger service, according to the company. A spokesman for Tesla didn’t immediately comment on the report.

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Bridgestone Offers $835M to Buy Pep Boys Chain

Japanese tire giant Bridgestone agreed Monday to buy Pep Boys for $835 million and potentially create the largest chain of U.S. automotive service centers, the companies announced.

The deal would create a chain of more than 3,000 auto care stores — 2,200 Bridgestone-owned centers including Tires Plus, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Hibdon Tires Plus and Wheel Works, and more than 800 company-owned Pep Boys stores.

According to the companies the deal will finalize in early 2016.

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Russian GM Dealers Want More Before Automaker Leaves Country

General Motors dealers in Russia are unhappy at the compensation the automaker is offering as it pulls out of the country, Wards Auto is reporting.

Russian dealers want more than it cost to start their dealerships, the report details. Negotiations stalled on how much GM would discount service contracts for thousands of GM cars currently on the road, and how much GM would offer dealers who need to change their businesses after GM leaves the country. The latest round of negotiations stalled in July.

GM sold more than 247,000 Chevrolet, Daewoo, Opel and Cadillac cars in Russia in 2014, which was down more than 24 percent from the prior year. This week, Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen said the luxury automaker would focus on sales in Russia — and also China and the Middle East — even after GM announced it would be leaving that country.

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Volvo Offers Lifetime Warranty on Replacement Parts

Volvo announced today it will warranty any replaced part and labor, not including wear-and-tear items and accessories, for the life of the car. The coverage extends only to service at dealerships.

Volvo owners will pay for the initial replacement parts and labor on vehicles with expired warranties, but Volvo will pay for any additional service on that part for as long as the owner has the car. The parts warranty covers all models from all years and will be honored at all North American Volvo dealerships, according to the automaker.

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No Fixed Abode: Walljobbed.

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.

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Piston Slap: The HID-den Benefits of Xenon Lighting?

John writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I’m still only three years into the car business and I still haven’t wrapped my brain around one thing: xenon headlamps. As a used car manager I’ve replaced plenty of xenon bulbs (pricey) and even some ballasts (really pricey).

Are you sold on their usefulness? To me it seems like a giant waste of money.

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  • MRF 95 T-Bird The hideaway headlamps on these and other Ford vehicles of the era could have issues mostly vacuum related. Usually the vacuum hoses that ran to the actuators would deteriorate. The “coffee can” reservoir which was mounted in the front header was rarely an issue because it was protected from the elements. The other coffee can reservoir used for the HVAC controls and actuators and mounted under the passenger side wheel well had a tendency to rot away. I once replaced one on my 70 Mustang when I noticed that the vents were acting janky. Later model Fords like Fox bodies used a durable plastic globe shaped one. The radio on these 69-70 full-size Fords mounted on the left side of the aircraft style instrument cluster within the drivers touch probably disappointed many young people. “Mom will you change the station?” “Andy Williams is so square”.
  • MichaelBug For me, two issues in particular:1. It can be difficult for me to maintain my lane on a rainy night. Here in southeastern PA, PennDOT's lane markings aren't very reflective. They can be almost impossible to make out when wet.2. Backing out of a parking space in a lot with heavy pedestrian traffic. Oftentimes people will walk right into my blind spot even if I am creeping back with my 4-way flashers blinking. (No backup camera in my '11 Toyota Camry.)Michael B 🙂
  • Tagbert When you publish series like this, could you include links to the previous articles in the series so that we can follow through? Thank you. Edit: now I see a link embedded in the first paragraph that goes to the previous story. It wasn’t clear at first where that link went but now I understand.
  • DungBeetle62 When you're in one of these, you life in a state of constant low-level nervous about 90% of the time. But that other 10% kinda makes up for it.
  • Garrett Instead of foisting this problem on the car companies and the people who buy cars, make those who possess liquor licenses and those who purchase alcohol take on the economic cost of this problem.