Watch Out When You Need to Have Your Car Fixed
Filed under: Buyer Beware
Nowhere is the saying caveat emptor more justified than in dealings with car dealerships' service departments. If there's a place on earth for customers to be on their toes, this is it.
In order to avoid legal difficulties, all parties in this story shall remain nameless. But it is true and, alas, typical.
A guy had a car. A European-trained driver, he's used to listening to his engine while motoring about. One day, before a longish trip, he had himself booked into the car dealer's service department, to have all fluids and brakes checked. As a special request, he asked that they check the timing belt, and if it's not perfect, replace it. And, please check the clutch, too.
The next morning he took off, and about 1,200 km later, he heard a terrible noise coming from under the hood. He went over to that car maker's dealer in that faraway town, asked for the noise to be removed by fixing whatever was wrong, and the cost to be charged to the original dealer. On his way back home, the car stopped. Luckily, right at an entrance to a national park, so he could phone to get a tow truck from a gas station that had a shop in a nearby town. The timing belt went kaput. He had to stay overnight.
He drove straight to the car dealer in his own town next morning, presented them with his bills, including hotel, long-distance call to alert his wife he wouldn't be coming home that night, a sumptuous dinner, and a hearty breakfast. He demanded payment. The dealer said they've never done anything like this, but the threat of a lawsuit managed to get them to pay up.
He should have known better but still, he asked the service department to check his clutch again. He just didn't like the sound of it. When he picked the car up, he paid for a brand new clutch.
He got home and told his wife he was going to get himself a new car first thing in the morning, and definitely not that four-letter make. Why? asked his wife, you just had it fixed. Without a word, he gave her his keys. She drove around the block. Being also a European-trained driver, she came back and said: But didn't they say they put a new clutch in?
So, he went to another dealer, selected a new car, and offered them the old one as a trade-in. After he named his price, that dealer's mechanic drove the car around and said, absolutely not, the clutch is shot. Yes, said the guy, and here's the paperwork that says they replaced it with a brand new one yesterday. Oh, said the mechanic to the dealer, pay him whatever he demands, I'm taking it back to them, to break the seals on a factory-packaged clutch, and replace the old one before my own eyes.
Happy ending? No.
He had similar experiences with the new car dealer's service department, too.
Ignoring car dealers' warnings that having their cars fixed elsewhere may jeopardize all warranties, he found himself a repair shop. It had a car association license, prices that are much more acceptable, and – most importantly – he's never had to come back to have a 'fix' fixed.