1998 Sable - Visit to the Garage

Okay, my '98 Mercury Sable with 116,500 miles on it clatters even with premium fuel. Not nearly as badly as it does with Regular or Plus, but it still clatters a little going up hills. So now it's time to take it
to the shop.
How do you recommend dealing with service writers? I have been badly burned in the past when I had a vehicle that was getting horrible fuel mileage, like 12 miles per gallon in a 4-cylinder. I'd go in for an estimate. They'd say, "We're going to replace this part. Sign here." I'd sign, they'd replace the part, the problem would still be there, and I'd have to go back in and repeat the same process, shelling out more money all the way down the line until I hit over $800 in four weeks. I don't want to go through that again.
So here's my plan. I will "march" into the building and discuss it with the service writer. He'll tell me they'll take a look at it and see what they can find. He'll come back out and say, "Okay, we're going to do this, replace that, and tune this. These are the parts we'll be using and the labor involved." I'll say, "I'm not signing an order to have those things replaced. I want to sign an order saying that the work done is to "stop the engine clatter".
My reasoning? If I sign a work order to replace a sensor, give the car a tune up, change the oil, replace the windshield wipers, and degrease the outside of the engine, and vacuum the carpet, that's what I'll get for whatever price they charge me. If the order I sign doesn't say that they're fixing the engine clatter, I have no leg to stand on if the work they do doesn't fix the problem, am I right?
I absolutely refuse to be raked over the coals like I was in 1996 when I was dealing with a '95 S-10, and again in 1997 when I was dealing with an '87 Taurus. Those were horrible experiences I don't want to repeat. I have much more important things to do with my money than spending it all on pointless replacement of parts that never fix the problem.
So what is your advice? How would you handle it?
How does one check the trouble codes on this car? I can't seem to find any info on it online.
Damaeus
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Hi,
I completely understand your frustration with service advisors. The first thing that must be understood when dealing with most garages/dealership service departments is the way they are compensated. Most service centers pay service writers a small flat fee plus a monthly commission for the amount of work they sell. This doesn't mean all advisors are out to dig into your wallet but keep it in mind. Mechanics/Technicians are usually paid flat rate. This means they are paid for the work that is done. If they install a water pump and the labor guide says it pays 2.0 hr.. they get paid 2.0 hr. whether it takes 1.0 hr. or 3.0 hr.. The industry is based on upselling to the customer (most service centers are ligitiment). With this in mind, ask to see the written repair order when the writer has finished writing it. Be sure it has your description of the problem, not the writers. Be sure to tell the writer to call you with the estimate before performing any work.
This is the important part. Ask to speak to the technician that will work on your vehicle. Once you make contact with this person your visit will be much more pleasant, because now he/she is on a personal level, your not just another car in the bay. Explain your situation.
I assume you mean the car pings when you state "Chatter". If your going to a ford dealer they will suggest a diagnosis including a code retrieval. They retrieve codes in one of two ways. The first is a scan tool names NGS. This is a universal scanning tool. The second possibility is what's called a WDS scanner (more advanced). Either tool will do the job. They will scan your system for diagnostic codes (a 2-5 digit code used to direct the technician towards the problem). This code won't fix the problem, just help the tech locate it.
The cost of this diagnosis is usually One hour @ the shop rate (usually between $50-$75) depending on your location. Any addition diagnosis will be at the cost of the time involved. This shouldn't be any more then another hour however additional diag labor is rare.
If ping is the problem and everything else checks out OK the tech can adjust the octane setting with the scan tool. Keep in mind the first thing the writer is going to tell you is to increase the fuel quality your using.
If all else fails ask to speak to the service manager. Keep your cool and good luck.
Hope this helps,
John

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Great advise, John! Nicely explained, too!
Paul

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AutoZone will read the codes for you but there may not be any. Is your Check Engine light on?
I "test" auto repair shops by visiting them for simple stuff like oil changes. You can tell a lot about a garage that way. Look at the floors and work areas. Observe customer relations. Generally get a feel for the place. My personal experience is that I seem to get a more customer friendly experience at a Lincoln-Mercury dealer than a Ford dealer but that may not hold true where you live. Either one is fully qualified to service your car. I have generally been more pleased with a dealer shop than someone else. I especially avoid big chain shops.
You might also ask folks you know who drive Ford products where they go for service and how pleased they are.
Most service businesses are now realizing that good customer relations can make or break a business.
I hope this is a little helpful -
Paul in Dayton

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In posted on Wed, 10 Sep 2003 12:52:32 GMT:

Yes, it is. I'm tempted to just go into a shop and say "replace the pink sensor" and just hope I'm right.

Firestone is the worst. I took my car in once about a week after the radiator had been drained and refilled. The service writer relayed a message from the mechanic that the radiator needed to be flushed and filled. I told him it had just been done a week ago. He said that it was really muddy in there and needed to be changed. I went home and checked it myself. It was as beautiful a green as you could ask for.
Same Firestone, same car, same service writer, same day: They said I had a lug nut missing. I figured I'd been driving around for four months with a missing lugnut, so taking a trip to Auto Zone myself to pick up a new one certainly wouldn't do any harm. I passed on that recommendation. I went to Auto Zone, bought a lug nut, then popped off all the wheel covers. I couldn't find a missing lug nut anywhere, and all the lug nuts that were on my wheels looked like they'd been there for a very long time.
Another Firestone: I took a '95 S-10 into the shop to have the transmission oil changed. Everything was working perfectly when I took the truck in. When I got it back, it wouldn't go in reverse. I need to have the transmission fluid changed in my Sable, but I'm kind of paranoid about it right now because if something happens to the transmission again, I don't yet have enough funds in reserve to fix it. I should be able to save up another $700 or so in the next couple of weeks. That'll put me up to about $1,000. I really want to have $2,000 in reserve to take care of the transmission before I have the fluid changed, and not by Firestone.
Damaeus
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What part of the US ( I presume) do you live in? I don't know if you look like you have sucker written on your forehead or what...when I first move in to an area I ask around about good repair people...I go in and talk to them about "how do you handle this problem..." as I was lucky enough to find a good repair person around Harrisburg, PA. I had a 88 Tempo and it made weird noises when I turn or corner so when I took in it after many other normal visits - they wrote diagnois problem...and they did several things that didn't fix it - some they charged for and some they didn't. If they replaced parts that were worn and would need replacing sooner I said charge me...if it was "iffy" they didn't. And they didn't charge labor on some either. I was gonna keep that car as long as it could run...I had it till 1996 and over 250,000 miles. Find a good repairman and stick with them. Good luck - Linda
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Damaeus wrote:

tell you what they will do until the bill is up to $1200 or more and they will get rid of the clatter.. if not you just bring it back and they will charge you some more...
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Buy a Chevy to eliminate service troubles.

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In posted on Sun, 14 Sep 2003 22:50:48 -0400:

I've actually had more trouble with GM products than with Ford products, so I think I'll stick with my Mercury for now. That A/C blows so cold that my nipples stick straight out in the middle of summer.
Damaeus
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chevy's are junk (most are). i'll stick with my fords and mazda.
posted on Sun, 14 Sep 2003

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Interesting
posted on Sun, 14 Sep 2003

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