And you don't have to take your car to the dealership that sells that model
car. If you have a Pontiac, for example, but dislike your local Pontiac's
dealer service dept., then you can take your Pontiac to a Buick dealership
or to a Chevy dealership. It's all GM, and the engines are all the same.
The 3800 in a Pontiac is the same as the one in the Olds 88 or the Buick Le
Sabre. The engines are mostly all the same -- maybe differently shaped
intakes. I assume if your GM car's still under warranty, you can take it
to any GM dealer -- no matter what brands they sell. And you definitely
can if your car's out of warranty.
Easy question to answer.... my dealers service department works on a lot
of GM vehicles so I would expect a higher level of expertise when it comes
to having a GM vehicle repaired. So far I've been somewhat happy with
the service...although they seem very bureaucratic they get the job done.
Regarding independents.... in my experience, one problem with independents is
don't have the training dollars and programs to keep their technicians sharp. An
independent shop might have a really sharp tech on the day you bring your car
when you return the following month, the sharp tech is long gone for whatever
and the shop had to hire the first warm body through the door who might not be
as sharp. Many times it's a crap shoot. It's nice to have a long term
the same mechanic. But it's not as if I bring my car in for service more than
six months or so. Most of the time, the faces have changed !!! Chain stores
guilty of this....and they make it pretty difficult for the true independent to
Now if someone has a foolproof method for finding a highly skilled independent
BEFORE spending the money and finding out the quality of repair, that would be
useful knowledge to have.... most of the time it's only by advertising or
from satisfied or non-satisfied customers which might have nothing to do with
my .02 cents
Your theory is correct, but the OP proved the opposite to be true when the
dealer failed in six tried, but the independent solved the problem first
time out. Finding the right shop may not be easy, but when you do, stick
with them. Seems the best ones are the two man operation, not a big shop or
a chain store.
I do not believe that there is a foolproof method of finding a
competent shop to do business with but some suggestions would be to ask
for credentials and certifications. To help narrow down possibilities
in your area there are national associations that provide a local
search engine to find registered shops. A few of these associations
would be: ASA - the Automotive Service Association; AASP - Alliance of
Automotive Service Providers; ASE - Automotive Sevice Excellence - all
of these associations provide training and certification for shop
owners and technicians in a wide array of specifications, each with a
targeted area. i.e. Electrical Diagnosis or Driveability or Brake
System. Please note that just because a shop or technician has a
certification does not mean that they are better of faster or cheaper
than another, it just gives you a starting point. Kind of like a
school teacher, has a degree in education but doesn't mean they can
teach. Other things to consider that may not seem as obvious: Is the
appearance of the building acceptable? Is the parking lot filled with
junk cars and scrap parts or clean with only customers cars neatly
parked? Is the customer area dark and dingy or well lit and clean? Is
the bay area clean and organized? Do the techs wear uniforms? I was
recommended to a shop when I first moved by neighbors. Figured I'd
give him a shot eventhough the answers to all the above questions were
negative. Car was inspected, new tires, brakes and rotors and an oil
change at an exrememly fair price. Went well til I drove on the
highway and the car would shake at high speeds to the point that I did
not drive over 50mph. I decided to go back to my original mechanic (he
is 30 minutes further away) for an oil change and to diagnose the
shake. Turns out that the new tires were out of balance and the reason
alarmed me. The new tires were mounted and balanced with the old
weights still in place but not balanced correctly. My mechanic removed
all the weights and balanced them from scratch and wa-lah no more
shake. I actually apologized to my mechanic for trying someone else
because of "convenience".
*****It certainly doesn't mean they are good to do business with. Many
have walls covered with certificates, BUT it is the attitude and the
business policy that
turns good training into a good service organization.
******When you find someone good, and honest, it will pay you to support
Sometimes you will find a dealership shop like this. Most often, in my
the dealerships are pretty poor. Again, it is a matter of attitude and
policy more than
training, uniforms, etc.
A professional mechanic usually works clean, cares for his tools, etc. But
can clean up a shop and still be a crappy mechanic.
I guess my definition of independents also encompasses shadetree
mechanics. You mention having a good relationship with the same
mechanic, I'm fortunate enough to have known a few very good shadetree
mechanics in my time, and I have also gotten recommendations from
friends of mine of shops in the area should I ever need more serious
work done. Sometimes the shadetree mechanics are the first ones with
the correct answer, you'd be surprised :)
I don't know how to describe this dealers service;
When I took my car to the BUICK dealer
for an oil change, they recommended I have
the front brake -pads replaced in the near future.
I brought it in, and when it was done,
and it cost $425+ in "ransom" to get my car back.
Four hundred twenty five bucks for a brake job.
Of course they had to replace the rotors (?)
and flush the brake lines,
and adjust the rear brakes etc.etc.
To me, it was just bill-padding.
I'll never go back !
Next time.. Monroe for the $89 special.
It might well have been bill padding. This is what we refer to as
literally translated as 'tuition'
You have paid a lot of money, but you have learned a lot too. You MUST
insist on knowing what is to be done to your car, why, and what it will
Why the question mark? Did you ask them why
they replaced the rotors? Do you know what the
minimum spec for your particular rotors are? Did
you ask them what your rotors measured? Did you
ask to have the old rotors back, or at least have them
show you with a brake micrometer what the rotor
thicknesses were? It doesn't take much these days
to condemn a set of rotors. On most GM vehicles,
the minimum spec that is cast right into the rotor is
not "really" the true minimum spec. There is another
spec that is called the "after machining" spec and it
is usually even tougher then the min spec that is cast
into the rotor. And by the way, this "other" spec is
really in the GM manual, I didn't just pull it out of
Depending on the mileage, both are legitimate
repairs...and to the folks that believe that rear
brakes are self adjusting (which they are) and
work properly all the time (which they don't)
guess again! But the point here is that the
dealership cannot legally do the work unless
you authorized it. Did you authorize the work?
If not, why did you pay for the work? We
cannot do work that the customer has no
specifically authorized, if we do and they
don't like it, we have to either put the car
back to the way it was, or refund the money.
Simple as that!
Possibly, but the control is in your hands.
If you don't take control of your vehicle
repairs, I don't see how the dealership
can be blamed.
Ha ha! Good luck getting out of there for
$89 dollars. We get people coming from
those shops with quotes that are in the
thousands of dollars. Why? Because not
only are the rotors replaced, but the calipers
are replaced, the wheel cylinders are replaced,
the brake lines are replaced...the rear brake
shoe spring kits are replaced...etc, etc, etc!
No.... I didn't do any of the things you suggested.
I guess I was the average, uninformed customer
who assumed that "brake pads" is a minor job.
And that the shop people knew what they were doing.
Many customers are like that, you know.
I wonder how many other customers get
"the platinum package" at that place ?
It IS an expensive education.
You know, having your vehicle repaired is probably
something that more people need to know more
about. The fact is, your bill wasn't particularly
outrageous for what was done.
From now on, make sure that you are more aware
of what is going on when getting even something as
routine as a brake job done. There are a lot of
variables, a lot of work that "can" be done, a lot
of it "doesn't need to" be done, and a certain amount
of work that "should" be done.
And please remember that you have to "authorize"
all the work that is to be done. I would never go
into a shop saying, "please perform a brake job"
on my vehicle. That's just asking for trouble. You
go in and ask to have the brakes inspected and
have them let you know what is to be done "before"
any work is done. If they happen to come back at
you with something like rotors, you can then ask
them what the minimum spec is and what was the
measurement that the tech measured while doing
the inspection. Etc.....I think you get the point.
Then if "anything" is done that you didn't authorize,
just take the bill into the service manager before
you pay and go over it with him.
Checking around and getting to know the reputation of various shops is
key IMO. For example, in our town there is a well known European
independent shop with stable staff and very competent people. The owner
charges top dollar, but gets the job done right and is well known.
I also know of a GMC-Pontiac-Buick dealer about 45 miles from here which
also has an outstanding reputation built over decades. They also have a
stable staff and competent people. If they ever sell out to one of the
big dealer groups that will probably all change.
It takes lots of asking around to get to know where the good shops are.
When you find one, use them for everything. I've lived in several
places and have always been able to find out within the first year where
some top rate shops are. Don't take one person's word for it, and check
things out for yourself.
In my experience 10-20 % of the shops, dealer or independent, are worth
doing business with. Another 30-50% of the shops are ok, but not great.
The rest range from spotty to outright thieves. The same is true, by
the way, for dentists, doctors, lawyers and so on!
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