Inept GM Service - Another customer lost

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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.
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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 that they 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 in, but when you return the following month, the sharp tech is long gone for whatever reason, 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 relationship with the same mechanic. But it's not as if I bring my car in for service more than once every six months or so. Most of the time, the faces have changed !!! Chain stores are pretty guilty of this....and they make it pretty difficult for the true independent to stay in business.
Now if someone has a foolproof method for finding a highly skilled independent shop 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 recommendations from satisfied or non-satisfied customers which might have nothing to do with your own situation..
my .02 cents
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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.
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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". Peter wrote:

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*****It certainly doesn't mean they are good to do business with. Many dealership shops 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 him. Sometimes you will find a dealership shop like this. Most often, in my experience, 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 a dunce can clean up a shop and still be a crappy mechanic.
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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 :)
-GV
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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.
<rj>
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It might well have been bill padding. This is what we refer to as 'laerepenger'.... 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 cost.
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"<RJ>" wrote> Four hundred twenty five bucks for a brake job.

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 my ass.

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!
Ian
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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.

<rj>
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"<RJ>" wrote> No.... I didn't do any of the things you suggested.

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.
Ian

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Peter wrote:

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!
John
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There's a feature on the Car Talk website (Ray and Tom), the NPR call in car care show called Mechanix Files that can help you find a good mechanic.
http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx /
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