I recently took my car to a BMW main dealer for a brake fluid change and
a new window regulator and I had asked them to have a quick look at the
front brakes while it was in as I was getting a shimmy.
They called and said it needed new front discs and pads and I asked for
a quote. The quote was about £325 fitted. After I'd coughed, I said that I
could get it done cheaper elsewhere and she explained that they would have
to charge me around £75 labour as the mechanic had already took the brakes
apart. I didn't authorise the work as I've done the brakes myself in the
past and they've been OK, so decided that I'd do them myself again.
When I'd obtained the parts and started to do the work, I couldn't get
the wheel nuts off!! It immediately struck me that the dealer must have put
the wheels on too tight, and I went on to theorise that they maybe did this
on purpose because I didn't authorise the work, however they still charged
I decided to use my torque wrench in reverse to approximate what torque
they had been put on at by starting at 100Nm and working my way up 10Nm at a
time. I needed in excess of 130Nm in the opposite direction to remove the
nuts. To put this into perspective, BMW documentation says they should be
tightened to 100Nm. So they were far too tight by about 30% and I would
never have loosened them without the extra length of the my torque wrench.
So if I had a puncture I wouldn't have been able to install the spare at the
As I previously paid the dealer the £75 or so to refit the brakes and
tighten all this up do you think I should complain ?
I've not named the dealer but I will do if anyone is interested.
A things about your diatribe above:
You say you could not remove the bolts because they were too tight by
30%? I'm not sure that I would have even have noticed the difference.
I always use a (long) breaker bar to remove lug bolts.
How closely do you think your torque wrench is calibrated? 30% error
(or that much difference between yours and theirs, which is also quite
possibly uncalibrated) would not be unreasonable.
It is also quite likely that they used a torque stick on an air wrench
of some kind. Many do.
Over torquing by 30% is not as serious a problem as under torquing by
that amount or uneven torquing. I would not have been so upset by this
as long as all the bolts seemed tightened evenly.
I'm pretty sure, (but don't know the exact reason why) that the torque
required to remove a fastener will be higher than the torque to tighten
it by some amount. Perhaps it's overcoming the initial friction?
Yes, you did authorize the work to investigate the cause of the shimmy.
You said take a "quick look", which is what they did and charged you
for the labor to do that. Did you suppose that they should diagnose
your car for free?
I'm not sure that you got "screwed" by this dealer. It sounds like you
are looking for something to whine about. Maybe you should have just
looked at the brakes yourself to begin with?
Starting friction is higher then moving friction. This is why you should
always torque on a stroke, and not by pushing at a stationary nut. (poorly
worded but you get what I mean? I'll expand if not)
So yes, the torque required to release a nut is higher than the torque
rating that was used to apply it. The difference is literally the difference
between starting and sliding friction for that apparatus.
Try it yourself, torque a bolt to 100Nm and then see what it takes you to
untorque it. I don't know the difference in your case -- it may indeed be
that they overtightened them. On my car, the manual specified 80lb/ft, but
if i do that, they will come loose, so I torque them to 105lb/ft. Slightly
over torque is not that big a deal. Slightly under could cause the wheel to
part company with the car.
I'm in agreement. What they did was perfectly logical given the request.
Many small shops will in fact diagnose for free, but they aren't obligated
to, and the free diagnosis is usually predicated on the idea of getting the
follow up work revenue. When you ask for strictly a diagnosis, you should
expect to pay for the diagnostic time. They may be overcharging you for the
brakes, but... it's a dealer, what did you expect?
To re-iterate, the nuts wouldn't come off with a short bar. My breaker bar
is shorter than my torque wrench, about half length. It needed one hell of
a tug to get them to come off. I only carry the cars own tool kit with me
when I'm on the move so it would have been difficult or impossible for me if
I had to put the spare on (and even more so for a bird!). When I've
previously fitted the wheels myself using my wrench to 100Nm they always
come off nicely afterwards and they've never worked loose either.
The fact that it took a lot of effort isn't really that relevant, the
question is how much ove torqued were they. You've shown a most they were
30% over, which I don't think is negligent or dangerous in any way.
Inconvenient, yes. Harder than you've had before, yes. Hard to do with
inadequate tools, yes. That's a shame, but not exactly actionable.
I keep a rather large Johnson bar in the trunk of my car; I've found the
factory tool to be just this side of useless. But I bought an auto club
membership for my wife -- no "bird" will need to be changing wheels on our
You can expect all you want. The reality is no automotive technician
worth his salt is going to give away free labor. If you go somewhere
that claims to give free quotations, they are just padding the labor
charges of the jobs that they do get to compensate.
You know... no free lunch, and all that.
Maybe the learning point here is that when you ask a dealer to have a quick
look, you should also stipulate that you only authorise them to undertake
work to the value of £x, and that you will not pay for anything in excess of
If the cost to inspect is larger than £x, then the dealer either has to make
you aware of this prior to commencing work, or has no right to charge you in
excess of £x for the work.
Ha! maybe that's the case where you are Fred, but it's an outdated approach
that the $tealers will catch up to eventually.
I ALWAYS give free quotations for my work, I DO NOT "pad out" other labour
charges to compensate and I find that this approach has earned me a
reputation for absolute honesty and trustworthiness that you just couldn't
buy. As a result, I get more custom, a lot of this being both repeat custom
from happy customers and also their friends and relatives through their
Lets be clear here: Are you giving free quotations or free diagnostics?
Specifically to the OP's issue.. if you had to disassemble something to
figure out what the problem was, and then the customer did not want to get
it fixed, is that labor free?
Free quotations was what I was responding to, hence my statement of "always
giving free quotations for my work".
FWIW, as far as diagnostics goes (talking purely in terms of computer
diagnostics here), if someone asks me to diagnose a fault, I charge for my
time only if I can give them a solution, for example - your abs light is on
because the lh rear sensor has failed. If I cannot offer a solution, for
example the computer cannot identify a fault, then I do not charge for that.
Lets face it, it's only taking me 10min to hook up and run the test anyway,
and at the end of the day every 3rd or 4th test on average will lead to me
getting the job to do - I consider the time spent diagnosing to be an
investment, not a loss of earning time. Just the way I work, I suppose.
In the case of the OP, he instructed the dealer to investigate so if
investigating entails dismantling of components, (not quite the same thing
as diagnosis in the computer sense), then he is liable for the labour
charges. if someone says to me "can you take a look at my brakes and tell me
what the grating noise is", then it only takes a couple of minutes to look
at the pads and tell them they need brake pads. If they say "can you find
the clunking noise as I go round corners", then that is obviously going to
take a lot longer and would be billed accordingly. The chances are that if
they are asking in the first place, then they aren't likely to tackle the
fix themselves and I will be doing the job anyway.
Well said Badger. What you said is right.
The main dealers have all the BMW special tools and electronic diagnosis
gear but I feel that the training and experience of the mechanics is well
below par. For example: I had to take my car in on three occasions some
time ago before they diagnosed the faulty air mass sensor which was giving
me obvious drivability problems.
Sometimes the common sense that experienced mechanics have is lacking at the
They charge such a high price for labour but I expect more for my money and
I will always expect a free initial diagnosis/inspection/quotation as I may
be shopping around for the best deal as I do with most things.
All costs should be discussed up front before any work is done on the car.
And any ambiguity should be discussed eg, they should say: 'it may take an
hours labour maximum' but it should always be clear to the customer, who is
normally only a phone call away.
The dealers are wrong when they add on significant charges for work where
some kind of agreement on price hasn't been made. When they quote for
routine services they stick by the price.
I hate the fact that when I go to a main dealer for work I have to discuss
my problems with a girl who has obviously never had her hands under the
bonnet and hasn't got a clue. With my brake problem a simple chat with a
technical person may have highlighted the problem without everything being
stripped out. It must happen a lot: My dad once took his BMW for a service
and they installed new brakes without asking him. With a lot of complaining
he made them put the car back to how it was before, without charge!
Now my frustration has passed and I've had all your feedback I've decided
not to bother with the complaint about the wheel nuts being too tight. More
hassle than it's worth.
I just won't be using that particular dealer again so they'll be losing my
business. They won't care though because there are plenty of other BMW
owners to rip off!!
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