My mom was experiencing problems with her otherwise reliable 2000 Buick
LeSabre. Every so often, out of the blue, the car would run rough and
lots of warning lights to come on. There were numerous, seemingly
unrelated computer codes that 2 Buick dealers in 6 visits over 6 months
could not figure out. They basically threw up their hands at the
problem. So, she got fed up and we bought her a Civic. My brother
agreed to buy the car off of her and try to fix it.
He took the car to his local independent shop and asked them to analyze
the codes and find a common denominator. This guy looked them all up in
the schematics and noticed that they all had the same ground. He
checked the ground at the engine and found it to be loose and corroded.
Twenty minutes later, the problem was solved. Cost $30 labor. The guy
apologized for having to charge that much!
So, for an incredibly simple $30 repair, GM lost another customer to
Honda due to inept customer service.
It sounds like he found a real mechanic instead of a parts-swapper.
Unfortunately these are in the minority. The auto makers encourage this
parts swapping behaviour with their computer codes and flow charts.
Unfortunately this is not a GM only problem and could happen at a Honda
dealer as well.
The real take away from your story is to find a really good mechanic and
I agree. This is not unique to GM, but you'd think a car company in
dire straights would be going out of their way to retain customers, and
you'd think they'd be working with their dealers help achieve this. In
this case, it was two different dealerships and neither responded with
a solution. Neither offered recommendations; Neither offered a loaner
while she waited for them to diagnose the problem.
In contrast, I recently took my Honda Element in for a problem. It was
just out of warranty and I asked what it would cost me. The dealer told
me not to worry; he'd cover it. I know other cases where Honda paid for
out of warranty service on items they felt should not have broken. At
least I know they are standing behind their product. Can't say the same
about GM (despite their new 100,000 warranty).
The LeSabre was a good car, really, and got good gas mileage. But once
lost, a customer may be lost forever.
I just got my 2003 Accord back from having a similar free fix after
warranty. The headlights were varrying in brightness much like when you
have a marginal voltage regulator. The dealer found a service bulletin
for this issue which Honda had tracked to marginal solder joints in the
Electronic Load Control (whatever that is!). They proceeded to replace
the complete underhood main fuse box assembly as that is where this ELD
device is integrated. The car has 54,000 miles on it, well past the
36,000 warranty. Honda covered the cost 100% without a fight because it
was a manufacturing problem which never should have been there in the
By contrast, our Olds minivan had air conditioner problems only 1,000
miles out of warranty and GM told us tough luck.
Honda continues to win my business and support because they treat me
right. GM lost my business because they never treated me right. Pretty
All this talk about the mechanics missing an obvious problem (the defective
groundwire) reminds me of a book. I suggest reading the book "Zen and the
Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Real interesting book. The writer, Robert
Pirsig, had a Honda Superhawk motorcycle (this was in the late 1960's). He
kept having to take his motorcycle in to the dealership. He took it there
5 times, they rebuilt the engine 4 times for free, and it still ran like
crap afterwards (would get hot and seize up). He noticed that the
motorcycle techs all seemed to be distracted, like they weren't paying
attention, like they weren't thinking about their jobs, even while AT their
jobs. He finally bought a factory manual and, having no prior mechanical
experience, took the engine apart in his garage and found the problem -- a
sheared off pin whose purpose was to allow oil flow to the heads. He never
had trouble afterwards.
The difference is you are the guys in the dream world. I know what I'm
taking about when it comes to quality work by competent techs, you guys
have personal opinions. In the real universe my former business serviced
and proved warranty coverage for thousands of vehicles, every month, for
most every manufacture you can name Techs not first doing the basics and
changing good parts, costs the manufacture and the dealer more money than
if they do what they are trained to do. Anybody who thinks they make money
changing parts is a fool ;)
It may cost the dealer and manufacturer more money to start swapping out
good parts. Because the manufacturer is paying for it, under warranty.
But if an independent mechanic starts swapping parts, they can make a lot
of money because the customer is paying for it. If they find a gullible
enough customer who wouldn't demand a refund for unnecessary work.
When her Honda fails, and it will, will she switch to another brand?
Judging all of the models and dealerships buy one, good or bad, is an effort
in futility. I see lot of Honda is GM dealers lots as well. ;)
That depends on how Honda and their dealers respond to her problems.
This is not a question of the product quality, but rather, how does the
company stand behind their product. In my experience so far, Honda
stands behind their product better than GM or Chrysler.
As an example, Chrysler minivans have historically had terrible
reliability with their transmissions. One is lucky to get 80,000 out of
a tranny on their older models. But, they have never offered to give
their customers restitution for these problems. I know people that have
put 2 or 3 trannies in their vans.
When the Honda Odyssy and TL's had tranny problems recently, Honda
immediatly extended the warranty on all vehicles with that tranny.They
provided a free repair, along with courtesy vehicles while they were
People perceive reliability not just by how few problems a product has,
but by how easy it is to repair the problem when something goes wrong.
Excellent point. We all know that some problems are eventually inevitable.
If the problem is resolved courteously and competently, we usually 'get
GM's tendency to live with a long run of known weaknesses, and to avoid
dealing with them as much as possible, has lost them a lot of credibility.
Is the Honda less likely to have a failure? Probably yes, overall. Honda
had lower than industry average failure rates for a while.
We just had another failure on this damn Buick. The air conditioner has
decided to have a nervous breakdown again. Buick and their AC computers
are known for failure, and are expensive to replace. Thank God it is
autumn weather, and we can tolerate it until we get ready to buy a new car.
Will the new one be another Buick? I will have to take a look at the new
provisions before saying conclusively 'no'. Had extended warranty not been
announced, the answer would have been 'Hell, no!"
I had a '90 Buick Reatta that I bought in Indy and moved it to Fort
Worth, TX. After time and out of warranty it would start poorly and run
rough for a while and then smoothed out. Took it to James Young, a
Buick dealer in Fort Worth. In short, they charged me $1330 for parts
and labor over 4 visits and still hadn't fixed the problem. Then they
replaced the coil pack and fixed everything. While they were at it they
cracked the steering column plastic while checking the switch and turn
signal. I complained to the Service Manager and I didn't have to pay
for the coil pack and the repair and paint of the steering column, but I
was still out $1330.
I bought a 98 Regal GS from them and at 36,713 miles, the left turn
signal stopped working. The service advisor said it was just a bulb and
proceeded to change them before signing it in. It did not fix the
problem and he said it was some electrical part and would be expensive.
I told him to please check if warranty would replace whatever was
needed, but didn't expect it to. When I picked up the car they had
replaced the turn signal switch assembly and there was no charge and he
said the GM warranty picked it up.
While I'm typing, I had an 87 Ford Bronco XLT and the cruise control
continually worked and didn't work. I had it to different dealers in
Ohio and Indiana and they replaced different parts under warranty.
Finally after the warranty expired I took it to an Indy dealer and he
replaced some parts and I paid but on the way home, the cruise wouldn't
work. I took it back and they replaced some more stuff and again I paid
but this time, they fixed it. I talked to the service manager at the
dealership and he gave me the Ford Regional office address and I wrote a
long letter and told them the problem I had the since the truck was new.
It took a while but they sent me a check for the work that was done
after the warranty that I had paid for.
Just my experiences for what it's worth.
All manufactures do the same thing in the examples you cited and they all
screw up as well. The problem is many buyers expect the manufacture to
fix their vehicle forever.
Honda is no better or worse than any other manufcture. I had to engage an
attorney to get Honda to replace an engine ruined when an oil seal failed
with less than 10K on the clock.
I don't blame GM for that, but two inept dealerships. That can happen any
place, any brand. Aside from warranty work, I'll never take a car to a
dealer for service. A good independent shop can do wonders, as you can see.
Had a problem just today. My LeSabre (118,900 miles) had a miss a couple of
times. Computer indicated that cylinders #3 and #6 had misfires, but has
been OK for the past three days. Diagnosis pointed to the coil ($60) or the
ignition module (much more expensive, maybe $300), so, what to do? Mechanic
Bob put in a coil that he had (used, but good) and said to drive the car for
a few days and he will recheck the computer. If it is the other part it
will still miss, if the coil, probably not. He won't replace a part until he
is sure. Some would have just replaced both, took my money and been happy
that they made a good profit and for the customer they did a fix, no matter
what the cost.
Why do people continue to take their car to a dealer as the FIRST
option? There are plenty of good, independent shops out there, and
equally plenty of incompetent dealer service providers out there.
Maybe I've just been lucky and have had good mechanics, as I have
never taken my car to the dealer for service.
I chalk this one up to a couple of incompetent dealers. It's not GM's
job to police their THOUSANDS of dealers, that's just impossible. I
would certainly call and/or write GM with your concerns, if they don't
know, how can they fix the problem? Wagoner ain't telepathic ;)
Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.