Friday, September 14, 2007

Judging a car dealership

This entry falls into “what I can’t write about,” but I’m going to write it anyway, because I’ve been too busy grading research projects to spend much time thinking about a publishing topic.

My hubby drives a Toyota. He wanted a Lincoln, but I suggested he drive one of the makes which has a reputation for quality, since he is quite dependent on his car in his line of work. So, a few years back, he bought a top of the line model, an Avalon, hoping for many years of trouble-free driving.

For the first 40.000 miles or so, all was well. However, no one mentioned the fact that this car, unlike most modern cars, has to have its valves adjusted manually, an expensive and arduous task for the service department, which means leaving the car for a while. Hubby needs his car, so he just kept driving it; not the best decision, in retrospect, but an understandable one. The car was functioning, with adequate power and fuel economy. It just sounded like a diesel, and it isn’t. An increasing level of “valve clatter” led to a service visit which lasted over a week and a $2300+ bill at the service department. No, that did not include a new engine. I did ask.

Daughter and I picked up the car, since hubby was in the courtroom, as usual. Two miles from the dealer, I saw the “check engine” light come on, so I pulled over and whipped out my cell phone. If the car needed to go back, having someone to pick me up seemed like a good plan, so I called the dealership.

“Heyward Allen Toyota” a cheerful voice announced. I explained that I was sitting on the side of the road, with this warning light on, after having paid way too much for service, and should I bring the car back? Receptionist forwards call to service, service rep consults mechanic and comes back on the phone to tell me that, “Oh, folks have driven cars for years with a check engine light on. It’s probably nothing. All of our service techs have gone home. Could you bring it back tomorrow and let us check it?”

After a discussion, the service advisor assured me that I could drive it without worry, so I decided to bring it on home, since we needed the car, but I was feeling guilty about suggesting a Toyota. Is the problem the car or the dealership?

Daughter shared some insight after we finally got home. “Mom, you and Dad need to find a new dealership. Their potty isn’t nice at all, and the one at the Honda dealership is beautiful. If they can’t keep up a restroom, why would you trust them with your car?”

Out of the mouths of babes, indeed. My Honda has been great, the service has been good, and the local dealership does indeed have a very nice ladies’ room.

[Update: Hubby managed to get the poor old Avalon back to the dealer one day this week and the "probably ten minutes" repair took an hour and forty-five minutes. No charge, however. Throwing a fit can work, I guess.]

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At Sep 18, 2007, 8:18:00 PM, Blogger Sun Singer said...

How many bags of rice does it take to keep that car running per month?

Just wondering. :-)


At Sep 18, 2007, 9:40:00 PM, Blogger Pamela J. Dodd said...

I think we should have soaked the rice before throwing it in the engine. No doubt the valves would have lasted a trifle longer, right?


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