Help with an Unscrupulous dealer

mzdeeJuly 27, 2007

December '06 - 97 Avalon (87K miles) starts to rough idle intermittently at stop lights and signs, etc. Check engine light came on and I took it to the dealer. They "read the code" and changed to O2 sensor. Cost 300 dollars.

April 07 - Problem returns. I take it in. They say they cannot diagnose because the check engine light has not come on and I should drive it until it does.

July 07 - I've had enough. I take it back. After some research, I know that they KNOW what the problem is as they see any number of these cars in for the same repair. They say "Ohhhh...we found the problem." It was the EGR valve. Cost 600 dollars.

Now I'm sitting in my car. The idle is louder than normal and I feel vibration in my drivers seat and the steering wheel.

I'm soooo ticked that they ripped me off for the O2 sensor and I'm livid about the vibrations in the steering wheel.

How should I approach the dealer when I take it back (Cuz being out of 900 dollars, I AM TAKING IT BACK)?

Help, please..................

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Before getting bent out of shape, consider the possibility that you had two separate problems at two different times.

Depending on what's causing the new noise, also consider the possibility that might not be related to anything they did. It is a 10 going on 11 year old car.

Could have happened like this. 1st time you come in with your check engine light on, they do a proper diagnosis and discover a bad 02 sensor and replace it. Road test, alls fine. You take it away.

A few months later, a similar 'feeling' problem occurs, they again do a proper diagnosis and find a sticking egr valve. They replace that. Road test, runs fine again.

Unknown to you, over the last 10 years, the exhaust system has slowly rotted away. Just so happens, today's the day something falls apart or a hole blows threw the muffler, resulting in the noise and vibration that you now feel. Just speculating on the last complaint since it hasn't been checked out yet.

Don't know anything about your car so I don't have an opinion on whether the charges were out of line or not.

Could be you're correct, they goofed up the first diagnosis, charged you twice for one repair, and goofed something else up in the process.

Just trying to get you to see there could be legitimate reasons for what's going on with your car and that it's possible that the shop you took it to got it right every time so far. It's an old car. Next week the water pump may fail, the week after that the alternator may quit, and so on. That doesn't always mean the last guy that had his hands on it besides you did something to it.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 11:55PM
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Thank you Gary,

You are right of course about an "old car" encountering various problems. This I understand.

However, I don't operate on "feelings." It is a problem or it isn't. The rough idling was a very noticeable problem. by me and anybody else in the vicinity. On top of that, being the owner of this car for 10 years, I know that it also not normal for me to sit at stop light and feel vibrations in my seat and steering wheel. Loud engines are for cars that haven't been cared for; thats not my car.

I don't know what add'l adjustments are made with replacing the EGR valve. All I know is that $900 later, it is shoddy work.

If the exhaust had an issue, bet that they would have pointed that out because it is an opportunity for more money. I've never had the exhaust system replaced and would not be in disbelief if that became a problem later on.

I'll take a softer approach, but I really don't think I'm being illogical.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 2:03PM
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I wasn't referring to your feelings, but how the car feels to you, the rough idling. I don't think you're being illogical at all, not even saying you're wrong. It is possible to be very logical and yet come to a wrong conclusion though. People do that every day, myself included. The President is a master at it IMO : )

Some cars run like crap when they go into 'limp mode', which is often where it is when the check engine light is on. A hard failure of the 02 sensor will do that, and will set a code indicating that.

An egr valve stuck open will allow exhaust gases into the combustion chamber when it's not supposed to. The symptom one would feel if it is stuck open would be rough idle, or not want to idle at all, depending on how much exhaust it's letting by. If it's stuck closed, the symptom would be spark knock, pinging, whatever you want to call it, under load. That may or may not set a code, depending on where the problem lies. The code set might not even point directly to the bad egr valve. Isn't that special. I doubt there are any adjustments to me made to anything when replacing an egr valve.

Another common problem with todays mechanical marvels related to engine idling lies with the Idle Air Control valve. Problems with that could be rough idling, idling to fast or to slow, they can be noisy, or any combination of all of those. That is another thing that may or may not set a code.

The thing that concerns me is it sounds like it's been functioning when you pick it up and for some time after that. That's what gets me thinking along the lines of maybe they've been right all along, just a different component failed each time. I will say $900 sounds steep to me for the repairs you mentioned. But then again, I don't know anything about your car and don't have a parts time guide to look it up. Without that, I can't come out and say they ripped you off.

I think it's ok to tell the story about bringing it in twice before for rough idle, three counting this time maybe, and that you've sunk $900 there already chasing it. Hostility may work, but I will say it doesn't work at all on me. So get angry at your own risk if the objective is to get them to look for the problem this time for no charge. Maybe just a slight snarl would help ; )

The most important thing is for the customer to be able to trust the place hired to do the work. If you don't, it's time to find another shop.

Best of luck. Hope it gets fixed to your satisfaction one way or another this time.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 10:08PM
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Here's the deal. Over a period of time, some six months, you have experienced a driveability symptom of a rough idle. The first one was accompanied by a check engine light, which means a trouble code was set for a circuit that was not operating correctly. The O2 sensor was replaced, the lamp went out and has been out. "IF" the replacement of the O2 sensor had not repaired the circuit fault, the check engine light would have come back on, reguardless of what the engine idle quality was. Those details right there are sufficient to say that they were right about that part of this situation, and you approached this unfairly trying to claim you were ripped off with the sensor replacement.

Your April 7th report of "problem returns" should read the rough idle returned. Cars don't actually have only one possible cause for any symptom. There are many things that can cause a poor/rough/unsteady idle, and they are only related by the sensation the driver feels coming from the car. They did not diagnose a problem, they also didn't just throw a couple of handfulls of parts at it did they?

Tell me exactly how that falls under the meaning of the word "Unscrupulous"? From here, it looks like the worst they could be blamed for is having an inexperienced technician, who reported honestly exactly what he/she found.

On July 7th you took it back in, and with whatever transpired the EGR was replaced. Did the idle quality improve when they did that compared to before you took it in to when you picked it up or was there no difference at all?

An EGR valve sticking slightly open can certaintly cause the symptom you reported, but once again it's not the only thing that can do it. Good shops stop when they see no reason to go forward with repairs, even if some things are suspect. It's the "unscrupulous" ones that will hang every part they can in order to make sure that nothing is missed and the symptom stays gone. Like it or not, the "honest" ones have to allow the car to show them if more work needs done, and that is only determined by the owners reporting of any remaining, or additional symptoms. Oh, it helps immensely BTW if the reporting of the sympoms is acurate to the facts of what the car is doing, not what someone "thinks" it's doing.

Now at the time of your post, your saying the symptoms you are noticing are "The idle is louder than normal and I feel vibration in my drivers seat and the steering wheel."

You easily could be describing, a problem with the engine's coolant fan, an AC issue, a bad engine mount, and others. You could NOT be describing a failed O2 sensor, nor an EGR valve problem. Gary has done well in getting you to take a step back and start to understand the real possibility that not only has the dealer done good, and correct work, this easily may be something beyond anyones control. Cars are complicated, and inspite of what so many will want to claim, not just anybody can fix cars, because in order to fix them, one has to first truly understand them and that takes years of study, and decades of hands on experience.

To help you with the dealer, and with your car I can give you this. Report the symptom exactly as it occurs. See if outside ambient temperature, use of the air conditioner or not, the amount of time stopped to idle, or whether it's in park, reverse, or drive or some combination of these have any impact on the symptoms you are feeling. From there leave it in their hands, because it does not sound like they have really done anything wrong. Oh, and the cost? Totally irrelevant, you cannot judge a shop fairly by what something cost you. Unless it can truly be proven that something you did not need was done, and you have not done that here.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 12:49PM
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O.K. Thanks guys. Points well taken.
Sometimes, ya know whatcha know...........
Need to find a better repair place.

Thanks for all of your input.

And Gary, I won't yell at the dealer :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 9:09AM
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I feel your pain. I drive my cars for a long time and try to maintain them well.
On your next visit, I say if they recommend throwing another part at it, try a different garage.
Often times, you'll get a better labor rate with an independent mechanic.

For example,
my Honda needed a new timing belt.
The dealer wanted $1065 just for starters. This was a ballpark figure they gave me over the phone.
Anyway, i took it to my mechanic.
He replaced the timing belt and belt tensioner since it was leaking. Also, replaced the water pump as preventive maintenance (No addtl labor to do it now). Anyway, all was done for $725.
Not small change either, but I felt better.

Goodluck. -jasper

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 12:01PM
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Ball park figures and guesses over the phone. They are a waste of a shops time, if for no other reason this one.

The shop most familliar with what needs done on average, will quote what usually needs done. The shop without that experience will leave things undone, unreccomended, and therefore quote lower out of ignorance.

The moral is, ignorance wins more customers than eperience does when it comes to quoting prices over the phone.

I will NOT quote a price over the phone, since I don't really know what a car on an individual basis needs. The only guarantee a phone guess gets, is guesses are usually wrong!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 12:27PM
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I'm OK with bringing the car in for a written estimate, especially in mzdee's case because we really don't know what's wrong with the car.

The point I was making was to get a second opinion.

Had I went blindly by the dealer, I would have paid at least $300 more, not including the belt tensioner and water pump.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 1:26PM
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John G writes :: Cars are complicated, and in spite of what so many will want to claim, not just anybody can fix cars, because in order to fix them, one has to first truly understand them and that takes years of study, and decades of hands on experience..

No truer words, I was a line mechanic for about 10 years, and still I knew nothing ! But I do know a little more than the average man.....
I'd like to see John open a school for aspiring mechanics - and the cooperation of the manufacturers and the governments is vital....

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 1:43PM
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Well,, close as far as doing something to help train other technicians. Sept 4th-6th I'll be in Fort Lauderdale Fl. Teaching 5 different classes in about 24 hours of classroom time.

To do that, I'll work straight through to Monday morning, fly out Tuesday morning to start the classes by 1PM Tuesday. Then Friday at 4 AM, I'll be at the airport ready to fly home, and should be back in the shop by 10AM, ready to work straight through till sometime the next saturday afternoon (15th). Part of the reason for that is we will have to run the 10th, and 11th short because I'm teaching both of those nights too. Now the best part? I'll spend every penney earned teaching on the shop (business taxes). I won't actually get to keep anything beyond our regular household budget that we run month to month which is why I have to put in all of the extra hours so that we still meet the shops regular CODB...

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 5:52PM
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