Venting frustrations about shoddy work- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
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    Venting frustrations about shoddy work

    I've had to deal with it a couple of times in the past, and it's reared its ugly head again today.

    Problem #1: Bought a used Ford Ranger after college (my first car that I'd actually bought myself). after I bought it, I took it in to get my fluids changed because I just didn't know when the last time those things had been done. shop (one of those chain tire/tune/lube type shops) put f'n gearbox fluid in the manual transmission instead of Ford's special tranny fluid. Shifter was almost impossible to shift. I had to limp around in 1st or 2nd gear. Specialized tranny shop told me 1st and 2nd gears needed replacing and I scoffed at them. Took the truck to a Ford dealer who discovered the problem. I had the shop who f'd things up pay my bill with the dealer.

    Problem #2: That same Ranger kept having persistent problems with the parking brake cable getting moisture in it and rusting/freezing/seizing on an annual basis. Shops (including the dealer) were more than happy to fix my burned up brakes and the cable, but nobody was willing to take the extra step to find out WHY I was having these persistent problems.

    Problem #3: Fast forward to last year, my 07 Honda Fit I bought new was having a clunking noise when I drove over certain bumps in the road. It didn't happen on all bumps, but there were a couple where I could replicate the issue EVERY time. I took the car to a mechanic I trust, and he discovered that one of my brake caliper bolts was missing and the other (on the same caliper) was loose. WTF? I haven't had any actual brake work done, but I have had some annual inspections done over the years. Srsly?

    Problem #4: About 2 months after I bought the Fit in PA, the car got nailed by a shopping cart in a parking lot. I had the car in to get the door repainted. After I moved to TX, I noticed that the car got water on the floor in the backseat after a particularly intense storm that flooded a lot of streets locally. I cleaned it up and kept an eye on it. I had no problems until just recently, when I noticed a little bit of mildew (and some ice) back there when I was cleaning out the car. I usually keep the back seats folded down, so don't notice things immediately. At any rate, the car was due for some service, so I had my local mechanic take a look at it when he had the car on the lift. He didn't see anything obvious and suggested I take it to the dealer because I'm still under warranty. The dealer is a bit of a drive from me, so that finally gave me the incentive to make an appointment (I also needed to get a minor recall taken care of).
    Today was my appointment day, and they checked everything. First thing they looked at was my roof rack - it's not causing any leaks. Then they checked all the door seals and did some testing - nada. Then they started pulling carpet and trim from the interior. They started at the back where the water was pooling and radiated outward from there. They checked my windshield because I had it replaced once (rock on the freeway cracked it). They checked to see if my windshield wiper fluid line was intact (someone had a mouse-chewed line recently that was getting washer fluid in the car). They checked to see if the condensation drain on the a/c was plugged up. All of those things were fine. They were doing some water testing around that passenger door I had repainted 3 1/2 yrs ago and saw some water dripping out from the INSIDE of the door. Hmmmm.... So they tore off the door panel to see what was going on...and they found my leak. First thing he asked me was if someone has done any work there. Well, as a matter of fact, I once had the entire door stripped to bare metal and repainted. Oh really? Well there's a plastic cover inside the door that's supposed to be sealed up, and it keeps water that gets inside the door from getting inside the car. Well, the entire bottom half of that plastic sheet wasn't even sealed on. There was even water on my speaker in that door.
    Looks like tomorrow I get to call the shop that did that work and tell them that they owe me $200 for fixing their shoddy work. That should be fun, because I had that work done 3.5ish years ago. And I probably never would have found it if I didn't live in a place where rainstorms that drop several inches of rain at a time weren't relatively common this time of year.

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: chas_martel's Avatar
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    Unfortunately shoddy work is more and more common.
    Nobody cares...........

  3. #3
    ballbuster
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    As long as we're sharing horror stories....


    Heh... I bought a 2002 Audi A4 with 72k miles on it that was under an aftermarket warranty. Turns out the shop that does the warranty work is run by a guy I used to work with, so I figured I could trust him.

    My front end would groan if I cranked the wheel from one side to the other. The upper control arms are known for wearing out at around 80k miles, which is about what my car was up to.

    So I call up my old bud to have his shop diagnose it, then have the warranty company approve it. I leave the car with them for what I thought was going to be a day. It takes him three to get the car on the rack and go through it. He diagnosed that its the steering rack, and it happens that the original steering rack failed at some point in the past and was replaced by a cheap Chinese made one, and that was now failing 25k miles later. Great. Well, it's under warranty, right?

    So the warranty company will only cover replacing the failing rack with another cheap Chinese made rack. My bud, knowing the cheap steering racks are crap, refuses to install another one, and I would have to pay the difference in price for an original German made Audi rack for another $500. Well.... fine.

    Oh, and before he diagnosed the rack issue, I bought some TRW OEM German upper control arms because I was going to do the job myself, but never got around to it. At one point, I had another shop take a quick look at it while getting an oil change, and he told me that was the issue.

    So OK..... go ahead and do the job, I'll pay the $500 difference. So I call him back to make an appointment... he's busy so I leave a message. ... a day goes by... nothing. I call again... and again... and again.

    Over the course of two weeks, I must have left 15 messages for him to make an appointment to do the work. Meanwhile, my warranty is dangerously close to running out. He tells me not to worry, since their inspector already approved the job. Still, it took two weeks to make an appointment... oh wait! He has to wait to get the funding from the warranty company before he can order the new rack and do the job.

    So after about a month after the inspection, we make an appointment for my car. I take it in. He tells me he can do it in one day. Drop it off the night before, I'll have it back at the end of the next day.

    He kept it three days.

    Ugh....

    So I pick up the car, and he sticks me with a bill for $1300. Okay, I was expecting an extra $500 for the rack, and $250 for the labor of the upper control arms and I had him change the oil for another $85 while he had it, and the $100 deductible for the warranty. He also nailed me for a 4 wheel alignment saying "It's got quattro, so you have to do a 4 wheel alignment!" Wasn't that covered by the warranty? Apparently not. They pay for a two wheel alignment. So what is the diff in price? Adjust that. He knocked like $50 off. Sigh. He changed out a couple bushings he found that were wearing out, and didn't tell me.

    So I get my car back, and drive off. Oh, great. The car pulls pretty dang hard to one side. Alignment is messed up. I took it back the next day and had his service writer go for a ride with me so I can show him. The mufugger was actually arguing with me that it wasn't that bad, and I should just live with it. Uh, no. Howzabout you fix it or I pull my payment?

    Okay, I leave it with him yet another day, and I pick it up. The showed me the alignment chart before the fix, and one of the rear wheels was off by 3 degrees toe-in!! Not by a little bit, a buttload wrong. But now, it's fixed... I think. I'm tempted to take it to another tire shop and have them double check it, but at least it tracks down the freeway in a straight line.

    Oh, and the punchline?

    It STILL groans when I turn the steering wheel!!!

    I told him, and he tells me...'Oh, it must have been the lower control arms! I can replace those for another $400... (plus $150 alignment)... but it's not a safety issue, so don't worry about it.'

    Yeah, but now I'm no longer under warranty since you dicked me around so much.



    And looking up his shop on Yelp shows many pissed off customers saying that if you deal with this guy, keep your hand on your wallet or he'll try to lift it. If he comes over to your house, count the silverware before he leaves.

    I should have just gone to my bud Scott at Marin Motorsports in Greenbrae, CA. He does excellent work, and has always been more than fair with me. He doesn't deal with warranty companies. That was the only reason I went with that one failure of a shop.

    Still, even with the groaning steering, I love this car.
    Last edited by pimpbot; 02-10-2011 at 03:09 AM.

  4. #4
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
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    update:

    talked to a lackey at the shop that originally did the work, and he got angry with me (I never raised my voice) and told me that there is nothing they can do. I asked for a supervisor...who, conveniently, is not there. He's going to "call me back" later. BS. Dude's there.

    Problem is, this is a problem that could not be diagnosed within their "12 mo warranty". I didn't find a problem at all until an entire year after the work was done in the first place when a foot of rain fell in an afternoon. I cleaned up the mess and didn't notice the problem again for another year and a half. forget the fact that there was a period of a whole year in the meantime (see my signature) where I drove the car MAYBE once a month and was therefore unable to notice a problem, let alone take it to a shop to get anything looked at. I get the feeling I may wind up taking this up with Honda directly (the shop that did the work is owned by the same people who owned the place where I bought the car).

    I live in a droughty climate...it often does not rain at all for many months at a time.

  5. #5
    ballbuster
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    You could threaten....

    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk
    update:

    talked to a lackey...
    ... go to to your Bureau of Automotive Repair, if you have one in your state. Here in California, the hassle alone to the shop of dealing with the BAR is enough to motivate a shop to actually listen to you. OTOH, in recent years government cuts have slashed BAR staff, so it's entirely possible that they no longer have the teeth they used to.

    Small Claims Court? How much money are we talking here? *edit* $200? Nah, not worth the hassle on your end. I say work at it a few hours to see if you can turn them around. Apart form that, take your lumps and get on with your life. ... oh, and give them a nasty review on Yelp.com.

    The main problem with many shops these days is that most of them now pay their mechanics by the job, not by the hour. That is a way they can motivate them to work fast (and often poorly) instead of encouraging quality. And with many shops going non-union and the poor economy, there is little the mechanic can do about it. The mechanic can make more money slinging crappy jobs out the door, and chances are they won't have to do a re-do on their own time with the shop's warranty limitations. Notice the bill you get isn't going down, tho. The shop basically keeps more money for themselves.
    Last edited by pimpbot; 02-10-2011 at 06:01 PM.

  6. #6
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
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    Another update:

    The manager wound up calling me back 10 min later (yeah...sure, he wasn't there when I called the first time).

    He was more reasonable, and at least asked me to fax previous documentation to him. I got the fax number and sent him:

    Documentation of what was done to my car when his shop worked on it in the spring of 08 (which was later than I thought I had the work done), which included removing ALL paint from the door.

    The final bill for the work done in 08

    Documentation of the work done on my car this week including a statement from the mechanic who worked on it pointing out that the problem was not something that "just happens" over time. This seal leaked because a mechanic who worked on the door earlier failed to (or poorly) seal the plastic barrier.

    I explained to the manager that I live in an arid climate and that heavy rain is relatively uncommon here, and because the problem was inside the door, it was impossible for me to discover the problem immediately. Not once did he tell me he would NOT help me out because I was outside their warranty period. I noticed the problem TWICE in 3 years. IMO, once is an isolated incident. If something happens on a repeated basis, then it's a problem. It's not my fault it took 3 years for the problem to repeat.

    I'm still hoping for an amicable result. But people who work in service need to take pride in their work and do the job well, not just fast. Maybe forcing refunds out of some of them will encourage the management to encourage quality work over fast work.

  7. #7
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
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    Got a phone call back about this issue, and after looking at the paperwork I sent over, it was obvious that the previous shop had gone inside my door, and the manager agreed to reimburse me for the work that had to be done to fix it.

    Why the first guy gave me hell, I will never know. I hope his boss b*tch-slapped him for that.

  8. #8
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    As a now former ASE master mechanic, I can say that all the shops want is speed and upsells. The pay is based on speed, what's called "flat rate", where you get paid X amount of time for a particular job, no matter how long that job takes. So, for instance, a brake job without replacing rotors pays 1 hr and can usually be done in about a half an hour. With rotors pays 2 hrs, and takes about 10 extra minutes. Each mechanic has their own hourly rate, so one guy will get $16 for that 1 hr, another will get $25. But if you can "flag" 16 hours in an 8 hour day you'll make double your hourly rate, but this will only happen for the favored employee due to unequal work distribution. Some jobs pay a lot of time compared to the actual time the work takes, such as brakes, a 30k service, or timing belts on certain models. Other jobs pay almost nothing, such as warranty work in a dealership, where the manufacture sets the time they will pay the dealer, which is the time the mechanic is paid. Some don't even pay for diag, so the mechanic will just guess because he's not being paid to find the problem. What this creates is fighting amongst employees for the good paying jobs, which are never distributed fairly, extremely rushed work, and recommendations for work that isn't required or is prohibitively expensive for the small repair needed, such as oil seeping (NOT leaking) from a $800 P/S pump for example. On top of that, a business charging 1 hr for labor time that they know takes much less than that is fraudulent in my opinion, but our government allows it to happen to everyone, everywhere. It's f-ed up and the reason I'm going in a different direction. I enjoying finding the problem and fixing it, but all the other BS in the industry makes me sick.
    Oh, and the mechanics have to buy their own tools, which is VERY expensive. Doing some income research I've found the pay hasn't increased in the 8 years I've been wrenching, but the tools, cost of living, and most of all the labor rates the shops are charging is going up. It's a corrupt industry to say the least. I was once told by a manager that I should find something to upsell on every car, even after I showed him on one car that there was nothing wrong with it that it wasn't already there for. Another made me do brakes and an axle that wasn't needed because he already sold it to the customer. I could go on, but it's really pointless because there's nothing that can be done about it.

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