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How to Effectively Complain about your Car Problem

steverstever Posts: 52,462
edited March 2013 in General
What "tricks of the trade" have you used to get your dealer or automaker to go the extra mile to fix your car?


  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 11,121
    edited March 2013
    No real tricks to it; just be very specific about what your car is doing or not doing and when it is doing it or not doing it. When I drop the car off the night before, I write very specifically what I'm dropping it off for, even though I've already called ahead to make the appointment and told the Service Writer ahead of time. Usually when I sign my receipt upon picking the car up, on the work order will be the notes 'see attached' and my note is attached.

    For out-of-warranty things, a couple times over the years I have written an email to Customer Service at headquarters, politely explaining my situation, why I'm disappointed, and reiterating that I've had (fill in the number) of their new products over the years, and that my beef isn't with the dealer--it's this specific product. I also reiterate that I utilize the dealer for routine service stops.

    I've had great luck just doing the above couple things. But then also, I don't 'turn the radio up' if something in the vehicle doesn't seem right. I get it in soon.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited January 2014
    "Shouting, writing angry emails in all caps and generally freaking out at customer service representatives are all tactics guaranteed to make your quest for a positive resolution a lot harder. And as one company's social media rep writes in to explain to Consumerist, often complaining customers aren't doing anything to help her help them.

    People think that if they publicly complain, they will get their stuff fixed faster, but I would guess that most companies don't have staff that are solely dedicated to answering Facebook or Twitter comments. I get to it when I can (always within a few hours) but the whole process would be faster if people would go ahead and make their public complaints, but then send a direct message with their contact info."

    Help Us Help You: One Company's Social Media Rep Explains How To Get Complaints Resolved (
  • ray80ray80 Posts: 1,655
    No tricks by me either. I always just try to be nice and explain what ever the problem is the best I can, perhaps adding some info if the problem 'seems' to have been experienced by others and posted at places like Edmunds. Even if I have to be persistent and it takes multiple trips I'll still be nice about it. For instance my daily driver had a situation where the brake fluid warning light would come on under certain circumstances (temps under 20 degrees or so) , not nice at oh-dark thirty in the morning on a cold day when trying to get to work on wondering if there was going to be an important failure.

    Dropped it off at dealer two or three times only to get the 'could not re-create' answer, likely do to the fact that by the time they got to it the black vehicle had been cooking in the early morning sun and had gotten to warm to re-create. I did persist though and managed to take a lunch time ride to dealer on a really cold day when it didn't get warmed up enough circumvent problem and they had a tech walk out just to prove the light was on. Annoying , but got to where we needed to be to attempt fix.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited January 2014
    "Honda's recall of about 183,000 vehicles that might apply the brakes on their own was prompted by a woman who was frightened by having that problem in her own Honda and angry that there wasn't a recall.

    Carrie Carvalho of Arlington, Mass., used a little-known tactic: Filing a formal defect petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, requiring the agency to review her concern."

    Petition by Owner Prompts Recall of 183,000 Honda Vehicles (NY Times)
  • The mileage on sticker said 26-30, and my 2012 identical car regularly got 30-31 mpg. The new car has been terrible. Best mpg so far is 26.1 and I have 5600 miles on the car since purchase at end of December. Who do I complain to? I called the salesman and he blamed it on "winter fuel".
  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,440
    So your car gets the advertised mileage. I don't see what the problem is.

    Winter driving will always consume more fuel especially if you live in a region where you have snow or slippery roads where your AWD is constantly engaged, therefore using more fuel.

    boomchek: driven 10,000+ cars, sold 1000+ cars, owned 50+ cars

  • bryanbryan Northern VAPosts: 228
    With my 2004 Bonneville, the A/C would cycle on/off at weird times, and no codes were in the system. Like when I would accelerate to pass, it would kick on; it would kick off when I was just cruising. Drove me crazy, not to mention made me hot.

    Of course, they could not replicate when I left the car on several occasions. This is a smallish GM dealer, and customer service is their hallmark. It's the main reason I do all my business there.

    Usually the same mechanic works on your car, so I asked to leave the car and have the serviceman drive it as his personnel vehicle until it could be solved. In the third week, it finally replicated, and he had his OB? scanner plugged in, and got a code. It turned out to be a crimped wiring harness.

    Car was returned completely fixed with a full tank of gas!

    Then there was the time I got a seat on the last flight out of Atlanta because I was the only bumped passenger from the cancelled earlier flight that asked rather than demanded. The desk and gate agents made sure everyone at that gate waiting to be called for standby knew that my being considerate got me the last seat.
  • nokia4menokia4me Posts: 1
    Literally, burned up. That's what happened to my 2000 Kia last night. My daughter had just started it up and had driven it about 1/4 mile when she noticed smoke pouring from under the dash on the passenger side. She quickly exited the vehicle and saw flames shooting from behind the dash on the driver's side and within seconds flames were shooting into the air. The drivers side is completely burned and the passenger side looks as though there was never a fire. We bought the car in December from a dealer with 61,000, we have had no problems and there were no warning signs of any problems. I am going to go to Kia, but from what I have read, it doesn't appear as though they will be of any help. Any suggestions.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    You should file a complaint with the NHTSA too. They won't act on individual complaints but if there's a pattern of similar problems, they'll investigate.

    Safety Complaints
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    "Laws give you more rights. Along with companies' express warranties, you also have "implied warranties" under state law. The Uniform Commercial Code, a set of laws adopted in much the same form by all states and the District of Columbia, provides an automatic "implied warranty of merchantability." That unwritten protection guarantees that consumer products are free of substantial defects and will function properly for a reasonable period of time.

    What you should do. If you discover that something you bought is defective -- even after the written warranty has expired -- contact the retailer and manufacturer to ask for a repair, replacement or refund. It doesn't matter what the retailer's return policy is."

    With warranty protection, you have more rights than you think (
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    "In a class action, thousands of consumers can benefit when a product they bought is judged to be defective.

    In a typical lemon-law case, a lone consumer starts with arbitration, generally choosing among arbitration firms approved under each state’s lemon law. If the outcome is unsatisfactory, there are provisions to appeal, including the courts.

    But now a few automakers are trying to do away with those resources by taking advantage of something consumers have done for decades when buying a vehicle: signing an agreement with the dealer to use arbitration to resolve disputes. Some automakers — including Honda, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz — are arguing that these sales agreements cover them, too."

    Automakers Push Back Against Consumer Protections (New York Times)
  • ohenryxohenryx Posts: 285
    Literally, burned up. That's what happened to my 2000 Kia last night.

    I am sorry to hear about your misfortunes, but I really don't think you can hold Kia to task for this. The car is 13 years old. Literally, exactly, unequivocally, 13 years old. Out in the real world, is there any manufactured item that we would hold the manufacturer responsible for after 13 years?

    Offhand, I can think of one - Zippo lighters. You can run over a Zippo with a piece of heavy equipment, squash it flat, send it back and they will replace it. No questions asked.

    There used to be one other. When I was a kid, back in the last millenium, my father always bought Sears Craftsman hand tools. Sears stood behind the Craftsman hand tools, no matter what you did to it, they would fix it or replace it. But that stopped several decades ago, and I no longer buy anything from Sears.

    Back to your story - Do you really think Kia should stand behind their car 13 years later? I don't.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Not sure if this was the catalyst but it probably didn't hurt:

    Facebook - Scion tC and XB - Defective Trunk Hatch Handle.

    Toyota had a TSB out but now they are paying for the fix via a warranty enhancement.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited December 2013

    Sometimes the car company decides it's smarter not to fight.

    "Toyota Motor (TM) has learned to say “uncle” when it comes to sudden-acceleration claims. Just a few weeks ago, the giant Japanese carmaker was still talking tough in public about fighting hundreds of lawsuits alleging that its vehicles were prone to accelerate without warning, causing injuries and deaths. Not anymore."

    “Despite nearly three years of litigating this case and unprecedented access to Toyota’s source code, plaintiff’s counsel have never replicated unintended acceleration in a Toyota vehicle and have failed to demonstrate that any alleged defect actually caused” accidents, she told me. But pretrial rulings by Judge Selna apparently made Toyota reconsider.

    Toyota Adds Relief for Buyers Hurt by Government Shutdown (Business Week)

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