Maintenance at a dealership vs. auto chains, private, etc.

cinquesixcinquesix Member Posts: 1
I recently purchased a 98 Forester (first car in a few years) from a private seller. I had it checked out before purchasing and I know that when I take it in for state inspection in a few weeks it will need replacement brakes. I'm curious about people's opinions/experiences on taking it to a dealer for the work versus chains like Midas, etc. for this and all future maintenance.


  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    and recently investigating fraud issues with several chains places, I say "stay away" from Midas, Pep boys, etc.

    I'll take flak for this, but I've found that the techs at these places are third stringers who can't hack it at a dealership, don't qualify to work at a dealership or the other reason - their driving record sucks and can't be insured at a dealer. Do you want THAT guy working on your car and driving it?

    People can say what they want about dealer service, but I'll pay a little extra to have an honest-to-goodness ASE certified guy who his also factory certified, working on my car. Even if there's a mistake, I have recourse - with Midas or Pep Boys - good luck.
  • pluto5pluto5 Member Posts: 618
    Funny you should mention this is a plus--it's really overrated IMO because ASE certification is granted based on someone passing a written test. ASE was a bone thrown to consumer groups to counter the bad press about auto repair ripoffs. Surveys of customer satisfaction usually show independent shops give highest customer satisfaction without regard to the number of ASE certified techs. The ASE cert might filter out a few incompetents but it certainly does not help identify the best technicians.
  • dshepherd3dshepherd3 Member Posts: 194
    I agree about the ASE certifications not being the "end all" for shop quality, but to pass the all the tests and become a master requires a lot of hands on experience in all phases of overhaul and diagnosis, and with all things being equal the effort needed to pass these tests would certainly indicate, in most cases, someones dedication to being as well informed and capable as possible in this field.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    And I was just beginning to like you and you had to go and mention the certification word.

    Could not agree more with everything you just said.

    with all things being equal the effort needed to pass these tests would certainly indicate, in most cases, someones dedication to being as well informed and capable as possible in this field.
    Well, I must say that I don't agree with that, mostly. While it is true in some instances, I wouldn't make it a blanket statement. I know certified mechanics who don't have a clue about new stuff or don't have a clue period and I know alot more mechanics who are not certified, yet spend alot of time getting the most current info and look for information to add to their knowledge all the time.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    knowing personally what all the hoops are they jump through to get there, that's a different story. especially when you see an ASE master tech who's been a master for 10 years and is so in 8 different areas.

    I'll bet dollars to donuts that unless an ASE master tech got a double DWI, you'd never see one step foot in Midas or Pep Boys.
  • lspivalspiva Member Posts: 49

    I am personally going to a dealership for any major repair or maintenance just because in case if something will get really wrong you would be able to complain to a higher authorities. I case of the private and chain repair stores you could only suck your thumb trying to report the business to the "BBB". I owned several cars and always had done work at the dealership. Even, 1974 Audi Fox which I bought 1995 I was still servicing at Audi dealership and guess what everytime my car was for maintenance I was getting a few months old Corolla or Chevy Cavalier. In addition to that, Chase bank of Manhattan is offering a Chase Subaru credit card with a 3% reward for all purchases that you would make. So depends on your spending, you could get up to $500 a year for a maintenance or if you would save those coupons you will be able to use them (up to $2,000) for a down payment of new Subaru. Enjoy you car. Leo
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Also it might depend on the car. Taking two extremes, if you have a high dollar exotic you are just about wedded to the dealer for the first few years. It is the rare privateer who can even afford the special tools or machines to service a 2002 Ferrari or Porsche (if he can even GET them). On the domestic economy car end, you're probably okay going to a privateer or even the local gas station after warranty, at least for most common service items.

    But I'm afraid what is happening on the "high end" will eventually filter down to the everyday car. If for instance, an automaker wished to design a car that required a $50,000 piece of equipment to diagnose, this is a small investment measured next to knocking privateers out of the service loop.

    One bad trend in automotive design that has never been properly addressed for decades and which speaks to this dealer vs. privateer issue is the complete lack of standardization in automotive components. Why 100 different cars need 95 different mufflers and 93 different sets of brake pads is a mystery.

    With a 98 Subaru, I'd say you had better see either a good dealership or a privateer who is a Subaru specialist, not just a Japanese car generalist.

    Why people think that a Mercedes mechanic can work on a Porsche, I don't know. It just isn't so.

    I know a couple of excellent privateer shops in my area, but I must say they are rigorously run, very tight ships, and they seem to very much favor domestic car servicing or late model Japanese. If you aren't in the Japanese-domestic network I think you have no choice but dealerships or private specialists in one make.
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    I would agree that, for the most part, one should stay away from the chain oil change shops. I base that on the recent press, and my personnal experiences early on in my car driving years. Besides, I like to get to know my mechanic. I like to see the same people there year after year. I also like the people doing my service intervals to be qualified enough to spot potential problems and bring them to my attention.

    As for the dealer, my recent experiences with dealers have been limited to MB and Lexus, but overall the quality of the work and the attention to the customer were superb ......for about 50% to as much as 100% more than an independent charges. But one thing I hate is that you never meet the mechanics. But as long as you keep your wallet open, they will love you and service you just fine.

    I like the independent. I've used the same Mercedes shop now for going on 8 years. He focuses on Mercedes. His prices are much more reasonable than the dealer, he picks me up, drops me off, and I trust him. The one instance where we did run into a repair he could not diagnose and repair because of the lack of equipment, he called his friend, the service manager at the local dealership and had me serived there. The two of them had worked together for many years before my guy went independent. I just started taking our ES to an independent. I was trying to stay with the dealer through the initial warranty period but got fed up with their prices. This guy focuses on Toyota/Lexus. His prices so far have been 50% of what the Lexus dealer was trying to charge me for service intervals. The shop owner drove me back to my office the first time. Spent 30 minutes getting to know me and my car (he drove).

    Anyway, I would recommend to anyone that for most situations, finding a trusted independent is the best way to go.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    not only do the shops themselves scare me, but you'll rarely see the same group of guys when you come back 3 months later. Turn-over is atrocious and that factors into compentence, training and caring for your car.

    When I was a Chevrolet service advisor in Medford, OR, I handled the "heavy line" customers with 6 techs. We did nothing but engines, transmissions and rear ends. I cannot recall a time when I didn't have at least one vehicle in uour shop getting a new engine or transmission because one of the guys at Jiffy Lube, Q-Lube, Wal-Mart, K-Mart (Penske), Midas, Pep Boys, etc failed to do one of the pertinent steps in auto maintenance like put the oil in, put on a filter, tighten the drain plug, etc.

    I regularly made $100-500 in commission on the high dollar repairs those shop required/caused.
  • mikegold_1966mikegold_1966 Member Posts: 138
    The worst places are the quick change oil places. The #1 problem there is that they all tend to strip the oil drain plug. The people that work there are seem to think they are on a pit crew for NASCAR with one exception--they don't know what they are doing.

    On the other hand, I know good independent mechanics that have worked for dealerships that utilize genuine OEM parts at their respective places of business. They do good work and charge a lot less.

    I go have gone to the same Honda dealership for all my car needs though. Reason is that the mechanic that works on my car has 26 years Honda dealership experience. In addition, he goes over your order with you when the car is finished and tells you what he has done.
  • nematodenematode Member Posts: 448
    It used to be Jiffy Lube but now I go to Dobbs (small midwest chain) because it closer. Why?
    1) Its closer and their hours are great. For example I dont leave work until 6:00pm which means I cannot pick up my car from the dealer. Dobbs is open until at least 8:00pm for pickup.
    2) I believe the quality is equal to that of dealer work for oil changes, tire rotation, and other simple work.
    3) I can watch all the routine maintainace work get done.
    4) We have had more problems with bad dealer work than with bad chain store work. This includes a nice long history with 2 Ford dealers and a Contour (documented) and with 1 Subaru dealer and my wifes Outback (also documented). My experience has been the exact opposite of the horror stories I heard about chains and quick lube places. My guess is that the screw up rate is about equal between the two.
    5) Its faster at Jiffy Lube but its acutally easier at Dobbs because you can just leave you car and come back later.
    6) I guess its cheaper too but thats not a huge concern of mine.

    For warranty repairs I do go to the dealer but thats about it. If the dealer that we liked had better hours I would go there and pay the higher prices. But hey have restrictive hours for pickup. Anyway, when you get your oil changed at the dealer do you think that its an ASE certified master tech doing the work? Its not. Going to the dealer over a chain gives me no additinal piece of mind so I dont do it anymore. If it did give me some piece of mind then I would gladly pay more.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Coincidentally I have a '98 Forester, and have done all the service myself. It's not unusually hard, just different because of the boxer layout.

    Some times I think dealers are overrated. Do they check the torque on all the bolts they retighten? I've found lots and lots of them overtightened.

    I check torque specs, but I'm totally OCD about it. I guess that's why I prefer to do it myself. Noone will take the time the way I do, it's just not economically feasible for them.

    Having said that, the boxer engine is tricky. You have little/no space to work. You have to remove the intake to change one side of plugs, the coolant reservoir to change the other. Dealers might have fancy tools to help, of course. So yeah, I'd lean towards a dealership. Just shop around, and consider getting a Chase Subaru credit card, you get 3% back and can use that to pay for service. So it might end up being free!

    Good luck. I love my '98, can't find any reason to trade it.

  • beachfishbeachfish Member Posts: 97
    Having owned an '86 4wd Subaru GL for 14 years and an '02 Forester for over a year, I agree with the recommendations for a Subaru specialist.

    I deal almost exclusively with the dealer, but I keep an eye on what they want to do - IOW, don't do the laundry list check-ups where they say "The 30k check-up is only $500." Just do what is needed - the list is in the book. I use the Merchant's Tire next to my office for oil changes and state inspections and keep an even tighter rein on them.

    Subarus are exotics. Most mechanics have never seen a boxer engine and don't have the tools to work on a Subaru.

    Check the hourly rates at a dealer and at a independent. They're probably close, but you have a better chance of getting the work done right the first time at a Subaru dealer.

    John...I'm so tight I squeek when I walk, but a Subaru deserves a Subaru mechanic.
  • pluto5pluto5 Member Posts: 618
    They're in the same category as Pep Boys IMO. Lots of inexperienced help and high turnover.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I forgot to mention the case where one Jiffy Lube place actually drained the wrong fluids! They drained the trans fluid instead of the engine oil, then of course proceeded to overfill the oil in the engine. So both the engine and the tranny suffered damage.

    It was documented right in the Forester thread, if you want to do a search.

    Go to someone that knows the product.

  • ken_from_njken_from_nj Member Posts: 105
    gotta admit - when i first slid under the '03 xs forester - right there - plain as day was the trans oil filter easilly accessed & in plain view vs. the engine oil filter drainplug which are behind an access panel more toward the front & center. if you didn't know what you were looking for - coulda easily pulled the plug & filter on the transoil instead. best to goto a place you are VERY confident will do the right thing. granted in the jiffy lube transoil/engineoil mix up it i suspect was very clearly their fault thus their liability to fix but better to avoid a stupid mistake than fix one after the fact. just my 2 cents. - ken
  • div2div2 Member Posts: 2,580
    The same thaing happened to a Saab owner. Jiffy Boob drained the transaxle and filled the engine until oil overflowed out the valve cover-"Duh, ah wundur whut I done wrong?" said the barely sentient "tech". BTW Juice, I have a chance to pick up a really clean 1998 Forrester slushbox for my wife to use as her commuter car; anything I should look out for?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    if a dealer does servicing wrong, you have more chance of getting the parent company (the manufacturer) to do something about it, versus corporate chains, where you are one in a million customers nationwide, and they will get to you in 6-12 months, if ever.

    Dealers also have specific experience with many of the same type of vehicle as yours, which can be beneficial if your model happens to have quirks, or a model-wide long-term issue. If your car has recalls or TSBs, this is also the only sure way to make sure they get performed.

    The thing to do, if you can, is develop a relationship with one dealership, even with one tech, and then ask for that tech every time once you know you can rely on their work.

    I have always taken cars to the dealer for service at least until the powertrain warranty expired. It streamlines the process should anything ever require warranty repair. For my Subarus, I have had all the service done at the dealer, even after warranty expiration, because I do agree that certain design aspects of Subarus engine make it very beneficial to go to a shop that specifically works only on Subarus.

    And I disagree that you have to go elsewhere just because dealers have lousy hours. At the dealer I go to, the service department is open until midnight every weeknight, and I get a free loaner whenever I leave the car for service. And it is a Toyota, not a Lexus. Also true was the post about the "laundry list" maintenance - dealers sometimes standardize their mileage-interval services to a "one size fits all" approach, and if your car does not call for all those services, you should bring the little book with you that shows exactly what it really DOES need, and just have them do those things. Otherwise, you will wind up paying more than you should for service.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    If you can find an honest one are the best for these reasons:
    In most cases you will know hte owner and mechanics and in good shops these rarely change
    Prices are generally lower overall for labor and parts and many will let you bring OEM parts if you wish to have installed

    The hassle factor, much less paperwork, they are accessible (dealer reps are all voice mail now) and if honest do not try to push more service then needed as dealers do.

    For the most part try to change your own fluids to assure it is done properly,. Dealers are almost as bad as chains in this regard. Use an independent mechanic for aother work and only go to dealer for items only a dealer can solve.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    the manufacturers have no say when dealing with a dealer. Dealers are franchises and unless they're violating laws, they can do what they want and the manufacturers have especially no recourse when it comes to the dealer's money if a mistake is made.

    No problem there, per se, but don't count on a call to GM/Ford/Honda customer service to get you anywhere in a dispute with a dealer.

    The only time the manufacturer is of any help is during a particluarly troubling warranty repair, but still don't count on any miracles.

    I certainly agree with your "one size fits all" plan for periodic maintenance. As long as folks understand to get done only what needs to be done and disregard the engine flushes (those scare me), injector cleanings at 10,000 miles and tire rotations every 3,000, they should be OK.
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    I agree. A trusted independent where you can get to know the owner and the mechanics is the best way to go if you are going to keep a car for any period of time. I prefer to go to shops that specialize in one manufacturer's cars.

    Although I trust the dealer to do the work properly, they are for the most part, much more expensive than the independent. The handful that I know (including the one my brother-in-law works at) see the shop as a major profit center and not only have pushed the prices as high as they can go, but often sell services that are not specifically asked for by the factory in their service intervals to boost the price, and in some instances, are too aggressive in parts replacement. Convincing the owner to replace only partially worn parts at more frequent intervals than really necessary.

    The chain stores have also been found guilty of the aggressive selling besides being basically incompetent. The thing of it is, if the dealer or independent screws up, there is a chance you can convince them to make it right. They have the real mechanics right there. Fat chance with an oil change shop.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Exactly, Ken. The Forester is the only Subie with that plastic cover under the engine, even the Outback doesn't have it.

    So even if a mechanic has seen an Outback, he'd have to go out of his way to find the oil pan on a Forester (i.e. remove that cover, or flip the access panel on later models).

    div2: listen for any strange driveline noises, the rear wheel bearings will be noisy if they're bad, and that wasn't uncommon. Also check the front main seals and the head gaskets for oil leaks (and the oil level and condition). Then try the clutch to see if it shudders, though now Subaru has a TSB to fix that. Those were the 3 most common problems, and should not be hard to find on a used sample if it's affected.

  • div2div2 Member Posts: 2,580
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