Dealer vs. independent shop?

hest88hest88 Member Posts: 31
I've always heard that taking your car back to the dealer to do routine maintenance and repairs is a rip-off---that you're better off going to an independent service shop. Now that I finally have a car that's under 10 years old and that I'm willing to baby, I wanted to see what all you experts thought? Do you always take your cars back to the dealership or would you rather trust your local guy?


  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    That is a loaded question.
    It all depends on the dealer and independant shop.
    The independant shops tend to spend more time on diagnosis than the dealer shops and therefore you may find the problem taken care of without having to go back time and time again.
    But then again, dealer shops usually have access to the newest information and can often deal with updates on the information.

    That being said, if the vehicle isn't under warranty, I prefer the independant shops.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    a good mechanic is a find, no matter where you find them. I have been having good luck with my ford dealer the past two cars. before that, on one new and a half-dozen or so old cars, dealers were iffy and I did much better with specialist mechanics on things like brakes and suspension, and one or two independents on the rest. found one or two stinkers both at dealerships and independently, and never went back.

    I've done a little of my own light wrenching outside the two major sealed assemblies with mixed results there, as well.

    ask around locally, and if you find a good one, stay with 'em.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    I go to dealer only on issues that I feel need specific manufacturer expertise, if you can find a independent that you can trust then all routine maintenance, oil changes, coolant, belts, brakes etc are better via them then a dealer however, I like OEM parts and my independent will put them on for me if I purchase them locally or on line he doesn't care, especially brakes on foreign makes.

    Dealers are an assembly line when it comes to repairs, in and out ASAP and sell as much additional service as you can whether it needs it or not.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    Around Atlanta decent quality independents are only $10-$15 per billable [] hour less than dealers.
    The good ones specialize in 1 or 2 makes only as the REQUIRED expertise level gets higher each year.

    The problem is oem parts as the discount [from dealers] is a function of volume. We get 20-25-30% off list and resell at list [so parts costs to customer are equal].
    Low volume independents must use aftermarket copies/knockoffs to compete [generate enough profit to stay in business].
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Anymore it is real hard for even the best independant to keep up with the changing technology.

    As a result, they may spend a lot of time guessing when a dealer is more familiar with specific problems.

    It's not easy being an independant today.
  • ae1awae1aw Member Posts: 6
    I use a good local indy shop. They always break down my repair using either cheap aftermarket, or going with oem / more & most expensive part.
    that gives me choice, although I usually always pick the most expensive part. learned the hardway about el cheapo parts.
  • sddlwsddlw Member Posts: 361
    My experiences with our cars over the last 10 years have involved both dealers and independents in San Diego servicing Mercedes and Lexus/Toyota. Hands down, the cost of routine service and unscheduled repairs on our cars, when I have had the work quoted at both dealer and independent has been a savings of 40-50% at the independent. This includes routine interval service, brakes, shocks/struts, radiator, electrical gremlins, etc. The only reason I'll go to the dealer is warrantee work. Of course, at the independent I don't get a luxury loaner car or a car wash, or fresh baked cookies in the wait room, or snobby service reps. I can talk to the actual mechanic that worked on my car, go for test drives with him, meet and chat with the owner of the shop, etc.

    I have been using the same independents for quite a few years. Ones who specialize in the specific manufacturer of cars we own. And on a couple very rare occations they have sent me to the dealer for some specific work they did not feel they were qualified to do.
  • hest88hest88 Member Posts: 31
    We've had an independent place we've been going to for years, but I wanted to see if we should go to a dealer now that we have a newish car. Nice to hear that we can stick with our old guys!
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    is that he'll tell you up front how much of some job he can do on a car where the manufacturer won't release the service data to outside mechanics... and how much the dealer will have to do, and estimate both pieces of a deep-delving job.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    Currently, Nissan/Infiniti has chosen to make all FSM, TSB, and many trouble shooting tips, even ecu software downloads/mods available on the web [$19.95 per day for access...PDF copyable format] shops don't have to buy hard copy massive FSM for $250 each year each model.

    The factory is trying to show Congress that it is not against independents, unfortunately you need a $5,000 diagnostic computer [Consult II] to avail yourself of the software capability. And a $20,000 Assist system for trouble - shooting.
    You have to do $500,000 in Nissan annual work to afford it........why people specialize!

    The major impediment to independents is CURRENT training and access to factory tech hotlines.
    Plus the disadvantage of little discount on parts having to buy them from local dealer.
  • kartman0kartman0 Member Posts: 17
    My wife and I concluded back in 1995 that the Honda Accord was one of the most reliable and dependable vehicles on the road. With this in mind, we bought one. Less than a month after the B2B warranty ran out the window regulator in the driver's door failed.

    Note: My wife never puts the window down. She always uses AC/Heat/Fan.

    A little over a year after that the window regulator for the same window failed again. BTW, these were $350-400 repairs each. About two years after that the ABS light came one and went off after a +$600 repair. We were told its a rare thing and if we could live without the ABS we could continue to drive the car. Since it was a 'rare' thing, we repaired and moved on.

    Well, 18 months after that ABS it failed again. This time the Honda dealership's service department told us it compromised the conventional braking system, too. That repair was $1400. We had no choice in the matter.

    Recently, the wife drove home one night abd the next morning no spark was reaching the plugs, and no sign (smell) of fuel) to the engine. Towed the car into the dealership for repair. At this point the 'nickel & dime' name came into mind.

    During this repair the service writer stated his confidence it was the main relay. Cha-ching: $197. Guess what? That wasn't the problem. Electronics component in the ignition system. Cha-ching, $176.

    During this latest repair I had the opportunity to talk to the service manager about feeling like we were being nickel & dimed to death with this 1995 Accord. I told him about the two ABS repairs and how we were forced on the second repair.

    At this point the service manager stated that no component in the Honda ABS could compromise the conventional braking system. I said that isn't what we were told. Hence, I was lied to. Well, the day came to pick the Accord up from the latest repair and the service manager didn't want to talk to me. Thanks, Bobby (Service manager)! And thanks Lanier Honda for making me no longer trust you or Honda.

    Tomorrow, I am forced to buy a new car although our original plans were for February-March. My wife stated earlier this week she felt her Accord could not be trusted. I like to think this was brought on more by the dealership she originally trusted, and too much.

    In the future, I'll try my luck with the independent shops and roll some dice there.
  • cutehumorcutehumor Member Posts: 137
    brake repairs seem to be an easy target to make $$$. I bet it was a $5 bulb gone bad. when I was 20, a brake chain gave me this whole song and dance about my brakes being so bad that I would have an accident. I admit, I fail for that $99.99 friction reline bullcrap. I denied the quoted $500 repair, the guy left my car jacked up and wouldn't put the tires back on until my dad tipped the guy 5 bucks. I'm glad I didn't succumb to the pressure, I changed the front brake pads myself. everything was fine after that. only 20 bucks. that was five years ago, still have the car today. I found out later the place was a big fraud conning customers on the consumer investigations on the news. lol
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think independents are going to be harder and harder put to keep up with servicing cars *just* out of warranty.

    Electronics are making new cars so complicated that even the dealers cannot repair them, so I don't see how an independent is going to fair any better with a 2004 car in say 2007.

    Unless factories come up with better diagnostic methods and better quality control for electronics, AND share that information with independents, I foresee a day when cars 4-5 years old are junked rather than repaired.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    Lets make that 6-7 years as Lexus and Infinti have warranties thatlong and the 7 year factory backed 100k is a deal.
    Who will eat the remaining 15% depreciation remaining after 7 years.......just adds $1,000 per year [in 1-7] less junk value for parts say $1,000

    Works in Japan with the 60k major mandated rebuild forcing 85% of car to be junked.
    Members will look fondly at the pre ODB2 [1996] lux cars.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    And spell doom for a lot of hard working shops.

    Even with labor rates in excess of 100.00 per hour which sounds insane, it's real tough to stay in business after paying expenses.

    The times have, indeed, changed.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Ah, but you are presuming that automakers will continue offering long warranties---which they will be hard put to do if their cars continue to exhibit diabolical electronics.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    What do you mean by diabolical electronics? Do you think the electronics problems are really wide spread?

    I don't think most of the cars out there will ever have an electronics problem that is difficult to diagnose and fix. Of course there will be the odd car that will be practically impossible to figure out, but that is a small risk you take, I think.

    As to the future - currently all car electronics are very primitive, cumbersome and coupled. This is because electronics are fairly new in this application. They really resemble the old "mainframes" of the computer world, where when things break you are in trouble. Eventually, car electronics will become more "PC"-like. That is cheaper, and componentized. So the hard disk breaks – replace it. The sound card breaks – no bid deal – replace it. You lost all programs and data – download and reinstall everything in one go. Easy to isolate and diagnose a problem, and easy and cheap to replace a component.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    As a MSEE [electronic engineering,I look forward to the challenges.

    About 90% of the old style technicans will need to return to school for 2-3 years [who will pay?] or there will be at least one EE per dealership which will charge $125-$150 per hour for his services........and there may be a month waiting list.

    Extended service contracts will be $3-5,000.
  • csandstecsandste Member Posts: 1,866
    1. They're seldom a good buy, even today.
    2. Most electronic stuff is pretty reliable.
    3. Cars are more reliable now than at any time that I can remember. I have 52K on a lowly Hyundai Elantra and only a neutral safety switch and several light bulbs have failed. That wouldn't have happened twenty years ago.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    If you are talking extended warranties, I would disagree that they aren't a good purchase.
    If you have a vehicle that is used, that you purchase, the chances of needing an extended warranty are pretty good.
    Taking into consideration that a transmission problem can range from $1,000-$5,000 an extended warranty can pay for itself that one time.
    While on a new vehicle, it may not pay off, but the right extended warranty can easily save you from chosing to scrap the vehicle and getting it fixed.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    sgrd0q asks:

    What do you mean by diabolical electronics? Do you think the electronics problems are really wide spread?

    Yes, reported problems do seem to be on the rise, and there appear to be decent statistics to back this up.

    What seems to be happening is this: New cars today do exhibit more electrical failures, (some say an increase of some 15% over older cars) but IF...IF...these are remedied by the dealer, or IF...IF...your car gets through the first 2 years of use without diabolical electronic failure, then the components seem quite reliable from that point on.

    So people who say things are getting worse and those that say they are getting better are both, in fact, correct, or could be, depending on when in a new car's life we are talking about.

    What isn't getting better is the independent shop's prospect of keeping up with the learning curve, since we have all had, or heard of experiences where the dealer can't even keep up.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    The fix all brand shops have the most trouble because they don't see enough of each type and brand.
    We just repair Lexus and Infiniti that's about 17 models times 14 years worth.......luckily they don't make serious changes every year as 238 possible models is already a nightmare.
    Each shop has 2 experts in each brand and there is little cross training other than the simple things.......thank goodness for pattern failures and the fact that most problems were taken care of at dealers under warranty.

    The other problems are inventory........37 different types of brake pads and 20 different rotors......a different ecu/tcu [software] for each year.
  • black_tulipblack_tulip Member Posts: 435
    Yes, reported problems do seem to be on the rise, and there appear to be decent statistics to back this up.

    Just out of curiosity, is the data broken down by make? If we remove VW,BMW,Mercedes and SAAB from the mix, is it still bad?
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    The reason more electrical problems seem to be on a rise, is quite simple. It is because the amount of electronics and electrical in vehicles is increasing with each new model.

    If you look at the 15% increase in failures, then look at the percentage of electrical systems that have been increased, you will find that the vehicles have increased the electrical by at least 40% vs the 15% increase in failures.
    So it is a relative increase, if that makes any sense.
  • ponmponm Member Posts: 139
    I know I am posting a different subject matter in the middle of a conversation, but as I was driving a few days ago past a car dealership, one of the used cars on their lot has been sitting there for over a year now. Do dealers change the oil in cars that sit on their lot for a long time. It seems that leaving a car for a year without an oil change could be damaging.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    the lots I'm aware of, way back in the dim recesses of time when cars ran on sail power ;), cars were periodically started to be sure if somebody wanted to test drive the fluorescent orange Yugo, they could. in this climate, you absolutely have to charge all the batteries periodically as well, especially in winter, or they freeze out. battery storage minimum recharges are something around 3 months apart maximum or they will certainly sulfate into rocks.

    I would NOT expect the cars to be rotated through the lube/oil pit periodically. I would expect non-movers to be auctioned off to Smilin' Harry's Used Cars -- Buy Here, Pay Here. and that within a couple months, in the case of dealers, to maybe a few more in the case of used car lots that strive for a recent-and-solid reputation.

    but that does bring up a good point about mechanics... if you buy a used car, you should assume that it needs a routine maintenance right off the bat. even if you don't/can't get it checked out by a mechanic before purchase. you could sniff the dipstick for gas odors if you wanted to, but that is not really a definitive test for 90-day or worse oil.

    so what about new ones? if the brake rotors have rust on 'em, probably haven't been run up and down the lane or test driven recently. but then, you have manufacturer's warranty in case you get a loser. low-mileage demo might be a better deal than a February car you are kicking tires on in September that has rust on the rotors and on the serpentine belt idler pulley.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    Everyone should take a part time job selling used cars early in their life! 30 days at a new car dealership will save you $50-100,000 over your driving life.
    They'll hire anyone as long as you tell them you have a dozen friends who might need cars, when you run out of friends they let you go!

    My son took a part time job as a detailer [go-fer] cleaning up auctioned exotics/high lines........he bought a 4 cylinder Nissan P/U after understanding that business.
  • malachy72malachy72 Member Posts: 325
    Is to go to a small independent parts guy and ask him to recommend one. It works 99.99% of the time.
  • desi501desi501 Member Posts: 66
    Quote from sgrd0q
    don't think most of the cars out there will ever have an electronics problem that is difficult to diagnose and fix. Of course there will be the odd car that will be practically impossible to figure out, but that is a small risk you take, I think.

    As to the future - currently all car electronics are very primitive, cumbersome and coupled. This is because electronics are fairly new in this application. They really resemble the old "mainframes" of the computer world, where when things break you are in trouble. Eventually, car electronics will become more "PC"-like. That is cheaper, and componentized. So the hard disk breaks – replace it. The sound card breaks – no bid deal – replace it. You lost all programs and data – download and reinstall everything in one go. Easy to isolate and diagnose a problem, and easy and cheap to replace a component.

    I have to ask, What do you do for a living. I can gaurantee it's not repairing cars. As a tech, I am totally insulted by your statement. You have no clue to the sophistication of todays electronics. Today's modules are already downloadable and programable, they all communicate with each other and all have security communication on every key cycle to prevent theft of any of the components. The SRS module doubles as a "black box" type recorder. Things like lights, radio, ignition, starter are all integrated into background security systems. That's only the beginning. A PC is like a Tonka truck compared to modern automotive systems. You have no idea what your talking about.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    I have to agree with Desi. It must be Christmas if I'm agreeing with Desi. LOL!
    The systems of cars are actually quite sophisticated.
    The problem is, that you are combining mechanically operated parts with the computerized parts, all which are moving and wearing out.
    You compared it to a PC, well, if a hard drivbe fails, do you diagnose it or if it doesn't spin up, you just replace it? Ok, a harddrive is what, a $100? Using your same principles, you wish to replace and engine for the tune of $2,000-$8,000??
    Not likely.

    Plus the computers on cars don't crash on a regular basis. Sometimes they will have a glitch, but reflashing takes care of it and it is set again. If the computer goes on a vehicle, you install the new and go. It will already be loaded with the programming. A vehicle is componentized, as you stated it should be more PC like. All of the components operated different systems of the vehicle.

    But, you are not running fuel, coolant, oil, dirt, electrical surges and water thru a PC. Try runnig all that thru a PC and see how well the system holds up.
    Does a PC monitor, control and decide when to detonate a controlled bomb into your face? Well, an SRS system does.

    Do you have GPS in your PC? I think not.
    Some new vehicles do.

    On that note, you should understand that most things that fail on a vehicle are often mechanically or contamintion related. Not actual computer related. If you knew automotive systems like Desi, Alcan or myself, you would understand that.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    a general-purpose computer system, like a PC or a mainframe, is designed to operate multiple independent program threads that interconnect on the software side with documented procedure calls. that is, software from anywhere uses "hooks" in the computer OS to work. being critically untested, the machine often crashes and freezes up, often aided by crappy software design and sloppy error handling in the programs from Hell it's asked to run.

    many of which errors are in the basic operating system itself, but this is not the place to open up that bar brawl of a dialogue between vendors.

    auto systems are designed as real-time processors. some of the characteristics of real-time programming are bulletproof operation, critical testing of the entire system to ensure all error cases are handled without stopping the system, and results must be output from the system within critical time limits from any varying inputs. it's a whole 'nother world.

    all software is from the automaker only, no outsiders may apply (although there are nerdy types trying to crack the systems out there, despite what auto companies think and say, because they want to run their hupmobile on Linux, or play DVDs on the digital dashboard, or whatever.) "chipping" an engine is the well-known "hack" of car engine computers, for instance.

    last I heard, a renowned linear particle accelerator still works off an old DEC processor (details omitted because security means something it didn't used to in these times), pride of the 80s from a long-submerged computer maker. that's because DEC permitted release of source code after certain licensing was signed for the operating system... because it had a nice modular backplane (read it as "you can plug your own cards into it if you are a king-Hell engineer") that could be documented for a fee... and because it was the only such system at the time that had the reliability and accessability to run real-time if you divorced yourself from DEC factory support. they're real nervous about that machine, but it keeps on chugging. and it would be Hell on rollerblades to come up with an alternative; the only thing I can think of right offhand would be a VME-bus RISC machine, and there are lots of gotchas in that, too.

    that's the world of real-time. you can't have an engine computer failure fire cylinder 3 with every pulse from the crankshaft sensor. not ever. those computers are also certified beyond basic mil-spec, in many cases 60 below to 200 above fahrenheit temperature range. they used to advertise microprocessors in the trade rags that had temp ranges guaranteed for several seconds that are way beyond anything you would use a computer for on earth.

    one can guess at several useful tasks for such chips, likely covered by security blankets, and one may be correct or not, but critical auto electronics run close to those ranges.

    no, they are not quite foreign mp3 player knockoffs.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Don't you see two separate questions here? I do. One is about the basic soundness of engineering of these systems but the other is about who is keeping up fast enough to fix them. So the systems could be very good but the support systems could be very bad.
  • desi501desi501 Member Posts: 66
    I have to agree with Desi. It must be Christmas if I'm agreeing with Desi. LOL!
    Now, I don't know whether I've been insulted or
    Merry Christmas anyway

    I know I'm insulted by sgrd0q's comment about "it can't be THAT hard"
    I've got one in the shop for you right now. "Come on down"
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    the basic issue is that the confusers are so good that you don't suspect 'em and so expensive you don't dare just swap one in for the randy Hell of it. it's a sealed system with limited information released, and that's a recipe for chasing everything else. because you CAN look at everything else.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    On a old Q45 there were at least 6 different ecu with differing software for each model year.
    And the 90 model was very different from the 91 and 92, and 93....then the 94 went from 8 bit to 16 bit then 96 was 32 bit microprocessors.
    The 2004 is a real trip.

    California vs 49 state US, then traction control or without, then the active suspension and combinations and iterations.
    Then there are up to 6 other microprocessor based systems.....ABS, ACTIVE, auto/temp HVAC, transmission controller,Air Bag, Body Control module.
    To my knowledge none of these computers have failed.[but I have only seen around 4,000 a data processing way unless they were destroyed by impact or corrosion [water leaks/spilled coffee] or some external short [injectors/coils taking out a driver transistor] or jump starting the car with terminals reversed.

    We have seeen failed alternators put out 18-20 volts and things survive.

    There are about 7 people in the US that understand the code on the 1990 model and 2 on the 1996 model.

    Even with dealers all they can do is order the correct model and swap to see if the problems go away.
    Most/all master techs at the 165 dealers don't have a clue about the internal workings.
    As PHD in Computer Science don't like to get dirty.

    Cupholders and allowing owners to drink in cars is the bane of humanity! They self inflict more costly damage than even the rodents.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    The system is backwards. We should have high school technical school graduates desiging and building the cars and PH.D. engineers repairing them .
    That would solve the problem!!

    Not putting anyone down. From previous posts it is obvious that arrrogance does not know a educational degree, does it?
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    anybody who thinks they can't learn something from everybody they meet is not much use to me. except as an example to someone else down the road when they flame out, that is.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think the real skill here is still the ability to be a diagnostician.

    The most sophisticated scanning tool, the most whiz-bang analyzer, is of no use if the data is not interpreted correctly.
  • desi501desi501 Member Posts: 66
    If today's technician spent 10% of his year just training on new equipment and technology, he still couldn't keep up with the technology growth in all makes and models. You could buy a home with the value of the necessary test equipment alone.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    You know who I am. Once you figure it out, you will know the reason behind the comment (check my profile for clue). LOL!!
    It was a compliment, my friend. Ha ha.

    The mechanics who keep on top of things are the ones who will succeed. The ones who are satisfied to only take what training they are required will soon fall way behind.
    The technology of newer vehicles is changing as fast as a person can learn it. About the time you get one system figured out, they go and change it.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    desi501 – Hey I didn't mean to have you or anyone else "totally insulted"! You're missing my point. I am in the I.T. industry, and I see computers and software evolve. I actually participate in designing new systems. I see Operating Systems being designed and deployed, software being designed and deployed, and to a lesser extend and indirectly I see hardware being designed and deployed. Any practical application, like the car's hardware and software for instance, will somewhat lag behind the latest designs (or paper designs at least, if you like).

    My only point is that I see the cars in the future being more componetized, where components are cohesive but loosely coupled, and where it is easier to diagnose and swap out a component, as opposed to working on and trying to fix the whole thing. Hence my somewhat clumsy PC vs. mainframe analogy.

    "A PC is like a Tonka truck compared to modern automotive systems." Not really. Depends on the PC and the software on it. There are actually PCs that work in real-time environments running real-time applications that control complex factory production systems, for instance.

    Your average car's processor, while being very reliable, is quite simple and has very, very little processing power compared to a modern PC. But that wasn't even my point.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think it's the connector and plug technology that holds this whole thing together, and in the past some of that wiring tech hasn't been very good. It's rarely the "black box" but rather the plumbing that can be a demon.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    if it's more like sealing or oxidation of tin-plated contacts... well, gooping the seal ring and contacts on weather-protected connectors with silicone dielectric grease works wonders. and for flat-blade junk made with tinplate, reach for the pen applicator of De-Ox-It by Caig. that stuff really kills oxide NOW, and you don't need much... the smallest drop will fix the largest connector surface.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    My once every month or two stop by the site after the classic car board shut down.

    The 'Tonka truck' issue in terms of PC's vs car electronics is silly of course. I think what the earlier poster mean to say was that cars could (and should) have more standardized computer systems, but then, why on earth are there umpteen wheel hole patterns?

    Whoever was sticking up for car computer complexity...I'm afraid you're probably wrong. PC's and their relatives have long been used in realtime mission-critical systems. Besides low cost, they tend to have the reliability that comes with high volume. Processor-wise, the embedded parts in cars simply aren't as fast as desktop units and run nowhere near as much software as in either the applications or embedded PC worlds. There are boatloads of PC's used in embedded realtime applications with far higher end user cost and far tighter timing constraints than passenger cars. End pontification.

    It strikes me that the real bugaboo in all of this is not the software or the embedded computer hardware but is rather where the interfaces to the outside world exist. There's worse environments (in terms of vibration / hot/cold / UV issues / general wear) for things like connectors and the zillion electromechanical systems that are starting to pop up, but they aren't as cost sensitive.

    I tend to agree with Sr. Shiftright that the net end result of all this will be throw away cars. The complexity and unintended consequences of failure will proliferate at a far greater rate than the line mechanic's ability to diagnose them.
  • merbear111merbear111 Member Posts: 1
    I'll betcha that happened to you at "Just Brakes" in the southwest. I've been pretty smart about not falling for "up-selling" at Jiffy Lube when I went in for oil and oil-alone. But these guys are fixing my brakes (that's all they fix) and up-sold me on my issues with my brakes and I fell hook, line, and sinker. I ended up paying the full $500 you managed to save. I hope everyone reads this and knows to avoid that chain. If you're interested, here's the letter I wrote as a complaint and I'm considering small-claims court (if I can also get lawyer fees and court costs paid for...we'll see). Here's my letter:

    April 28, 2004

    Meredith Stockwell
    12200 Academy Road, NE
    Albuquerque, NM 87111

    Attn: Click & Clack
    Car Talk Plaza
    Box 3500 Harvard Square
    Cambridge, MA 02238

    To Whom It May Concern:

    At 12:45 p.m. on the 13th of April, 2004 I visited Just Brakes, Store Number 13, 3913 San Mateo, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110, (505.884.1441) for a 4-wheel friction reline service advertised for $99.88 + supplies and tax for my 2002 Mazda Protégé 5 with 38,612 miles. Once there, the two primary technicians, Bryan and Randy (assisted by Jose) told me that in addition to the reline I had some manufacturer’s defects that if rectified now would not need to be fixed for at least 50,000 miles, maybe permanently. They did not inform me that this work would be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty of 36 months or 50,000 miles.

    The nature of the purported manufacturer’s defects were that the brake lines were not pulling the brake pads completely apart when the brakes were released causing constant and consistent rubbing of one pad per wheel, the pad closest to each respective brake line. It was recommended that I fix the manufacturer’s defects immediately so that I need not worry about when the brakes might fail; nor would I need to fix them in the future therefore increasing the overall life of the vehicle. I was told that all four brake calipers had to be rebuilt and that hydraulic work was also necessary.

    I had just received my Federal Tax Refund and had waited for that refund to arrive so that I could use it for my brakes and to repair other, unrelated items I own. I was disappointed that after having just received the check for $631 that I would end up paying $518.43 for a job that was advertised as about $120.78 bottom line. But I thought I was saving myself some real trouble in the future, this car has to last a long time, I won’t pay for a new car every two years, against the stats of most Americans, so I thought this decision to be the right one. I went back to work to wait for the repair to be completed and called someone about the work to be done and the associated charges. My friend was furious that these “professionals” were using manipulative language and over-exaggerations of my car’s impending doom to trick me into getting this work done, this work that was completely unnecessary.

    My friend is certain that I had one bad brake and one worn brake, not four, and certainly not four bad calipers that needed to be re-built completely. If it was a manufacturer’s defect it would have been covered under my warranty. As it turns out, I probably should not have even needed the four wheel reline – I would have gotten it anyway so as to ensure the brake pads and rotors were all taken care of simultaneously; no need to make four trips.

    I kept the parts for future reference. I also checked the Internet regarding this company, Just Brakes, and found many other people who have experienced the same sort of ‘caliper’ problem. I also found out that the need to re-build calipers is a very rare thing. This would make the odds of needing to re-build four calipers on the same car, a car with only 38,000+ miles on it, almost astronomical.

    The sad fact is that I didn’t think these types of manipulations existed anymore. I mistakenly believed that in this day and age, we as a country had progressed into civilized behavior. I don’t know why these “professionals” acted this way to me, I don’t care why they did it; I only care that they did it and that they don’t do it again. The most unfortunate fact of the situation is that I trusted in human nature, I believed in what they were doing, I knew I could afford it and may not be able to later, and I signed the work order. Once I signed the work order there was and is nothing I can do to reclaim what was taken from me or to get my payment back. But, I can do everything within my power to ensure that these “professionals” are not allowed to get away with this type of behavior with other unsuspecting victims. I won’t make the same mistake again, but I hope that with this letter I can help you help others learn from my mistake and not believe in the honesty of mankind and not assume that everyone is ethical. One might think I would have learned that with all the corporate scandal we have witnessed in the near past, but as this company is small and regional and privately traded, they are not subject to the same strict laws as public companies. Maybe we should change that as well.

    I beseech you to use my information to help others so that they don’t learn the hard way that ethics is still very much an issue.

    Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.


    Meredith Stockwell
    (Upset Victim)

    Cc: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Reports
    Better Business Bureau Office of the Governor of New Mexico
    US Senator Jeff Bingaman US Senator Pete Domenici
    US Representative Heather Wilson Office of the Att. Gen. of New Mexico
    Just Brakes # 13 Just Brakes Corporate Office
    J.D. Power and Associates Car and Driver Magazine Mazda North American Operations
    Consumers Union SEC Headquarters
    SEC, Fort Worth District Office Office of the Attorney General of Texas
    KOAT-Channel 7 KASA Fox-Channel 2
    KRQE-Channel 13 Office of the Mayor of Albuquerque
  • snarkssnarks Member Posts: 207

    Hopefully things will resolve out for you. Futurewise, if a repair seems high and out of line get a second opinion. Chains (your case) are not known for their great reputation. Independants can be very good or even worse. Just ask around or even better ask a few people at different auto parts stores. I found an extremely trustworthy person this way.

    Another resource is
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    No offense, but why would you send a letter like that to a radio show, especially one that is mocked by "real" mechanics?

    The letter should have been directed to a few of the ones in your Cc; list.

    Again, not to offend, but realistically, any on-line database of mechanics is made up of a few mechanics who have taken the time to go around to every on-line database they could find.
    The one you gave the URL for list 16,000 mechanics. Out of how many in the US? A couple hundred thousand? So are they saying only the 16,000 they list are the only reputable ones?? I think not.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    namely, ask around where you live. "Hey, Bootsie, do ya know if 'Brakes Is We' is any good, or another rip artist? How about Irvin's Brake and Suspension? Mine squeak like dying pigs and I slide through red lights."

    you're going to get some horror stories, and some recommendations. more than two folks have a horror story for the same shop, uh, I forget what you do :-D

    oh yeah... NEVER go there. yeah, that's it.

    and if somebody you really trust about cars says Irvin's is a great shop and they saved him a ton of money by installing one of those really old brands of parts and he's never had to fix 'em again, you know what to do about that.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I always tell people "you can shop price but you cannot SOLELY shop price". If Shop A bids the job $150 higher than Shop B, and Shop A has been a father son operation for 20 years in the same spot, and Shop B is a chain store, well...I'm all for coughing up the extra $150.

    If two equally reputable and well-established shops bid $150 apart, that might be a different story.

    I remember one guy I gave this advice to and he got all huffy and stuff and said "Well, SOME people can't afford to squander money on fancy shops. I barely have enough to put gas in the tank!"

    All kinds of rude responses come to my mind, among them wondering how safe his car is, and another wondering what the rationale was for getting a bad job at a lesser price and thinking that was somehow clever and thrifty?

    A highly competent and trustworthy repair shop is a treasure as far as I'm concerned. I advise people to support those shops faithfully, even if they are sometimes more expensive.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    From the stand point that I always get folks complaining about the repair costs, I always tell them that in the end, you end up paying the same price.

    The cheap cheap shops will cut corners. Most often, there isa reason that the brake job is $69.95. It is because they only do the bare minimum. Then, 3 months later, when something that they should have replaced, but didn't, goes bad. It isn't covered under warranty, so you pay again. Later, when another thing fails, again, it isn't covered, you pay again.

    If the job is done correctly, it should be a very long time before it has to come back.

    I don't like to see any repair back in my shop with in 6 months (barring abuse).
This discussion has been closed.