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Dealer Dis-Service Horror Stories

I recently had the most horrific experience I have ever had with regard to automobile repair.

I'll try to make this posting as quick and to the point as possible.

I went to the Toyota dealer where I purchased my 2003 Solara SLEv6 almost a year ago. This is
my first time owning a NEW vehicle and so I'm being extra careful in the early years and am
willing to pay the extra bucks to go to the dealer for maintenance. I know a lot about cars and
repairs and I have relatives/friends that are just as smart as the pros. I've been going to them for the
routine oil changes and tire rotations since I bought the car.

I went in for this dealerships own 15k service and I nearly fell on the floor when first told the cost
was going to be $285, but I was even willing to swallow it. The service included: oil/filter, check/service
battery, top off fluids, air filter, check wipers, etc.

The day after, I discovered that:

1) There were still remains of leaves inside the air filter canister.
2) Several battery cells were very low on water.
3) They never said or did anything about the passenger wiper blade which was obviously in need of
4) Cooling system overflow was (still) closer to the MIN mark, as opposed to MAX mark.
5) Brake fluid container was also (still) closer to the MIN mark.
6) Windshield washer fluid container was nowhere near full.

When I went back to the dealer I learned that the mechanic had been working there for several years. I suggested
they fire him.

The service manager of the dealership really acted very calm about this whole thing. He didn't seem very
apologetic or concerned at all. He didn't indicated to me that any steps would be taken to prevent this
from happening again, or that he would take any steps to find out WHY this happened to beging with.

He gave me a fraction of the money back, but I still wouldn't feel comfortable going back there. How do I really
know that ANY of the items/checks on their list were done at all ? How do I know they even changed the oil.
 I'm going to try another dealership near me and hope for the best.

I was thinking of writing to the OWNER of the dealership OR the President of TOYOTA, but I'm not sure I want
any more aggravation. There is a part of me, though, that is so infuriated by this, and now that I've
remembered this website, I've decided to post this and see if anyone else has any ideas as to what other options
I might have and/or find out if other's have had any horrific experiences with DEALER (dis)service.

Is this typical of DEALER SERVICE ? Have you experienced anything as horrific as this ?


  • vidtechvidtech Posts: 212
    there are good and not so good dealer service out there.myself,i would try another dealership.hopefully you can find a good one to build a lasting relationship with.i would not give that past dealer another chance either.
  • First off, Solaraman, good for you for checking the service work. I think shortcomings such as you experienced happen more often than is known.

    As far as how you can know if they actually changed the oil, you can tell by the color if they changed at least most of it. As for the filter, you can mark it in some way, scratch your initials in the case or such, before taking the vehicle in for service. Then your after service inspection will quickly show whether the filter has been changed. I know a guy who takes the filter that he wants installed to the service appt., and takes a different brand of filter each time. Makes it easy to see whether the purchased work actually got done.
  • jono4jono4 Posts: 8
    toyota headquarters MIGHT help. I had issues with my selling dealer and they shook them up. has an email svc and an 800#. they were responsive.
    bought the car out of state (my pontiac dropped tranny while on a trip!). only one trip to local dealer and so far so good.
    AAA always likes to know about bad people as does the better business bureau. ASE (whatever that is) certifies mechanics. A note to them might help. if you want to make trouble, there are agencies out there to help. may not get your money back, but will definitely make dealers life miserable. state's attorney general's office? most have a website with complaint forms? if they are doing a half-a..ed job of repairs, maybe they do a half-a..ed job of state inspections?! your motor vehicle office should know about this, right?
    otherwise, move on if possible to another dealer. two dealers i know of in pittsburgh, pa and rochester, ny have excellent track records.
    good luck
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Sounds like this place has problems.

    Your complaints and their causes are really the responsibility of management. If a mechanic at my friends' dealership did sloppy work like that, he'd have his eyebrows torn off and the service manager would spend a very unpleasant hour in the owner's office. Customer is King. Yet just down the street is a dealership that is so bad everyone makes jokes about it up and down auto row. They just roll their eyes when they hear the newest horror story.

    How can you know this first time you go to a dealership? Well you can't unless you've somehow checked their reputation.

    I'd agree. Call Toyota and file a complaint but I wouldn't go back there. Having two people drop the ball on you does not sound encouraging. If it was just one mechanic having a bad day and the service manager jumped in and rectified it, I'd give them another try for sure. But this sounds pretty un-fixable without some drastic intervention.

    I suppose there's no harm in writing to the owner. If he calls you and makes the whole thing right, I'd be impressed. Do not hold the proverbial breath however.
  • hank2hank2 Posts: 76
    I have a potential problem coming up with a Camry I am about to buy. I am ordering a 2003 Camry SE from the factory with ABS, because I can't get ABS on a 4 cyl in Texas.

    The dealers that I've spoken with will require that I sign an Arbitration Agreement, which sounds shady for a new Camry from the factory.
    Has anyone else had this experience.


    See the wording below:

    Agreement to Arbitrate Certain Issues

    The parties agree that disputes concerning the following matters shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association: (a) Vehicle warranty, workmanship, or repair; (b) Terms of the Buyer’s order, agreement or lease, or the correctness or enforceability of such documents; (c) Representations to induce buyer to purchase or lease a vehicle, and (d) Alleged unfair trade practices, consumer statues and regulations, or punitive damages.

    The parties further agree that this agreement to arbitrate shall not require seller to submit to arbitration any action by seller to collect monies due in connection with buyer’s purchase or lease of the above-described vehicle. Claims by seller shall not be stayed or delayed pending the outcome of any arbitration of buyer’s claims. In the event that the buyer asserts any claims in litigation which is covered by the above-described arbitration agreement, the parties agree that the court shall stay such claims by buyer and order that those claims be arbitrated in accordance wit the agreement.

    In the event that seller is required to retain an attorney to collect money due under buyer’s contract, the seller shall be entitled to its reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in connection with such action, including, but not limited to, all fees and expenses incurred by seller in the collection action and in compelling arbitration of buyer’s claim. Any arbitration under the agreement shall take place in Dallas. Buyer consents to the jurisdiction of the courts of Texas for the purpose of enforcing this agreement, and further agrees that Dallas shall be the only location for any such litigation.

    [Note: Dallas is 30 miles away.]
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    you may find this of interest:

    you might also run it past an attorney friend if you really can't just tear it up and feel obliged to sign it because you want the deal too badly.
  • hank2hank2 Posts: 76
    I appreciate that URL:

    That's a no brainer. I paid $500 down payment and signed something that said they could apply it to delivery. But if I go in and they force me to sign the Agreement. Then after I ask for my money back, I'll write an article about my experience and submit to as many newspapers as possible.

    The reason I buy a Camry rather than American is Reliability. And an Arbitration Agreement makes me question if Toyota stands behind their cars.


  • FYI...I've since decided NOT to pursue this issue any further. I don't
    need the aggravation.

    I am NEVER going back to that dealership for service.

    I have since found another dealer near me that 'seems' to be on the level.

    For my 30k service, I'm going to forego the dealership and bring my car to my
    "GOOD EGG" brother-in-law. Together, we're going to do it as a team on his
    2000 SLEv6 and my 2003 SLEv6.

    One REALLY nice thing about this new place is that each of the bays have their
    own individual door and they all seem to remain open. So if/when I bring it in
    for major or semi-major repairs, I can at least remain very close to my vehicle,
    and perhaps if the mechanice responds to my charisma I might be able to engage
    in conversation with him and feel better about the work. Also, when you get to
    stand near the mechanic while he's working, you might get some good tips and
    insight into your vehicle that he otherwise wouldn't enter into the computer.

    I found that bringing your car to the dealership is such an IMpersonal experience.

    I had once asked the dealer "How is the mechanic going to communicate to me the
    condition of my brakes?". His response was something like "Well, only if there
    was a problem would he have noted that on the computer.".

    That's not exactly what I wanted ! I would prefer that a HUMAN tell me SOMETHING !
    Even if it's a statement like "You're good for at least another 10k miles.", or
    "The pads are about half-way worn.". SHEESHHH !!!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    That most mechanics...sorry...technicians, HATE IT whan a customer wants to stand nearby watching them when they work on their cars.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastPosts: 1,712
    I prefer mechanic.

    I have a sign in my garage, it says......
    $65/hr if you leave.
    $75/hr if you tell me what you think.
    $85/hr if you offer suggestions.
    $95/hr if you stand and watch.
    $150/hr if you help.
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    ......and $200/hr if you've already worked on it.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    you really have to expect that there is something dorked up in a failed home project, and you'll have to take everything apart and mike every part :(

    now, I thought I had everything covered when I rebuilt the tremelo amp on a Hammond M-100 organ, caps and transformers and all, which was badly burned up. when I got it all together again, $120 down the road, the organ played normally without tremelo, and then I got a huge cloud of white smoke. fortunately, cheap white smoke. discovered I missed a shorted tube in the first go-around, sigh, which caused all the problems. I'll know for sure in another $45, when the matched tubes come in this week.

    haven't hosed a car up that badly since my first one, when I not only slammed the hood down on a new battery clamp and it shorted on the top bolts of that universal clamp... but when THAT was fixed, my nicely-rebuilt carb shot gas a foot in the air out the carb throat when I cranked it. turns out those cardboard gauges in the carb kits are good for something after all ;)

    or, to put it in Dilbert terms... "writing is fun. someday, we hope to learn to read."
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I guess, my age shows when I use the term "mechanic" because that's the term we uesd for many years. "Technician" always remind me of a lab tech who wears a white coat.

    Although I got fairly good at fixing things that weren't too complicated, I was far, far from ever being a "mechanic"

    A mechanic could fix anything and I sure couldn't.

    Remember the signs that were in front of some gas stations? "Mechanic on Duty"

    We had one of those along with a crackerjack who, among other things, could overhaul a Quadrajet with his eyes closed!
  • gregoryc1gregoryc1 Posts: 766
    The secret to successful vehicle ownership is to find a dealer who is ethical both in the sales and service part of the business. Then, stay with that dealer, and become a "long time customer". Give them ALL of your preventive maintenance work.
  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    Not bad advice at all, but there are some of us out here that just really want an active hand in the maintenance of our vehicles. Call it a "wannabe" complex or something. Now that's where a great local independent shop comes in. You can often get some access and comaraderie that the dealers just don't seem to allow. I respect the term "mechanic" with reverence that I cannot abide with "technician." I think every master mechanic should have several technicians working for him. >:o]
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I don't think I could have survived with some of my cars if it wasn't for those really good independent shops. Not only are the prices generally lower, but you can often get good information, and you develop a rapport with them.

    The only humanity I find at large dealerships is in the parts department, where it is more "one on one" and the stress level isn't so high.

    There are of course always exceptions that prove the rule, as with local, family type dealerships that have been in town forever and are small enough so that you can get to know someone really well there.

    If I can't get into the shop and stand under my car while it's on the rack and talk to the service writer and the mechanic and make some good communal decisions, I'm outta there.
  • danielj6danielj6 Posts: 285
    Time and time again I tried dealer service departments only to get dissapointed and frustrated, not to mention ripped off. I have developed great mistrust for them. It's not only a question of being impersonal or expensive so much, but an issue of honesty and ethics. These values don't seem to matter vis a vis the chance of making as much money as possible from the unsuspecting victim, the customer.

    The private shop I use is family owned, and over the years I developed a good relationship with the owners. Naturally their overhead is smaller than any dealer department. So I'll bring my new Toyota to them.
  • junepugjunepug Posts: 161
    I must admit that there have been times that dealers have tried my patience. These included VW in Chicago and NJ, Volvo in NJ and TN, Ford in TN, and Jeep in TX. However, the Jeep and Toyota dealers that I frequent in NC have been excellent and the prices have not been excessive.

    I guess one must keep searching for that one in a million decent dealer.
  • flgalflgal Posts: 9
    I just bought a 2004 Camry LE today, and am very distrustful of dealerships after my experiences with them searching for a new car (plus the fact they make most of their money on service anyways). How does one go about finding a good autobody shop? I am completely new to the community of car ownership. Any recommendations for the Miami area?
  • mitzijmitzij Posts: 613
    Ask your friends. Just about everyone you know has had to deal with a body shop at one point or another. Ask around. If the same name pops up more than 1 or 2 times, try that shop. Two of the best shops in my area are attached to dealerships. I wouldn't buy a vehicle at either, but I would use their bodyshops.

    The sales end and the service end at a dealership are different entities. Either end can be bad, but both don't have to be.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    The business practices of a dealership are, ultimately, dictated by the owner or owners. So any dealership where the owner is on site is a good sign for the very reason that he has made himself/herself accessible.

    A good deal of the bad practices you find at dealerships are the result of bad management rather than direct malign intent. You have that too, of course, but much of what drives customers crazy is an uninspired and misdirected workforce or supervisory staff that may have carried bad practices from previous employers and have never been re-trained to do it right.

    Where I live I could point out two dealers that are wall to wall with each other, and of about equal size and selling equal-market cars. One is Heaven and one is Hell. How else can you explain that contrast? Geography? Workforce? Economics?

    I don't think so. I think it all has to do with training and setting the right standards.

    So if you find an owner on premises, people happy in their work, good 'word of mouth' recommendations from friends, a clean efficient operation--you may have a winner.

    What are you odds? I'll take a guess at 1 in 6.
  • flgalflgal Posts: 9
    Wow - thank you for your recommendations! I will definitely start asking around and taking into account the factors you mentioned. I hadn't thought about issues like ownership, but it makes sense to get a feeling for a place at the top...
  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    In my town, the Cadillac dealer has one of the very best body shops, and they work on all brands. My opinion is backed up by the Caddy shop being on the preferred list of several national insurance companies. That is, the insurers want you to use the Caddy body shop. My point? Don't let the "elite" nature of the name scare you away.
  • This is a email I sent to Toyota. Whats your opinion on Toyota?

    Recently a letter was sent to me from Toyota stating " it has been far too long since I have visited Team Toyota". I will not give Toyota any of my business anymore.
    Here is a list of grievances for further explanation.

    Car had a defective relay after a month of ownership.
    Had to disconnect batter so headlights would shut off.
    Took car to only open Toyota dealership on Sunday due to major problem. Main maintenance tech told me that the dome-light/ dash-light dimmer switch was the day-running light off/on switch.
    This is not a person I want working on my car and is not knowledgably on the Matrix.
    This is simple manual info.
    The maintenance tech did find the problem and could not fix it that day.
    I asked for a rental. No car rentals were open and he would not give a car out to me. I told him I would need the car back and I would take it to the dealership near my home tomorrow, because that dealership was an hour out of my way. He told me" I had wasted his time and the car was taken apart and I'd have to leave it there". I told him no and to put it back together. He told me he did not put the dash back together and I had no headlights or taillight, or blinkers. I checked and I did have taillights and blinkers. Unfortunately I did not realized until I was on the road he had disconnected the speedometer. He was rude and when he was finishing the paperwork insulted my friend under his breath. He endangered my life with messing with my car as he did and I should have sued. I have worked on cars enough to know a relay to the headlights does not control the speedometer/ blinker or taillights. This was also confirmed by a non-Toyota mechanic.
    Later I took my car to the Lithia Springs where they replaced the melted relay the same day. I was told by my purchasing dealership never to go to that other dealership again. Later the next day a related problem occurred. Took the car back. Maintenance would not pay for my car rental. I spent over $100.00 in car rental fees. After 2 times the car was still not fixed. I've been talked-down on treated as if I'm a moron, etc. The headlights are still malfunctioning, however not as bad as they were, and I will not come back to Toyota to fix, or buy a car. Toyota has wonderful people selling cars, but horrendously unhelpful people maintaining the cars. No amount of coupons or apologies will rectify this poor customer service.

    Thanks for your time,
  • aahwangaahwang Posts: 10

    I purchased a 2004 TL last Monday. Upon delivery, there was a ding on the back, and the sales asked if I take it back for removal 2 days later. I bought it back, and asked that several work be done to the car to realigned the rear door because it is not flush with the rear quarter panel. That took 3 days. When I picked up the car, the door was slightly bent at the edge! There is a verticle "crease" at the door. Service asked that I take the car back this monday. Today, I called, and apparently, they need to compeltely repaint the door and the rear quarter panel while disassemble the door for body work!!!!

    I was wondering, what consumer rights do I have? Can I ask for a new car in place of this one? Thanks for your help in advance!!
  • hank2hank2 Posts: 76
    I would make sure that you have everything in writing, then look up the Lemon Law for your state (Search for "Lemon Law" in Google).

    Typically, the Lemon Law kicks in when a part can't be repaired after 3 times, but there are many limitations.

    Altho inconvenient, it sounds like the dealer is trying to repair the problems ... but it would not hurt to contact the manufacturer and BBB.

    You might also ask for a courtesy loaner car, if they continue to take so much time. Usually these problems are rare, but they are a major headache to the one person, like you, that gets caught.


    - hank2
  • ray hray h Posts: 120
    Lemon laws are not what they're cracked up to be these days. Manufacturers have successfully lobbied the various state legislatures to inact changes in the lemon laws so that they (the manufactirers) are entitled to deduct depreciation against "low book" for the car in calculating the buy back. Even on a brand new car just driven off the lot the hapless owner would be out at least $2,000.00 in a buy back. For many folks they'd be minus wheels and still making payments to cover the depreciation! The longer the manufactirer can stall a buy back, the more the depreciation it can deduct. My son-in-law "succeeded" in finally having his 2003 Ford Focus bought back under provisions of California's lemon law statutes. He got a check for $5,000.00 on a car he paid 14,000.00+ in March of last year. ahhwang, so far it doesn't sound to me like the dealership has outright refused to fix the damage, nor have they had the car on three seperate appointments for the work, which I believe must occur before any state's lemon law provisions can be invoked. (and, even then, you may first have to submit the matter to binding arbitration as a precondition to invoking lemon law statutes - check your warranty booklet on that point) I understand your frustration, but avoid hysterical accusations and demands which will inevitably harm your case. There's no clear evidence yet that you're being given the run-around. In fact, there's just as much reason to expect the matter will be resolved to your satisfaction as to prematurely conclude it won't. What I'm saying to you, is, give the service department a chance. Legal action can always be brought to bear later if subsequent events determine the dealership's jerking your chain in bad faith. Keep copies of ALL related invoices as a backup, and, please, keep us posted.
  • I've been burned a couple of times by Toyota dealers telling me that my Camry needed things fixed that didn't need attention. Since then I have used a local independent shop which has done really good work on the car using factory parts where necessary. I saved a bunch of money on labor charges and not paying for things I didn't need. The car lasted me almost 17 years so the shop must have done something right. There are some areas where the dealers can do a better job but for most routine things if you have a mechanic you can trust and has good test equipment he can do just as well as a dealer for a lot less money. I will probably continue to use the same shop for the Honda Accord I have been driving for the past month.
  • ian721ian721 Posts: 93
    You are right on the money....find yourself a good local repair shop that you trust and only go to the dealer for repairs under warranty or for really crucial parts in your engine. Dealers are a ripoff and it's not necessary to go to one. Just keep your receipts and track your oil changes.
  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    I recently had a dealership respond to my inquiry concerning a replacement stereo/radio unit for a factory unit not working so well. They offered me one for well over $600.00. When I replied that a "take out" unit they might have around the shop was more what I had in mind, they replied that they don't keep those removed from new cars for reuse. And the $600 plus unit was a "rebuilt"! An independent car radio place can and will replace the unit for under 1/3 the price. And that after market unit will perform at or above the level of the original.
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