Feel free to skip over this b/c it's going to be long and it's detailed and if you smell something, that's the steam seeping from my ears!
On Monday May 8, as I'm driving my daughters to their after school activities, my check engine light comes on. Within a few seconds, I notice my car is not shifting gears. S*** I exclaim. After getting one to her necessary location, canceling the other's appointment, I speak to my mechanic, the beloved Pete. Pete says, "Sure, Kim, bring it on in." I call my friend Lisa, who meets me at the mechanic, where I leave my car, and she takes me home.
The next day Pete calls. "You need a new Transmission Control module." We're going to try to get it for you but we're not sure, if we can program it or if the dealer needs to do that. It should be about $350." Grateful that I don't need a new transmission, on a four-year-old car with only 42,000 miles on it, I thank him.
Unfortunately, Pete calls back later to tell me that only the dealer can program the module, so I need to bring it there. Gulp. He says, “Don’t worry it shouldn’t be more than $400 or $450.” When I pick up the car from Pete, he won’t take any money for diagnostic work.
I call the dealer, Dayton Chrysler, in Dayton New Jersey, who cannot give me an appointment until Friday. "Well," I say, "I can’t use the car anyway, and since I have a ride today, can I bring it over now?” "Sure," he responds, "And maybe we’ll get to it on Thursday."
When I drop it off on Tuesday, I tell them it needs a new transmission control module; it’s not shifting out of first. On Friday afternoon, I get a call, “Kim, you need a new transmission control module.”
“Really? How’dya know?” I think. I do not say.
I thank him and ask when it will be ready. Monday.
Monday, I pick up my car, and $560 later I leave.
On May 22, my check engine light comes on again. Since I believe it’s related to the initial problem, I mean what are the odds, of this happening twice in two weeks, and since that work has a 12-month, 12K miles warranty. I bring it to the dealer’s service center again (remember that's Dayton Chrysler).
On May 23, they call to tell me some hose was bad totally unrelated to the previous week’s repair. Yeah, right. Only problem, I’m not home to receive the call. Chris is and he tells them to go ahead and fix it without asking how much. He thinks all mechanics charge like Pete. Me, I would have said, leave it alone, I’m taking it to my mechanic. So, on May 24, after $185 repair, I pick up my car. $5 for the hose, $180 for tax and labor. Who knew you could charge tax on labor?
On June 21, my oil light comes on. I mistakenly think it’s a low oil light, and since I’m 200 miles shy of my 3000-mile oil change, I bring it to Pete. Pete gives me an oil change, $30.
Later that day, the light comes on again. Hmm…I take out my book. Turns out it’s not the oil change light but the oil pressure light. I call Pete on Thursday, June 22nd. He tells me to bring it in first thing on Friday morning. I do.
Kim, he tells me, I going to replace the oil pressure switch and hope that takes care of it. I ask him to replace three of my tires too while he’s at it and he does. I get the car back later that day.
On Saturday, the light goes on again, and I bring it back to Pete. Pete was afraid that might happen. He delves deeper, and calls me later in the day to say, “You need a new oil pump and that’s a $1200 to a $1500 dollar job. As much as I’d love to take your money, I’m not going to. There’s no way a car with only 42,000 miles should need a new oil pump. Call Chrysler and demand they pay for this.”
On Monday, I call Chrysler in Detroit. They agree that my car shouldn’t need a new oil pump but before they can agree to assist, they need me to take it to their service center for diagnosis. The woman is very nice on the phone and gives me her private extension to call her back when I get the diagnosis. I call our Chrysler dealer first thing Monday morning but they cannot see me until Thursday. I ask if I can bring the car over now, since once again, I have a ride and I can’t use the car anyway; they agree.
On Friday, June 30, they call me to tell me that I need a new Oil Pressure Switch and it will cost $180. When I tell them I put a new oil pressure switch on just last week (which I told them also when I had dropped off the car) and my mechanic only charged me $30 ($18 for the part) They reply, “We’ll call you right back.” Ninety minutes later, they call back, insisting it’s the oil pressure switch and not the oil pump. They agree though I should bring it back to Pete, and they agree not to charge me the diagnostic fee.
At this point, my car has not worked for 10 days. I explain to him, fine, but if my mechanic puts a new switch on the car, and the light comes on again, I don’t want to have to wait another four to five days for an appointment. Jerry, at Chrysler, agrees to see me immediately if that should happen.
Back to Pete, who has left on vacation to visit his family. So I speak to Dino. Dino insists it’s not the switch but the pump but once I explain to him that Chrysler won’t assist me if I don’t have their mechanic diagnose it, and he won’t diagnose it without a new switch, Dino agrees to install a new switch. Dino won’t charge me at all for the new switch.
Now we’re into the holiday weekend. My car is ready on Saturday, but I am not home. So on Wednesday morning, when we return, I pick up my car. I am not three miles from my mechanic, when the oil pressure light comes on again. I go home, and I call Jerry at the Chrysler Service department.
Jerry says, okay; bring the car in on Monday. Jerry, I explain, Monday is not immediately. You promised you would look at it immediately. Okay, he responds, Friday. Bring it in on Friday. Jerry, I further explain, Friday is not immediately either. When would you like to bring it in, he queries. I could be there in ten minutes, I reply. Fine, bring it over he says.
So on Wednesday, July 5, (14 days after the light initially went on), I bring my car back to the Chrysler dealership.
On Thursday, July 6 in the afternoon, Jerry calls me and tells me, “Kim, you need a new oil pump.”
“You think, Jerry?” I think but do not say.
I call the nice woman at Chrysler Detroit on her private extension to tell her I have a diagnosis, only she’s not there, so I leave a message.
On Friday morning, I call her again, and leave a message. She does not call back.
Following Jerry’s advice, I call the general number on Friday afternoon b/c maybe the nice woman is away on vacation, or maybe she just doesn’t want to return my phone call.
Don’t ask me to go into the details of how long it takes to speak to someone who can help you at Chrysler Detroit, a very, very long time. Oh heck, let’s go into the details.
First you call them and after navigating through their menus (four or five levels deep), you speak to someone, who listens to the entire story. Then says, let me transfer you to someone who can help you. This second person must put you on hold though, while they “review your file,” then they call the dealership, then they return to tell you what they can/cannot do.
In this first case, the woman I spoke to (the second one for that call), explained that they could not assist me without a full diagnosis b/c according to Don, at the dealership, while they knew I needed an oil pump, they did not know what else might be wrong with the car. “What does that mean?” I ask. They need to take the engine apart, to get to the oil pump and examine all the areas on the car that could have been affected to make sure nothing else is damaged.
Now, remember, I’m in the hole to the dealership for a diagnosis fee which runs about $85 an hour, which I don’t pay if they fix it. If I decide I don’t want them fixing it (i.e., there’s no way I’m paying their prices if Chrysler Detroit isn’t assisting me with these repairs, I’m bringing it back to Pete), I still owe them all that money.
As I’m explaining to her that 1) they could have told me this before the entire process started, or 2) they’re holding my car hostage now b/c you see once they take that engine apart, and diagnose it, they’re not putting it back together again for me to take to another mechanic to fix – so I have to use their mechanic and their incredibly high prices. She just repeats over and over, “You need to have a complete diagnosis before we will consider assisting.”
Moreover, while I’m explaining this to her, our phone line goes dead because our alarm company is here testing our house alarm and disconnected the main line to the house for a test. Yes, that was me you heard scream on the afternoon of July the 7th.
When I call back, navigate the menus, speak to the first representative, who spends ten minutes familiarizing himself with my file before transferring me to the second representative, who spends another ten minutes, doing the same, the second representative does not feel as belligerent as the first. He gets Don, from the dealership on the phone in a three-way, and explains to me that the complete diagnosis is for my benefit. This way, if the faulty oil pump caused other damage to the car, they will find it, and Chrysler can assist with the entire repair, rather than me being back in this boat, in another month or two with a different problem. Okay – though it still commits me to using the dealer for this repair, I agree to the complete diagnosis process and tell Don to go ahead and take my engine apart. The Chrysler Detroit rep insists they will make it financially beneficial to repair the car, if they decide to assist (i.e., I won’t be hugely in the hole).
On Tuesday, July 11 (20 days after the light first came on, 16 days after I first brought it to the dealership), Jerry calls me to tell me the engine looks fine. He’s going to see if they have the pump on hand, if not they’ll order it and should receive it on Wednesday or Thursday. The total cost will be about $650.
I’m not asking why his estimate is half of Pete’s but I am a bit suspicious, not of Pete, but of the dealership. Yet, I cannot put my finger on it.
I call Chrysler Detroit., again, once I’m 20+ minutes into the phone call, I speak to a nice gentleman, who constantly apologizes while he puts me on hold, to review my file and then to call the dealership. He returns and says, “Ma’am, the dealership has overruled us on this one and is offering to pay for labor if you pay for the part.” Aha, I think, that number they gave me was for the part, and in my mind, totally unacceptable. I don’t say that though, instead I play dumb and ask, “Do you know if that $650 was for parts and labor or when they gave me that number had they already deducted labor from the estimate?” He does not know but suggests I call the dealer to find out. I stay calm and explain, that I’d rather he did it, because I still want assistance if I’m out the $650 and I don’t want to have to wait on hold for another 20 minutes to get to someone that can help me. He understands and apologizes, yet again, for not asking the question himself. He tries the dealership but cannot find anyone who knows the answer as Don and Jerry have both gone out for lunch. In the end, I call the dealership and leave a message for Don or Jerry to call me.
Later that afternoon, Jerry calls me and tells me my share will be $350. I can stomach that and am satisfied. He tells me he will try to have the car for me on Thursday, but definitely by the end of the week.
On Friday afternoon, I call asking about my car and they tell me, “The technician cut his hand while working on your car and needed to get stitches. It won’t be ready until Monday.” I verify he is okay and hang up but then things gnaw at me.
I won’t even tell you the nightmares I had that night regarding my car (well, okay – I dreamed I saw it driving on the road with a license plate that said, “Save Me”). On Saturday, because I’d been tossing and turning all night, because it had been 19 days since I first brought the car to them, and because my friend’s boyfriend, a mechanic, said they probably damaged your car and it was in a body shop and not even on the lot, I drove over to the dealership to see the car and make sure they were working on it.
On Monday July 17, 21 days after first bringing my car to the dealership (for the third repair in five weeks), I got my car back.
Yesterday, August 2, 16 days after receiving my car, the check engine light came on again. Of course, I called them and of course, they told me to bring it in next week. I told them that was unacceptable and they agreed I could bring it in this morning, first thing.
At 10:30, just after I went into the garage to bundle our recyclables and noticed a 12 inch oil puddle on my floor, they called to tell me the check engine light was not coming on, and there was no code stuck in the computer so they couldn’t tell what was wrong with it. I explained that I had just found an oil puddle in my garage, so I was sure something was wrong with it and I’m now sure it has something to do with the repair they were supposed to have made over two weeks ago.
I’m still waiting to hear back from them.