Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When good service turns bad

Last month I did a blog post on good service. Sadly, sometimes good service turns into a disaster. I have sat and pondered the circumstances for over a week now, because I wanted to give my frustration level a chance to simmer down.

After leaving Derrick Dodge from the original trouble shooting they performed (which was covered in my previous post listed above) on the Cirrus, I returned home and spent a few days going over the information. Following the advice of the shop foreman, I had a friend come over to assist in isolating out the various sensors. According to the diagnostics done by Derrick Dodge, they stated that the 5 volt sensing line appeared to shorted out, so the hunt was on to find either a bad sensor or damaged wiring.

After spending considerable time testing the sensors and the 5 volt line, we got down to the last sensor in the system. No faults were found, and during the entire process, the 5 volt line was always there, never missing. So the information provided by Derrick Dodge was not accurate. An email was sent back describing the events, and I had asked for additional suggestions. The response sent back was basically "we gave you the free time so if you want more, bring it in and pay for it"..

Sigh. Ok, I understand but.. what I was told wasn't right. I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of spending more money based on an inaccurate diagnosis, so over the next few days I was able to determine that the issue was more than likely a faulty PCM (power train control module) unit. I was able to track down a replacement, and once that was installed, all of the components "signaled" properly, and the annoying "check engine" light and other fault lights disappeared. Success!!

Arrangements were made with Derrick Dodge once again, to take the Cirrus back in for an outstanding warranty recall notice, and to get the required insurance inspection done for the insurance company. I was told they had to work on the shifting console area on the floor, and that section had to be removed for them to do the recall work. Since this was going to take several hours, their shuttle folks gave me a ride back home.

I received a phone call, stating their were problems. Apparently the car died when they were moving it into the shop. They were only able to get a portion of the recall work done, but they did complete the inspection. I was told that both front wheel bearings needed replacing (very strange) but other than that, the rest of the car was in mint condition (at least as far as the insurance inspection was concerned). They had to do a diagnosis on the "dead" problem, which of course, was going to cost me. Naturally, I had no choice but to authorize that.

I was contacted later, and told that a sensor had failed, which would not allow the car to start. Their parts and labor costs were insane, so I asked if I could replace it myself, on their lot. They agreed to allow that. So I acquired the part for free, and took the necessary tools with me to jack up the car, support it, and do the work. I figured 15 minutes, since the sensor was only held in by one bolt, and could be easily accessed from under the car. And the weather that day was wonderful. When I got to their lot however, I found that they parked the car in a location in the lot, that was on a severe slant. I cautiously jacked up the car, put a jack stand under it for support, and crawled under. The height I had it at wasn't dangerous at all, but the fact it was parked on a slant, on ice, and that it was on a corner in the lot where all other traffic went by to get out, was a major concern. I thought about moving the car, and I tried to start it "just in case"... but, there was nothing. I mean total dead battery nothing. WHAT THE... This was a brand new battery put in just 2 months ago. I went back into the service reception area. Admittedly I was not in the best of moods. Why they choose to park the car in the worst spot possible, was beyond me. And of course, "they" did nothing to cause the battery to die but they did immediately offer to diagnose it, at a cost of course. Something which made me even more upset. I declined their kind offer to charge me more, and asked to have someone come out to boost it.

I had to get the car on level ground. I needed another 3 or 4 inches in height off the ground, to be able to gain access to the sensor. The boost battery came out, and of course, the car refused to start. I got out of the car, frustrated. I told the kid with the boost battery to forget it, and he disconnected it. I pondered on how to move the car and pushing it was the only option. So I went to get back in and... the car was locked. And... they keys were inside. The removal of the boost battery caused a spike which locked the car doors. I was not impressed. And I was getting cold. Almost an hour into a 15 minute job, and I couldn't take any more. So I put the car back on the ground, packed up the tools and went back inside to the service reception. I gave them the replacement sensor, told them the car had locked, and left it up to them to figure it out and to replace the supplied sensor. At which point, I left... frustrated and cold.

I picked the car up the next day, having to pay for the insurance inspection and the "dead diagnostic" time. Just over $160. I talked with the inspection mechanic, who was ecstatic about the great shape the car was in.I asked him to explain the "test" for the bad bearings, and asked if there was any objection to used parts instead of new ones, and he said that was no issue. They also completed the warranty repairs but.. and yes, there is another but... they couldn't get the key removed from the ignition. They were more than happy to charge me to find out why, but I declined that. I did pay another $104 for them to replace the sensor.

While in the dealers lot, I tried to check the key issue out. The key would not even move to the position for removal, it was blocked by the transmission interlock assembly. Frustrated, I took it back home so I could figure this out. And of course, being pot hole city, the ride back was bumpy. When I got back home, I put the car in the garage, turned it off, and pulled the key out. WHOA.. say what? Yup, I took the key out.

It seems there is an interlock cable that links up to the floor console shifter unit. (you know, that area they had to work on for the warranty recall stuff) Whatever it was they were working on, this cable or mechanism was bent or kinked or out of place. And the bumpy ride home moved it around enough so that it allowed it to work properly again. I tested this theory out, by putting the key back in again, and not "quite" putting the car back into park, after moving the shift lever. Sure enough, the key was stuck in the same position, not allowing it to turn far enough to get to the position to remove it. By pushing the shift lever firmly into the park position, I heard the locking mechanism release, and the key was allowed to turn the rest of the way to remove it. And to think Derrick Dodge wanted to pull my steering column apart because THEY figured a pin or spring inside the ignition lock had failed. Well, if THAT were indeed the case, then the key would have turned all the way to the removal position.

Anyway, it was time to concentrate on the bad wheel bearings. I tested the passengers side and noted a small wiggle. I then checked the repair book and found the nut holding the bearing in place was supposed to be torqued to 180 foot pounds. Our impact air gun would only do about 130, which is what I had used to tighten it last time it was worked on a few days back. So out came the torque wrench, and it was snugged up. The wiggle disappeared. I then checked the drivers side and found NO wiggle at all. To be safe, I used the torque wrench on that, and it would not budge any more.

I made arrangements, and booked another appointment to "re-test" these 2 bearings. A simple 5 minute job to put it back up on the hoist, jack up the front tires, and "wiggle" test them. That was at 1 pm. At 4 pm, I was told the car was done, and that it had passed the inspection. I was then told "oh, didn't we tell you there would be an additional charge for that... another $35 please".

Um.. NO.. you never said that. As a matter of fact, when I paid for the insurance inspection, I stated at that time "so all he has to do is a quick re-test of the 2 front wheel bearings, since I already paid for the inspection, yes?".. And "yes" was the answer. Why did it take 3 hours to do a 5 minute job? Why was I not told when I brought it in at 1 pm that there was going to be more charges? Why wait until after?

Anyway, I paid the additional fee, got the paperwork I needed for the insurance company and left.

Nice to know I didn't have to pay in excess of $550 to replace front wheel bearings, when one side simply wasn't tightened enough, and nothing was wrong with the other side at all. Maybe the inspection fella felt that if one was bad, then probably the other one should be replaced just to be safe.

What I find most strange is... I generally didn't have "problems" until after Derrick Dodge had the car. It started fine all the time, even before the PCM was replaced.

The inspection fella said he thought maybe the nut might not be tight but he did a quick check and it seemed ok.

The battery was brand new, but they never did anything to make it go dead. Yet they were more than happy to offer to diagnose it, for a fee.

And they were more than happy to offer to pull apart the steering column to fix the key issue. Which was never once an issue before.

I will, on my own time, pull apart the shifting console, and properly fix the adjustment so the key doesn't get stuck again. It still has an issue if I don't "firmly" put it into park. Their own notes on my service invoice state they in fact did this exact step.

It seems like every time I took it in for "one thing", another problem magically appeared. Perhaps coincidence. I'm not saying they created some "make work" projects at all, but the circumstances are certainly strange. I do have to add in however, that a new "clunk" is now there, that was never there before my last visit. Turning the wheel, and backing up now gives this new noise. I think I will find that and fix it myself.

While I am grateful for the staff labor rate charged, the appearance of the additional work that needed to be done, including the offer of being charged to fix their own mistakes, has turned having stuff done at Derrick Dodge from a dream into a nightmare.

p.s. No, I'm not looking for any refunds etc. 

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