When you take it to the dealer, don't ask them to replace a certain seal that someone else diagnosed. Let the dealer's mechanic find the leak himself and come up with an estimate for repair. If you tell them which seal was already diagnosed, they may be reluctant to double-check in the hopes of saving you time and cost. Also, if they think it's something else, they might doubt their own diagnosis which is more likely to be right.
If that seal turns out to not solve the problem, they did what you requested, and if there's still a leak, you have to pay for them to start a whole new diagnosis. We've all had egg on our faces after following through on someone else's diagnosis and it turned out to be wrong. Even worse, mechanics, and especially service advisers, (the guys at the write-up desk) really hate it when they find something else wrong after they've given you an estimate. They feel like the more you agree to additional work, they're going to keep "finding" stuff to fix as long as you keep your wallet out. Sometimes additional parts that are needed can't be found until some disassembly is done. Then it's necessary to call you with an updated estimate, but the service advisers really hate doing that. The guys I worked with got very angry with the mechanics for putting them in that position.
It's normal too for them to find other needed work if the car hasn't been in the shop for a while. Even during simple oil changes, I always "read" the tire wear for hints of worn parts or alignment problems. Some steering parts are really easy to check while you're just walking past the car when it's up in the air. I checked every outside light bulb, all exhaust hangers, and I looked for signs of brake fluid and coolant leaks that owners hadn't noticed yet. It's pretty easy to find something legitimate on almost any car, but you have to make a judgement call on how important those items are and whether you can handle them yourself. Reputable mechanics will not be offended if you decline the extra repairs. They would be negligent in their duties if they didn't point those things out.
We called those things "upsell" items. The oil change special gets your car in the shop, but it's the additional things they find that increase their business. A worn tire complaint can turn into two ball joints and an alignment. An oil change can turn into new wiper blades or a new battery, etc. Dealers often lose money on oil changes and other minor services, but they advertise those things to bring you in.
In 25 years, I can only remember about a half dozen cars that had something seriously unsafe and ready to cause a crash, and the owners refused to believe us. I know there were many more people who thanked us for noticing something important before it became serious.
Something else to consider that I would never have pointed out years ago is it is now possible to run into all kinds of new problems from working on your car yourself. I respect anyone who tries to do their own repairs when they're competent, and I especially love helping people who want to learn about their entire car, not just the current problem, but some things that were common in the past cause big problems now. Replacing a battery is one of them. Due to all of the computers on cars today, many of them have to be reprogrammed once their memory is lost when the battery is disconnected or run dead. In my mind, the manufacturer designed the car that way to be sabotaged during a simple, common repair procedure that you know is going to be needed at some point. Volkswagens must be towed to the dealer to unlock the computers. GM vehicles are almost as bad. The only reason to design a car like that is to make money off the owners. Draining and refilling coolant was an easy do-it-yourself project every two years. Now many engines have involved procedures to burp the trapped air out of the system. If that isn't done, the thermostat won't open resulting in overheating and possibly a warped cylinder head. Those types of things are best left to the professionals now. The reason I got on this line of thinking is your comment about them finding more things wrong with your car. You can always come back here for advice on those additional recommendations. Also, if they're busy and have appointments scheduled, they often don't even have the time to do that additional work. They'll offer to set up an appointment for another day. That will give you time to think it over, ask us for advice, and it's easy to cancel the appointment later if you choose.
Hope everything works out at the dealer. It would be nice to hear if they find something simple and inexpensive.
Friday, August 12th, 2011 AT 7:10 AM