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Tips in dealing with dealerships

  #1  
Old 12-08-2012, 11:50 AM
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Tips in dealing with dealerships

I have created this detailed thread as a response to another thread which the customer did not get service which they would have considered reasonable due to lack of communication with the service department.

As someone who has worked in the aviation equivalent of a dealership for 3 years, in my experience, these are a few things that I consider valuable when dealing with dealerships. Some of these things may help with other shops as well, your mileage may vary.
  • Be informed of the service you're requesting. Know the details. If you don't know, can't research or simply can't understand the details, ask your shop. If your service agent can't give you sufficient details, request to speak to a mechanic. Optimally, you actually care about these details.
  • Get a written estimate every time. This is the most important thing you will do. Explicitly state that work will not begin until this estimate is approved. Your estimate will, most likely, be gone over more thoroughly by the shop, as they know eyeballs will be looking at it. You might be in a hurry to get your vehicle returned, don't show it. Take the time to read the estimate.
  • Communicate often, even too much. Ask lots of questions. Again, if your service agent can't answer, request to speak to a mechanic.
  • If the labor time seems excessive on the estimate, ask for an explanation. If the final invoice labor time is greater than 1 manhour than estimated, ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not sufficient, work your way up until you get a sufficient answer. Unless you're asking for custom work, or work the shop has not accomplished before, this is usually completely unnecessary. In these cases, sometimes the shop will even estimate high to prevent a huge discrepancy, sometimes they will bid it low and let you know they won't charge more on the final invoice.
  • Be friendly and non-formal but firm, if possible.
  • Make sure your service advisor knows that you value good work over time. In other words, don't rush the process. Your mechanics may not try to give you bad work, but if rushed, they might make more mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes will require more time than if they had been left alone, sometimes they'll cause a break down on the road. Most likely, they are getting rushed enough by their boss. The only rushing that you should request, in this case, is to get it into the shop. If you don't believe it's in the shop, it might not be , stop by and see for yourself, if possible.
  • Know the retail parts cost. Do the research. DO require the retail parts cost. If they refuse (it's their right), if possible, order online (see parts resources at the bottom) and bring the part(s) with you. If they refuse to install it for you, take your business elsewhere. Dealerships are reasonable and will almost always accept the offer. DO NOT ask for a break on the retail cost, the shop deserves to make a profit on the parts cost. The only time I've broken this rule is when they warned me ahead of time that they would probably break a plastic part, and that it would be unavoidable. I asked to be sold a new one at parts cost, as this is obviously a parts defect.
  • Inspect all work with a fine tooth comb. If the shop knows you're going to do this, the quality of the work you receive will be better than the average work coming out of this shop.

The minimum 1 manhour limit is to let you know that I DO NOT recommend you nitpick. In reality, sometimes things don't go to plan or mistakes may happen which require a little more time. Have some compassion as these are humans (usually) doing their best to do good work on your vehicle. If you nitpick, it may also result in higher estimates and higher invoices in the future, as this might put the shop on the defensive.

A more difficult thing to gauge is if the shop enjoys what they do. Ask to speak to a mechanic about your service. Ask questions. Do you feel that this mechanic is passionate about the service which is going to be performed on your car? In my experience, a mechanic that is passionate about maintenance will perform it correctly and, more importantly, will follow the manual. For example, in my experience, even in aviation, many mechanics don't take torques seriously. Among other things, taking torques seriously is the difference between an engine with leaking gaskets after service, and not. Also, if there is one passionate mechanic in the shop, it could be a sign of a good shop. As a passionate mechanic, I refuse to work in a shop with shady mechanics. Again, your mileage may vary.

By default, a customer coming in for service will be charged for not taking the time to do research. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a value for some customers to drop off their car and not have to deal with the details, but that will come at a financial cost which they're willing to accept. The dealership will be in control of your service until you take the reins.

Resources
  • The Bentley manual for your MINI: This steeply priced and extensive manual is well written and illustrated. Highly recommended if you can interpret the language presented by technical manuals. It can be helpful in understanding the service which will performed on your vehicle.
  • Parts websites: Parts websites are useful for research. They include a detailed parts breakdown and are a good resource for determining retail price for your MINI parts. A few good examples of parts websites are Parts at Mini of South Atlanta, Sewell Parts, and RealOEM.
  • The web: The web, specifically, North American Motoring is an amazing resource. The search function provided on most forums is usually not the best way to tap this resource. I recommend using Google with the keyword: inurl:northamericanmotoring.com. This will force the results to come only from these forums.
 

Last edited by avuton; 12-11-2012 at 08:56 PM. Reason: Correct spelling, add a resources section.
  #2  
Old 12-08-2012, 12:03 PM
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This is a terrific post, and absolutely worthy of being assigned a Sticky.
 
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:14 PM
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Ageed! Sticky
 
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Old 12-08-2012, 01:42 PM
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Excellent advice. Keep it!
 
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Old 12-08-2012, 01:50 PM
dannyhavok
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Excellent post, sticky for sure. This is my favorite point:

Make sure your service advisor knows that you value good work over time. In other words, don't rush the process.

I try to be VERY clear that I'm not in a hurry to get the car back. "Take your time, I've got other transportation arranged," etc. It not only helps to ensure quality work that isn't rushed, but it's a good way to stay on friendly terms with your SA if they feel like you're not hounding them and hassling them to get your car back. My dealership knows I understand things sometimes take longer than expected, and that good work takes time to complete. The last thing I want to do is rush someone who's working on my car!
 
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Old 12-08-2012, 03:15 PM
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Wow. Thanks for the (unexpected) praise. I'd love to see it stickied. Regardless, I've got a few improvements that I'll make when I can afford the time.
 
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Old 12-08-2012, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by dannyhavok View Post
Excellent post, sticky for sure. This is my favorite point:

Make sure your service advisor knows that you value good work over time. In other words, don't rush the process.

I try to be VERY clear that I'm not in a hurry to get the car back. "Take your time, I've got other transportation arranged," etc. It not only helps to ensure quality work that isn't rushed, but it's a good way to stay on friendly terms with your SA if they feel like you're not hounding them and hassling them to get your car back. My dealership knows I understand things sometimes take longer than expected, and that good work takes time to complete. The last thing I want to do is rush someone who's working on my car!
Yeah, this is a huge personal one for me. It took me experiencing a very bad situation first hand, for me to learn this lesson. As a side note to this, it behooves the owner of the company (this case the dealership) the most to make sure the mechanics never get rushed. They have the ultimate responsibility and have to pay the insurance premiums when mechanics make big mistakes.
 
  #8  
Old 12-08-2012, 05:25 PM
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One thing no one has done is explain the VIR (hint)
 
  #9  
Old 12-09-2012, 08:14 PM
BritishCarTech
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The biggest thing to do is have good communication with your service writer. If you can give him/her a good description of the concerns you have. If the tech has good info he can diag better and get your baby back perfect. Also be up to date with common problems and any open TSB's (technical service bullentins) which can help you describe the concern on a more technical level.

Do you guys understand flatrate?

This is the system that we techs are paid by outside of lube positions and some ultr-luxury brands. When you pay 4hrs labor for job x, I get paid 4hrs reguardless for job x if it takes me 10hrs or 30mins to complete job x. This is how us as techs that invest in good tools and have good diag skills can make six figure salaries. Its a double edged sword though, I can bill 20hrs easily in one day (as I did on the 1st) but if the shop is slow or I am slow on a job (I've been fighting with a Freelander for a week now, I've taken a bath on it) I can make zero hours the whole day. So this idea of "take your time" is only going to work in a slow shop where the tech has all day to spend tinkering with your baby. When I have more RO's (repair orders) than hours in week its getting diag, fixed and verified as quick as possible. Reguardless of the customer ability to wait.

As I tell anyone who complains about the system rather tech or customer is tough cookie, a beach house and private schooling for my child aren't cheap.
 
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Old 12-14-2012, 06:35 AM
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I have been a service manager at Toyota for 3 years now... I totally agree with all stated... I probally get more angry customers in a month than MINI advisors see in a year!
 
  #11  
Old 01-10-2013, 05:54 PM
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I left my boat at the marina and when I came back the girl gave me a bill for 10.0 hours
I said there must be some mistake, did they mean to write 1.0
She said oh no sir, that's correct 10.0
I said well it's 4 now and I left the boat at noon....
The bill was adjusted
 
  #12  
Old 01-10-2013, 06:24 PM
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In addition to the above good tips.

Other tips when dealing with dealerships.

If it is a significant service visit that is not an emergency (troubleshoot an intermitent problem) ask about flexible hours for drop off of your car, or getting a ride from the service van, or getting a loaner from the dealership. My dealership has night drop off and even some night service available.

If you have a written estimate on repairs that is much more than you expected or have budgeted for, you can take that information to another shop (independent and hopefully knowledgeable for MINIs). This could be a written on paper estimate or you can ask for it in PDF form attached to email.

If you do not have a local shop that you can trust for an opinion you can contact one of the various MINI tuner shop vendors on Northamericanmotoring.com for advice or an opinion. Some can provide OEM MINI parts that would be less costly and tell you whether a rebuilt part would be not worth the trouble vs a new OEM part as is the case with fuel pumps.

If you have a MINI service advisor that has given you good service try to ask for the same one again. Give that person good reviews when asked by MINI or the dealership and tell them so.

Read as much as you can about a repair or service needed and ask friends or family that might be able to make sense of something you can't understand.

The dealership is not trying to rip you off but will be as complete as possible to do a repair or service and point out various problems or potential problems that could affect your car. Somethings need attention ASAP some can wait.

Do not expect your service advisor to order the correct part for your job, read the estimate and part number and cross check that the right part and quantity is ordered for you. Nothing is worse than waiting for the wrong part or having the quantity wrong.

If your car is highly modified it can sometimes be hard for the dealership to make sense of what is going wrong. They deal with cars that are stock not modified. They may request that you return the car system back to stock in order to troubleshoot a problem. This can be especially troublesome for MINI electrical problems and you have a large aftermarket audio/video system.

Think about the service or repair that you are doing? Are there any parts that will need to be removed to access the engine or the car battery. If so, removal of anything in the way before going to the dealership will be helpful. In my case I remove the Tower Strut bar from the engine bay and remove the subwoofer from the boot. If you have an ECU tune that can be easily removed and return to a stock MAP that would be good.

Do not bring your MINI with obvious race tires to the dealership, leave them at home and put on some street tires with tread on them.

If your MINI is covered in mud get to a car wash before you do servicing if you can, be courteous to your mechanic. Nothing is as nice as working on a MINI that is obviously well cared for.

And don't forget to smile a lot.
 
  #13  
Old 01-10-2013, 08:50 PM
dannyhavok
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Originally Posted by minihune View Post
If your MINI is covered in mud get to a car wash before you do servicing if you can, be courteous to your mechanic. Nothing is as nice as working on a MINI that is obviously well cared for.
I subscribe to this theory as well. Whether I'm taking my car to the dealership for service, or the independent shop that does my tires/brakes/suspension/etc, I always wash the car, and clean the interior. I also like to make sure there is nothing in the car (there usually isn't, and it's usually pretty clean, but I always give it a thorough once-over before dropping it off.)

I see two benefits. One, it's respectful to give the tech a clean car to work on. Two, it shows that I take care of my vehicle and I value it's good condition, so maybe they'll be more likely to take some extra care with it.
 
  #14  
Old 01-10-2013, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by dannyhavok View Post
I see two benefits. One, it's respectful to give the tech a clean car to work on. Two, it shows that I take care of my vehicle and I value it's good condition, so maybe they'll be more likely to take some extra care with it.
As a mechanic this is important for a third reason. When aircraft came in for maintenance, the first thing we used to do (if it required interior work) was take all the junk out and put it on a table. Over a couple of days, the stuff would get dusty and dirty. Not much we could do, most shops are pretty filthy places. So, I guess I'd say it's pretty important if you would like to keep your interior stuff out of the dingy shop.
 
  #15  
Old 01-11-2013, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by dannyhavok View Post
I subscribe to this theory as well. Whether I'm taking my car to the dealership for service, or the independent shop that does my tires/brakes/suspension/etc, I always wash the car, and clean the interior. I also like to make sure there is nothing in the car (there usually isn't, and it's usually pretty clean, but I always give it a thorough once-over before dropping it off.)

I see two benefits. One, it's respectful to give the tech a clean car to work on. Two, it shows that I take care of my vehicle and I value it's good condition, so maybe they'll be more likely to take some extra care with it.

I wish I could leave stuff that doesn't truly matter sometimes, but I guess MINI dealerships don't care since I left my little itty bitty bluetooth in my armrest. I come back two days later to pick the car up and it's gone. I just said to myself, not even gonna start drama since I get loud but they can keep my $45 dollar piece, since I bought a better one for $75.
 
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Old 01-16-2013, 02:34 PM
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My dealership always asks if I have taken out all valuables in the car. It is up to me to make sure nothing of value is lost. There is a lot of foot traffic day and night in a busy dealership.
 
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Old 01-22-2013, 04:05 PM
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Dealership Service

Awesome Post, Avuton! Definitely worth of "sticky" status!

I think for me the main complaint with service departments is customer service. I understand that cars are mechanical devices that can break and that electronics are hard to troubleshoot. So my concerns aren't so much about overall service department service as they are about customer service - how the service reps treat me, understand and align with my concerns and frustrations, and do whatever they can to help. So many service departments would benefit greatly by instituting customer service training, not just manufacturer and systems training. Service reps need to, in my opinion, demonstrate some empathy. As so many of us know, the ownership experience does not end when we drive off the lot.

Another key element to the car buying experience is financing. This was outlined in a JD Power survey. Check out the SECOND story on this page: http://goo.gl/qBhlz

Thanks!

John
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www.DrivingMyMINI.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/DrivingMyMINI
@Driving
 
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Old 10-13-2013, 08:53 AM
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Mini is trying to stick me with thousands in repair costs!

WATCH OUT!!! MINI WILL TRY TO SCREW YOU!!!
My beloved 2007 Mini cooper S was diagnosed with a leaking thermostat housing on 09/09. I was told this part was not available because Mini's parts supplier had a computer glitch. I was told to contact a dealership...which I did.. I called Charlotte, Charleston, and Greenville. Everyone knew my car was still being driven. Everyone KNEW I had no other mode of transportation. I was put on a waiting list for the part...
last week it finally came in. I've been filling my car with coolant and letting it leak out all over for a MONTH! So, I filled it up with coolant, and off I go to Charlotte. There, I found out that there is likely engine damage from the car overheating. But they needed to see who was going to pay for it because of the situation. Today I found out that Mini will NOT be paying for anything. The dealership told me it was because I didnt take it to a dealer on 09/10 immediately. even though no dealer I called told me to bring it in. I called customer service and they said it wasnt being paid for because my car is out of warrenty!! NO ONE admitted to the missing part as being the reason my car is where it is now!!! I'm fighting this!! I wont pay 7 thousand dollars because MINI didnt have the part avaliable!!! THIS SUCKS!!!! I love my car and I love MINI, but now...how can I ever buy one again?!?!?
Is there any advice for me?? I love my car and want him back in my garage, I realize now I am not as educated about the workings of my car as I should, but I really need help right now! Please help!!
 
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Old 10-13-2013, 01:59 PM
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Can we assume it is correct that your car is out of warranty? Who made the original diagnosis, and what happened to your car that originally caused you to bring it to that party? Sounds like you believe the engine damage was caused AFTER the original diagnosis, not BEFORE. If that's the case, what exactly makes you think that? What exactly has been damaged according to the dealer? Did your car's coolant level warning light illuminate at any time? What did you do when that happened? There's more facts to be had here.
 
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:28 PM
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Dear Dealer, You broke it, you replace it...

Oil pan leak, R52, while the dealer was replacing the gasket on the pan (which he thought might be warped), he cracked the alum oil pan... It costs over $400 to replace and he wants ME TO PAY for the part HE broke... I think that's nutz!
 
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:22 PM
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Does he admit he broke it?
 
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Old 12-18-2013, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by shark715 View Post
Does he admit he broke it?
Yes, the service rep said they broke it... the mechanic broke it when trying to put the bolts back to secure the pan...
 
  #23  
Old 12-19-2013, 12:35 AM
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Awesome post - I'm also an aircraft mechanic (rotary-wing), and after one ill-advised experience at the MINI dealership, I do my own work now. They did a good job replacing my water pump, but the labor & parts were a hard reminder of my economics course. (I was far from home, but probably could've limped it back in hindsight). Needless to say, bought the Bentley manual, finally organized a full complement of tools, and now I'm currently tearing the car down to replace the oil filter assembly gaskets (among other things).

I completely agree with your point that many so-called "mechanics" are quite nonchalant about applying the proper torques. That might be great on some road scooter, but that is totally insane on a helicopter (or motorcycle).

Thanks for the links to OEM parts suppliers...Sewell has clearly-labled diagrams with the proper part numbers and descriptions, which is helpful...reminds me of the good old days...
 
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Old 04-19-2014, 01:53 PM
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Dumb question here...

Do the dealers have the 2014's?
 
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Old 04-24-2014, 01:19 PM
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One thing that I always do is to clean my car before I take it in for service as it demonstrates that you care about your car and that you have the same expectation for the service writer and the technician.
 
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