When it comes to repairs and disputes between the customer and dealership, it usually comes down to one thing: miscommunication. It comes on all parties; the customer, the service writer, and the mechanic. I have not just been the mechanic, but the service writer as well. So, let me break down what needs to be done when you have your own breakdown and you take it to a professional.
#1: The first thing you need to do is relax and let the mechanic do his job. This includes doing the diagnosis, and while you have a scan tool that tells you what failed, it doesn’t tell you why. Part of your mechanic’s diagnosis time is to find the reason for the failure. Yes, (s)he could just replace the part and allow you to drive on your merry way, just like you could get cough medicine to suppress an unknown cough that may just be a cold … or lung cancer.
#2: The second thing is to talk only about what pertains to the reason you’re there. If you heard a noise, describe it and let the service writer know when it happens. You may even have to ride with the mechanic to help him with that diagnosis of that noise. A part fails? Again, let them know when and where, but that’s it. Don’t tell them why you think it failed, what you think it might be, or what the other mechanic told you what it was. Again, let the guys working on your car do the diagnosis as you or your previous mechanic may have missed what the real culprit was.
#3: When the service writer tells you that the job will take an hour, don’t assume it to be done in the next hour unless he or she specifically tells you that it will be done that day. Remember, you’re not the only customer there who needs repairs done that day, and the mechanic will need to make money to feed his family and will move on to a job that he can get done. So ask for a proper timeframe, including when the mechanic will be able to get to it, parts delays, and other factors. By the way, just because the job pays an hour doesn’t mean it will take an hour. It can be more time or less and there are lots of factors that influence that, including age of the vehicle, specialty tool requirements, and even if other parts have become damaged because of the initial issue. Again, ask and plan that your Jeep won’t be done that day.
#4: If you have an older Jeep, you know how long it can take to get parts for aging vehicles already, so don’t expect your service center to get parts right away just because they have access to parts for many vehicles. In fact, your local NAPA, Advanced Auto, and local parts shops plan what parts to stock based on DMV records for vehicles within their service areas. If you’re the only guy in town with a CJ-5 and the rest of the people there drive Cavaliers, Escorts, and Neons, good luck getting parts that day or even that week.
#5: Finally, if you don’t understand what a part is, what that repair was, or curious about the labor time; ask! That service writer is there to explain your service before, during, and after. That is the job of the service writer, and I went through that as one. Despite what other publications are trying to tell you, the majority of service writers are not trying to keep you misinformed to milk you for money. Half the time, that type of service writer will not do that on a customer repair job, but will do so on a warranty job because they pay for all work done usually without question. They aren’t going to try milking tactics on a customer-pay job because there is a higher chance that you’ll refuse. I’m not saying there aren’t those who won’t try — it’s just the percentage is far lower than what most media report.