December 12, 2014

Car trouble

In the 6 years I've known Scott, I've watched him disassemble and reassemble many vehicles.  Our vehicles, friends' vehicles, etc.  He does all the work himself.  It's his thing.  He started teaching himself how to do all of this when he was a teenager because it was either learn how to fix the truck he had or just not be able to drive anywhere. He is what you would call an expert.  I'm not bragging or trying to make a point.  This is just a fact that you need to know in order for the following account to make sense.  Last summer, he rebuilt an entire exhaust system.  This is the kind of thing he spent his time on before he had a house to remodel.  We all have our hobbies, right?

Two Saturdays ago, my check engine light came on.  I told Scott, he asked how it was running, I said fine, he said okay.  He looked at it and hooked it up to the code scanner to see if it would tell him what was wrong.  He got some inconclusive codes so he said we should call the dealership since it's under warranty right now.

I called at 6pm on Saturday to make an appointment for Monday.  She said to call back Monday morning.  That was the first clue.

I called back Monday morning at 8am.  They said to bring it in Tuesday morning because after school Monday would be too late for anyone to look at it.  Scott and I left the house at 6:30 Tuesday morning to get to the dealership by 7.  He followed me there and we dropped off my SUV.  He drove me to school.  Toyota was supposed to call me at some point and I left my phone on all day (a no-no) in case.  They said "we'll try to have it ready to go by 3:30".  We assumed this meant they would diagnose it and either fix it or tell us when they could fix it.  I understand that things happen and "try" doesn't always mean "for sure", but we were assuming they'd at least be able to tell us what was wrong because they were confident about their ambition for the day.

No one called. Scott picked me up at 4:00 and I had to report to him that there had been no phone call.  We drove to Toyota.

On the way, I called and the lady said that she would "check and see if it's ready".  She wasn't sure.  Kept talking about how it was "James'" and she needed to find him.  We arrived at Toyota.  I could see the sticky note with my name and number on James' desk but the flurry of several people confirmed that James could not be found.  We waited a few minutes.

Finally, James appeared.  He said that the code scanner was inconclusive and showed us a printout from a computer.  It said one thing was high and one was low and that could mean one of two things:  something that is under warranty (and free for us) or..."and we've seen this four other times today...rodent damage".  Rodent damage, surprise surprise, is not covered by a warranty.

James asked if they could keep it for another day so they could figure out what was wrong and what route to take.  THEY HADN'T EVEN LOOKED AT IT.  They had just hooked it up to the scanner and printed out a report of what a computer said was wrong with it.  SCOTT DID THAT TWO DAYS EARLIER.  In fact, he told me later that the printout said exactly what he saw on our scanner. An analogy that crossed my mind was that us taking the car in there was the equivalent of using WebMD.

We brought up the fact of Well, yeah, you can have it for another day because you still don't know what's wrong with it but why should we trust you because you didn't even call to tell us if it was ready or not.  We were particularly upset about that.  Like, we have jobs. You said you would try to have it ready at 3:30 but you didn't even call to give any kind of update, much less figured out what was wrong.

Wednesday morning, Scott drove me to work again.  It's worth saying that I'm not a morning person and look forward to my drive in solitude so this arrangement was not working out for us.  Scott had meetings all day and no cell phones were allowed. Toyota called me at 7:30am.  They said it was rodent damage and the part was $838 and the labor was $115 per hour and it would take 12-15 hours. Suddenly, between us leaving the night before at 4:30pm and 7:30am, they'd gotten their act together, ripped my SUV apart, and diagnosed my problem.  It must have been some sort of sorcery because I didn't realize things could move so quickly in that establishment.  Quotes had also been drawn up. They said we should probably call the insurance company.  Then they said I could come look at it and see the damage for myself.  I calmly replied that I don't have a car.  Then, I'm a teacher.  

I called Scott.  He, luckily, answered because he wasn't at work yet and said he'd try to go over on his lunch break.

I was left wondering and worrying all day but, alas, the show must go on. 

At 1:00ish, I got a text.

I felt kind of relieved that he'd taken care of the dirty work.  

When he picked me up from school, he told me how it went down.

He saw the damage they were referring to.  He was all WTF.  He said it was all chewed up and honestly looked liked parts of wires were cut.  He wasn't sure how he hadn't seen this before.  Or, rather, had it been like that before?  We weren't sure. When they told him of the $115 an hour for labor and 12-15 hours of work it would take to replace an $800 part....he called them out on it.  He said he didn't trust them.  He didn't think it was rodent damage.  He didn't believe their story about a mouse climbing up there and gnawing part of it while the rest looked like it had been cut with scissors.  While it is obviously possible that a mouse did some of the damage (we're not denying this), a mouse did NOT ruin the entire wiring harness with his little teeth. Scott said he didn't believe them at all and he was going to get a second opinion and he would never pay $115 an hour for them to do something he could do himself and did that $800 part really need to be replaced?  No, they said, but you really should to prevent further damage.  He asked them how long it would take for them to replace the wires.  They weren't sure until they "got in there and looked around".

Then he said that he didn't trust them because they didn't call when they said they would and they HADN'T CHANGED THE OIL YET, which they were supposed to do the day before and homeboy mechanic had his pants around his ankles and there were several others sitting around messing around with cell phones.  I'm sure that speaks volumes on how they rack up their labor rates; didn't these guys have work to do? He threw all of this at the customer service rep and said we'd pick it up at 4 and the oil better be changed.

It took them over 24 hours to actually look under the hood and another 5-6 hours to change the oil.  They didn't call us.  They quoted us ridiculous pricing.  When Scott complained about the cost of labor, they said they could drop it to $100 an hour.  To which he replied, Oh, so you can drag it out for an extra few hours and make it cost the same?    

We showed up at 5:00 to get the car.  They'd sworn it'd be ready by 2:30.  This is what I sent Scott after I got inside.  He didn't want to talk to them again.  

There were 6 people looking for the keys, the paperwork, and the car.  It took 15-20 minutes for me to get out of there because one of the guys wouldn't stop talking to me about cell phones.  Of course, he was quite occupied, playing with his cell phone and eating Chinese food at the front desk.  No wonder no one could find my paperwork.

I'd like to reiterate that this was the dealership.  This wasn't some backroad, backwoods mechanic.  This was the Larry H. Miller Toyota Dealership in Colorado Springs.  They are supposed to be reputable places of business.  It wasn't a used car lot.  

Scott bought the replacement wires for himself at an auto store a few days later.  They were $6.
Upon taking things apart, he realized that the wires looked to be cut (we could see the razor blade marks), not all had been chewed (though some had), AND they hadn't reassembled things properly.  Something with the gas tank was off (the charcoal canister) and codes were still popping up as a signal that something was wrong. We're assuming they did this to make money off of their customers and then, when they realized we weren't going to pay them to fix it, they continued down this path just to be difficult.  There were then several little things wrong with my car, mostly stemming from the cutting of wires.  Scott took a video and several pictures of the damage and left the dealership a few messages.

 The service manager called Scott this past Monday and offered to fix the car for free.  Scott said he didn't have time to sit there and watch and make sure they do it right.  They argued a bit about it and mentioned that they'd already gotten the terrible review I wrote (eh, I was kind, all things considered) so the company is offering to fix it for free.  They still stand by the fact that a mouse must have slit the wires with his teeth and pulled out 4 separate pieces, all exactly 5 inches long, and carried them away.  A more likely story is that the person who disassembled things cut all kinds of stuff, assuming that we would be paying them $2400 to replace it.  With the extra damage, the estimate Scott came up with is about $3,900 to fix.  They took a $6 problem, lied to make it a $2,400 problem, and created a $3,900.  (That is L-A-R-R-Y H. M-I-L-L-E-R Toyota of Colorado Springs.)

Scott took one more crack at it on Tuesday night.  He spent 3 hours outside under spotlights rewiring things and repairing the damage. And then, it was fixed.  All the codes disappeared when he scanned the car for the final time at 9:30pm.

The End.  


  1. Wow. What a tale. This once again, makes me so, so glad that like you, I have a husband who can fix cars. There's a reason why mechanics have a reputation for being shady. It's so much easier if you can build a long-term relationship with them too, it's hard when you move around and have to use different shops. I almost this that the small-business, small-town shops can be better, because no one is going to use them if they have a bad reputation. Angel had one guy in Michigan who he'd go to whenever he needed something done that he didn't have the equipment for, and he knew Angel's only goal was to keep our cars on the road until we left the country in the least expensive way possible (we got in an accident 7 months before our move, so my car was in rough shape), he didn't add in any crazy extra charges, or say we "had" to fixed things that didn't have to be fixed. Sorry you guys had to go through all this, and I'm glad the car is back to working properly without insane amounts of money being spent on it!

  2. Oh my gosh! Wow...... just wow.
    How awful! And aside from how crappy the whole thing was, the flippin' dealership?! Seriously!? They're supposed to be the reputable ones!

  3. head is spinning. This is the EXACT reason I hate hate HATE going to get any car fixed. I'm so so sorry you dealt with such shitty people!

  4. I hate dealing with incompetent people! I'm glad Scott was able to fix it.

  5. What an ordeal!! I can't believe they would try to scam you guys like that!! I'm really happy that he was able to fix it on his own!! Sorry you guys had to go through that! xo, Biana


  6. wow. this is truly disgusting. whats worse, is that some people wouldn't have known and trusted the dealership, and they would get away with deceiving people. so rude.
    my mum worked in the car trade all my life so i always knew the guys working on my car and they would never lie or overcharge me, and i hate that where i live now i don't have that. it's so easy for them to scam someone like me and my husband doesn't know as much about cars as scott, though he got scammed recently (not scammed, but overcharged) after i told him they were overcharging him, and he took it on his own to start learning.. anyway. seriously, thats disgusting of them.

  7. This is a terrifying post for me. I know nothing about cars. My family isn't super knowledgeable either. I could totally get taken to the cleaners. Why can't businesses just be ethical? Is that expecting too much?

  8. My family owns an auto repair shop here in DC (been in the family for 50 years) and these stories of skeezy mechanics. it is such a shame they can't do honest work. Glad Scott was able to work fix it!

  9. goodness. What an ordeal! So sorry you had to go through all of that!!

  10. There's a story of you. Sheesh. Scott does most of our car work, too. There's no point in paying for things that you can do yourself. That dealership should be out of business. Unfortunately, I bet a lot of people end up having to pay them insane amounts of money because they don't know any better.

  11. I'll tell you what, I've had so many issues with car places in Colorado Springs. Once I was getting my oil changed, and they came in with my AC belt. Like "Hey, this is your AC belt." and I said "Why is it not on my car...?" and they said "Oh, it's broken." Um, I wasn't aware. But no thanks, you cannot fix it, my husband will.

  12. OMG!! After reading this story, there really is no way a mouse could have done that. They must have thought you & scott would be that stupid to let them do the work. And obviously you're not!! I have veered away from getting my car serviced at the toyota dealership and my brother's neighbor does it.

  13. I’m sorry that you had to come across this kind of situation. First and foremost, a constant and clear communication should take place in this kind of situation, so that misunderstandings could be avoided. Anyway, it’s nice to know that Scott managed to fix your car. Take care, and drive safe!

    Steven Keltsch @ AlliedInsMgr


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