“My car is making a clicking sound”.
“A clicking sound? Bring it in and we’ll have a look at it”.
A bill for $276.87 later and they say they couldn’t “replicate” the problem, although it should be taken care of, since this is normally where that sort of issue occurs.
You hand over your credit card, pay your bill and head down the road, only to have the noise reoccur 3 days later. There are few things as frustrating as having to deal with a problem that won’t go away, and that continually costs you more money. You’re not stuck, though. Most car issues, mechanical or otherwise can be resolved by a combination of diplomacy and perseverance.
Throughout the entire automobile ownership experience, it is important to keep all of your paperwork. Maintaining a file from the purchase to the repairs and any issues you have had, will not only save you from unnecessary headaches but it will also give you some extra incentives that buyers of used cars love to see. When it comes to repairs, keep all of the workorders, written estimates and diagnostic reports from your visits to the auto repair shop, making sure that the work performed and amount paid is clearly stated.
When you contact your local dealership or garage remember that diligence and thorough communication is key. Many car owners will be quick to state that they were ripped off by a salesperson or even more often a repair shop. Don’t allow yourself to fall into this category, as it is not only frustrating for both parties but it will inevitably cost you more money then what you needed to spend. Before, you take aim at your local repair professional it is important to ask yourself if you properly explained the specific nature of the issue you were having, before they started advising you of what the problem “probably” is.
Explaining the automotive problems that you are having with your car does not require you to be mechanically inclined, it only requires that you be a keen observer and an effective communicator. In order to protect yourself and your pocket book explaining, to your repair facility of choice, how and when an issue occurs is vital. The first time you hear a noise, make a mental note of what you were doing when it occurred. Were you turning right or left, were you accelerating or braking, were you under load (towing or lots of cargo), was it at night while being chased by vampires? Alright, chances are the last one probably won’t actually occur, although being that specific of the circumstances surrounding an occurrence will help the technician diagnose the problem correctly and also help you save money from unnecessary repairs.
Once you have noted a problem and the circumstances surrounding it, try and replicate it yourself. If you are not able to replicate it, keep a mental checklist of when it does occur. When you notice the issue occurring on a semi-regular basis, “almost every time I accelerate after turning left I hear a clicking sound”, make an appointment with your local service department. Have the service writer (advisor) or technician go for a ride with you and have them try to duplicate the issue or noise. That way there will be no doubt about what the mechanic is trying to address.
When you get back to the repair shop be sure to tell the service advisor or technician to diagnose the problem fully and contact you before beginning any work. Ask what guarantees are available on the parts they will be installing to fix the specific problem and also the labour. A lifetime guarantee on a muffler is great, but when it is time to replace it, there often will still be a substantial charge for labour and hardware. Asking these questions will help you in preventing surprises down the road if the repair they perform doesn’t do the trick. Before agreeing to any work being started, another step in the process is to check which recalls and technical service bulletins pertain to your vehicle. If they diagnose a problem that can be repaired by a recall or tsb make sure to advise them of that fact.
For those of us who have inevitably run into those reoccurring issues, where no matter how many times we try to fix a problem, it just never gets resolved, work through your service centres hierarchy. Whether there is an underlying problem which continually manifests itself through “that infamous check engine light”, or that the shop just misdiagnosed the problem, start by first speaking with the original service advisor / technician. This is where the diplomacy comes into play. Losing your cool at this point of the transaction will undoubtedly result in you not having your car repaired at all. If you are respectful and make them want to help your automotive problems, everything will proceed with far less stress. Since many dealerships service department personnel get paid bonuses based on customer satisfaction surveys, much more attention should be paid to your problem at this point.
Many situations can require a second go around to narrow down the actual problem. If at this point however, your automotive problem is not resolved, speak to the service centre manager. Once you have reached this level of hierarchy in the dealership you very rarely need to go much further, but if they still can’t alleviate your car’s problem to your satisfaction, ask to speak to the general manager, they are the individual that oversees the entire operation of the dealership. Respectfully make them aware that that if there is not a satisfactory outcome with your car’s problem, you will report it to the automobile manufacturer customer relations department and / or the Better Business Bureau.
If the dealership or service centre simply will not or, is not able to alleviate your car’s problem, contact the automaker themselves, starting with your regional office. Inform them in detail of everything that has happened up to today. You may want to include copies of all the documents you have from the dealership. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you’d like to see happen whether it be installing new parts or refunding your money? The automaker’s main goal is to create and maintain a loyal customer base. They provide dealerships an extensive array of tools to help them maintain this customer base and if they have not done so you should not be the one to pay for it.
If you have a vehicle that is older and out of warranty remember that most manufacturers allow for “secret warranties” or “goodwill adjustments”. Be sure to ask your dealership or the manufacturer if these are applicable. Also, many consumers choose to use independent repair shops once their warranty expires. Checking with triple A, CAA or the Better Business Bureau will help you choose a shop that is right for you.
While everyone has heard or told horror stories about cars that had spent weeks in the shop and cost thousands in unnecessary repairs, the truth is that most repair shop personnel are trying to make an honest living and want to do quality work. As frustrating as the situation may be, refrain from losing your cool and taking it out on the service staff – or you might end up with more problems in your car than you started with. Be respectful, patient, polite but persistent. Remember mother always said you will catch more flies with honey then with vinegar.
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