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$1,000 truck repair bill that did not fix the problem
Old 10-18-2014, 07:49 PM   #1
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$1,000 truck repair bill that did not fix the problem

I am hoping that some from this experienced and thoughtful group will have some advice on my situation regarding a $1,000 vehicle repair bill that I paid that did not fix the problem.

Short Version:
2003 GMC truck was having intermittent issues that I suspected were electrical in nature. I took it to a GM dealer for diagnosis and repair. Because it was an intermittent problem it was not acting up when I dropped it off. I did attempt to provide a detailed description of the problem. They identified items to “fix” it. All in it cost $1,000. Drove away from dealer working fine. Within 500 miles it exhibited the exact same problem. Immediately took it to dealer again. Let them know I was upset. They called and said it needed a battery! I believe everything on the $1,000 bill did nothing to address the problem. I am not even sure that the battery is the answer…but think it is more likely that than the items on the $1,000 bill. My question is…has anyone ever been successful in getting the dealership to refund costs of unnecessary repairs? If so, how did you do it?

Long Version:
2003 GMC truck was having intermittent issues that I suspected were electrical in nature. It would stall after taking foot off gas when approaching a stop sign. It would almost always restart immediately. At the same time when driving (not just when stopping at stop sign) the gauges would all swing wildly from being at zero to being pinned. The stalling and gauge activity happened at the same time…when it acted up…at other times it would stop acting up and would work perfectly fine. I took it to a GM dealer for diagnosis and repair. Because it was an intermittent problem it was not acting up when I dropped it off. The check engine light was not on. They identified items to “fix” it. Main item was they said that they read a “code” that indicated the instrument cluster was bad. The rest of the stuff they did was all routine maintenance items (fuel filter, clean throttle body, etc). I was leary, especially about all of the routine maintenance items, but did not want to say not to do something because then they would use that as an excuse if the problem was not fixed. I let them do the items they recommended. All in it cost $1,000. Drove away from dealer working fine. Within 500 miles it exhibited the exact same problem. Immediately took it to dealer again. Let them know I was upset. They took me home and kept the truck. They called and said it needed a battery!...which they installed. For all I know it just needed the battery connections cleaned. Since the problem is intermittent I am not even sure that a new battery will fix the problem...but I do think it is more likely the battery than all the stuff covered in the first bill. I believe everything on the $1,000 bill did nothing to address the problem. I think they did not use their brains in their original diagnosis and did $1,000 of work for no reason. I can’t imagine that all the craziness in the dash and the stalling were not related since when they happened it was at the same time…and if that is the case it doesn’t make sense that the dash issues would cause the truck to stall. But I am a novice when it come to car repairs and they are supposed to be experts. My question is…has anyone ever been successful in getting the dealership to refund costs of unnecessary repairs? If so, how did you do it?


Many thanks.
b
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Old 10-18-2014, 07:58 PM   #2
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My question is…has anyone ever been successful in getting the dealership to refund costs of unnecessary repairs?
Not me.
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Old 10-18-2014, 08:41 PM   #3
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Intermittents are very difficult. Dealers are no better than shade tree mechanics for that type of problem. The Battery may in fact be a problem if over 5 or 6 years old. Auto stores can check it for free, and if bad most will install no charge.

The old rubber mallet test often works. While engine running gently tap on battery, connectors, ECU etc.. If stalls you found the likely problem.

Fun story, my beater 98 GMC pickup would stall randomly, only in the summer months. Always re-started no problems. After a year or two of putting up with it. Did the mallet dance. Worked my way around the engine compartment items, got to the ECU. A gentle tap stalled the engine. Very repeatable, it stalled every time I tapped it. A used remanufactured unit fixed the problem. At around 1/5 the cost of dealer charges. That is just for the unit.

As for dealer $ refunds. Better luck in becoming a brain surgeon at age 96.
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Old 10-18-2014, 08:45 PM   #4
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Not me.
+1

We did get a car declared a lemon, got all our money back, but that was in the first 6 months.
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Old 10-18-2014, 08:46 PM   #5
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I had similar car problems a few years ago . I took my car to an AAA repair shop . It worked for a few weeks and then actually caught fire at a gas station . I had it towed to the dealer who fixed the problem . I then went after the AAA repair shop . After a little back & forth they refunded my repair cost .
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Old 10-18-2014, 09:02 PM   #6
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My question is…has anyone ever been successful in getting the dealership to refund costs of unnecessary repairs? If so, how did you do it?

Good luck.

Intermittent electrical problems can be a real PIA to find and fix, especially on newer cars. I had one where a circuit board had a hairline crack that would cause an "open circuit" once in a while. Usually would only cause a problem for a few minutes at a time. It took me months to find that one.
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Old 10-18-2014, 09:48 PM   #7
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I also doubt that they will refund the repair that you think were unnecessary.

I read your OP a couple of times, and am under the impression that you have not had the truck back to see if the problem is truly solved. By the way, if the battery is weak and needs replacement, I do not see how it could cause an intermittent problem with the engine stalling and the gauges going wild one instant, then working fine the next. With a weak battery, the car once running will be fine because the alternator is now taking over, but is hard to start once shut-off, or will not crank.

Looks like dealer does not know what the hell he's doing, or is pulling your leg.
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Old 10-18-2014, 10:44 PM   #8
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Oh yeah. and doctors refund me money all the time when their best guesses don't cure me.

A pisser, but intermittent problems are the worst to diagnose and repair. Some mechanics, and some doctors, are better - I'd be reluctant to take an eleven year old car to a dealership for repair, preferring a recommended independent.
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Old 10-19-2014, 03:03 AM   #9
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One full refund for me.

I had a Honda Accord, that I had just changed the spark plugs and it was running great. While stopped at a traffic light it started missing and began running poorly. I took it to the Honda dealership and guess what, they did about $200 worth of repairs (circa 1992) and they car ran no better. They also replaced the new spark plugs I had just installed.

Took it too an independent mechanic and he immediately -and correctly- diagnosed it as a cracked intake manifold gasket and she ran perfectly after the repair.

I called the dealership and spoke with the service manager. He looked into it, called me back and said they would credit my credit card the full amount.

Maybe it helped paying with a credit card; my recourse would have been to request a charge back if the merchant had refused reimbursement. I also had the receipt for the spark plugs I had installed.
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Old 10-19-2014, 04:48 AM   #10
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I had a similar experience years ago with my pickup truck. AC stopped working and so I took it to the dealer. Four trips later and well over a thousand bucks and it was fixed. Each time was similar... the service advisor would come out in a few minutes, say "such and such needs replacing," I'd okay the work, and a couple hours later I'd leave, my wallet much the lighter.

The last time they were getting so embarrassed they gave me a free loaner vehicle while they did a deep-dive into the system. Eventually, through process of elimination, they replaced nearly the entire AC system, fixing the problem (but without ever truly identifying the failed component).

Much as I hated spending the money, I didn't blame the dealership. Repairs are more often than not educated guesses on the part of the technician. And if the problem is intermittent it's almost always a guess.

Like calmloki says, it's the same with doctors. We expect them to be omnipotent.

Alas, the real world doesn't work that way.
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Old 10-19-2014, 06:02 AM   #11
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I agree with the others who have said that intermittent problems are incredibly difficult. I would cut your losses at the dealer and find a good private shop who has the ability to think outside the box. The "code" came up as an instrument cluster problem. I have a hunch that your problem is either a grounding issue or a voltage regulator issue and that the onboard diagnostics pointed to the cluster because that's where it saw the problem. You need to find a troubleshooter who has the ability to think beyond what his scan tool is telling him.

The dealer didn't really do anything wrong. They just replaced what the computer told them to plus did some maintenance that probably needed to be done anyway. I would look at the bright side and know that you got a new cluster out of the deal and at least you wont have to replace that any time soon.
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Old 10-19-2014, 07:24 AM   #12
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Lesson #1
Don't take your car to a dealership for services. They charge much more than your local garage for parts & labor, and are probably not as experienced.

My recommendation is find the forum for your GMC, and search around that site. If you don't see your issues already discussed, then ask your questions there. I have a '96 S-10 and an '03 Trailblazer. The forums for those vehicles are excellent, and have helped me keep many dollars in my pocket over the years.
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Old 10-19-2014, 08:13 AM   #13
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This sounds almost exactly what I saw with a GM vehicle some years ago.

It would stall after taking foot off gas when approaching a stop sign. It would almost always restart immediately. At the same time when driving (not just when stopping at stop sign) the gauges would all swing wildly from being at zero to being pinned. The stalling and gauge activity happened at the same time…when it acted up…at other times it would stop acting up and would work perfectly fine.

It was a bad tensioner as I recall. It was letting the alternator belt slip at at different times. At a stop sign/light, the guages would swing back and forth, and the car would start to stumble and die. It was also worse in the rain, in my case. Maybe being wet the tension was slipping more.
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Old 10-19-2014, 08:42 AM   #14
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I had a similar problem with a 95 Monte Carlo.... but I could not restart as the battery was dead.... changed battery and away I went...


As far as getting a refund.... so far never happened for me....
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Old 10-19-2014, 11:18 AM   #15
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My recommendation is find the forum for your GMC, and search around that site. If you don't see your issues already discussed, then ask your questions there. I have a '96 S-10 and an '03 Trailblazer. The forums for those vehicles are excellent, and have helped me keep many dollars in my pocket over the years.
Online car forums are great. Members' individual experiences identify common problems and the easiest means of repair. They're the place I go to first when a vehicle starts acting up. I too have saved thousands of dollars making repairs with the help of their guidance.
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Old 10-19-2014, 12:34 PM   #16
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Lesson #1
Don't take your car to a dealership for services. They charge much more than your local garage for parts & labor, and are probably not as experienced.

My recommendation is find the forum for your GMC, and search around that site. If you don't see your issues already discussed, then ask your questions there. I have a '96 S-10 and an '03 Trailblazer. The forums for those vehicles are excellent, and have helped me keep many dollars in my pocket over the years.
Lesson #1 - read lesson #1 above and follow the advice. (stealership service department is a sucker's game).

Lesson #2 - Read applicable auto forums for advice and post questions.
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Old 10-19-2014, 01:37 PM   #17
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YOu'll only get a refund if the work was done wrong.....and, you don't know if it was. And, if you have a problem I'd take it back to the 1st shop and have the same people work on it.....especially a franchised dealer that HAS to have his tech's certified to keep the franchise. But, as everyone has said, intermittent problems are tough.....you don't know when it's fixed.......my worst one was years ago.....I traded it in ......got tired of spending money on it. The service manager bought it and eventually found a hairline crack that caused the problem. Good luck, you just might want to consider replacing the truck.
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Old 10-19-2014, 04:18 PM   #18
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Online car forums are great. Members' individual experiences identify common problems and the easiest means of repair. They're the place I go to first when a vehicle starts acting up. I too have saved thousands of dollars making repairs with the help of their guidance.
+1 . Even the manufacturer only has experience with a few vehicles that were run to death on a durability course. Forum members on the other hand bring together millions of miles of experience on thousands of vehicles that have the full spectrum of parts and assembly variability.

I've successfully diagnosed vehicle problems for relatives on vehicles I know nothing about and have never seen just by Googling the vehicle make and model and a description of the issue. I generally end up in a forum to find the answer.
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Old 10-19-2014, 04:37 PM   #19
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Good luck with this. Maybe a short or break that only sometimes shows up.

Had that happen once. Hit a big bump and the car quit running. Then it was intermittent after that. Long story short, the wiring to the electric fuel pump was crimped under a sheet metal clamp that was stamped into the sheet metal. It had a sharp side and that cut through the insulation when I hit the big bump.

Did manage to get labor refunded once when I brought a truck to the dealership to fix an oil leak. I specifically asked to have the oil leak repaired and asked them for a diagnosis. They changed the valve cover gaskets, but the oil leak was the rear main seal. It consistently leaked three drops every time the vehicle was parked.

Took two hours of my time, but I did manage to get the majority of the cost refunded (the labor). My argument was that I paid for diagnosis and repair of an oil leak, and they did not fix the oil leak.
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Old 10-19-2014, 05:26 PM   #20
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I understand your frustration and have experienced it myself. My Hyundai Sonata was having problems not turning over in park in hot, humid weather, but it would start in neutral. Later, it became more frequent and ultimately went into limp mode and I had to have it towed to the dealership. Some expensive repairs later, it still occasionally refused to start in park but would start once you put it into neutral. They explained that it could be this, that or something else and I told them that I wasn't about to pay then $75/hour for the to go on a wild goose chase. I decided to live with it and fortunately it still does it but much less frequently.

However, putting myself in their shoes I can see where an intermittent problem is hard to diagnose.
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