"A Bad Experience on The Road"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, March 18, 2017

I have been relating cautions to be conscious of while traveling and driving the highways of our country. There is another caution I need to alert you to regarding your vehicle. I had an experience that I honestly don’t know how I could have avoided, but I’m going to make others aware of it.

If you arrive in an out-of-state location, and your vehicle develops a mechanical defect, you may have problems that are difficult to comprehend. I encountered what I thought would be a simple item to correct. A message began to flash on the dash to check the four-wheel drive. I was certain it was just an adjustment that could be easily resolved. I sure was wrong.

I have a local service station that I use for oil changes and minor repairs so I asked them if they could check it out. They said no problem and set an appointment. As I considered what I was going to do, it occurred to me my car has a lifetime warranty on the drive train. I did not want to do anything that might affect that, so I decided I better look for an authorized dealer.

After searching the web and considering various dealers, I located what turned out to be perhaps the largest one in the state. The reviews by customers were very favorable so I called and made an appointment to take my car in. I had to travel more than a hundred miles to reach the dealership but was impressed by the appearance of a busy service department.

I was met by a “write-up” person who gave me a handshake and a big smile. He invited me to go to the showroom and have a coffee while he had a mechanic check out my vehicle, actually saying I may get a few hour turn-around. After seeing my car, he expressed that he was aware the model I was driving had the lifetime drive-train warranty. I was very comfortable knowing my research of dealers had brought me to a very reputable one and my manufacturer’s warranty would likely cover the cost of any repairs. Wrong again, I had to rent a car for five days at a cost of $300 and that was just the beginning of my problems.

As the repairs were undertaken, with delays for parts being ordered, I began to contemplate having to buy a new car because I had no confidence that mine was being properly serviced. When I picked my car up, I was told to drive it for two weeks and see how it felt and I should call if I had further concerns.

During the second week, the car began to shake and I feared it was unsafe to drive. I made multiple calls to the contact person at the dealership but they would not return my calls. After another week, I called the manufacturer and asked them to contact the dealer on my behalf. When I finally got a call, we discussed my concerns and I was told I would hear from them in an hour. I never heard from them, but the manufacturer did email me and ask that I fill out a survey regarding my experience.

Fortunately, my friend’s 22-year-old grandson was visiting. He works as a car mechanic for the county he lives in and offered to review the service repair reports the dealership had provided. We took a ride and he gave me his evaluation. We decided to take the car up to my service station and put it on their hoist to confirm his determination.

I felt somewhat reassured and the car is running better, but I will take it to my local dealer when I return home.

As I see it, you need to exercise diligence if you think your vehicle needs service while you are out of your service area. Be aware, when you pull into a facility, your out-of-state plates will be noted. If your vehicle is in warranty, you may have parts changed that you don’t require and if you have a problem, your car’s manufacturer may not be able to help you.

One thing I learned during my experience was that because of the computerized designs of today’s cars, advanced tech mechanics are in short supply. In my area, I was told they are shared among a number of dealerships. I’m still wondering if I had one working on my car.

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