When Trying To Save Money On Car Repairs Is A Bad Idea
Ok, before I get into this story, everyone needs to know a few things
- I am not blaming the tech working on the car
- I am not blaming the customer completely
- I am not commenting on DIY vs Paying someone
- I am only telling the story of what happened.
A few weeks ago, a customer brings in their 1999 VW Cabrio. They had a long list of concerns with the car. As you would expect with a car 13 years old.
- Issues with the door locks
- Noise while driving
- vibration when braking
- Car will not start, like the battery is dead
- Air conditioning is not working
The tech working on the car is a pretty good tech. I know he is not a fan of the Cabrio, but he still knows what he is doing. He diagnosed the customers concerns, and ordered some parts. The initial repair was about $2800. The a/c compressor was bad, the pump for the door locks was bad, it needed brakes, a wheel bearing, and a battery. The customer made all the repairs, but decided that they could get a battery cheaper so they declined replacing it.
The car sat for a few days before the customer came to get it. When they did, we had to jump start the car so they could leave. As far as we knew, everything was good. Two days later, the Cabrio got towed into the dealer. The customer concern was the car would not start. The customer said they replaced the battery, but the car would not start. We found it odd that the car started, but it just required a jump.
We did some basic tests and found that we could power the starter and get the car to run. This left us pretty confused about the whole situation. Having a bad feeling, I had the advisor call the customer to ask them if they had any issues installing the battery. My gut feeling was they had hooked it up backwards. Sure enough that is EXACTLY what happened.
The customer hooked the battery up backwards and attempted to start the car. You don’t need to be an expert to know that is a bad thing. We are still working on finding all the things wrong with the car. So far we know that
- The generator is fried
- the alarm module is bad
- the instrument cluster is bad
- Several fuses were blown
With knowing all those things are wrong, the car still does not start. I think it has to do with a part number change in the module that controls the alarm. We are waiting on VW parts line to verify. Dealing in a car that is 13 years old can be tricky when it comes to modules.
It put the story into a simple perspective
- Customer paid $2800 for repairs
- Customer declined replacing battery at the dealer
- Customer installed battery wrong
- Car was towed in
- Car needs $1800 more work to replace damaged parts.
- The customer saved ~$50 by replacing the battery themselves
- Car is worth $3500 at best
Now the customer is over $5000 in on a car that is worth much less. I am not really blaming the customer, but I think that they made a really poor choice. Trying to save $50 will cost them over $2000. Plus all the time not having the car. I will be sure to keep everyone posted when we find all the rest of the issues.
I really hate having to tell stories like this. It is lose lose. The customer is losing for obvious reasons. The dealer is losing because it looks bad for us. The tech is also losing big time. So far all the extra checking and work have been free. He got paid to replace the generator, but that is about is. I would guess he had about 6 hours more in the car, that he is not getting paid for. Bad news no matter how you slice it.
Tomorrow I will try and get a full “Luv a Dub” update. Things have been slow going on it. I have been super busy, so that leaves little time for the project..