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2008 Toyota Prius - Seeking advice on mechanics

Dear Ray,
I had a boyfriend 30 years ago who listened to your show religiously. I got hooked and although I dumped him, I continued to enjoy your show and column. I have a 2008 Prius and live in the San Francisco Bay Area where the Prius reigns supreme although Teslas are quickly catching up. I mention my location because I take my car in to be serviced at a few local Toyota dealerships and would think that they would have a lot of experience with Priuses. Last week I took my Prius into the only local dealership who installs the Cat Security and since it was time for servicing, I told them to go ahead. Spontaneously, they told me that my tire sensor was not working right and so the light may go on unpredictably. I had mentioned this problem to one of the dealerships I go to regularly over 3 months ago and they told me that they could find nothing wrong. Many years ago at a different dealership, I complained that the gas nozzle was shutting off before the tank was full. They gave me a handout on how to optimize the gas mileage since they thought I was one of those OCD Prius drivers trying to get the most mileage out of every drop. The next time I took it in to a different dealership and mentioned it, they told me that the sensor in my tank was off and I think they adjusted it. So, my questions are, why did only some of the mechanics know the answer to these questions when they are all Toyota mechanics and is there anyway to figure out the best dealership to take my car to or is it specific to the individual mechanic? Thanks!

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Ray doesn’t post here - it’s just a forum for fans of the show to help each other with cars.

As to your questions, well… Dealerships aren’t owned by the car manufacturer. They’re owned by individuals or business groups. Some owners are better than others, and hire better people that cost them more money because they want to deliver good service to their customers. Other owners worry only about the bottom line and hire whoever’s cheapest. Still others are largely in-abstentia owners (any time an NFL celebrity owns a dealership, it’s a fairly safe bet the quarterback isn’t spending too much time at the store).

Dealership service departments have varying quality, even within the department. You might get one mechanic who isn’t very good at his job in one trip, and the next time you might get the best mechanic in the state.

Bottom line, it’s a crapshoot, as it is with any shop. But with a 2008, you’re far out of warranty, so the best advice is to find a local, independent mechanic with good reviews and take your car there. It’ll probably be cheaper if nothing else, but independent mechanics generally (though not always) need to meet a certain standard of competence or they go out of business. That’s not really true of a dealership service department - they’re gonna get business whether they suck or not.


For example there’s this garage which specializes in the Prius

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Thanks for your input!

True, they can fix all makes,model of vehicule you can throw at them.They follow the manufacturer maintenance service of my Corolla all the time.Its also cheaper than the stealership.

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My guess is that there will be more independent shops specializing in the Prius just as there were specialty shops specializing in the VW beetle back in the 1960s and 1970s.
I moved to a university town back in the late 1960s. I had a 1961 Chevrolet Corvair. It wasn’t running right, so I went to a nearby service station. The mechanic on duty told me that I needed to take the Corvair to Freddie. I went to another service station. I was again told that I needed to see Freddie. I then asked “Where to I find Freddie”? Freddie worked at the Chevrolet dealer. I took the car to the dealer and the service writer called out “Freddie, we have one for you”.
Freddie came up and was delighted. He loved Corvairs. After being in town for awhile, every Corvair owner knew about Freddie.
I believe we now need a Freddie junior or Freddie III to specialize in the Prius.

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Here he is!


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How often do you have a catilytic converter security device installed?

This might be a good time to have the failing tire pressure sensors replaced.

So your money was not spent at that time.

There is a problem with the bladder in the Prius fuel tanks that can reduce the amount of fuel capacity when refueling.

You should review your invoice, your recollection does not sound right.

I don’t think you got the point of my questions like everyone else did.

I don’t know anything about dancing but those tire pressure sensors can fail intermittently making it difficult to verify and identify the failing sensors.

Pam, you post some good questions. This would be a good question for Ray to address in his newspaper column and blog, so watch there in the next few months, maybe he’ll have some advice. Finding someone who consistently delivers the quality of service you want for car repairs is the same as finding a vendor for anything, tree trimming, car washing, tax preparing help, physician, plumbing, roofing, etc. The best method imo is to ask friends, co-workers, family etc who they use. In other words rely on personal recommendations. From people you know and trust. Then be sure to tell the shop owner you choose who it was that recommended them to you. This gives you a little leverage, b/c they’ll know if you are dissatisfied you’ll likely tell their other customer about it.

Then have a chat with the shop owner about what you expect. Every car owner is different. Some don’t care if the water bottle for the windshield washer spray is held on by duct tape on their 10 year old car, but others do care , they want it the same as when it was new, no matter how old the car is. Whatever you want can be done for the most part, but it might be pretty expensive. In other words there might not be much bang for the buck. But that’s your call how you want to spend your money, not the shop’s. They should explain what the +'s and -'s are for each job and let you decide. You’ll have to accept they may not be able to do what you ask on the time schedule you ask for. Or for the amount of money you want to pay. But as long as you accept that, they should keep working the problem until you are satisfied with the result, as long as you are paying their invoices.