Did the dealer cause damage while making repairs? Please help

Greetings from the frigid city of Minneapolis!

I’ve encountered multiple problems after a recent repair and would love your input on whether the issues are mere coincidence or if they may be a result of or in anyway related to the repair work.

I own a 2009 Nissan Versa and the fan for AC & heat stopped working. This occurred a few weeks after the adjustment dial (floor/face/defrost) stopped rotating fully - it became partially stuck.
I took it to the dealer to have it repaired and paid the $900.00-ish that was quoted to fix both the fan and dial and was told it would be a few days. When 1 called to see if my car was ready the manager explained as he was prepping it for me to pick up, he realized the problem wasn’t yet fixed. The mechanics would have to go in there again and see what they missed.

3 days later (after confirming the car was ready) I arrived to collect my car and was told Oops - the battery was dead - so dead, in fact that it wouldn’t hold a charge and I needed to buy a new one. I paid $140 for this, got in my car and drove away, only to find I had heat for face and defrost but none blowing to the floor. I turned around and brought the car back.

2 days later the manager called, they had mis-diagnosed the problem he explained and it wasn’t just the blower fan, but the whole heater-box and would cost an additional $700. We made arrangements to have this fixed and I picked up my car a week and a half later (although I negotiated it at $0 expense to me because had I known the full expense upfront, I would have never gotten the repair. I would have invested the $1600 into a new car feeling it was too expensive a repair for such a young one-owner car. Another story.)

Since I have had my car back the following issues have arisen:
-the passenger headlight died
-the cigarette lighter/car phone charger fuse blew/was blown
-the electric key may have stopped working or the car may have stopped recognizing it or? I have always and exclusively used this e-key and one morning (a week after the repairs) the car wouldn’t turn off, the engine would, but the power was still “on” for the radio, etc. and couldn’t be turned off. I tried inserting the manual key and was still unable to get the car to turn off. At the dealer later that morning they replaced the key battery - problem not solved - so they said the e-key was “bad” (?) and discovered that if the e-key was far enough away from the car (12’ or so) I could successfully use the manual key to turn the car on and off. I’ve been driving this way ever since, about 2-3 weeks now.
-the driver side headlight died (within 1 week of the other which had been replaced by this time)
-the CD player will now not work; there is a message “mechanical error”

Is it possible that something happened at the dealer while they worked on my car – removing the dash and going in to work on the fan, dial and heater box a full three times, having possession of the car for almost 3 weeks – that could have possibly drained or damaged the electrical, the battery and the above items? The service manager tells me there is no chance that their repair work caused the problems and all are simply coincidences.

Please tell me what you think and if possible help me understand why.

Additionally, I am not confident the switch between recirculating and fresh air is working (and I believe this or parts connected to this were replaced when the repairs to the adjustment dial, etc. were made as I was told these were broken). I prefer to drive with recirculating air when possible, and have been since I’ve had my car back however even with the cold weather we are having (as cold as -25) my windows are not fogging up as they have in the past, indicating I need to switch to fresh, outside air. Also I can smell car fumes, bakery/restaurant smells and am confident I am not able to recirculate the air. I plan to have this fixed (at minimum) by the dealer.

Thank you and peace to you and yours.

This dealership does not appear to know what they are doing!! It sounds like they are using your car as a learning exercise. A Versa is not that complicated a car and they generally has a good repair record. If the car is out of warranty, have it taken to a good independent garage.

The service manager sounds like he is busy covering his buns.

Don’t let them blame the fridgid weather; I live in an area much colder than the Twin Cities, and we have lots of Versa running around town and I have yet to see one stranded.

Docnick is correct. The dealer is using trial-and-error and is charging you for it.

I own two identical Versas, manufactured six months apart. The older Versa (purchased January, 2009) has the identical “stuck dial” problem you described. This problem started after I had to have the dashboard heating / AC console unit replaced, under warranty, due to the rear defrost button not working when the external temperature was really cold, less then 20degF.

When the replacement console was installed, the dealer failed to connect the vent control knob. I returned the next day, and they rushed the job. It works, but not as smoothly as the “newer” Versa (purchased August, 2009). As the temperature drops, I can feel drag on the cable and eventually it pops out of place. My local mechanic has been able to reattach the cable, and charges me $25. He has not found the root cause, because at least once a year it happens. I can feel it getting sticky, and try to nurse it, or not move it, but it eventually pops off and I have him re-attach it. He recommended I get a new console unit, but I will avoid this, if at all possible. Conversely, the newer Versa knob has operated smoothly at all temperatures.

I think Nissan made subtle design changes, because there are slight differences in the way my two cars operate. On the old Versa, the air conditioner light always comes on, when in defrost, in the new Versa, the light does not come on until the knob is rotated back out of defrost, however the air conditioner compressor is running in both cases. Given my experience, I think the newer replacement part doesn’t fit quite right with the older car, hence the cable problems.

Some of your problems “may” be coincidence, however I believe you should demand the dealer refund a significant portion of the repair costs. Here are my thoughts on your problems:

Stuck Dial – I would ask them to justify the cost of repairing the stuck dial. Did the cable need to be reattached, or was something broken that required replacement of the unit? If so, did they review the work they needed to do, and ask for your approval prior to starting?

AC / Heat Fan – Did the fan stop completely or did it still blow at full power, when turned on? I’m not sure about the Versa, but in all of the other cars I’ve owned, at some point the resistor pack, that controls fan speed, fails. This results in the fan blowing at full power. The repair is a simple replacement of the resistors, and is relatively inexpensive. If the fan failed, this would be more expensive. Did they provide you with an itemized cost of parts and labor?

Fixing both of these require dashboard work. This is generally more expensive because of the labor time required, especially when working in the tight spaces.

Headlamps – unless you replaced them recently, they were probably at the end of their life. It is very likely just coincidence.

Battery – batteries last about 5 years, so yours was probably near the end of its life. HOWEVER, the fact that it was dead when you picked it up leads me to believe the dealer botched something in the dashboard, causing a constant drain on the battery.

Electric Key and Blown 12V Power Receptacle Fuse – there is no reason this should be connected to your original problem.

I think the battery, e-key, and 12V power problem are caused by negligence of the dealership during repair. It is possible they pinched a cable when reinstalling everything, cutting through the insulation and created a short. This would have drained the battery and may also have affected the computer.

I would demand they fully repair your car, at no cost to you, except for the original need to fix the stuck dial and fan. I would ignore the headlamp replacement, but ask them to provide you the battery at their cost. If you have an independent mechanic you trust, have them provide you with an independent analysis, and use this information when negotiating with the dealership.

Thank you both!!! I really appreciate this info - it helps so much!

-the passenger headlight died

Could be coincidence. You’d have trouble proving they broke it.

-the cigarette lighter/car phone charger fuse blew/was blown

In addition to the pinched/cut wire idea, they could have done this by plugging in some sort of memory-saver into the cig lighter when they swapped the battery.

-the electric key may have stopped working or the car may have stopped recognizing it or?

My first guess would be that they ran the battery down for long enough for the car to “forget” everything it’s ever learned, including which key fobs belong to the car.

-the driver side headlight died (within 1 week of the other which had been replaced by this time)

Again, hard to prove it’s their fault.

-the CD player will now not work; there is a message "mechanical error"

Hard to prove it’s their fault again, unless it’s really only dead because you haven’t entered the anti-theft code after the battery replacement.

That said, I agree with the others. This dealer is charging you for their fishing expedition. I can recommend Victory Automotive in Fridley as a shop that’s always done well by me when I’ve chosen not to fix it myself. If the dealership keeps giving you the runaround, a report from Victory on the root cause of these problems (like a pinched wire as @seamacm said, might help your case should you wish to pursue this further.