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Do I stand a chance?

I took my Civic 2000 in to the Honda dealer for front brake repair and an undiagnosed rattle at low rpm. I also asked for a 60000 mile maintenance at the same time. They replaced front brake pads, resurfaced the rotors and fixed a clamp to the shield (to fix the rattle) did the 60K maintenance all in 2 hrs by the clock. They charged me a total of 6.6 hrs labor which came to $634.30 and a total of $778.80 ($101 for parts and fluids, tax and minus some ‘discount’).

I realized that they charged me 3.6 hrs labor for the 60K maintenance alone but had failed to replace spark plugs and distributor cap & rotor included in description on the invoice. I disputed this charge with them and asked for a refund on the maintenance labor charge. Do you think I stand a chance of winning this dispute either at the dealer or at the credit card company?

I think you need to go back and get the plugs/dist cap/wires, so your service is complete.

In the future, rather than saying, “do the 60K service” you are better off specifying exactly what you want done, and you generally have the right to get an estimate before they start, so any negotiation about labor price gets done before you are invested in the work.

There is nothing magic about Civics – a good independent mechanic would probably do the right job at a better price.

As for disputing labor, if they didn’t do the spark plugs, etc, and it is part of their 60K service definition, then you are entitled to some refund on labor, because they didn’t actually do the work. Keep in mind a 60K service includes other labor and inspections you asked them to do and thus should pay them, so you are not entitled to a full refund of labor.

If you approved it then you don’t stand a chance. Just because they did the work in 2 hours doesn’t mean they will refund the difference, that’s whats called flat rate time.

Plus I doubt you car has a distributor cap and rotor, more than likely it has a DIS system but I don’t know for sure since you don’t say what engine the vehicle has. If the spark plugs were part of the estimate and they didn’t replace them then you should get a refund for that.

Alot of times the 60,000 maintenance brochure that the dealer shows you has small print that people don’t see. That will say something about DIS systems or cars with platinum plugs that aren’t included in the price.

Flat rate is not a perfect basis for pricing work but until someone figures out a better one we will live with it. You must realize that most people make higher salaries/wages as they gain experience and become more productive. Good mechanics can make a very good living “beating the book.” For instance, I can replace a clutch in a full sized Domestic truck in about and hour. The flat rate is likely three hours or more and I charge the flat rate. But don’t I deserve it? How long would it take a DIYer to R&R a clutch at home? How many DIYers would need to go back repeatedly to get it right? But certainly, everyone deserves all the work they agreed to and were charged for.

You might clarify the part about not replacing the plugs, cap, and rotor. How do you know this or who said what?
You state that you disputed this charge with them and asked for a refund. So what happened with this dispute?
You’re leaving out some vital info and it’s near impossible for me to see the dealer charging you for non-replaced parts and then refusing to do anything about it.

As to the flat rate time charged that is the system used everywhere; warts and all. The alternative might be even worse. How would you like to be billed for actual time spent; say 8 trips to the coffee pot, chatting it up with other techs, etc.
This job could turn into a billed 8 hours one if they wanted to prolong it.

And who’s to say that there were not 2 guys involved in the servicing? One doing the maintenance stuff and another the brakes, etc.

Ignorance is UNBELIEVABLY expensive…

The people who work in Dealers service departments or Hospital Emergency rooms have a license to steal…What choice does the hapless consumer have?? Pay or walk, Pay or die…Can we help you??

I don’t know that anything evil has happened at all until the OP provides some real information.

They state they disputed this already without providing info about the results of that dispute and then turn around in the next sentence asking if they have a chance of winning this dispute at the dealer. What the does that mean? Disputed and they said no? Disputed and the OP hasn’t heard back or what?

In a recent complaint here a poster was insinuating a dealer was not accepting responsibility for an alignment and new tires on a used car used car that had been owned for a year and some. When it was revealed the damage was caused by underinflation due to the driver not checking the tire pressure that kind of put the skids to the irresponsible dealer argument.
There’s always a story behind a complaint; the problem is getting any or all of that story revealed.

Or do the work themeselves. Though that’s probably not viable for the emergency room.

More info for ok4450’s queries:
I know they didn’t replace spark plugs, distributor cap & rotor because they didn’t bill me for those parts; though they did bill me the labor. They have billed me for all other replaced parts including a washer costing $ 1.95. The invoice has tech # 141 doing all the work on my car.
As willey points out my car has an electronic ignition system & so likely doesn’t have a distributor cap & rotor. Can anyone please clarify?
I disputed the charge at the dealer’s; initially the ‘advisor’ said they followed a ‘severe’ maintenance schedule for my car. Once I pointed out that Honda recommends replacing the timing belt at 60 K for severe maintenance, she put me on to the service director who then backtracked and said they followed the ‘severe’ schedule only for Canadian cars (I am quoting him, no jokes)!
The service director offered to put in spark plugs, if I paid for parts. But with all their contradictions & cavalier attitude, how do I trust them to not mishandle my car if I bring it back again? I said I would rather have a refund.
The service director refused to refund me for the maintenance service and cut the phone. Though I admit I did ask for refund of the entire labor for the 60K maintenance; I was mad at them. I have further contacted the general manager who has not yet got back to me though I left two messages.
How can flat rate be so removed from real time? I am also miffed by Honda customer relations. Initially they said that authorized dealers are expected to follow Honda service manual recommendations but later corrected themselves that the dealer doesn’t have to follow them.
Sincere thanks to everyone, I understand that I can only hope to get a refund for the labor charged for spark plug replacement. Other than that I just have to defer saving for my son’s college and fund the Honda dealer’s boat #3, instead. I would have liked to donate to the kids in Haiti,though.

I fully agree with "jayhawkroy"
I never ask for 30,60 or whatever service interval maintenance. I check owners manual for frequency of various items and have them done at MY discretion. A whole lot cheaper and just good for the car.

Your car does have a distributor cap and rotor. A quick look at it should instantly reveal whether it’s new or not.
Thea fact that you were not billed for them could be a screwup on their part. The parts department does their own thing and it’s quite possible that someone fumbled the football when charging those parts out.
There is a little solar system with a series of planets revolving (techs, parts people, service writers, etc.) and mistakes do happen. It’s really not that rare because auto service is a highly stressful and at times mind-numbing operation.

About 98% of all cars fall into the severe service category. As to the timing belt, it should have been replaced about 4 years ago if this has never been done.

As to any refund you are not entitled to, and would never get, a full refund for everything done. If they billed you for something that was not done then you certainly are entitled to that part of it back.
That goes back to the point about eyeballing the distributor cap. Does it look like a new one?

As to actual time spent, flat rate is what it is. Flat rate encourages the mechanic to work faster and not goof off. Repetition of the same jobs means the tech gets progressively faster and for every job the tech does much faster than the book allows, he will very likely lose on the next job; especially on warranty repairs.

Look at this way. Would you rather the tech idle around for 2 eight hour days doing this work and bill you for actual time spent; 16 hours?

They never touched the distributor or the spark plugs, see the pictures I took. Do they look like they were changed last week (1st Feb)?
If 98% cars fall into the severe category should they have advised me about changing the timing belt?
I appreciate the flat rate explanation,thanks.
Really thrilled about getting pointers; cartalk is much more than the laughs.

“should they have advised me about changing the timing belt?”

I suppose that they should, but then again, about 10% of the posts on this forum are of the “dealer told me that I should replace the timing belt and I called them crooks” variety. Perhaps they are tired of people calling them crooks when they make fairly expensive–albeit valid–recommendations of that type.


Seriously, however, I am a very strong believer in personal responsibility, and as a result I believe that it is the responsibility of the car owner to utilize the Honda Maintenance Schedule that sits in the glove compartment. That little booklet is what you should be following as the minimum list of the car’s maintenance needs. Have you ever bothered to take a look at that maintenance schedule? If not, that is a VERY expensive mistake on your part.

On a historical note, when did this 30k, 60K, 90K stuff get started. I have been dispatched cars and told to “do a 60K on it” and had no idea what I was supposed to do. It’s one thing if you are always working on the same line of cars but now even the Midas,Firestone, Sears,etc do the 30, 60 90K thing, just ripe for a misunderstanding.

In the old days with BMW we had the "Inspection 1 and Inspection II situation but it was easier to keep clear on just one manufacture. You had to keep aware though because they would drop or add things like diff and tranny drains and fills (manual trans) and some times fuel filter was in and others out, and cabin filters was an “in and out” item you had to watch for.

Unless you live in OK where an engine compartment can look that filthy in a few days after a dust storm or two then I would say these parts were not changed and thank you for posting the pics. (and hang onto those pics too)

My gut feeling here is that this may not be a matter of outright fraud but sheer incompetence and/or miscommunication in the service dept. chain.
However, the service writer and service manager should be able to take one look at this and know that is not a new part.
Have you asked the service manager to look at that cap and tell you to your face that it’s a new one? If he has not or will not then you should ask to speak with the General Manager or owner.

It might not be a bad idea to have someone pop the distributor cap and take a picture of the rotor along with the terminals on the inside of the cap. The terminals inside a new cap should still look like new even after a few weeks.
Pulling one spark plug and taking a pic of that would also help.

Email those pics to the regional office and see what they say about this. If this becomes a stonewall then I would file a small claim against them. Odds are that once served the papers they would try to resolve this rather than go into court.

Based on those pics I see no way that cap was changed last week. I still think this a screwup more than fraud but it matters not; they should make this right.

Don’t worry. There’s no way that cap is new. Keep fighting. This is BS. It may very well have been an honest mistake on the part of a parts clerk or mechanic, but the fact that you’ve made all these calls and the managers keep blowing you off speaks volumes about how they regard the people like yourself who pay their freaking paychecks.

OK, let’s hypothetically say the shop hourly rate is $80 per hour. It’s my understanding that if a shop spends an actual, say 2 hours on a job, and they charge you for 6 hours, it’s illegal unless there’s a prominently displayed sign in the customer area that reads

“Labor rate: $80 per Flat Rate Hour” as opposed to “Labor Rate: $80 Per Hour”. I could be wrong about this! Your state must have a phone # for free legal advice. Ask them about this stuff. And do us all a favor–post back and let us know what happens–no one ever does!

Good luck.

If they charged you for parts beyond labor(as indicated) then ask for a loaner and them to perform the service.

While some people are more apt to give the dealer a break hear…I’m not. Although it’s going to be tough to prove fraud…I do think the dealer is a crook. And you should NEVER visit that place again. And tell all your friends about it.

I’ve seen it more then once myself. I’m sure this dealer has been around for a while…and if this was a mistake…then they are complete idiots. I might be able to understand a mistake like this on a new dealership who’s still learning how to do things…but not one that might have been around for more then a year…Second is the way they’ve been spinning the story…first one way and now the other.

You do NOT have to have the service done by the dealer. Find a good independent mechanic to do all services. It’ll save you time an money (in this case a LOT of money). Honda’s are NOT that difficult to work on and they are very very popular cars…there are a lot of independent mechanics out there who have a LOT of experience working on them.

As for the timing belt. Check your owners manual. It’s usually every 100k miles or 8 years. Since you’re past the time I suggest you get it changed. But do NOT take it to the dealer…you should be able to find a good independent mechanic to do the job for a lot less.

Since the labor on the invoice describes changing spark plugs, dist. cap, and rotor you paid for labor that was not performed. Take the car back and if you pay for the parts then they should do the labor for free, since you already paid for it.

Price the parts out separately, to be sure they don’t jack up the parts prices. 4 plugs should be $12.00 a cap less than $10.00 and a rotor about $4.00. If they charge over $50.00 for the parts it is a rip off.

I think you should talk to the service mgr and perhaps the general manager. This is sloppy billing procedures to have you pay for labor that isn’t done. Your pictures show a very dirty dist cap. The plug wires should be cleaned, or replaced, but at this point don’t bother. Something to do next time you get the car service, which should not be at this dealership ever again.

I just got this info from O’Reilly auto parts on line. Prices are much more than I expected:

Autolite plugs 2.79 ea
Plug wire set 30-49, depending on brand
Dist cap 18-20
Dist rotor 18

Dealer parts could be 50 to 199% higher. Also, note that except for the spark plugs, these items carry a lifetime warranty that the dealer parts probably do not carry.

I would show them your picture, get the appropriate refund from them (or go to small claims court if unsuccessful), and get the remainder of the work done at a trusted independent shop. The dealer would not be my first choice for repairs in the future