Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

How to Confront a Repair Store Manager

I drive a 99 Toyota Camry. Last week I went to replace my front & rear struts. As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot, the ABS warning light came on and stayed on. The shop ran a diagnostic scanner and reset the code but the light came back. The repair person said that they will have to replace the right rear ABS speed sensor which cost $220. They may be able to waive the labor but I would have to pay for the part. The store manager would not admit their fault without putting the car on a ramp and checking everything. I had to leave on an urgent work but before doing so, I had him sign a statement that my ABS light was on, it was not one when the car had been brought for unrelated repairs, my brake system is otherwise working fine except ABS is not working and that they will need to look at everything before determing the next course of action.

After I came home, I googled and found at least 4 messges on Toyota forums that this is a common occurence when a Camry strut is replaced by an inexperienced or careless mechanic - unless the wires are removed first, one of them breaks internally and the entire ABS sensor has to be replaced - parts $220, labor $90-130 depending on store.

I plan to go back to the store next week with printouts of the internet reports. The store is a franchise of a national chain of a major tire company. Obviously, I think the store made a mistake and I do not want to pay any part of the $300 parts+labor.

I would like to get your suggestions and experience about the best way of confronting the store manager. And, if he refuses, how should I escalate? This week’s weather is dry but I don’t want to drive without an ABS too long!

I think in your question you have the approach to take…remember talk reasonably with manager about the situation , keep voice and anger under control and see it a non threatening approach works…reasonable people reach reasonable conclusions…
that aside this reinforces my opinion that when in doubt bring the car to a dealership for repairs, less likely to make an inexperienced mistake…good luck.

When JC Penney still had auto centers back in the 1980s, I worked in one while I was going to college. Our service writer was a scum bag who would try to lie or bully his way through any customer problem.

The only thing that was more important to him than not loosing money on a job (profitability statistic) was not having a customer take a complaint up the chain of command. The store and regional managers did not want to be bothered with customer complaints. If they got a lot of them, the service writer might get replaced.

Be polite and business like, but don’t flinch when he tries to bully you, and don’t hesitate to start up his chain of command when you don’t get what you want.

The key is to go up the chain in the appropriate order, such that each person you talk to knows that you are going to their immediate supervisor who does their annual performance review. If you try skipping steps and going right to the top you loose the psychological advantage, and your complaint gets deflected to the dead letter box by some executive’s personal assistant.

While it’s good to be prepared for all scenarios, getting too worked up in advance often results in you going in and being confrontational. Think about how you would react to someone who came to you with that attitude and posture. Relax. Be nice but firm. The person on the other side will be less likely to react defensively.

There are a few key points you need to be prepared to argue;

  1. It was working properly before the repair.

  2. There is a strong likelyhood they could have damaged it during the repair.

  3. You are entitled to full restitution.

  4. Think about the shop’s perspective. They see hundreds of repairs a month and so they also see the full range of people- some honest, some not. How many people do you think they have to deal with that claim the shop broke something that was already broken and they just want a free repair. You need to be convincing that this problem was not present prior to the repair. For example, if a dash light is now on, but wasn’t when you brought it in, that is something they should have noticed when they drove the car into the shop.

  5. You already have information that indicates there is a strong likelyhood of damaging the part if care is not taken during the repair process. Look for any evidence of strain or damage to the wiring. Although this kind of damage is not necessary for the failure, it will be strong evidence against them.

  6. You have a right to be made whole if they are responsible. In some cases, the part they have to replace will put you in a better position if a new part is installed. I don’t believe that is the case with an ABS sensor. It’s not a wear item and it normally will last the life of the vehicle without any degradation. They should replace the part at their cost and cover the labor IMO.

Be sure to document conversations and keep any paperwork in case this has to go further. Hopefully, you can convince them to fix their damage and keep you as a customer. Best solution for both sides. Good luck!

While internet forums have some incredible fact they are peppered with opinion and hearsay. If there is a Toyota TSB or tech note on the matter it makes for a better case.

Do you know if it is one ABS sensor or four? If four I would state yes likely some poor workmanship. One sensor I don’t think its fair to ask full price and get a new part on something that likely may have failed given age (nearly 10 years old!).

The big problem of working with an older vehicle is touching one thing can break another even if care was given. And the customer gets mad.

Hopefully this all works out for you, just giving another perspective on the matter.

The internet postings I saw specifically referred to the failure of the right rear sensor failing after a strut job, which is what has happened in my case. Also, given that the ABS light was on when the store returned me the car (but kept quiet about it!) prevents me from giving them the benefit of doubt. My typical experience has been that a shop would point out all visible problems like oil leaks, etc. and suggest that I get all of them fixed ASAP.

“While internet forums have some incredible fact they are peppered with opinion and hearsay.”

This is an internet forum, and I will assume that your post is, in fact, opinion and hearsay. :slight_smile: