I wonder what you all think: a couple of months ago, my 2002 Passat GLX (about 125K) came up with a dead battery, which I had replaced by my local VW dealership, from whom I bought the car new. A couple of weeks later, the battery turned up drained, and back to the dealer I went. They said the alternator was failing and wanted to replace it. Against better judgment, I allowed them to do so (at retail, a $690 bill, on top of the $180 for the battery). You guessed it: a couple of weeks later, dead battery. This time, the dealer said the radio has a short, and that these are all independent problems (yeah, sure!). The radio is disconnected now. And sure enough, the car is once again dead.
Each time the car dies, it comes after sitting for 2 or more days between starts. Something is drawing current - this is not a charging problem, and I doubt that it ever was. Dealer says (they SAY) they ran an ammeter across the battery as they pulled fuses, to isolate the source of the problem. I am not so sure that they have ever tested things completely, and if they did, they give every sign of not knowing what they are doing.
Anyway, here are my questions 1) How can I tell if they’re honest incompetents, or are they incompetent scumbags? and 2) how would you deal with this dealership? I already wrote a very polite note (really) to the GM and president of the company. Their response was to offer to sell me the radio at cost. After taking me for a $900 ride and not fixing the problem, I think they should leave the radio alone and eat the cost of fixing the real problem.
What do you think?
Mitch in Finksburg, Maryland
I think anyone who takes a 10 year old car with 125K miles to a dealership for ANYTHING lives in total isolation from reality…Take your car into an auto-electric shop, ask for a parasitic load test, fix the problem and move on…
$690 for an alternator…You can buy a 6500 watt self-contained generator for that…
It does sound like someone dropped the ball on an electrical diagnosis although I have no idea how they tested the battery, alternator, and so on.
Sell you the radio at cost? The radio is disconnected and the problem remains so I’d say that there is a disconnect at the management level along with a botched diagnosis.
I’m in agreement with Caddyman; take the car elsewhere. You might also write a letter to the regional office of Volkswagen of America and while the odds are not great, it’s at least possible they could step in on this and prod the dealer in some way.
Sorry if it seems like I’m piling on, but a 10 year old European car is due for some strange electrical gremlins. Going to the dealer is asking to get soaked.
You have a parasitic charge that is draining the battery. Constantly draining an older battery will kill it in short order. A drained battery on the outs puts strain on a 10-year old alternator. The dealer was obviously wrong about the radio being the culprit, but you may have needed a new battery and alternator none the less. Finding the parasitic draw in these modern cars is a really tough job. There are many modules that require constant power from the battery to maintain memory settings and other features, and the radio is not the only one. It may be fairly costly to find the culprit in order to fix this car, as each circuit must be examined and tested. I wish you luck, but agree with Caddyman that you should find an independent shop, especially one that specializes in VW’s or Audi’s instead of the dealer.
“$690 for an alternator…You can buy a 6500 watt self-contained generator for that…”
Or you could buy a nice laptop computer. Neither would help you fix the car. You could probably buy a huge quantity of meat or grain too. It would be helpful to know what the alternator should cost. Clearly you think $690 is above the market rate. I’d be more concerned about the $180 battery.
What should the alternator cost?
@Caddyman, if you owned a VW, you might be tempted to take it to the dealership for a new battery. VW radios lock up when you disconnect power.
@Mitch from Finksburg, this is why, when you think you have a dead battery, you get it tested. You don’t just replace a dead battery without getting it tested, which most auto parts stores will do for free. You probably never needed a battery, but good luck proving it now.
Whitey/Caddyman: “if you owned a VW, you might be tempted to take it to the dealership for a new battery. VW radios lock up when you disconnect power.”
That is true with some, but not all VW’s However it is good to keep in mind. There are solutions as well, like providing the radio with power (even a 9V battery power) wile it is disconnected.
There Is One Thing Here That Some Folks Can Choose To Learn.
Find Out Where A Nearby, Reputable, Auto Electric Shop Is Located, Stop By, Have A Chat, And Get And Keep A Business Card.
My nearby (50 miles - nearby for me - nearest store is a 20 mile drive) Auto Electric Shop even repairs “alternators that cannot be repaired” (they get the parts and even reload brush holders, etcetera) and never charge over $75 total (often less) for overhauling/rebuilding an alternator, including bearings and other parts, including diagnosis/electrical check, and bench testing. Labor for R&R is is extra if you don’t DIY.
I’ve ranted about this before…Why the $%&# don’t more people raise cain about the dealer maintenance cost of some of these vehicles? That said, I agree with CSA and others that you need to find a good automotive electrical shop and develop a rapport with them. I’ve seen people pay $300 for a new alternator and thought it ridiculous, but $690? Good lord! $180 for a battery? Replacing a battery shouldn’t be rocket science. I’ve taken my Odyssey to Sam’s Club and replaced the battery in the parking lot for $40 (and yes, it lasted for years). If VWs can’t be this simple, maybe people should stop buying the damn things.
I wouldn’t necessarily blame the dealer because those prices are so high. Many often compare the price of an over the counter part at the dealer to one they buy from a local parts house and one simply can’t make that kind of comparison, even if the parts house unit is a brand new, not rebuilt, part.
The factories provide those parts to the dealer and they don’t give them to the dealers on the cheap. It could be that 690 alternator may have a dealer cost on it of 400 dollars or more.
As to the battery I agree that 180 for a battery alone could be high but there’s a few caveats with that too.
Did that 180 include installation?
If the battery is a VW branded one then those were not provided to the dealers on the cheap either.
Go into a local parts house anymore and note how battery prices have skyrocketed over the last couple of years. The one I bought recently at Wal Mart for one of my cars was about 90 dollars and for a real sticker shock check the Optima prices; going on close to and exceeding 200 dollars.
OK guys I’m not a mechanic by trade nor have I ever owned a VW, but does this car have an external voltage regulator? I had a similar problem on an older Chrysler where the battery would drain overnight that turned out to be a bad regulator.
The battery is a known good battery, I take it. You have to make certain assumptions. Maybe disconnect the battery and see if that dies, all by itself.
Once you know that battery is not at fault, start pulling fuses but do it in an organized way:
There are a finite number of fuses so pull half of them and see if the problem of draining it goes away. If it doesn’t, it isn’t related to the fuses you pulled but likely related to the fuses you didn’t pull. Pull half of those and let it sit again, etc, etc. So if you have 20 fuses, pull 10. Then pull 5, then pull 3, then 2 and then 1 - so if it drains overnight, you should know what’s what within 6 days. Of course, document what you pull and where it goes.
Eventually you’ll narrow it down to one fuse and that will help whomever fixes this car diagnose what’s wrong.
If you’ve pulled all fuses and it still drains, it could be that whatever is hooked up directly (ie fuseless) to your battery is at fault (starter, alternator).
Our Jetta has everything internal on the alternator. It’s an '01, but I doubt there’s much difference between the parts.
We’ve all read the complaints, and most people stopping by for a random read or gripe simply don’t get the difference between the part you buy over the counter (any counter), and having it installed at a dealership by certified mechanics. We’re never going to change that outlook.
Also, for our '01, removing the battery - even overnight - had no ill effects on the car itself, nor how it ran, nor the electronics in it. Again, it’s not an '02 Passat, but I don’t believe they’re much different. Ours uses the coding in the key, in conjunction with the computer. I’m not sure what’s coded where, but no memory saving is required.
“most people stopping by for a random read or gripe simply don’t get the difference between the part you buy over the counter (any counter), and having it installed at a dealership by certified mechanics.”
Hard to see how that explains a $180 battery. I have it on good authority that putting a battery in a car is not rocket science.
Finksburg, MD? Take it to Eakle’s or Neubauer’s in Ellicott City. Both are good shops and have been around for a long time.
littlemouse 5:33PM Report
"most people stopping by for a random read or gripe simply don’t get the difference between the part you buy over the counter (any counter), and having it installed at a dealership by certified mechanics."
Hard to see how that explains a $180 battery. I have it on good authority that putting a battery in a car is not rocket science.
You might need to rethink that. That 180 dollar battery may be the battery alone or it may involve a service charge. That was not revealed.
If the dealer cost on the battery 125 dollars how much should they charge for it?
If that 180 includes a service charge then how much labor is too much? A dealer in a major metro area may have 100 dollars an hour flat rate (it’s way more in some places) and if one figures a measly .2 hours flat rate (that’s 12 minutes) then you would have 20 dollars in labor not counting the battery cost, taxes, any enviro fees, and so on.
I would add that some batteries are not a 2 minute drop-in either and that 180 dollars may have also included (pick any or all) battery charging, load testing, alternator test, and so on.
The devil is always in the details and on this forum details are seldom ever provided.
It depends on what kind of battery the car takes. If the battery lives under the hood and is pretty ‘normal’, then $180 is outrageous. If it lives in the trunk or under the seat and requires special venting, then the price may be in line. But $690 for an alternator is pretty insane I think. It should be half that or less. I can’t imagine what’s so special about a VW alternator compared to others I’ve bought over the years that can merit that price, except for the statement: “because we can”
I would give the dealer a chance to make it right (for free) or take it elsewhere if they aren’t willing.
Dealers have no say-so over the price they pay the manufacturer for parts. Many assume the dealers get parts cheap “at wholesale prices” but they’re not that cheap.
Go to any dealer parts counter (Big 3, Asian, European) and buy a brand new, across the counter alternator. One would likely find that every single one of them is in that range, and more.
About 6 years ago a farmer neighbor of mine needed an alternator for his late model Dodge diesel pickup. The parts houses did not have it and he needed it yesterday so he went to the Dodge dealer. That alternator (6 years ago) was 1100 bucks.
“I would add that some batteries are not a 2 minute drop-in either and that 180 dollars may have also included (pick any or all) battery charging, load testing, alternator test, and so on.”
Seriously? I want to see the dealer’s employees do those tests with every NEW battery they install. I’d settle for seeing them done even once. Why are they testing the alternator when they’re replacing the battery? If they’re replacing the battery, didn’t they already test the alternator? They’re CHARGING a new battery? Clip, clip, how much are you charging me for that?
Breathlessly waiting to hear what batteries take more than 5 minutes to install.
You Can Exhale, Now.
“Breathlessly waiting to hear what batteries take more than 5 minutes to install.”
I have installed batteries on many cars, tractors, boats, motorcycles, snow blowers, etcetera, over the years.
Many cars require having components removed in order to remove/install a battey. I have seen cars that need fender to radiator body cross-members removed, air cleaner boxes removed, tire/wheels and inner-fender liners, back seats, etcetera . . .
Trust me. I’ve seen cars where the battery is not even visible without digging down to it.
Some cars are so crowded under the hood that the batteries are “buried”. I think the better batteries (maintenance-free) we have now has led engineers to consider that batteries don’t need access for years and years under ordinary circumstances.
Many (most) cars now have remote “battery” terminals for jump starts. They are there for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that battery access is near impossible for an emergency start. The other reason is safety.
As for the $180 battery, OK4450 is correct in saying that there is not enough information given to know what is covered in this charge.
What the heck, this past year, I did preventive maintenance on my Bonneville and replaced the battery by age, although it was working fine. I think I paid $100 - $115 for the battery and installation was DIY (under the back seat on this car). Put some tax on it and shop supplies . . . mechanics don’t/can’t work for no pay (do you ?) and dealerships and shops must turn a profit to stay in business. This is a typical savings for DIY repairs/maintenance. Do you have any idea what one saves when replacing a radiator, timing belt, or even a serpentine belt by DIY labor ?