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Service Writers and Upselling - When can you trust them?

Evidently my dealer does a lot of up-selling and I have lost confidence in their recommendations of “you need”. How do you know when to actually trust them?

I have a 2004 Prius now with over 150,000 miles, still with the original brakes. The dealer used to regularly says things like “You need new brake shoes” or “the brake fluid is dirty”. Since I’ve not heard ‘squealing’ from the wear indicators and the brake fluid reservoir has not been opened, I’ve put them off. Now it is 40,000 miles later and they have stopped saying I need brake work. The car is still fine.

So when do you trust them? I don’t and have started looking for someone else to service my car.

The brake fluid attracts moisture and degrades with time . It should be flushed every two or three years .

You certainly can’t rely on squealing and a full brake fluid resevoir to know whether the brakes are good or not. Your brakes may work fine up to the moment a too thin pad chucks itself right out of the caliper yoke.

As to what your car may need or not need I have no idea. I’m not defending service writers for one second because my opinion of the vast majority of them is pretty low but whether you’re being led on or not is unknown to me.

MeekB wrote:
How do you know when to actually trust them?

My service advisor has talked me out of having work done more than once. That’s always a good sign. I suspect that’s not particularly common, from what I read here!

Service writers can’t be trusted, period. Occasionally one may give sound advice, but who can tell? That’s the problem. Continue your search for a reputable independent mechanic.

When you bought a Prius, you married the Toyota dealer…With regenerative braking, the friction brakes should last forever…The brake fluid is now 8 years old, anti-lock brake systems are fussy about having clean fluid and are VERY expensive to repair if maintenance is ignored…There is a lot more to brake systems than just brake pads…

Most service writers are commission salesmen who feed their families by upselling you…

The cut rate pricing of oil changes makes the service somewhat of a game. The shops lose money when the customer insists on getting nothing beyond the oil and filter. Shops go broke working at a loss. Are you paying for an oil change special? Or have you paid for a scheduled maintenance that should have included removing the wheels and inspecting the brakes, etc?

The key to avoiding the “upsell” is to work with a dealer where you have a relationship with the service department. They need to treat you as a person, not an ATM. Your responsibility is to be educated enough about your car (i.e. read your manual) to understand what is necessary and what is not. I use a Toyota dealer that never recommends unnecessary work and stands behind everything they do. I use an old expression to make sure they are not tempted to cheat. “Trust but verify”. To this day I cannot cite one instance where they tried to rip me off or up-sell things that were not necessary (or recommended by Toyota).

Ask for brake pad/shoe measurements. Minimum thickness is 1mm front and rear. New front brake pads are 11mm, you may chose to replace the front pads early @ 3mm.

Brake fluid replacement is not in the Prius maintenance schedule but the brake fluid should be replaced every 3 years/30,000 miles.

Here is some advise from the 2004 Prius owners manual;

“Dealer-Recommended Maintenance
Your dealer may recommend more frequent maintenance intervals or more
maintenance services than those listed in the scheduled maintenance log. These
additional services are not required to maintain your warranty coverage. Ask your
dealer for an explanation of any recommended maintenance not included in the
scheduled maintenance log.”

Have them show you.
If they can’t show you visually, it isn’t in the owner’s manual recommended maintenance schedule, or they can’t show you a TSB suggesting it, get a second opinion.

And be VERY CAREFUL of the “visual” suggestion. If you;re in doubt at all, get a second opinion. I’ve had people show me thousands of dollars worth of work that “needed to be done” that actually didn;t, but if I had never wrenched a car before they probably could have convinced me. Things like bushings that “need” replacing because of a minor surface irregularity (not even a crack), and gaskets that “need” replacing because of extremely minor seepage.

Are you sure you are hearing the brake wear indicators and not a buildup of brake dust and rust?

The only way to know whether the brake pads need to be replaced is to remove them and inspect them. I usually do a whole routine where I clean them first, and then after the brake cleaner has dried up, I remove the pads and inspect them.

Alex, Toyota for McAllen/Pharr, never recommends things which are not needed. I have developed great confidence in him.

At 100,000+ miles I might get the brake repairs done just for preventative maintenance. The cost of driving hither and yon, paying for 2nd and 3d opinions is hardly cost or time (more cost) effective.

Upselling is not inherently bad. It’s only a problem if someone is upselling an unneeded service.

The problem often arises when someone brings a car in for something comparatively simple and the car owner assumes that because the car is running and driving well it needs nothing. That is not always the case and as a matter of fact, most cars that roll through the service doors (and especially if they have 40 or 50k miles on them) may very well need more than what the owner thinks they do.

My gut feeling is that a 9 year old Prius with 150k miles on it probably needs more than brakes unless it has been religiously maintained; and the odds of that are not very high at all.

EVERYONE tries to upsell…
"Ya want FRIES with that ?
“and the three year warranty with this TV is only…”
“You NEED new shoes to go with that dress.”

The key is to self educate and know your vehicle and stand your ground when requesting service.
Never say yes at the first suggestion but use THAT as a clue then do your research.
Ask them to explain why.

What do new brakes look like ? What do bad brakes look like ? Rotrs too. And just how ‘‘almost’’ is really time to replace ? Realizing of course that waiting too long WILL cost bigger bucks.

Fuel injector cleaning service.
How do dirty injectors feel when it’s time ? How much preventive maintainence is too much ? ( You can, for instance, brush your teeth too much ) Therefore when SHOULD one ask for injector flush ?

Tire rotation.
What is recomended by the TIRE MANUFACTURER for the tires on your vehicle ?

Fluid flushes or changes.
READ your owner’s manual…more than once.
some of these schedules are so long in between we tend to forget these things.

And that’s just the tip of the upsell berg.