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Sometimes I'm embarrased

…to be in the auto service industry.

It’s 8:30 in the morning. A guy is driving his 2011 Grand Caravan on the freeway, his engine light comes on but the car seems to be working ok. He has to slow down for traffic, and at that point the car won’t shift past 2nd gear. He figures something is wrong with his transmission. As he’s looking for the closest place to get off the freeway, the transmission quits altogether but he is able to coast to the side of the road. A few minutes on the smart phone and a tow truck is on the way to pull him to the nearest “National Transmission Chain Store.” His free diagnosis shows a couple of generic OBD2 codes and he is given the news that his car requires a rebuilt transmission and a new electronic transmission control module and the cost will be $5200. By this time it’s 1:00 pm. The guy is also informed that if he does not give the OK for the repair by 5:30 he will incur storage fees of $25/day until work is authorized or the car is removed from the premises. By this time the guy is so frazzled and confused he calls his buddy for advice, who in turn steers him to a local independent garage he knows.

Now the fact is the fluid level wasn’t even checked, and the codes obtained were nothing more than generic OBD2 codes, there was no mention of manufacturer specific fault codes or any testing done other than looking up 2 code definitions. Fluid was never checked, pan wasn’t pulled, no electronic testing was done. The transmission does in fact have internal mechanical failure and needs to be rebuilt/replaced. There is no malfunction of the electronic control system and no repairs need to be done there.

I make it point to try not to badmouth another shop or prices. There’s no way one shop can know what the overhead and obligations of another are and prices can vary widely even in one city. Mechanics often also have a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a complete and proper repair of a system. But really? $5200 for a transmission and a control module that tests good? A transmission directly from Chrysler, installed, is about $3200.

Who can treat people this way? To try and sell a guy a bill of goods for 2 grand more than other shops for similar work? And then to tell him he has 4 hours to make a $5200 decision or it’s going to cost him storage?

I see a lot of people on this forum who absolutely hate dealing with car problems, and I can see why. But please remember, not all of us treat people this way. many of us are just trying to make an honest living and try to fix your car the right way the first time. We’re out here…just not as common as I would like.

A $25 storage fee is pretty typical. when looking at a $5,200 bill someone might do well to not let another $25 push him or her into a bad decision.

If a shop told me there’d be a $25 storage fee to leave the car there overnight, when it was brought in that day, no matter what the diagnosis or price quoted, I’d pay them the fee and have it towed to another shop the next day. And make a point to never do business with them in the future.

I can see a storage fee is a customer dumps the car there and leaves it for a week or more without deciding what to do, but just overnight, no, that method of doing business shall not stand , at least in my way of thinking.

The storage fee seems out of line. Also if there are fees involved normally they would be dismissed if the vehicle is repaired at that facility.

That situation is all too common @asemaster. And it’s a shame. An honest man willing to give the public their money’s worth can make a good living here in the poorest state in the country and I feel sure that there are similar opportunities across the country.

I agree with @RodKnox. A few rotten apples in the industry will give everyone a bad name. It’s not only true in the automotive service industry…it’s true for just about any business out there. You just have to learn to be pro-active when dealing with any person or entity that wants to take your money.

Just curious, how many miles on that 2011? Are those transmissions problematic?

130,000 miles on a 3 year old car. I don’t know what the guy does for a living but it involves a lot of driving. The transmission appears to never have been serviced. I don’t find anything unusual about a transmission failing at 130,000 with the original fluid and filter.

True, an honest shop can make a good (decent, I guess, depending on how you define good) living but it’s a battle, harder than it should be in my opinion, when I see what the hacks are making and how they’re charging for it.

The $25/day storage fee is unheard of to me in any of the shops I’ve been involved in over the last 25 years. To me, it’s nothing more than a strong-arm tactic to push a guy into giving the ok.
Not to mention the fact that they came to their wrong conclusion without doing even the most basic testing on the car and came in at a very high price. Now I did do some testing and that charge still stands even though I will be replacing his transmission with a rebuilt unit. I have no qualms about that, I don’t work for free.

130,000 miles on a 3 year old car. I don't know what the guy does for a living but it involves a lot of driving

Just 5 years ago I was putting 40k miles or more a year on my vehicle. And most of that was just to and from work.

I have likened some of these shops to vacume cleaner salesmen or shoe salesmen. The transmission is just what they are selling today but it could be anything else. The storage fee is just a way to generate a decision, like the sale ends today if you don’t act.

I worked 50 miles from home and my trans went out at work. I had it towed15 miles to AAMCO because they offered free towing and a diagnosis. They pulled the pan and said I needed a new one. I said OK, but I just had work done on it at the Olds dealer so I need to get it back to them to see if they’ll honor their work. I called the Olds dealer and they sent the tow truck to take me back the last 35 miles home. Their helpful attitude and smiles turned to a cold shoulder once I called the dealer and had to wait outside for the tow truck.

You never have to put up with these guys if you are willing to have it towed. If I were away from home though, I think a dealer might be the safest place to take a car. Maybe not the cheapest but the safest.

The storage fee is not new to me. It has always been an indication that the original repair estimate is bogus and they want to rush you into agreeing with it.
Fortunately, when this has come up for me, the car has actually been running and I just drive off.

Anyone who tries to milk the service from a car for that long with no maintenance on the transmission, is subject to being taken advantage of. Unscrupulous repair shops take advantage of people because they can. It isn’t unreasonable to have over charging schemes going on in all areas. I agree. Pay the storage fees and think it through. I agree also, that a dealer might be the best bet. The owner now has to do some soul searching to come up with the answer to the question; “who is ultimately responsible for putting himself in position for this outlandish repair bill ?” The answer is ; he is.
People who hate dealing with car problems should buy reliable cars, properly maintain them and drive them correctly according to the manual. The solution is not to hate people who take advantage of you. The solution is to avoid them. If enough people did that, I feel only the most reputable service people would be left.

I’m going to be reading a lot into this whole event…

There are people for whom auto service is truly a service business and they regard what they do as craft. As a business, a primary goal is certainly to make a decent living, but not at the expense of honesty and craft. It’s a basic kind of integrity that, as we know, many people have.

However, many auto “service” places are not people. People work in them, yes. But the people are required to meet certain kinds of organizational goals and follow certain kinds of organizational procedures. As such, these places become businesses that sell services.
And the primary operating criteria have to with hitting periodic (like quarterly) goals for things like margin and labor cost targets. Whatever the actual persons who work in these machines (yes “in” the machines - not a typo) might think about honesty and craft ceases to be what drives the day to day ops. You follow standard operating procedures. You make decisions based on criteria driven by the needs of the organization rather than the customer.
- (It would be nice to believe that this is impossible since the civics and econ 101 texts tell us that businesses can only survive by meeting the needs of the consumer. But that is only a half truth, especially where customers are not in a position to understand what is going on as is frequently the case in auto service).

In any case…figuring out what is really wrong with something like an automatic transmission and fixing only some parts/ of it can be a rather time consuming process where you might make some $$ on labor, but maybe not so much on parts. You tie up a lot of labor time without much return. In addition, you’re now doing a partial fix to an old machine. Next week something else will go wrong and regardless of what it is you’ll get the blame. What is the most efficient/no fuss way to maximize margins? Follow the old saying: “all automatics must come out.”

It gets harder and harder to find the craft all of the time.

@asemaster, I’m near 100% in agreement with you that this situation is an embarassment at the very least.
The total price is high I admit, but the unknown part to me is where this place is procuring the transmission and what type of markup is placed on it. While working for Subaru once, a customer went ballistic over a 5 grand (part only ) automatic transmission and I don’t blame him. When double checking, I found that the dealer cost on the transmission (new, not reman) was right at 4 grand.

Storage fees I could see, but only after a certain point in time and the 25 a day seems high to me. However, many government entities charge that much, or more, for storage.

The most despicable part to me is presenting someone in a jam this kind of bill and and threatening them with storage fees if they don’t make a snap decision over a major financial investment within a few hours. That comes across as extortion and because of that alone it makes the storage fee and total bill suspect.

All auto shops mark up their parts

They have to make a profit on everything . . . parts and labor . . . or they wouldn’t stay in business

Imagine if the shop payed the mechanic $30/hr and only charged the customer $30/hr for labor

Imagine if the shop payed 4 grand for the part and only charged the customer 4 grand for the part

Subarus are awd, so the automatic trans is going to cost a lot more than for a rwd ford ranger

@dagosa: “Anyone who tries to milk the service from a car for that long with no maintenance on the transmission, is subject to being taken advantage of.”

I would edit that to say that anyone that milks the service of a transmission that long is going to pay for it. I don’t think anyone should be subject to being taken advantage of. If the car needs a transmission, sell him a transmission, at somewhere (+ or - 25% maybe?) near fair market value. Don’t load the bill with unneeded parts, give him an estimate that’s more than half again as much as the dealer or an independent shop, and then bully him with storage fees after 4 hours. Look at it this way, Burger Palace doesn’t charge you double for your cheeseburger just because you’re really really hungry.

Of course the driver is responsible for the bill. He saved $600 on transmission services over 130,000 miles but now has to buy a reman transmission. That’s simple. What gets under my skin is the lack of integrity of the other shop. I go to work to make money, not friends, and of course there’s good profit in the job for me. And yes, I could make a lot more money if I charged $100 for every headlight replacement to unsuspecting drivers. But I just can’t squeeze that hard.

@ok4450 said the word I was thinking…“despicable”. I would assume they were rebuilding the unit in house, as they are (beep beep) transmission specialists.

“I would assume they were rebuilding the unit in house, as they are (beep beep) transmission specialists.”

According to the TV commercials that the beep-beep transmission chain has been running for the past couple of years, they are specialists in everything of an automotive nature.
You know–very much like the shops where the sign says, “We specialize in American and foreign cars”.

But…no thanks. I will seek my specialists in other places.


If that shop is treating the guy this bad then one has to wonder how many other people were similarly treated and ponied up the money without question. Past customers may have left after a repair perfectly content and not realizing that they had just had been raked over hot coals. :frowning:

That part about a 25 dollar per day storage or else has less subtlety to it than a John Dillinger bank heist.

I guess my point is, you should do maintenance on your car and take an active roll in it’s care, at least by being a little more informed by reading the maintenance manual. if not, you stand a better chance of putting yourself in a position to be Taken advantage of. That seems pretty obvious. “subject” …definition…"to be exposed to"
Gee, if your car doesn’t break down as often, there is less chance you will be exposed to these guys. The way you discribes the guy’s car maintenance, it was an accident waiting to happen and he didn’t care til it was too late.

In my very naive way, I always thought it was as much my responsibility to not pay too much as it was the guy asking for the money. It’s a free market out there. They prey on unprepared people. It happens everywhere, not just in automotive. What’s the answer ? Whine about it or be more prepared and take some responsibility. I’m sorry. I lay the blame equally with the owner…look in the mirror.

Take care of the things you have control over and let go of the things you don’t…it’s called maturity.

Some places are better than others, we ended up having the transmission on the 88 grand voyager rebuilt when all forward drive failed while being test driven after a brake job at a local chain that just happened to be next door to the nationally known transmission shop. The shop was closed for a long 4th of july weekend so it sat in their lot for several days before it was fixed. My dad got back the parts that failed and it really did need a rebuild. Some things just happen. It cost around $1,400 in 1994 when we had to do the rebuild.

On my uncle’s Vw Eurovan they had been trying to keep the transmission going as long as possible and almost didn’t make it onto the ferry to go to a family gathering. On Whidbey Island where we were staying for several days there happened to be a VW Dealer (sadly no longer in business) which diagnosed a bad transmission and thankfully they had one sitting there that another customer never had installed which was the only one in the country at that time, they got about a grand off the price of the new transmission (Still north of $4,000) and have moved the van to local use only.