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Time for a new mechanic?

Had my 2009 Forester in for the owner’s manual recommended 30,000 mile major maintenance. Before taking the car in I noticed the engine coolant was low in the reservoir but I forgot to mention anything at the dealer’s shop because I figured they’d catch it in the fluid top-offs. At the shop they asked if I wanted to wait, and I said “yes.” An hour passed, then two, and I asked if they had found anything wrong. “No, all these little things just take time.” Finally got the car back, took it home to find they had added not ONE DROP of coolant. Called the service adviser back to complain and he said, “It’s not that hard to do but bring it back tomorrow anytime and we’ll top it off.” Paid $432 for a half-ass job and a smart-ass remark. Time to look for an independent?

What’d they do for that $432?

In the first week I had my car, I stopped by the dealer and got a gallon of coolant, power steering fluid, touch up paint, etc. No need to go to the dealer to top fluids up.

Why does coolant ever need topping up when it’s a closed system?
Is a leak the only way you’ll ever be low on coolant (or a head gasket issue?)

I wouldn’t complain too much if they missed topping off the coolant level. They say they’ll do it if you bring the car back in. That’s the best solution.

In my opinion you’ll have better results as the car grows older by finding an indpendent mechanic that specializes in your make. Once the car is past the warranty period, only use the dealership for the really tough problems. Try to get some recommendations from friends and co-workers for inde-shops.

On my 1990’s Toyota my coolant level drops about a half a cup every 5,000 miles or so without any problem I’ve ever noticed. The coolant tank is at least partially vented to the outside air, so some is lost to evaporation. Some is lost to dissolved air being expelled from the coolant over time. And some may be lost to various tiny leaks, both inside and outside the engine. Right after a coolant change is when I see the biggest short term drop in coolant level. I think that has to deal with introduced air being expelled from the system over time. After a month or two it levels off to what I mentioned above.

Slow coolant loss is normal…it’s not a closed system. The overflow tank on most cars is vented…

If this is enough to make you want to change mechanics, you are going to have a lot of different mechanics throughout your lifetime. Even if you did mention specifically to the service adviser to top off the coolant, the message wouldn’t necessarily reach the person working on your car since the service adviser generally never touches your car. It is also very easy for a mechanic to forget to perform one mundane task when they are busy performing other services on your car. I’m sure it wasn’t a crooked move, the guy/gal probably simply forgot to check the coolant level. I remember once having a car in the shop for a ton of work, as in, the ticket was over a grand and I spent all day working on that one car: brake work, suspension work, alignment, engine work, a little of everything. One of the items on the ticket was an oil change. I completely forgot about the little, mundane task on that ticket and the customer ended up paying for an oil change that didn’t get done. They noticed, and were incensed by the situation, convinced themselves that we were a scam shop who were only out to rip people off. They came back, I did the oil change, and they vowed to us that they would never return, despite apologies from myself and everyone else in the shop for simply forgetting to do one mundane task on a very diverse ticket. As for the comment from the service adviser, what he said is true enough (if you can see, you can check it; if you have functioning opposable thumbs, you can fill it), he could have been more tactful and more apologetic. I suggest going in there, getting your coolant topped off (bravo for checking it since many threads on this forum are started by people who never open their hood and blame the manufacturer when their engine blows up since they just got their oil changed 10,000 miles ago and haven’t bothered to check the oil level), and try not to take this so personally or as a conspiracy.

Maybe there was a misinterpretation over exactly what an overflow tank does and exactly what is supposed to be in it.
If the radiator is full and the overflow empty I don’t see where the problem lies.

On some cars the overflow tanks are meant to have some coolant in them at all time as they have ‘low coolant’ sensors built in. It serves kinda a coolant reserve function. When the light comes on, you really losing coolant some where.

Everyone is missing a very important point. This was not a simple oil change you paid for. It was a 30k, which I am going to assume includes a radiator flush and fill (it does with Honda and a few others I know about). Can anyone tell for sure if subbaru is tbe same??

If this is the case, how do you not check and fill the overflow. Further more how do you know if the service was even done??

I wouldn’t dump on the shop just yet because it’s possible that someone could have looked at an empty overflow tank as being normal. My preference would be for a little in there for visual peace of mind but to each his own.

If the radiator is full then what is in the overflow tank is meaningless because any coolant in there would be irrelevant and inert unless it was puked out of the radiator pressure cap for whatever reason. In that case any coolant in the tank would be drawn back into the radiator as it cooled down.