To give the dealer a 2nd chance or not - Check Engine Light / Misfire issues

Hi All,

Okay, I’ve got a question and would appreciate hearing some thoughts from the car people out here.

I’ve got a 1996 Buick Century that I bought in 2007 - it’s been a pretty good car overall, needed some work since I bought it, but I got an extended warranty with it that’s covered most everything so far.

As background, the basic list of what’s been done to it mechanically since I got it is the following: replaced the fuel tank sending unit, the intake manifold gaskets, the power antenna, the drivers side door handle, the O2 sensors (twice, once in 07 with the intake manifold gasket, and again last week with the head gasket), the PCV valve, the drivers side axle & CV boot, the engine mounts, and most recently the head gasket.

My problem right now is surrounding that most recent repair, where they did the head gasket and seals, etc. For the last 6 months or so I’ve had an intermittent problem where every so often the car would run VERY roughly on starting and the check engine light would come on (it’d flash for a minute or so and then stay steady). The car would run fine after a minute or so, and usually the light would go off within a day or so seemingly of it’s own accord. When I took it by an auto shop one day to get the code read they said it was giving a Cylinder 6 Misfire code, and recommended I have my spark plugs replaced, but given that it was only an intermittent problem and seemed to resolve itself it probably didn’t need to be a top priority.

So, since my extended warranty is up this month I took the car in in January for some other work, and to get the intermittent misfire issue taken care of. I took it back to Carmax where I bought it, and they did the other work (oil change, power antenna, serpentine belt, etc) under warranty but claimed they checked the codes and didn’t see anything, as the check engine light wasn’t on. Three days after getting it back from Carmax the light came back on, and I went back to them. They suggested I take it to the Buick dealership down the block, which I did. The dealership ran the diagnostics and told me that the problem was a leaking head gasket and a bad O2 sensor, and proceeded to replace both, and after keeping the car for 8 days and ordering the wrong parts 3 times, (not to mention leaving it sit for a day while they lied to the extended warranty company who’d ordered them to tear down the engine and fully inspect it, BEFORE they authorized the head gasket work, which the service writer decided was a total waste, since they’d have to do that work when they did the replacement he’d just do nothing and then call them back in 4 hours and say “it checked out fine, can we replace the head gasket now?”) finally said I was good to go and the problem should be fixed, although they did say I needed new spark plugs and spark plug wires. However, considering they were going to charge $300+ for 6 plugs and the wires, they said it should be fine - and run fine - if I had the plugs & wires done later or did them myself.

The day after I got it back it started behaving really badly - when it was in drive but idling (like at a light) the RPM would drop, like it was trying to stall out on me, and it was hesitating and accelerating very poorly - which is totally new, it was never like that before I took it in. Of course I called the dealership back, and they said “Well, it’s probably the spark plugs, so have those replaced and then call back if that doesn’t solve the problem.” So I said fine had a local mechanic I know replace all the spark plugs (with ACDelco Platinum ones, as the dealership specifically said to use them) and the wireset, which seemed to fix the RPM drop on idle issue.

Unfortunately the day after we did the plugs I was out running errands, went to start the car, and had the same exact intermittent problem I’d had before - on starting the car ran very roughly, with the RPM shooting up and down, and the check engine light started flashing for a minute or so and then stayed on steadily. All in all it behaved exactly like it had before with the intermittent check engine light issue.

So my question now is what do I do - do I take it back to the Buick dealership who kept it for 8 days for the head gasket that accomplished nothing and give them a second chance, or do I take it to somewhere new, a local shop that comes very highly recommended from friends and relatives, and let them take a crack at it to see what they can’t put together? The warranty should cover me either way and the deductible would be the same (though I would hope the dealer would waive it, considering they SHOULD have fixed the thing when it was there last week!). My warranty expires this week, so unfortunately I’m running short on time to get this nailed down - so if it goes back to the dealer and it spends another 5 or 7 days sitting there while they screw around, and still it isn’t fixed, I suspect I’m going to wind up screwed and paying out of pocket for the net go-round.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts everyone! Of course, if anybody has ideas on what might be causing the intermittent problem I’ll be happy to listen to them as well!


Well, they didn’t fix it. They should be given the opoportunity to right their wrong. Of course they can always say it was the fault of the shop that did the plugs and wires… but it’s probably not.