Very basic question about dealing with the dealership


#1

Hi. First time on this website and completely ignorant. I moved to the Intermountain West a year ago for a medical residency and bought my first car, a 2007 Subaru Outback with 39,000 miles. I put 8000 miles over the year and recently brought the car into the dealership for the manufacturer-recommended 45,000 mile maintenance, 2000 miles late. I was told that the alternator belt was frayed. I didn’t replace it then and there for $47 because I wanted to run it by my dad first (again, first car!) and I also didn’t want to be late for work. My dad asked, why is the belt frayed after only 8000 miles, wouldn’t it have been replaced when they did their certified, pre-owned thing before I bought it? When I went back, they couldn’t tell me. So my questions are: is it surprising the belt is frayed, or is it likely that the normal, reasonable practice is that they inspected when I bought it and it looked fine then and now at 47,000 it needs replacing? Also, should it be a red-flag for going back to the dealership for maintenance that they couldn’t tell me? It’s a well-respected local institution but they also didn’t come to the waiting room to get me when my car was ready so I had to wander around and find my car outside, finished, then track someone down to pay. I was late to work and got in trouble for keeping patients waiting. Other than this, the car’s been great. Thought about trying to change the belt myself for educational purposes, but I have to drive to Chicago in a few days and figured I shouldn’t risk it. Thanks for any advice on expectations and nuances while trying to keep the car in good shape while being ignorant of the inner workings myself, though I am trying to learn!


#2

47k miles isn’t unusual for a belt to need to be replaced. And $47 is NOT a bad price for the dealer to replace it with OEM parts.

As for should they have replaced it before they sold it…Not necessarily. It may not have shown any signs of wear at the time. Or they just missed it…Personally I would just pay the $47 and have it replaced…

As for Certified inspections…Many dealers play a statistics game. If a certain car that’s less then x years old and has less then y miles they don’t eve do the inspection. They found that if the car falls into that category very very few of them ever have any problems…so why waste the labor inspecting them.


#3

The price does sound reasonable and even though it is frayed now does not mean it was frayed 8K miles ago. That being said I personally have the philosophy of never ever going to the dealership for maintenance as they will typically, except in this case, rake you over the coals on price and then try to sell you a new car because yours is obviously ‘junk’.

If you are old or do not know much about cars this is even more true. Let them replace the belt, but find a local independent shop to work with. There might still be a lot of snakes in the grass at the local shops, but less chance that it will be poisonous to your car or your finances.


#4

You dad’s assumption that the belt has frayed after only 8,000 miles is probably incorrect. It’s more likely that the belt has 47,000 miles and only began to fray over the last 8,000 miles.

Contrary to popular misconception, vehicles subjected to “certified inspections” do not generally get the wear items replaced unless they’re found to need replacement at the time of inspection. The assumption of the guy doing the inspection is that the vehicle has been and will be maintained per the manual.

I know I’m just reiterating what Mike said, but I agree with him.


#5

I also see no cause for alarm here.

Best to bone up on maintenance now that you are a fairly new owner.


#6

Grampy has a good suggestion…Now is a great time to start learning about cars and it’s maintenance…Many jobs you can do yourself if you are physically able to.


#7

Belt tensioners should also be inspected to verify that any pulleys do not have excessive looseness in the bearings. Odds are against this at 47k miles but it should be check nonentheless.

Do not put any faith at all into the word “Certified” when it comes to used cars. I’ve worked for dealers who sold “Certifed” used cars and the big question in my mind was, who is it exactly that is doin’ the certifyin’?
Other than a one in a million dealer or some freak circumstance, those cars never enter the service department for a checkover by the mechanics.