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Diagnosing Car Problems…


Below is a letter I received the other day about wasted parts and labor, and it highlights the problem with some auto repair shops out there that simply replace parts blindly without diagnosing the real problem.


I recently had a problem with my 94 Dodge van. This is a high mileage vehicle (160,000), but I have had it since new, and have taken care of it,i.e. oil changed every 3,000 miles, regular tuneups, brakes, tires, etc. It is my work vehicle so it has to be reliable.

It developed a very rough “miss” after 30 mph. I took it in to a mechanic (a well known chain) and they proceeded to drop the fuel tank and install a new fuel pump and clean the fuel system. There was no change. They then tuned it up. There was no change. They then sent it out to have the transmission looked at. There was no change. They then changed the spark plug wires, no change.

After $1,650.00 they said two cylinders were bad and they said it might need an overhaul.

At that point I figured someone else should experiment on my van. I took it to another large repair shop and they diagnosed the problem as a bad fuel injector and the others were dirty. $550 more and it is running fine.

In your opinion should the first repair shop spotted this in the first place and should I have to pay for the work even though they did not fix anything? They van has been regularly tuned up and I don’t think the fuel pump had anything to do with the problem.

I would really appreciate your opinion.

Thank you.

Tom K.

My Response:


Yes, they should have found the problem right away. In today’s age of computer diagnostics, there is little excuse for blindly replacing parts.

Unfortunetly, you do not have much recourse with the first shop, as I am assuming you paid for the work already. Most if not all of the parts that were replaced, could have been worn and causing the problem, so I don’t think your case would stand up in court. The shop should have inspected and cleaned the injectors, as they clearly thought it was a fuel issue.(they replaced the fuel pump)

Your story is typical of many national chain stores. Many of their employees are undertrained, or just don’t care, and would rather just replace parts, than diagnose the actual problem. In the future, insist that the shop stands by their diagnosis, and you will not have to pay for the labor if the part does not fix the problem. Notice, I did not say you should not pay for the parts, just the labor. Make sure you ask plenty of questions before the shop works on your car, ask for the old parts that are being replaced, and don’t pay the bill before you take a test drive to confirm the problems are fixed. It really upsets me, to hear stories like yours, unfortunetly, I hear them all too often.

Take Care,

Kevin Schappell

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Posted: 20th March 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Car Care

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