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Great article! :D

Jack Baruth,Road & Track



When we left the Ford dealership one rainy evening a few weeks ago, Danger Girl turned to me and said, emphatically, "I never want to go back there again." I couldn't blame her. In the five months since we'd brought her Fiesta ST from its former owner's home in Venice Beach to sunny Powell, Ohio, she'd put eleven thousand miles on the car, including six SCCA autocrosses and four trackdays. Somewhere in that breakneck schedule of events, the Fiesta had started acting decidedly. . . odd. It was shaking the steering wheel when you applied throttle, and again when you took your foot off the gas. There was a persistent clunk in the right front corner that was getting worse. I'd put the car up on a jack but I didn't see any obvious damage. Still, something had to be done.

A racer friend of our had suggested that perhaps the right front MacPherson strut had blown, So we took the car to our local Ford dealer and asked them to evaluate the "clunk." They said they were unable to duplicate the behavior, which was odd because we were unable to keep the behavior from duplicating itself on every drive. Then they diagnosed the Fiesta's Check Engine light as resulting from an aftermarket exhaust and tried to charge us a bit over a hundred bucks worth of labor for having done so. I was furious at the idea that we'd been "wall-jobbed," which is to say that the "troubleshooting" consisted of putting the car against the wall until we came back for it. Danger Girl was incandescently angry at the idea that she'd been charged $106 for somebody running a OBD-II scantool.

In the end, they let us leave without paying the bill, mostly because I think DG made it pretty clear she'd come back that evening and burn the dealership to the ground whether or not anybody was still in the building. She had them a little frightened. I keep trying to explain to her that violence never solves anything. I've even got her reading a Robert Pirsig book. But in this case, I think it did solve our problem with that unwanted service bill. So that really doesn't help my case.

Our core problem, however, that of the clunking-and-swerving Fiesta, remained unsolved. On the recommendation of the local independent shop that services my Nine Eleven, I booked the little blue Ford into a service garage on the wrong side of the tracks. "They specialize in alignment," my mechanic had said. "I'm sure they'll find out the problem." We dropped the car off Sunday night.

Monday morning, at 8:27AM, my phone rang. "I've got your Fiesta up on the rack," the fellow said. "There's a nut welded into the frame that secures your lower control arm. That nut has broken off, so the bolt that holds the lower control arm on is loose. That explains why the car is swerving when you apply power, and it also explains the clunking noise. I'm not going to charge you for the diagnosis. You can take it to the dealer and have it fixed under warranty."

Although it was remarkably early for me to be standing up, much less making decisions, I was still clear-headed enough to picture what would happen if I took the car back to the dealer and explained to them how they'd completely missed something that a tiny shop in one of central Ohio's most dangerous ZIP codes had figured out inside ten minutes. "How would you fix it?" I asked.

"Easy," came the response. "We'll cut that section of the frame out, weld the nut on properly, weld it back up, apply undercoating so the repair doesn't rust, and align the car. The dealer can do it, as well." For a moment, I considered the fact that this dealership was fairly notorious for cross-threading oil-pan drainplugs, and I cross-referenced that fact against the likelihood of anybody in said dealership being able to operate a welder without burning down the building and accidentally bringing Danger Girl's sworn vengeance to pass with no effort on her part.

"How much," I hemmed and hawed, "would you charge to do it."

"Gosh," the fellow replied, "I'm afraid I'd have to charge. . . close to $200." I considered what it would cost me to save that $200 by going to the dealer instead. There would be the trip back to the dealer, the Fiesta bucking and swerving all the way. At least five interactions where I explained the problem to somebody with an IQ somewhat south of ninety and a profound disinterest in his job, first over the phone but eventually in person. Probably two weeks without the car, if we were lucky. As a former Ford dealership employee, I estimated a ninety-seven-point-two percent chance that the regional representative would have to get involved. I estimated the chances of the dealership welding the thing together straight at twelve percent, and the chances of them applying any rustproofing at a round zero.

"No way we'll take it back to the dealer," I said. "In the words of Kirsty MacColl, let's do it here." Three hours later, the car was ready. Danger Girl brought it home.

"It's perfect," she said. "Better than it ever was. No noise, no torque steer, no nothing. But if it was so simple to figure out what was wrong, why couldn't the dealer do it?" It was a fair question, but it was also a question with a very long answer.

New-car dealerships are in the business of replacing parts, plain and simple. If they can immediately see which part to replace, they'll probably do it correctly. But if there's any uncertainty, you're screwed. When I owned two VW Phaetons, I always showed up with a list of the parts they would need and the order in which they should be installed. Sometimes I provided diagrams and directions. Thanks to my obsessive-compulsive approach to showing the dealer tech his own job, I'd say that nearly half of the problems for which I provided all of the above were fixed on the first try. The other half of the time, the dealer tech went off-script and broke something else in the course of not fixing what I'd shown him how to fix.

This problem with the Fiesta was unique in that it couldn't be diagnosed with an OBD-II scantool and it required an actual repair instead of a parts replacement. As such, it was eminently beyond the capabilities of a Ford dealer. As previously noted, I worked in a Ford dealer for well over a year and not once did I ever see a welder in use. Never did I see a spring being wound, a part being ground to fit or welded up to replace missing metal. And I sure as hell never saw anybody "nut-and-bolting" a suspension to find a problem the way that my new favorite garage just did.

I rather suspect that had I been a Ford dealer employee in 1955 instead of 1995 I'd have seen all of the above and more-but today's service departments have evolved (or devolved, more precisely) to fit the requirements of modern cars that last almost forever using plug-and-play modules for everything from the fuel injectors to the hub carriers. As long as your problem can be fixed with plug-and-play, you're in the pink. If not. . . well, it sucks to be you, my friend.

This is something of which you may not be aware, but there is a constant legal battle going on at all levels of our government to preserve our right to repair our own vehicles and/or to have them repaired by trusted independent shops. There is a movement in this country called Right to Repair. Check it out. And join the fight. Before it's too late. Before a bad computer module or broken mounting nut can turn your car into a very expensive bit of junkyard scrap. It's your car, and you have the right to modify, re-engineer, or simply repair it as you see fit. Or you can just Leave It To Dealer-but I can tell you what will happen then, and you won't like it.
 

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They have already rigged it to where you have to buy from the middle man dealer and not straight from the manufacturer (more money racketeering for the government) Modern day slavery becoming more and more advanced. Man I sure am glad I'll be leaving this place soon, I mean as far as I'm concerned "They" can have all this bs. Peep so caught up in chasing this paper money they will lie, cheat, steal, and kill just to get ahead only to die like the rest of us in the end. For some it takes an entire lifetime to learn how to overcome the extensive brainwashing they have endured from conception about being somebody or obtaining a certain social status in this society. For others, well they just keep right on contributing to the problem. You come into this world with "Life" and you gonna go out with "Death" so YTF everybody so hell bent on this way of life that revolves around the "Almighty dollar" soon to be just what it is, paper (tree pulp) Ya I get p***** when I see all the greedy racket a** bs in this world but I am one man and and if I can't do it myself, THEN I DON'T NEED IT. Sad thing is even after you die, peep still trying to take from you>:D
 

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The plug and play (just replacing a part) is so common venue in some Indy shops. There are two here that are supposed to be MB specialists. All they do is plug in the reader and replace the part. Very few who can diagnose something the reader doesn't "read".
Added problem for,me one of them had never seen a 32. Found a BMW guy who can at least brainstorm, but still looking for a pro,near me. Forever optimistic though 🙂🙂🙂. 🙂🙂
 

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The plug and play (just replacing a part) is so common venue in some Indy shops. There are two here that are supposed to be MB specialists. All they do is plug in the reader and replace the part. Very few who can diagnose something the reader doesn't "read".
Added problem for,me one of them had never seen a 32. Found a BMW guy who can at least brainstorm, but still looking for a pro,near me. Forever optimistic though 🙂🙂🙂. 🙂🙂
You are human just like they are, you can do it to!:wink:
 

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That same battle over who you get to work on your car is going on in Europe too.

The major reason I & others want freedom of choice is in the article. Plug and play mechanics.

Neither my local, any make, nor ANY of the 3 MB Indy shops have asked for a fee to look at any of my cars.

EVER! (You get it HALVED if they do the work.).

Both of my nearest, one Indy & the other any make, have carried out work for free.
Both have dropped everything to look at the car for BB when I am out of contact and
made fixes FREE & ON THE SPOT (NOT a week or more away MB!).

Makes you wonder why Indies bother with the phrase 'MB trained' because my experience of the local dealership
(Sales & garage) would not draw me to 'MB Trained'.

Today's second hand, old car driver may be tomorrows new car buyer!

Considering the rise of sites for sourcing new cars to your spec with heavy (£10K on SLCs) and sites for sourcing parts,
you'd think dealerships would be doing everything they could to maintain and draw customers.
 

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That same battle over who you get to work on your car is going on in Europe too.

The major reason I & others want freedom of choice is in the article. Plug and play mechanics.

Neither my local, any make, nor ANY of the 3 MB Indy shops have asked for a fee to look at any of my cars.

EVER! (You get it HALVED if they do the work.).

Both of my nearest, one Indy & the other any make, have carried out work for free.
Both have dropped everything to look at the car for BB when I am out of contact and
made fixes FREE & ON THE SPOT (NOT a week or more away MB!).

Makes you wonder why Indies bother with the phrase 'MB trained' because my experience of the local dealership
(Sales & garage) would not draw me to 'MB Trained'.

Today's second hand, old car driver may be tomorrows new car buyer!

Considering the rise of sites for sourcing new cars to your spec with heavy (£10K on SLCs) and sites for sourcing parts,
you'd think dealerships would be doing everything they could to maintain and draw customers.
You're lucky you live in England, here in America they like to "feel you up" to see just how far they can ram it home>:D You heard of American greed right?
 

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I think I'll part from this thread now as I am not going to have anything positive to say. I try to stay positive as hard as it is but it's kinda like watching the news, you go from feeling good to being pi**** off:laugh:
 

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You're lucky you live in England, here in America they like to "feel you up" to see just how far they can ram it home>:D You heard of American greed right?
If our Indy advertises as 'MB trained'
perhaps our local MB should ad as 'US dealership trained'?

Cos you described EXACTLY how I feel it goes when I walk through the door.
 

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If our Indy advertises as 'MB trained'
perhaps our local MB should ad as 'US dealership trained'?

Cos you described EXACTLY how I feel it goes when I walk through the door.
Ya I feel so bad going to any repair shop (esp. dealer, won't go unless absolutely necessary) that I go in there with the most unpleasant look and I'm not very friendly either. I found that it does no good to be pleasant, it just makes them feel more at ease at what they are about to do to you. I let them all know right off the bat that I mean business, that I am not stupid, and I'll back it up out of there at the slightest bit of bs (I'm paying them so I'm the boss). I'm not afraid to make a scene either and let everybody in there know what is going on if they go over board with the racketeering. When I bought my SLK last year it was still under warranty and the passenger side daytime running lamp was out. I took it in to get it fixed under warranty as I got it serviced (last service for warranty purpose only) Turned out the wire was cut into and they wanted $400-$500 to fix it. I laughed and got everybody's attention as I called the service guy out right in front of everyone (wtf he gets). Told him "IDC if lube is included with that or not but you can use it on someone else" and just had the parts guy order the connector ($5) and did it myself in like 30 minutes. :|
 

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I am not putting a dog in this hunt but wanted to THANK all the forum members who help others and the moderators that make sure the threads are all coherent! This is a great forum :smile:
Great comment, Rory.

It also helps with having some idea on any issues when at the garage too.

The fact that is so well run and active is an absolute bonus.
 

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I am not putting a dog in this hunt but wanted to THANK all the forum members who help others and the moderators that make sure the threads are all coherent! This is a great forum :smile:
Great comment, Rory.

It also helps with having some idea on any issues when at the garage too.

The fact that is so well run and active is an absolute bonus.
The Best Or Nothing forum for The Best Or Nothing cars. Lil heavy on the adds (pages slow) but got to make them dollars somehow right. Too bad Mercedes doesn't advertise on here, I'd say to the forum treasury "hit em hard and low in that fat wallet they got from us dedicated owners">:D
 

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Discussion Starter #14
They don't advertise but they do 'visit' to ensure compliance with c opyright issues
 
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