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Rob MacGregor (LAURA LEYSHON/Laura Leyshon/The Globe and Mail)
Rob MacGregor (LAURA LEYSHON/Laura Leyshon/The Globe and Mail)

Rob's Garage

Answers to your car questions Add to ...

When was the last time anyone told you that the consumer was the boss?

Some of you will remember the old phrase, "The customer is always right." Well, I'm here to tell you that this adage is back and has never been more powerful. My name is Rob MacGregor and I am looking forward to being your guide as we navigate the complex world of automotive maintenance and service.

I have been involved in the automotive industry for 35 years. My career has taken me down a very interesting and varied path, from licensed automotive instructor, to radio and TV host, to my current day job as Associate Dean for mechanical trades at BC Institute of Technology.

And now, I'm here to answer your questions. Let's get started.

Dear Rob:

I'm at my wits end! I have a 2006 Chevy Cobalt that has caused me a lot of grief by slipping out of park. Once, it started to roll down my driveway and if I hadn't gotten to it quickly, it would have rolled out to the street. I've tried to get my local dealer to fix the car, but I keep getting it back in the same shape. They tell me they can't find anything wrong. It's been in the shop at least a half a dozen times. How many times do I need to take my car in? What should the shop do for me? What should Chevy do for me? What's next, another car?

Thanks for any advice, Sean



The question you should ask yourself is: "What can I do for me?" and I have an answer. (Bet you didn't expect that comeback in the first sentence.)

Actually I have two answers: Chronic vehicle problems can be addressed at a variety of levels. The dealership should have access to factory recalls or campaigns. Chronic problems will usually be identified by the factory and published to the dealer network.

Think of campaigns as simple directions to repair a problem... very similar to the troubleshooting part of a manual you would use to fix the riboflavin in the ranstencrelb of a microwave.

A recall is more serious. A problem that leads to a recall is usually a safety item. This will be very explicit instructions to the dealer and the customer. Recalls are sent out to the last owner that registered the vehicle with the manufacturer. This is why it's important to register a used vehicle with the same-brand manufacturer: it places you on the recall mailing list.

All said, Sean, if your vehicle qualifies for either of these two scenarios your dealer should have been able to repair your problem.

It's a little-known fact that consumers can check with Transport Canada regarding vehicle recalls. And by doing a little homework, you can assist or guide a repair shop with added information from this recall website. Sean, as it turns out, this is exactly your problem. I have added this website to gain points with you. Simply put, you have a transmission shift cable adjustment clip that may not be fully engaged. This means that the position you put the transmission shift lever in may not match the actual position of the mechanism inside the transmission. That causes the vehicle to move on its own power even though you may have placed the shift lever in the "park" position.

Failing resolution to your problem, your next step is a serious one, and that would be to contact the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan. This is a corporation made up of industry, government and consumer group representatives. In a nutshell, this consumer advocacy group will take an automotive manufacturer to task if it feels there is merit to the case on hand. There are however, a few catches, not the least of which is the vehicle in question must be no older than four years from the current model year.

To submit your auto repair questions to Rob MacGregor, e-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com.


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