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lou's garage

It has been my observation that there are people who have ample spare time on their hands and spend hours online pricing and buying the cheapest auto parts they can find. That’s fine if they are driveway DIY’ers, but a problem arises when they can’t install the parts themselves and need to find a repair facility. For the enthusiast, this can be a heated subject, and they sometimes get offended when they can’t find a shop willing to install their parts. Here’s why I don’t partake in the practice of installing customer supplied parts.

Profitability: Auto shops get discounts on parts just like any other retail business. We purchase in larger quantities than your one-off purchase and therefore get a better deal. Buy at one price, sell it for a profit – that’s the name of the game worldwide in almost every business. When you bring your own parts, the shop gives up that revenue from that part purchase and subsequent sale, causing profitability to take a sharp dip on that individual repair. In my case, most of the time my bays are full, and we are always pre-booked two to three days ahead. Given that, why would I turn away a proper paying job and take a less profitable one in its place? Most industry experts that offer auto repair business training state that those owners who are willing to install customer supplied parts typically haven’t built a solid client base. They are therefore slower and looking for any work regardless of profitability to keep cars in their bays. It’s a vicious cycle leading to new, good paying customers being turned away because the shop is busy doing discounted work.

Warranty: Most consumer protection legislation across Canada forces auto repair businesses to offer 90-day parts and labour warranty, regardless of who supplied the part. When things go wrong and end up in litigation, the repair shop owner is deemed as the expert in court. If we install your part and it fails, leading to another catastrophic failure, the court judges that we should have known better and refused to install it, therefore making us liable. Why would any shop owner want to be on the hook legally for a part they didn’t supply?

Liability Insurance: This also varies provincially, but there may be a clause in a shop’s liability insurance policy that excludes customer supplied parts. Like the warranty situation mentioned above, if your vehicle burns to the ground after a customer supplied part fails, the shop owner may not have any coverage and be liable for any damages. Once again, the court looks to the business owner as the expert, being the one who should have known better.

Incorrect parts: Everyone has a sister whose in-law’s cousin works at an auto parts store. Guess what: they don’t care if you get the right stuff. I care, because when I have your vehicle, fully disassembled on my hoist, only to find out that a part that you brought is wrong, my productivity plummets. While you drive to Cousin Bobs Auto Parts store to sort out the incorrect part situation, my hoist is stranded, unable to take another job.

Don’t get mad at any business when they refuse to install your parts. For me, all the reasons mentioned just make it a no-go for customer supplied parts. I can’t possibly understand why any shop would, but that’s their business and their decision.

Your automotive questions, answered

I experienced very much what you stated about the warranty claim at nearly 100,000 km. My story is dated, but has bothered me for five years now. I was driving a 2010 F150 which we had purchased new from the dealer. It was a remarkable truck, and we had the dealer do the service at all times. It pulled our trailer to Florida, and it was working properly on long hauls.

As the truck was approaching 90,000 km there was a noticeable ticking sound from the engine. Numerous appointments were made, and Ford service techs could not identify the problem. The service manager and his senior tech drove with me in the truck with their laptop connected and demonstrated there was nothing mechanically wrong. They said my hearing was good and that the sound dampening material was wearing down with age, dirt, oil and so I was noticing the natural engine noises.

When we arrived in Florida that winter, friends walking by the truck would comment about the ticking noise. I made three service calls to independent garages in the Panama Beach area and all three had immediate diagnosis without computer analysis. It was the exhaust manifold. Needless to say, our local Ford dealer avoided the job to avoid the expense of this repair to their dealership (apparently the amount the dealer is awarded by Ford for this common warranty repair is not enough to pay the dealer for the actual time it takes). $US2,700 for both sides to be repaired – on me!

I replaced the truck a year later with another Ford but would not purchase it from the local Ford dealer which is unfortunate as I do prefer to be loyal to local businesses, but the service adviser was not acting in good faith or out of ignorance to the problem and disallowed my warranty claim.

Ken, North Bay, Ont.

Ken, I’m so sorry that you got stuck with that hefty repair bill just at the end of your warranty, but I would like to offer you a different perspective. I do agree that exhaust manifold leaks do not require the use of a computer to diagnose. But the problem with diagnosing exhaust manifold leaks is that they are very sensitive to temperature. When the problem first appears, it will only be noticeable for the first moments after the vehicle starts from dead cold. Most obvious when sitting outside all night long in the colder months. As soon as any heat builds in the engine, the manifold will seal, and the noise will be gone in an instant.

I find it hard to comprehend that a senior Ford dealer trained technician would miss something so basic. Is it possible that by the time you drove to the dealer for your service appointments that the truck was already at operating temperature, and the test drives resulted in a No Fault Found (NFF) diagnosis because the noise was not audible once it was hot? Is it also possible that after you drove to Florida pulling your trailer, the problem worsened, and the manifold no longer sealed after heating, becoming completely obvious?

If your truck was still anywhere near the mileage warranty limitation when you arrived down south, I would have called Ford Canada while still in Florida. Given the repeated misses by your local dealer, perhaps they could have facilitated a local Florida Ford dealer performing the repair and paying them directly.

I have a 2015 VW Sportwagen TDI which recently started showing a warning message that the left front running light was burnt out. I took it to the garage, and they told me it would cost upwards of $1,200 to repair because the entire headlamp assembly had to be replaced – it is sold only as a unit rather than as component parts and priced ridiculously high. Is there a way to get around this manufacturer’s rip-off? Perhaps turn the right running light off so things at least look symmetrical up front? Go hunting for a used part at a wrecker? Or could a resourceful mechanic fix the existing unit?

Thanks for your help with this.


Paul L

As far as I am aware, there is no bulb in your headlight assembly that is not individually serviceable and replaceable. Is it possible that you are missing part of the story? Perhaps your housing is damaged, and the bulb won’t fit back in properly? Maybe you have High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, and the control module has failed. Newer models have Light Emitting Diode (LED) strips that may require replacement as a complete unit, but I don’t believe your model would have been equipped with LED lights.

I just feel that something is wrong with the diagnosis you have received. I would advise that you call a VW dealer parts department, give them your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and have them double check to see if the information you are receiving is correct. They will be able to tell you if any of the bulbs are not serviceable. If I am correct, then it’s time to start over again. If by chance I am wrong, then yes, I would suggest a used part as your best option.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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