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Abandoning a dealer because of pricing issues and distrust of being sold unnecessary services has been around forever, but I have recently been witnessing a new reason some of you are looking elsewhere. Namely, customers are being told by dealer staff that they (the dealer) can’t figure out what is wrong with their vehicle. While this is usually not the actual reason, it’s the impression that many customers are being left with. After looking into it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t that the dealer technicians can’t figure out what’s wrong with the vehicle. The problem is the source of payment for the required repairs. Procedures vary by manufacturer, but here is the Lou-down, simplified explanation.

Let’s assume your brand new vehicle comes with a three-year, 60,000-kilometre bumper-to-bumper and five-year, 100,000-kilometre major-component warranty. When your vehicle goes in for a repair while it is in that bumper-to-bumper coverage period, there is rarely an issue because the dealer is remunerated by the manufacturer for the repair with little fuss. However, the range between 60,000-100,000 kilometres and between three and five years effectively becomes a grey area. Also consider that the commissioned staff in most dealer service departments are now the service adviser/writer. More on this later.

Part of the service adviser’s job is to generate and assign a warranty code to the repair work order so that the dealership warranty clerk can bill the manufacturer accordingly. When your vehicle is in that grey area of mileage or time, the warranty coding, or paperwork process, is, for all intents and purposes, backwards. The service adviser is in the difficult position of not being able to assign a warranty repair code until the vehicle has been diagnosed, which may take the technician hours. After diagnosis, if the failed item is deemed a major component, then a warranty repair code can be generated and the manufacturer billed. Problem solved. Alternatively, if the required repair is deemed non-warrantable, then the cost of the diagnosis has to be shifted to the customer, as the manufacturer will not pay for the diagnosis time.

The question is: Did the service adviser do their job properly and advise the customer of the potential costs before the diagnosis commenced? If you were initially confused by reading this, imagine how difficult it is for the dealer service adviser to explain this to his or her customers over and over again. Remember, service advisers are typically commissioned employees, and warranty work comes with extra paperwork. Customer Pay (CP) time is more profitable for the dealer, and service advisers are expected to keep it as high as possible. Pre-selling CP diagnosis time can be difficult and time-consuming for the service adviser in this grey area, resulting in some that just give up when the vehicle owner refuses to pay. The easy way out is to indicate to the customer that the repair is too expensive, or can’t be solved, which lets the adviser move on to another customer. Hence, the customer is left with the impression that the dealer can’t fix their vehicle.

With the explosion of sophisticated onboard electronics, many of which are deemed non-major components, this scenario is becoming increasingly common. While I have been vocal here in the past, stating my positive feelings about advancing technologies, I am also fully aware that a dark side exists.


Your automotive questions, answered

I am doing my own body-work repairs to my car, and I had replaced the rear bumper cover. It was perfect except for one connector on the driver’s side that was on back-order. Well, today I think the wind was just strong enough and at the right angle that it pulled the bumper cover off, and I watched it roll away down the 400 [highway]. I circled back to find it, but it was nowhere to be seen. I’m ordering a replacement, but is my car legal to drive while I’m waiting on the part? Or is it not legal but also probably not a big deal as its the rear bumper cover and not the front?

Any insights would be appreciated.

Kyle J

I rewrote this first paragraph several times as I felt my initial tone was too close to the overbearing, parental-lecture type that my 20-something-year-old self would have hated. With that in mind, I’m sure you understand that a bumper flying down the highway is hazardous to your fellow motorists.

Moving on to your question. Is it illegal to drive without a bumper? Technically, I do not believe there is a specific law in the Highway Traffic Act regarding a missing bumper. Since you were on Highway 400, I’ll assume you are an Ontario resident, therefore this would fall under the Ontario Passenger Vehicle Safety Inspection Standards section 8, subsections A, B and C detailing missing or loose body panels protruding and having sharp edges so as to be hazardous to driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist. Yes, a police officer could pull you over and possibly remove your licence plates or, at the very least, force you to have a safety inspection completed on your vehicle, which I am positive your car would fail.

I faithfully change my synthetic oil every 6,000 km at my Hyundai dealership. They are suggesting that I have their “maintenance #3” package. This is at 24,000 km and involves changing the engine filter and inspecting brakes, hoses, tire rotation, etc. The only replacement part is the engine oil and filter, which I can easily replace myself. The cost of the package is $289.95 plus tax. Will I void my warranty if I skip this service?

Bruce H

Fenwick, Ont.

Consumer-protection legislation in Canada protects your rights on many fronts. One of these areas is in regard to your right to be able to service your car wherever you see fit, and if you are capable, to do it yourself. If you are a DIYer, make sure you keep a proper paper trail of product receipts, dates and mileage intervals. Also, a dated journal of what service you just performed is also advisable.

I understand that skipping the service and just doing an oil change on your own might be tempting. However, keep in mind that if you just do the oil change and don’t complete the proper inspection that goes along with it, you may miss something that potentially might cause an issue later on. If this happens, Hyundai will be within their right to refuse warranty coverage for that specific issue.

I agree, the cost for this glorified oil change is obscene, so maybe shop the service around to another dealer and a couple of local garages.

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

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