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Ping Car maintenance gurus

Discussion in 'The Lounge - Off Topic' started by Bluerinse, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Fortch / Boyce others in the know?

    Okay, I have my own ideas and beliefs regarding this as I was a fleet manager for eleven years but I would be interested to read what the pros think.

    Firstly to give you some background - I drive a 2000 Honda CRV and my wife drives a 1999 Honda Civic coupe.

    We have had our cars serviced by a main Honda dealer since we moved to Australia and everything is great, the cars still drive and perform like they did the day we bought them.

    All's good then, well yes and no. The cost of getting the cars serviced by a main dealer is high and as the cars are no longer covered by the manufacturers warranty, I am wondering whether it's worth it.

    I have friends that think they know about cars that state the manufacturers service is identical to Joe Blows down the road all they do is change the oil and filter and charge you a premium price.

    I believe there is some truth in this, however I also believe that there are pros and cons. Over the years I believe a main dealer servicing will be beneficial because the people (mechanics and fitters) are specialising, hence will be more able to diagnose potential problems and be equipped with the necessary special tools than a Jack of all cars.

    People laugh at me and say I am wasting money, so I thought I would ask the opinions of those in the know.

    Is it really a good idea to have your car serviced by a main dealer or can you really save money and trust the Joe Blows of this world to do a good job?
     
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  2. r.h.lee

    r.h.lee Gigabyte Poster

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    Bluerinse,

    Disclaimer: I'm not a car maintenance guru yet.

    Kinda like how you can trust a computer that you built because you moved your personal eyeballs over the assembly process, the same seems to go for car maintenance. Unless you personally move your own eyeballs over the car systems, nuts, bolts, belts, and stuff, you really don't know. So if you don't know, how could you check and test what both the Joe Blow OR the dealership mechanic knows?

    I've become a fan of the Haynes Repair Manuals. I got one for my car. In it, it has recommended service and how to do each part of the recommended service.

    I've been doing a lot of "catch up" maintenance and I'm up to the 60,000 miles check. Relatively speaking, the higher the distance service, the relatively higher the difficulty. That's why it may be a good idea to have the dealership's maintenance department as a backup for some of the maintenance that you may not be confident in doing yourself, like replacing the fuel filter.

    During said "catch up" maintenance checks and replacements, I started noticing that some bolts and nuts missing. The bolts and nuts must have gone missing due to previous carelessness by mechanics. I've had my car serviced by both dealership service departments as well as a third-party mechanic shop. Whether the dealerships service mechanics or the third-party mechanic shop lost the bolt, either way the bolt is currently missing. This goes back to my previous comment about eyeballs.

    I'm not sure if there's some sort of government licensing of "joe blow mechanics and shops" downunder, but that might be a good first step to check out joe blow shops. Also, there might be more detailed licensing of joe blow shops that specialize on tyres, suspension, transmissions, body work, engines, electrical, etc. Some specialist joe blow shops may be better than the dealership service department due to the level of experience of the mechanics who work there.

    So what I've learned is that the primary "car maintenance guy" should be you. Get yourself a Haynes Repair Manual yourself and familiarize yourself with your car and your wife's car. If there's a specific task that the Haynes Repair Manual says to do but you're not confident enough, then take the car to a specialist, be it joe blow or dealership. However, if there's a problem that you can't isolate to a specific system so you can take it to the appropriate specialist joe blow mechanic/shop, then that's where the dealership definitely would come in handy.

    Here's some links for the Haynes Repair Manuals for your two cars:

    Good luck with car maintaining.
     
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  3. Boycie
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    Boycie Senior Beer Tester

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    Pete,

    A lengthy answer for you. :)

    In all honesty, the garage/dealership is only as good as the staff working there. There are places with massive buildings, loan cars, posh showroom etc but it is the technician who will be working on the car. There are a lot of good people out there and there are a lot of people who will let's just say cut corners.

    Yes, cars are complicated when they have intermittent or full blown electrical faults and nowadays will 9/10 require main dealer attention. (2000 models onwards)

    A service is changing all the filters, belts, brakes etc and a visual inspection. Any garage with good technicians can look after your
    Honda. I am a big fan of Jap car's and I have found them to be very reliable.

    The biggest problem with modern cars is the electrical side. Manufacturers have got the service schedule up to two years or X miles (too long in my opinion, regardless of make) brakes and clutches last longer too. This, in theory, leaves the car <out of the dealer> for two years after being purchased until the day comes when it won't start, cuts out every thursday lunchtime, the air conditioning only works on weekends etc.

    My opinion for you Pete, is to find a good <independant> garage, get them to service it for you and leave the <main dealer> if your car brings up the MIL.

    I have to say, a Honda in nice dry weather shouldnt be anytime soon.

    Regards

    Si
     
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  4. Sparky
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    It all depends on the reputation of the garage IMO. ‘Joe Blows’ can be a feasible option if the garage has a good rep, if not you may not get a decent service.

    The quality of work from the authorised dealer is also debatable, when I drove a Citroen I needed one of the doors resprayed and the dealer did a terrible job. It just didn’t look right. It just so happened that the door needed resprayed again (the car got broken into two times!) so I took it to a local garage and the guy did a much better job.

    Difficult question to answer, other areas to consider is how much value is the full dealer service history going to add to the car when you sell it in the future. :hhhmmm
     
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  5. Weemez

    Weemez Kilobyte Poster

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    Hey Bluerinse

    I know that if you are looking to sell in the long run the vehicle it is a more assured buy for the buyer if it has a full service history with the dealer, as you say, if it has been maintained by specialists in this type of vehicle there is more confidence in the work carried out. Also this can help gain a slightly higher price when selling compaired to an equivelant vehicle that has been serviced by an independant garage.

    Personally i think it is better to stick with the dealer for assurance on the work on the vehicle as they have to meet the dealer standards but what you may gain financially in selling it this way in the future will probably even itself out with the extra costs incured by using the dealer, if anything lose out.

    What am i saying....

    If it can be afforded i would stick with the dealer!!
     
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  6. Lord Deckard

    Lord Deckard Byte Poster

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    Boyce and Weemez raise a couple of good points. Yep, the dealer stamp on your service manual can mean a better price when you come to sell but if the dealer you're visiting has poorly trained mechanics or likes to cut corners (cleaning parts up then charging you for new ones, using generic parts instead of brand names..). To be fair, you can find that happening with dealers or indys tho.
    Find a garage you trust and stick with them or failing that, get your hands dirty.
    I'm lucky in that my dads played with cars all his life, a mate I went to school with has his own garage and I learnt a hell of a lot about cars from running older models when I was younger. Just keep all your reciepts so if you do decide to sell, you can back up any claims about work you've had done.
    From a cost point of view, a dealer quoted me &#163;120 parts and labour to replace the discs and brakes on a 96 fiesta. Did the work myself with Lucas parts. Took me an hour and cost me &#163;30 :)
     
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  7. Boycie
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    If the sole reason for anyone paying main dealer prices for servicing is to get <some money back> when selling the vehicle, don't bother.
    Albeit, if you are selling a vehicle privately this carries some clout, but again it depends on the vehicle and age.

    The difference you have spent (between an independant and main agent) will not be gained on the sale.

    IMO, most dealers have a local trader/action that take any vehicle over three years old off them. You can have all the receipts, main agents stamps you want- they will make up the price they say they are offering you for your old vehicle against the mark up on the new vehicle against stock, factory orders, targets and the finance agreement.

    This is where the name Boyce came from :biggrin

    Si
     
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  8. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Thank you for all your replies, there is food for thought in all of them.

    r.h.lee, I hadn't even considered delving into the servicing myself :eek: Modern cars seem so alien under the bonnet these days. I have in the past serviced and maintained older cars, my first MK1 Cortina was easy to service. I changed the brake shoes, plugs, oil, brake fluid, points, capacitor, distributer, replaced the gear box and exhaust all using the Haynes manual too. But that was back in the days when I was skint and if I needed something done I had to do it myself. Since then, well for the last 25 years, I have driven company cars and servicing was taken out of my hands. It a good suggestion though and I might purchase the Haynes manuals for our cars and get stuck in :biggrin

    Boyce, I really believe now that Honda's are ultra reliable. I decided to buy Honda's because a friend of ours in the UK had owned Honda's for years and they never seemed to deteriorate. When we moved to Oz the last thing I needed was troublesome cars, so I placed my bets on the Honda table and touch wood, came up trumps. Neither of our cars have needed a single part to date, no plugs, pads, belts, zilch - just oil and filters, a wash and bob's your uncle. Even the paintwork and the interior looks like new still. I will stick with Honda's for good.

    So you are saying that it all boils down to the mechanic that is assigned to your car and they should be good in a main dealer but could potentially be better in an independent outfit. Hmmm, that's what I thought but it still leaves me undecided :rolleyes:

    Sparky, you raise a good point about the dealer service history, this is probably the main reason that I decided to go for the dealer servicing. It's just that now the car has depreciated considerably over time and I intend to keep them for at least another two years. By then the resilient value will have dropped even further and I doubt that the service history will make so much difference to the trade-in value but I could be wrong :biggrin

    Weemez, Yes I can afford to keep on getting it serviced at the main dealer and it is a very impressive establishment. All looks very professional and posh. The only negative thing I can say about them is their totally naff TV adverts, which may appeal to petrol head Aussies but they are a total embarrassment as far as I am concerned.

    LD, thanks - I will indeed keep all the receipts and info detailing work on the cars. I do realise that there is money to be saved by doing some work yourself. It can't be too difficult to change the brake pads for example or the wiper blades.

    It's things like the cam belt, which is apparently due now at 55000Klms that will cost an arm and a leg. Strange, I could be wrong but it seems like here the garages use the same numbers between parts replacements and services in Kilometres as they do in the UK with Miles! Someone is getting shafted and that someone could be me :wink:
     
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  9. Boycie
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    Pete,

    One thing you must not miss or take chances with is the timing belt. If it brakes, it will cost you a fortune to put right.

    All modern vehicle engines will be badly damaged if it brakes. Stick to mileage or age, whichever arrives sooner.

    Si
     
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  10. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Thanks Simon - that is the kind of inside info I am after :biggrin
     
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  11. Boycie
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    Pete,

    No problem. We were both posting at the same time. See above <Wo> on the timing belt.

    Si
     
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  12. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Alrighty then, the timing belt (cam belt) can break and as I understand it catastrophic things can happen like valves smashing into pistons wreaking havoc with the block and possibly necessitating an engine replacement. here's the rub - my car apparently needs a new cam belt because of age. Everything I can run my eyeballs over looks new even though it is now six years old. The mileage is 55000Klms which is about 35000 miles. This seems very low to me to need a new cam belt. So, what exactly happens to the belt with age?
     
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  13. Boycie
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    Boycie Senior Beer Tester

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    The belt can start to crack. Sometimes, I might see a car that has done very little mileage and therefore the tyre treads are almost new but because they were say 6 years old they were starting to crack on the sidewalls. This is the same for a timing belt.

    The other danger is due to most vehicles being awkward/time consuming the manufacturer only provides a replacement mileage/age.
    They test these things pretty well and most of them provide <safe> guidelines for their replacement. The point being, the difference in the price of the job to check or replace is only the cost of a belt or belt kit.

    Si
     
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  14. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    They are quoting me about 350 bucks, which is about a weeks wages for me :( Guess I'll just have to bite the bullet on that one. I will ask to keep the old belt though and wring their necks with it if it doesn't show any signs of wear! :twisted:
     
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  15. Boycie
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    Boycie Senior Beer Tester

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    Pete,
    You won't really see a great deal of wear. The belt is made of fibreglass strands with a rubber coating. When it decides to break -it will!
    The place i used to work , we were always doing <head> jobs because of broken belts. The reasons were either because the customer had missed the date, it had failed before it's time, because an oil seal had been seeping and the oil had damaged the belt causing it to break or the water pump (or any other thing that the belt turns) had collapsed and caused the belt to break/run loose.
    I bought a two year old van because the timing belt broke and the owner could not afford to have it repaired. It should have been under warranty, but the wally never once had it serviced and the manufacturer refused to pay on the grounds of neglect.

    Boyce lit a cigar and made him an offer....
     
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  16. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    LOL - Okay point taken 8)
     
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  17. wizard

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    You didn't buy it off the Driscoll Brothers did you? :D
     
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  18. Boycie
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    Boycie Senior Beer Tester

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    no, a pair of builders!
     
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  19. fortch

    fortch Kilobyte Poster

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    Well, pretty concise information thus far, and even a fellow wrench in the mix as well. Boyce, another career changer, maybe? Regardless, I can't let a softball like this float by -- particularly since it's a heavily debated subject.

    First off -- I don't mean to offend, as I'm sure most references are decent, but ditch the Haynes manuals. I've consulted to a number of shadetrees because the Haynes manual was inaccurate. For any manufacturer, the *best* info is penned by them -- right from the horses mouth, so to speak.

    Click me for Service Information from the OEM's

    One or two are free, but most charge by the hour, the day, the month, or the year. It may be costly, but it's usually fairly accurate (well, I remember fighting inaccurate factory manuals too :rolleyes: ). Aside from that, Alldata has updated content. Haynes is OK for some stuff, but you get what you pay for.

    As for dealer servicing, here are the benefits:

    1. Factory trained techs. Excellent point on the individual's quality, though (props to whoever brought that up), because dealers have plenty of knuckleheads and flat-raters. However, if they've been employed for a decent length of time, at a reputable dealer, they normally have requirements for training by the manufacturer. Also, the service information is updated nightly, along with any type of flash information (for vehicle computers).

    2. Warranty work. I know, it's illegal for dealers to deny warranty coverage for lack of factory maintenance, but it still happens. Not outright, but you may see things like "we're waiting on parts (for months)", or "we'll have to schedule you in, and we're booked for weeks...". Sucks, right? Well, unfortunately, a majority of this business boils down to dollars, and if they're not making money on your services, then how does it help them for warranty claims? Warranty flatrate sucks, and it's usually the last of the work orders to get looked at, unless the customer has good rapport with their service writer (i.e. previous $$$ on service work).

    3. In the event of a Lemon Law dispute (or similar UK/Aussie vehicel arbitration), the regular service has a big impact on whether the car was properly maintained or not, by factory standards. Basically, it's sometimes a way for manufacturers to worm their way out of accountability for an inferior product. I've been in several of these, and it's always a factor.

    4. Problem escalation. When the junior tech can't fix something (or, Heaven forbid, botches it), there's always a senior tech around to fix it. Remember, these folks look at the same cars each day, and are aware of patterns in fault isolation that independent shops can't compete with. When everyone's got a shot at it, and it's still broke, then a corporate troubleshooter can be called in. Think of this guy as the closer -- the Mariano Rivera (for any baseball fans) of car repair. He's usually the head geek, and the good ones were all techs formerly, not fresh-out-of-college engineers. Regardless, at an independent shop, their closer is the tow to the dealer.

    5. Factory parts. Always buy parts from the manufacturer that made your car. Very few exceptions here -- like high-quality vented rotors, and way too many inclusions -- like the worthless Splitfire spark plugs. In addition, if your car exhibits a problem slightly outside of the factory warranty, sometimes the dealer will go to bat for you, and get it covered (most times with a deductible, sometimes free!). With Jeep, we were doing warranty adjustments on brakes 50k after the warranty expiration, and on GM, 100k or more on rack and pinions!

    These are but a few of the benfits to servicing your car at the dealer. Do you need to? Absolutely NOT! Here are a few things to keep in mind if you go elsewhere:

    1. Investigate the shop by visiting the Better Business Bureau (or UK/Aussie equivalent). Word of mouth goes a long way too, so find out who your friends use (the friends that seem to have *no* car troubles). You want a good doctor for your body, right? Well, since your car is likely the second biggest investment -- do your homework.

    2. Find a mechanic that talks. Funny, but most are a bit tight-lipped and consider talking to customers "somebody elses job". Hmm.. eerily similar to IT, huh? That's so yesterday. Geeks know how to talk geek, and generally know when they're being snowballed. *The* biggest problem when getting your car fixed is the customer-to-mechanic miscommunication, usually in the form of the bored, unhelpful service writer (the guy that tries to sell you all the work). Sometimes, particularly concerning intermittent problems, it takes talking directly to a patient, understanding mechanic. Not too rare, huh?

    3. Use factory parts. Most independent shop techs get paid a percentage of parts, and some have been known to charge OEM prices. Have them get OEM parts, and they'll be less likely to throw parts at a problem they are struggling to fix. What's more, factory parts are best for your ride anyways (generally). See above for warranty purposes.

    4. When in Rome... Don't let a service shop (i.e. brakes, tuneups, mufflers) attempt diagnostics. Regardless of his skill, take the car to someone who specializes in them. Some shops *do* specialize, but I'm still skeptical. In specialty systems -- anything on the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus, for example -- *has* to go to the dealer. Very few independents are equipped with the diagnostic tools, info, or talent to tackle something like this. On the flip side, the dealer doesn't *have* to get the oil changes and such -- that just shows a good customer. But at $100+/labor hour, you don't need a specialist for tire rotations (Please make sure your wheels are properly torqued!), even though the service work is generally at a lower rate.

    5. Use your noodle... Look around. Talk to people. Find out the kind of people that work there, and their demeanor -- that'll show you the kind of guy that's running the ship. By and large, good managers hire good employees, and bad managers hire bad employees. Is the place established and busy? Is the waiting area clean and kept? Is the shop organized? Are the mechanics in uniform, and somewhat polite? Does the business flow? These are all things based solely on observation, but useful nonetheless.

    Sorry for the length, but there is soooo much to include, I've only scratched the surface. I could go on for hours... As to your line of thought, Bluerinse, if you are satisfied with the dealer, stick with 'em. If you have any future issues, the strong service history will go far, particularly if they've been working to fix a nasty intermittent issue. As to things like a cambelt, Boyce is spot on. Anyone can do them -- they range from stupidly simple to mildly aggravating, and Honda is usually towards to easy end. However, even the simple jobs have corners to cut, and all it takes is one wrong corner to make everything go south.

    Keep in mind, the cam belt will probably look fine -- this is a scheduled factory service by the manufacturer. Small foreign cars are notorious for them, and they tend to drive high failrate parts (like water pumps) -- I know it sounds crazy, but it may be a good idea to investigate the average lifespan of these things (talk to a mechanic!), and possibly get it thrown in with the belt. Now, 35k is awfully early (look at your factory scheduled service intervals in your manual), but some replace them every 30k. If the pump is weeping (a good mechanic looks for these things), they should tell you. Regardless, I'd probably wait until 60k or so on the driven components, unless there's visibly a problem.

    Hope my rambling helped, let me know if I need to go further :blink
     
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  20. Bluerinse
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    Bluerinse Exabyte Poster

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    Thank you fortch that was an absolutely brilliant post, very helpful as always :D

    I think I will stick with the dealer, especially as I now have enough ammo to keep my cynical critics at bay!

    The dealership is pristine, the desk guys are helpful and polite, the service manager is a decent chap but what strikes me most when I go there, is that I have never heard a customer complain about anything. That is both rare and weird. From my past experiences with BMW, GM, Ford, etc there has always been a few disgruntled people ranting at the service desk. I don't know whether this is just because Hondas are pretty sound or that the dealership has got their act together but I will give them the benefit of any doubt.

    Cheers,

    Pete
     
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