Hooniverse Asks- What's The Worst "Professional" Car Repair You've Ever Seen?

bad-car-repair

My former brother in law once owned this Renault Alliance. . . What? I said former. Anyway, he managed to rear end somebody, which turned out to be pretty devastating to the Renault as apparently they were made from tissue paper. For some reason the insurance company chose not to total the car and instead decided to pay to have it repaired. This is where the fun began.

You see, my former BiL took the car to the dealership (which will go unnamed) where he originally bought it. Their body shop replaced much of the front clip and bumper, and repainted the whole front half. About a week after getting the car back, he noticed a piece of masking tape dangling down beneath the front bumper. To his horror, upon yanking it he discovered that it was holding the turn signal in place, wrapped up in the back side of the bumper. At this point he realized that the dealer (which will go unnamed) had ordered the wrong year front bumper – one that didn’t have the turn signals mounted in it – and instead of rectifying the problem, they went ahead and installed it anyway, taping the lights up underneath where hopefully no one would notice them. 

He went back and raised holy hell, and of course the dealer fixed the mistake. 

Okay, that’s my “professional” car repair horror story. Can you top that?

Image source: Patterson Auto Wrecking

62 Comments

  1. Almost everytime I have delivered one of my old, shabby Volvos to one of those greasy, funny backyard shops I got the car back with a comment "The mechanic who did X didn't know shit about cars", while they were working on Y. The next time around, another shop would be expected to call Y a disastrous mistake. Sometimes, the same shop didn't remember what they themselves did a year back. So on this general note I have to confess: Too irritating a subject.

    1. An excellent example of why, even though I can now afford to have my vehicles repaired by others, I choose to do it myself.

      1. I can't hyperbole my envy enough. The many times I have tried to fix stuff on my cars, I have failed miserably. It's like I was brought up by chicken. Recently, I think I paid 400+ $ for some rubber hoses and clips, but can I prove it? No. Damn shame.

  2. When my exhaust was falling off my old 1995 Saturn, I jerry-rigged it up with a bunch of heat "resistant" exhaust tape and hangers…..mechanic who looked at it later laughed when he saw it hahaha

  3. Mechanic decided not to install more than half the bolts and screws in the top of a Turbo DSM my wife owned after getting the head fixed. Took quite a bit of time to make it looks stock again and within minutes, one of the coilpacks died due to the mechanic being extremely careless with the components on disassembly. All that fantastic value for the price of…. 1800 bucks. What a jerk. At least the car ran great in the end… until we sold it.

  4. Dad took the 280S (W116) to a shadetree who ran out of a service station that wasn't updated to sell fuel any longer.
    It needed a water pump. Easy, right?
    Dad got the car back and after a few days we noticed coolant leaking from the housing. I get in there thinking one bolt was loose since it didn't look seated. I put the socket to the head, head falls off.
    In the process of removing the bolt he sheared the head off and used epoxy to glue it back on. I think he had a guy working for him a few days and the owner had to rework several cars.

    1. When I got the clutch changed on my current Nissan the mechanic forgot to put the coolant container back in. Coolant was just pumped all over the place. Lucky for me, I just drove a few hundred meters to a shop, craving chocolate considering the impact of that job on my economy. The mechanic didn't want to refill coolant because he would have to walk past his boss' office.
      Everyone can make mistakes, and I wasn't angry. But mistakes have to be fixed and I made him stood up to it.

    2. I forgot below, had that happen with a lug bolt from the new owner place. I kept it as a reminder for a while. I guess they were trying to find the evap leak at least.

  5. Way back when in 1991 I wrecked my 1977 Corvette, ran it into a ditch (dumb 18 year old me). I took it to the local "Corvette Speccialist" restoration shop to have insurance pay for fixing it. What seemed like 6 month later (at least 2 months really) I FINALLY got it back. A few days later I pop the hood and notice one of the shocks is still bent. I fix that. A couple of years later I take it into a really good tire shop to get an alignment. They inform me that the rear frame is bent. State Farm pays to have another frame put on! by a good shop this time, not the a-holes that did the work the first time. I wouldn't trust them to put air in my tires.

    1. Oh that bent frame thing reminds me about one of the times I bought a car from a neighbor. It's almost always true that getting a car from someone you see pretty much weekly makes them more honest, but there's an exception to every rule.

  6. Took my Accord in about a really loud suspension squeak that manifested itself both over bumps and in corners.
    This was before I knew much about cars, and I was worried it was a ball joint that would fail catastrophically and cause fiery death. The sleazeball told me nope, I needed new shocks and a radius rod bushing. $500 later, I got my car back with the same horrifically loud squealing noise and a bad alignment.
    Another shop was able to remove the noise by replacing a tie rod end for $30 total. I drove with the bad alignment until the car had to be junked a few months later.
    I'm sure he did a good enough job installing the new shocks because they never did fall out, but he was the worst "professional" car repairer I've ever seen.

  7. Worst repair was the one that didn't happen at all. 15ish years ago my GF brought her Honda to an unnamed Japanese repair outfit in Boulder CO for a new timing belt and water pump. It aged amazingly over the next week and broke.

  8. Thus far, when the Civic has needed something, I've taken it to the dealer, and they've been pretty good, with one exception. When we bought the car, it came with an alarm that the dealership had to set up. They wired it in wrong, so it drew quite a bit above spec when the car was off. It would run the battery down in a few days if you didn't drive, and to completely flat in a week. Well, we're a couple of dirty hippies who bike or take public transit to work, so about a month in to ownership, my wife went down to drive the Civic and it was completely dead. Couldn't even unlock the doors with the fob. They were able to fix it right away without any fuss.
    I only let one idiot work on the Jeep, and nothing he does could be described as "professional".
    Which means, I've been pretty lucky. All y'all have way better stories for this one.

  9. Years ago, I was driving a 1992 Maxima. The idler pulley decided to seize, and burn off the belt. I didn’t know that the pulley was seized, so I replaced the belt. The new belt actually lasted a few days, but sure enough, I was overheating and not charging when the new belt gave way. I called the nearest shop that was open at the time, and they came and towed the car. They were even nice enough to give me a lift to a nearby rest stop, where I could have my roommate come pick me up. On the way to the rest stop, I asked the driver/mechanic if he had any interest in an old S10. This would work out for me, when it came time to pick up the Maxima. I could drive the S10 to the shop, sign over the title and drive the Nissan home. I wouldn’t need to bum a ride from anyone.
    Anyway, I got the call that my car was ready. I drove up to the shop, and the mechanic to whom I offered my truck wasn’t there. I thought maybe he’d cut me a break on some of the bill, but I really wasn’t looking to get anything out of the truck. I told the receptionist that I’ve got 2 cars here, and can only drive one home, so I signed the title on the S10 and said it now belongs to whoever. I then went back to the shop area to pick up my Maxima. If you recall, it was there for an idler (and consequently a new belt). I started the car, and the belt was loose. I mean, really loose. I turned the car off, to silence the belt’s screams and expressed my displeasure that the one thing that the car was there for was not completed. They put the car up on jack stands and tightened the belt, and all was good. That is, until my credit card statement came, and they had double charged me. I tried to resolve that through the shop before disputing in through my credit card, but everyone at the shop was insistent that they didn’t double charge me.
    That was the first and last time I have ever taken a car to a “professional” (except for having tires mounted).

    1. Reminds me of the hellish experience with my girlfriend's Saab.
      Idler pulley seized (and then exploded) and burnt the belt up. Girlfriend continued driving with no waterpump for 20 minutes.
      A week and $1300 later (almost as much as she paid for the car,) my girlfriend had learned her lesson to not drive when the temp gauge goes over normal even if she's on the highway and doesn't want to pull over, and we got the car back with new oil, coolant and a fresh headgasket.
      Fast forward a year, and I notice the car's using a bit of coolant (maybe a pint every 1500 miles.) Did a compression/leakdown test with one of my friends, which netted nothing abnormal. Then my friend pointed out the plug on cylinder 3 was suspiciously clean. Sigh.
      Guess I'll just top the coolant off every time she's home.

  10. A trained and certified dodge mechanic I knew back in the mid ninties built a huge garage in his back yard and was taking on extra work. Another friend had an 86 mazda 626 turbo that needed a new clutch and its trans rebuilt. I recomend the first friend to the second friend and three days later we picked up his car after tge second friend handed him the cash the mechanic handed him three bolts and told him they where leftover and if he had any trouble to bring it back and he would figure it out. My friend drove that car for another year until he rolled it and it met firery death. and never had a problem with the trans.

  11. Shop 1 mounted my staggered tire setup in a 90-degree rotated fashion. As an apology, they offered me a free oil change which they tried to weasel out of when they discovered how much synthetic oil my car carries. And then they proceeded to overfill the oil.
    Shop 2 didn't believe in using retaining clips for brake pads. I discovered this when my brake seized fully on a busy road. They didn't offer any apologies. I later took a car to get inspected at this place, told them it lacked a clutch safety switch, and watched the car jump forward as they tried to start it.

  12. Sorry. This is long. But I've been mad about it for years, and never put it to print.
    Split into parts because Intense Debate has a comment length limit. Who knew?
    <img src="http://imgc.classistatic.com/cps/poc/130120/128r1/348489m_27.jpeg&quot; width=400>
    Not mine, but similar.
    The A/C in my 2000 Sonata died one exceptionally hot Central California summer. I took it to an A/C specialist who found no leaks but charged me $100 for the test and recharge.
    Total thus far: $100
    Three hours later it doesn’t work again. We took it back to the guy, who shined his black light all over the engine bay, pronounced no leaks, then gave us a break on another recharge: $43.
    Total thus far: $143
    Next morning, no A/C. Took it back to the dude. Dude checks the engine bay and under the dash with the black light and says there’s no leak. Offers to recharge again for $43. Nope.
    So I got in the zone and went to AutoZone, got a $20 recharge kit. Filled ‘er up. Turned ‘er on.
    COLD AIR! Hooray!
    For only 19 minutes. Boo!
    Total thus far: $163
    Next day, the dealer. The dealer is 50 miles away. Dealer does a leak test, finds no leaks, tightens fittings that are already tight so they can say they did something, then calls and says the system is holding pressure. $150.
    Refrigerant blows out a mile from home.
    Total thus far: $313
    Return to the dealer a couple sweaty days later. Another negative leak test. Dealer replaces hoses, just in case. $200. I ask for old hoses, just in case. They dig ‘em out of the trash for me.
    I sit in the parking lot with the A/C on, hear a huge gas release after maybe 20 minutes. Walk back into the dealer and tell them. They run out with a black light and find nothing. No green glowing stuff anywhere. They give me a rental car and keep the car.
    Total thus far: $513

    1. Head mechanic calls the next day and says that they can’t find a leak in the engine bay. Therefore it MUST be in the evaporator under the dash. I ask him to repeat himself. “Since it’s nothing under the hood, it must be under the dash,” he said, far more confident with his deduction than I am.
      “Great,” says I. “How much?” $565. “HO.LY. CRAP.” I think out loud. But this is my wife’s car, she who trucks around my two preschoolers, so I tell them to do it. But SAVE ME THE OLD EVAPORATOR. Head mechanic says okay, and to come get it in three days.
      Head mechanic calls the next day. “Uh, uhm , well, uh, you see, this tow truck driver uuuuhm. . . .” smashed into my car in the dealer lot, took out the whole passenger side. “We’ll, uhhh, comp your rental. Completely.” Damn right you will. “Come get it next Tuesday.”
      Next Tuesday, I came and got it. Nice new paint job, brand new body and door panels.
      Where’s my old evaporator? In the trash. Again. Head mechanic spends 45 minutes in a giant dumpster while I wait patiently.
      Total thus far: $1078
      Next morning, wife hops in, turns on the A/C, hears whiwihhshsssssshwiwipipipipshhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
      I come home from work—25 miles the wrong direction—pop the hood and find the inside of my engine bay painted nuclear green. I drive it straight to the dealer. My rental car is still outside. The keys are still on the head mechanic’s desk. I pick the keys up, say something that meant basically “FIX MY DAMNED CAR” but involved a lot more swearing and waving of arms. Drove back to work.
      Head mechanic calls me at work later and says, “Golly, Andy, someone put sawdust in the transmission.” Not really. He told me the main seal had blown out on the front of the compressor. Cool, I said. Pun intended as hell, but missed and unappreciated by the moron. $600, he said. I spit coffee all over my computer. Coughing, sputtering, wheezing, I managed to get out the words, “Service manager.”
      Fear in the mechanic’s voice. “Uuuh uhm well uh he doesn’t like to talk to people.” UH WELL UHM LET ME TALK TO HIM, YOU MONKEY, I reply. In my head. I don’t recall what my mouth said.
      Service manager come on, explains curtly but politely that they’ve located the source of the leak and that the repair cost is $600.
      Fine, I say, but what about the evaporator repair that I paid for that wasn’t the problem?
      “Well, the head mech wouldn’t have changed it if he hadn’t found a leak in it.”
      Au contraire, replied me. He told me, and I quote, it’s nothing under the hood, so it must be the evaporator.
      Long pause. Then “Well, we can’t tell for sure that there wasn’t a leak in it since it’s long gone.” Something about straws and grasping in the undertones.
      But it’s not long gone, I said. I’ve got it here in my cubicle, and the only green showing is at the connections.
      Very long pause. “I’ll call you back.”
      Ten minutes later a guy who said he was the service manager called me back.
      He sounded like the guy I’d talked to just minutes ago, only if that guy was talking to me while squeezing the life out of a skinny guy with greasy hands in a blue shirt that had a patch that said “Javier”.
      “Brrrrrring in the evaporatorrrrrrrrr,” he said through clenched teeth. “If it’s cleeeean, the compressor’s freeeeeee.”
      My car was washed and had had a full interior detailing when I picked it up. The head mechanic’s desk was cleaned off and his toolbox was gone. The A/C blew cold air until we got rid of the car, years later.

      1. As someone who has dealt with his fair share of A/C problems, (currently going through one on the GTO…) they are a royal bitch and a half to diagnose and repair. All the components have a preset agreement to "fuck this shit, I'm done" almost simultaneously, but in order of exponentially increasing expense. If I owned a service shop, I would actually make it policy to not service A/C systems due to pretty much every issue boiling down to exactly what you describe.

        1. You could always move somewhere that doesn't suck.
          Then again, I don't mind windows down and no AC even when it's 90 and 100% humidity. Mid 40's is also my t-shirt weather mark. Probably not the best person to judge weather.

          1. Leather seats with no A/C in 100+ degree summers (thank you, Concord…) is no bueno.

          2. Eh, if you haven't, you should work as a lot guy for a couple years. Tempatures won't matter anymore. Especially if you're in a four season area.

          3. Four seasons? We have two here–HOT and FOGGY. What are these four you speak of?

          4. That I could move somewhere that doesn't suck?
            Daydreaming about that takes up almost as much of my workday as Hooniverse does. . .

          5. I can easily go drifting in my Sonata a few times a year.
            People always look at me funny when I'm throwing up rooster tails from my beastly automobile in the snow.

      2. Ugh.. You know I've decided to stop reading these stories here. It's just not the funshway (way!) I want for a Monday, could get the whole week to go bonkers. In any case, a grand or so for all that is not that bad really, sorry you had to deal with all that.

      3. Irishzombieman, I'm sorry for your pain, but in reading this to my lovely wife, it took me a solid ten minutes to get through the 'clenched teeth' section. Eventually, I couldn't think about what it said without laughing pretty much uncontrollably, and this was after I learned I couldn't look at the screen without laughing.
        I've become semi-comfy with A/C work on my own vehicles, but that's 'cause I know what led up to whatever.
        I've replaced compressors, receiver/dryers, a few expansion valves…my personal favourite…and a condenser.
        I don't relish it, but I likes my A/C cold. I've even put camping stove propane in an R12 system in a W126 Mercedes. Cooled like you would not believe.
        The only item which gives me pause, to this day, is automatic transmissions. I've had a valve body apart, and it freaked me out when a couple of ball bearings fell out.

        1. <img src="http://attendingtheworld.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/tip_of_the_hat.jpg&quot; width=250>
          Thank you, my friend.
          /wink
          A while back the AC kicked off in my truck, and I've just sorta lived with it, since my wife doesn't drive it much and the pain of the last experience still haunts my dreams.
          But last summer got pretty hot on the motorcycle and that got me thinking about driving the truck once in a while so I went to Harbor Freight and got one of those diagnostic gauge thingies. Then the weather turned and I never got around to figuring the thing out. Going to this summer, though. I'm not going to ride the bike when it's 110 anymore.

          1. When we lived on the CO front range, I was spoiled by nice, near 0% humidity days, so even 100F was not only not bad, it was still pretty nice…if not in traffic.
            I learned in NV/eastern UT, however, 110F is just damned hot, regardless of moisture in the air.

          2. Funny how relative things can be. 100 was fine last summer after days of 110.
            A few summers back we had two solid weeks of 115, with one day hitting 119, ad nights dropped only to the low 90s. When it finally dropped to 105, it felt nice. Really pleasant.
            Where'd you live in NV?

      4. Your story has convinced me to never ever ever ever ever even try to touch or repair the non-function A/C on my 1984 Mercedes.
        (Glad it was eventually fixed on your Sonata, but… holy cow.)

          1. Oh, that's awesome.
            Saving for possible long trips in that car…

          2. TPG, A.K.A. JJ, I may have to make a special trip up your way to fix some woes.
            KJB

          3. You and your wife would be welcome, of course. I'll cook Wisconsin food for ya.

  13. I'm sure I posted this rant here before, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet.
    Took Subie to shop for 4 new tires. They installed them and I drove away. TPMS light goes on. I take it back and they tell me its missing 3 sensors. I blame them and they deny it. Finally they agree to put 3 new sensors on car but now tires won't balance. I take it to other shops that can't balance tires. Finally take it to dealer and they find slug from valve floating in tire. I have dealer put new factory replacement tires on and return crappy tires to shady tire shop. All this over 6 weeks surrounding Thanksgiving.
    Now I won't touch any maintenance on Subie and pay the dealer to do it.

  14. I had a shop do the timing chain on my '66 Pontiac, and when I got it back there was silicone spooged out from around the water pump. I also found the carb's old fuel filter sitting on the intake manifold. Great, that's sloppy, but at least the job's done. A few months later I took it to a really great shop – someone experience has taught me to trust thoroughly – to have other work done and they told me the timing chain was very worn. So not only did the first shop do a sloppy silicone job with the water pump, they didn't actually do the timing chain I paid them for. Jerks. They didn't last long – closed shortly after that incident.
    I had a transmission shop rebuild the posi rear-end, it was howling horribly. The rebuild itself went well but a month or two later the rear axle seals started leaking and ruined my brand new rear brake shoes. I'm pretty sure they didn't replace the seals – just pull the axles out a bit, rebuild the rear, and slide the axles back in. It's a '66 – any time you break a seal, replace it.
    I quit taking cars to shops a while ago, except for things like alignments and wheel balancing where the specialized equipment required makes it more reasonable to have a shop do it. Well, the last alignment I got, the dang shop allowed the steering rack boots to get all twisted up, tearing them. That meant I had to un-do the alignment they just did in order to replace the boots. Double jerks.
    Other than those specific incidents, there have been a few general things like over-tightening nuts and the like. Other than the failignment I haven't taken a car to a shop in a long time. I would trust the one shop with anything but they only work on specialty cars, like the '66 Pontiac. They would not be excited about working on a '96 Volvo wagon, even if it is a turbo.

  15. Was just talking about this one with my dad on Sat, he had an LHS with a front end body repair. Body shop called, said the car was ready. He drove over with his buddy, it was not ready. They waited, then they said the car was ready. They drive home, but there is an odd sound. So my dad's buddy opens the hood, and my dad notices that the hood is not really attached to the hinges and pulls his buddy away just before the whole thing collapses and slams down where his fingers just were. Body shop fixed it all, bust there was always a draft into the foot well from the driver's side fender.

  16. Went to D******t Tire to mount and balance new tires for the Boxster because my friend's tire service (Tight-N-Tidy, no laughing) happened to be out of town. They quote me an outrageously expensive fee, but I gotta replace them post haste. Load tires into Boxster (a feat in itself) and travel ten minutes to the shop. In and out in about an hour.
    Fast forward a few months. I'm driving at freeway speeds and I start noticing a vibration that gets progressively worse. I feel like the whole rear end is going to fall off. Scares the living crap out of me. I take an early exit and stop to do a cursory inspection. Finding nothing, I continue on my way and it doesn't happen again for another week. At this point I don't want to have anything to do with it. I park it at my shop (Chris' German Auto Service) and ask them to take a look at it. They puzzle at it for a week, finding nothing. Out of desperation, they check the balance on the tires and they find they're so far out of whack they can't believe they left the shop in that condition.
    My best description of what was going on was at highway speeds, the diff was slowly progressively rotating the rear tires such that they would finally synchronized to create the most vibration possible. When I pulled off the road, the diff would rotate the tires again much more rapidly and the vibration would go away.
    Anyway, never again. D******t Tire: you had one job to do. ONE JOB.

  17. I've posted this one before, but when I bought my '67 Imperial the previous owner had Pep Boys put on four new tires (Four tires for $99!). In '67 Mopars had left hand threaded lugs on the left side. Grease monkeys at Pep Boys couldn't figure this out. Only about 8 of the ten lugnuts on the left side were present, 3 or 4 of those were stripped. Amazing what you can do with a big enough impact wrench.
    Also, in the brief period of time I owned a 1988 BMW 750iL (V-12!!!) I noticed that someone had rotated the unidirectional tires in the wrong direction. Don't know if this was a professional job or not, probably.

    1. P161911, I know your pain. Used to have a couple of left side studs in the '67 Dodge A-108 passenger van whenever going to the tire shop.
      I told them, as I handed over the keys, "left side is LEFT HAND THREADS", then explained it to them before they glazed over.
      Still broke a few.

  18. I debated telling this one since it makes me look like a stooge.
    When the weather started getting warmer, the truck would overheat. If I turned it off, the gauge would go back down and work fine. With my 100 mile round trip at the time I would see it peg to the red at least once. Procedure: Clutch in, shut the truck off, bumpstart at 50mph and it would be fine.
    Took it to a local repair chain which was walking distance from my house.
    Changed the fan clutch. No fix.
    Changed the temp sensor. No fix.
    Changed the other one. Nope.
    Finally, the lead tech said I have a blown head gasket. Since the repair was (barely) less than the cost of the truck, I agreed.
    We're on a month going on now.
    He called and said it was ready. Drive it home and it's pinging like an aircooled Beetle. The lead tech's hearing is shot and can't hear what is obviously a mistimed engine. Finally get them to procure the right tool to set the timing.
    No more rattling. I drive it to work- overheat.
    I'm sick. Several $k at this and nothing is fixed. I give up and take it to a Ford dealer.
    They call back later and said the radiator is yech and needs replacing. More $$$ and fixed.
    Good news. Truck fixed.
    Bad news. I have to run premium fuel to prevent pinging since the head was shaved and I think it has 11:1 compression now.
    Good news. It runs great at 196000 miles.

      1. Thing is, I would have started with the radiator.
        I even had it out trying to get to the fan clutch.

  19. Oh it can be any kind of repair… Basically I get fooled once and then they never get my business again. New owners of the place I would take my caravan to, I had a simple evap hose leak. They must have read the code to know that, but instead they said it was misfires and replaces spark plugs, wires, air filter, and cleared the code. My wife agreed. I did call some other places later and at least the price was not outrageous, but that air filter was fine. The good that came out of that was that my wife always agreed to call and not let the service place pressure her anymore.
    So I found another good place, they smoke tested and found the leak super quick. Even fixed my rear wiper free of charge and showed me where to lubricate. They were great dealership, but new. One time they fixed the brake job (my wife doesn't let me touch the brakes on her cars after one bad experience years ago, pfft) that a brake place my wife went to did very poorly. But then in the Chrysler bankruptcy, they closed. I could find no other good dealership service place, my buddy had left the place I trusted they went way down hill after, we had moved, so we sold the caravan and bought a Honda version. That's important.
    Things were great with them, but the last time they gave me a fish story about the TPMS system. First that some computer module would need to be replaced, then story changed to the sensor that's special, not just in the valve stem. What a load, I had seen it back in CO. I said that on vacation we had a flat, had to have the tire repaired, and the system did not reset cause the pressures were all wonky too often, that the tire place could not reset such a new car. The light had blinked to indicate that it was disabling (instead of just reading wrong) and stability control was permanently engaged. All that needed to be down was to have it reset, and they had the system to do so, I'll even pay them for that. I didn't let them do a thing other than that. My wife gets in the van and sure enough the light is off, they had already reset it and wanted to bamboozle her. I'm glad she called this time.
    So now what do I do? Maybe they know we are not easy marks? But they did try and swindle us… The other nearby dealership has a much poorer reputation. In the past I just sold a car when I could not find an honest place to service it anymore. I sold my Golf and got the Amazon partly because of all the frustration from four dealerships (oh yeah, good stories there, but too painful all these years later). I'm tempted to sell the Honda and buy something else, but everything big and older gets crap fuel economy, and the Honda is still so new. I just really hate this part about owning a newer car.

    1. "I just really hate this part about owning a newer car."
      In California, you have to smog cars as old as 1974. Anything older, no inspection for anything, ever.
      Long term plan is to buy a pre-74 BMW 2002, plus a mid- to late-80s 3 series and transfer everything–big brakes and newer suspension, and EFI motor into the 2002. Add a big fuel cell mounted in the middle of the trunk to get away from that weird 2002 tank. Then rewire the entire car.
      And never take it to a mechanic ever again.

  20. My worst repair story is only somewhat epic, in that the dealer wasn't responsible, but a towing company. In September of 1978 I bought a brand new Audi Fox 4-door, with the hated (by me) Bosch K-Jet fuel injection. One morning in January of 1979, it wouldn't start. It came with a factory 12-month, unlimited mileage(!) warranty. So, I call the dealer (the now long gone Forest Lane Porsche Audi in Dallas), to have it towed in for a repair. The next day, I get a call from the dealer – they've replaced the warm-up regulator and the thermo-time switch, fixing the no start condition. But now, there's no Drive or Reverse (it was an automatic, since I hadn't yet learned how to drive a manual). Really bad.
    So, I head to the dealer to pick up a free loaner (a '78 Chevy Nova FTW!), and go into the room where the "unit repair" guy works (the guy who does most of the engine and trans overhauls), and inspect the torn down transaxle, complete with burned up clutches, and shafts turned blue from overheating. It turned out that the tow truck guy (with a company called "Professional" Auto Towing) had picked up the car from the rear and towed it backwards 25 miles, destroying the transaxle. They knew it had been towed wrong because the service manager found the car parked head in, in his reserved parking space. The same guy had towed a 911 the same day, damaging the rear suspension (oops!). His towing company's liability insurance got to eat the cost of my repair (a cool $2800).
    Of course there were no new transaxles in the US, so the car had to sit for six weeks (what?) while one was shipped from West Germany, so I got to drive the Nova.
    But wait, it gets better! The day comes when I go to pick up the car, the porter drives it up, and the left front wheel, drive axle, etc. rolls into the fender (in front of the door), because the two bolts holding the ball joint to the lower control arm are loose. The service manager says, "Oh shit, I was just driving it at 70mph yesterday on LBJ!" (the freeway in front of the dealer), all the color draining from his face, realizing how close he came to meeting his maker. So, the car has to go into the body shop to have the fender and the front suspension repaired, another week down.
    A couple of weeks later, the flexplate-to-torque converter bolts loosened up, causing a hellacious racket on deceleration. That was cured by dealer re-torquing, along with some Loctite 271.

  21. Manny, Moe and Jack put a new set of tires on my 2003 Jetta. 3 weeks later I wanted to check the front rotors and pads. I could NOT loosen a single wheel bolt even with my breaker bar and extension. I took it to MMJ and asked them to rotate the tires. 3 days and 6 broken bolts later, they finally freed up the wheels. A letter to the regional VP got a phone call with an offer to do anything reasonable. "How about a free power flush for the auto trans in my Volvo?" Agreed. Needless to say they replaced the wheel bolts on the Jetta. BTW, the rotors and pads were fine. If I had gotten a flat tire in the Jetta on my round trip to Florida, can you imagine?.

    1. A woman I used to work for took her early Plymouth minivan to MMJ to have torn CV joint boots replaced, and the joints cleaned and repacked. The techs managed to lose a couple of the balls from the joints, and tried to hit her up for new joints. Their BS excuse: "The balls shrunk and fell out before we got it. They do that sometimes." Yeah right. They ending up eating the entire cost of repairs.

  22. And I thought mine was bad!
    Similar to the '67 Imperial woes earlier, in HS, back in the mid-80's, I had a '67 Dodge A-108 FC passenger van.
    Spring break, my sister, a friend of mine, and I drove to Austin from Dallas, scarily close to Forest Lane Porsche/Audi, actually, also reference earlier, to pick up another friend of mine who was in his first year at UT.
    From there, we were to road trip to Galveston, where his folks had a house near enough to the water, it was on stilts, and fronted salt water.
    By day three in Galveston, I had a bad rear axle leak. Damn. Lost an axle seal. Well, the truck is aged, though it'd been in the family since it's first day.
    I find a shop, 'cause I have zero tools on hand, and after four hours, they've pulled the axles, replaced both seals, put new brake shoes on the left side, and I got outta there for about $500. This was an expensive spring break, even with sub-$1 gasoline.
    Before they started, I cautioned, multiple times, this truck, like all Mopars of that immediate era, had dedicated left and right side threads on the wheel studs.
    The rest of the trip was uneventful, other than the $0.599 gasoline, which I wanted to take home in bulk.
    Back to Austin, no problem.
    However, the day after I got back to Dallas, oh, look, BOTH axles are now leaking!
    While pulling a wheel, I find the axles are in the wrong sides.
    /facepalm
    I bring it to my guy, who's worked on the truck since 1971, and he verifies that's the problem.
    So, another set of axle seals, but this time brake shoes on both sides.
    Another $400, IIRC.
    That was one of the things which, very early, further encouraged me to do all my own repairs.
    The only one I've had done by someone, since, was the exhaust manifold & gasket replacement on the 40' Fleetwood diesel motorcoach. We were on-the-road at the time.

  23. The only one I have…
    I traded my basket-case 855 for a '93 244. All seemed fine, aside from nasty driveline vibrations that came and went, on the way home. The next day, however, I went down a logging road, came nearly to the end, downshifted for an incline and didn't go anywhere, not in any gear. Had the car hauled out, gave an acquaintance's friend's shop a call, told the owner (let's call him Bill) what I thought was up (either clutch or throwout bearing, may as well do it all either way) and asked if he could have it done within the next two weeks, as I didn't need the car immediately but would after that.
    Affirmative.
    So the car gets towed over to Bill's shop. I figured I'd give him a week before checking for updates. Of course, he (and, more pointedly, his local teenage minions) aren't so good at answering the damn phone, so a few days after that I borrowed my roommate's car and made the trip over. Serenity was right where the tow guy had left her.
    Now, Bill's actually got two small shops on one piece of property, separated by a few hundred yards. The shop where she'd been dropped off was the one on the main road, but it was also currently occupied by five-eighths of a mid-'90s Ford truck. Bill was, apparently, being paid to replace quite a few things on the truck to get it roadworthy by some local guy he owed a favour to.
    Okay, said I. So, that'll be done within the week?
    It wasn't.
    The next time I went over, I offered to help Bill push my car 'round to the old shop. Come on, right? Nope, the Ford was gonna be out in a couple of days.
    Sure. This happened a few times; if I'd not had another car to borrow, I would've had the 244 towed off somewhere else. Fuck it. Whatever. At this point in my life I had enough shit to deal with. Thanks for being two weeks late and thoroughly uncommunicative, Bill.
    In the end, I ended up picking up the car in the dead of night, realising only after my first few slow starts that I couldn't grab first or second. I'd already, unfortunately, left payment. Fuck it. It's probably the reverse lockout. (It was. I drove the next thousand miles lifting the lockout collar for first and second because I couldn't be arsed.)
    On the way home, the alternator went out. Coincidence? No doubt. I dropped in a different battery and limped her to a different shop, a Eurocentric garage in a neighbouring town, because I couldn't be arsed at that point. A new alternator kept her running beautifully until an incompetent Chinese man in an Econoline spun her into a freeway guardrail, but never mind that.
    At any rate, I know which shop I'm bringing a newer, more complicated Saab to…

  24. I finally killed my clutch after years and years of abuse, and limped it into a repair shop. Since I knew it was going, I already had an aftermarket clutch and flywheel on hand. ($500)
    It takes them two days to install the clutch, and then they call up saying the TOB is toast, and since it was my part they'll have to charge me to replace it, and install an oem clutch (1300$). It drives well for about 3 weeks before it starts slipping again, giving out suddenly several hundred miles from the original shop.
    I have it towed to another Precision Tune ($100) to have it repaired under warranty. They point out that the oem clutch and the aftermarket flywheel require different spacing, and never should have been paired together. I buy another aftermarket clutch and flywheel surface ($500) and have them installed, and the shop tells me that they can't cover it ($700) under warranty because of corporate policy but I could contact the original shop for a refund.
    At this point I've paid $3000 to have the clutch done on a car worth about that much. After weeks of contacting Precision Tune local, corporate, and the BBB only to get a polite refusal letter (complete with someone else's name). The shop calls me up while I'm filling out the forms for small claims court and we eventually agree on a partial refund.
    So in the end, my fear of clutch repair cost me $1500, several weeks without my car, and massive headaches. I learned my lesson though. Six months later when my engine went I manned up and swapped it in my driveway, in a weekend. Which included uninstalling and reinstalling the clutch.

  25. Not sure if I want to share my balljoint story, as it hasn't been resolved to our satisfaction. We are/were so beat down and frustrated by the "end" though that we decided to just let things be.
    Bought a 1996 Grand Marquis in Sept 2012. Proceeded to replace and/or deal with every possible thing that can go wrong from a car sitting too much in a damp garage. Ignition components, spark plugs, wires, fuel filter (which was rusted through), transmission fluid, etc. My husband did nearly all of the work, but when he bumped a brake line in October and had brake fluid pouring out of a rusted-through line we needed to take it into a shop where they have the equipment to quickly bend new lines. We needed this car up and running as it is our main daily driver, so taking it into a shop seemed the best option.
    While it was there, we asked the shop to look at what might be wrong in the front end, because although the Panthers have notoriously horrible floppy steering, ours was even worse than one might expect. Shop replaced rear brake lines, then diagnosed frozen/bad ball joints on the front. We told them to go ahead and do the work. Brake lines were about $300, ball joints were about $700.
    All well and good. Hate to spend the $700, but pressing out ball joints can be a major PITA without the right equipment, so whatever. We picked up the car, paid the bill, and went our merry way.
    We spent Christmas in Nashville with family. While on the way home, the ball joints start groaning and grinding. Badly. Really badly. Like everyone in a huge parking lots turns to stare badly. The new ball joints have about 3,000 miles on them at this point. Husband jacks the car to see what's going on. One boot is completely shredded, one boot has no grease.
    Take it back to shop. They say they'll replace the ball joints free. They have the car 3 days. We pick up the car. No more noise, but husband, justifiably suspicious, checks underneath, and discovers all the shop has done is re-pack grease in the one boot. Shredded boot is still there.
    Back to the shop. Shop says they don't see anything amiss. Husband calls, explains, they say, "Ok, we'll put it on a lift, you come show us." Husband shows them. They have no explanation other than to say, "Well, it seems to be working ok now, we'll repack it with grease, and we'll keep it under a parts warranty. If you have problems, bring it back and we'll fix it."
    By this point, we'd had all the above, plus hundreds of dollars in misc other parts and problems with the car. We were exhausted, and I'll admit, emotionally beaten down by the multitude of problems we'd had with a car that EVERYONE told us should be bullet-proof. Probably should have gone into the shop with the proverbial guns blazing and read them the riot act. Near as we can figure is someone in his shop screwed up installing the ball joints and the shop owner doesn't/didn't have the money to redo all the work. We decided to be charitable (suckers?) and trust that the shop will fix it when (not if) those ball joints start groaning again. Husband is confident that they will make noise before the blow out so we'll have warning; he's not a cowboy that takes crazy risks, and he's a very experienced weekend mechanic, so….
    I'm thinking though, that when those joints fail, there's no way in God's green earth we're setting foot in that guy's shop again, ever. Better to buy or rent a press and do it ourselves or take it to a different shop.

    1. Sheesh.
      Sorry, TPG. I know I've followed the exploits, elsewhere, but I didn't realize it never was truly fixed.
      Bummer.

    2. That's pretty upsetting.
      As you alluded to, Panthers are considered to be bulletproof by most members of these here internets. And, by and large, they're not wrong. Unfortunately, it would seem as though you got a car that didn't have a good life prior to your taking possession of it. No car, not matter how resilient, can endure repeated neglect and still come out the other side shining, and that sucks.

  26. I had a vw rabbit pickup that got hit in the drivers door, and down the left side, I was sure they were going to write it off. When I went to the body shop to pick it up I noticed that the rear axle was still bent. He says you have to take it and complain to the insurance and they ill authorize additional repairs. As it turned out I had the car back at least six times. When they repaired it they put on a used door but did not pull the rocker panel back out, so you could see out under the door. The way they eventually fixed it was to cut the rocker panel away from the floor, pull out the rocker panel and put the rug back without welding the floor back onto the rocker panel. Nice.

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