Car dealership service writers...a question for you.

Last week my airbag light turned on, (my car is just barely out of warranty), I brought it in to a Honda Dealership and for $370 they diagnosed and replaced a faulty weight sensor in the passenger seat. As I was pulling out of their garage, the light came back on, so I backed back in and told them about it. After some tests they decided that the new sensor was bad and they could put a new one in the next day. I dropped my car off and sat in their waiting room while they worked on it. After about an hour and a half the service writer came in and told me that the were having some sort of a problem and really didn’t know what to do. They asked me to set up an appointment earlier in the day when they have some other techs in the building that can do a better job diagnosing it…that’s fine.

My question is, if they tell me, for example that the airbag sensor was fine and it was actually something else should I still be on the hook for the first $370?
On the one hand, I can see them saying that based on their service manuals and the codes they got out of the computer that this should have been the problem and since it wasn’t they move on to the next thing until they figure it out.

OTOH, should I be on the hook for what was essentially a misdiagnosis and replacement of a part that wasn’t broken?

Based on them telling me that part was broken, then telling me the new one was broken and now telling me they seem to think it’s a software issue, I’m guessing they never tested the actual part to make sure it really was broken. They were probably just replacing the part the computer told them to replace…which is probably the right thing to do anyways.

Should you? No. Will you? That depends on the policies and attitude at this particular dealership.

It’s conceivable the weight sensor was faulty, but given what you’ve told us that seems quite a stretch. For the car to have a bad sensor, AND the new sensor to be bad, AND there to be a second problem is highly, highly improbable. Once a second problem is found and fixed, I would expect a conscientious and honorable shop to reinstall the original sensor and recheck its operation, unless they’ve performed a test that clearly confirms it is faulty. If it is still good, I think any charges for replacing it should be waived.

Note that some of the 370 may include testing that would have to be done regardless of what the fault turned out to be, and would thus still be a legitimate charge.

I take it as a good sign that they appeared to be forthright about having problems tracking down the fault. Nobody’s perfect, but at least they are willing to admit to their limitations.

In essence, if they arrived at a misdiagnosis due to flawed performance by the tech or to flawed instructions in their manuals, that should be on them, not on you.

I asked about how much it would cost he said he didn’t have any idea yet, but he did say something along the lines of “We’ll make it right, if it comes out cheaper you’ll get a refund, if it’s more expensive we’ll figure something out” So I’m not totally worried about being screwed here (that’s not to say I could afford a 3000 dollar repair bill), I just want to know where I stand before I go in next.

Oh, and the diagnostic fee was $105, so yeah, I know that has to be paid regardless.

That says to me an attitude of wanting to treat the customer right. Not only “we won’t charge for what wasn’t needed,” but also “if it costs more than you were first led to expect, we’ll try to adjust it.” I’d call that a very good sign.

We’ll see what happens probably next week. I’ve been there twice now, both times around 4pm. They asked me if they could get the car in the morning someday (for the other tech to look at, they have a skeleton crew at night) and then keep it for the day. I told them they could have it as long as they want it if they can get me a loner (I put about 50-100 miles on my car per day, I can’t not have a car). So they’re working on making that happen. I’m guessing I’ll hear back from them on Monday.

Why? You were paying for a diagnosis, but what you got was a flawed & incorrect one, a mis-diagnosis. If a store sells me a broken item, I get my money back. Why should you have to pay for a broken diagnosis?

I was a service writer, but predominately the warranty admin at a HD shop. If the part they installed was not the issue, its on them, And, your $370 should apply to the correct repair

(keep in mind that some shops are utter shits and dont respect customers, and will screw you out of your money. Now while I am not Honda warranty/service writer trained, i will be more than willing to offer pointers on your issue, just PM me.

That’s not what he’s (eventually) paying for. They are going to pursue the problem to achieve a correct diagnosis, so the diagnostic fee is appropriate.

I had an Accord for 15 years. Except for maybe a handful of oil changes (before they instituted an express oil change service) I always had it serviced at the dealership. I can’t say enough about their customer service, ethics, response to emergencies, fair treatment when something went wrong with an initial diagnosis, loaners and shuttle service, etc.

That is why when my old baby needed too many things replaced in the last year, including a new transmission and I knew it was time to say good-bye, I got another Honda at the same dealer. I totally trust everyone there. They are proud of their dealership and it shows in uncountable ways.

You’re in a different location, but it’s still Honda.

Speaking in general, not to car repairs, or the OP’s car repair specifically …

When buying or selling any service, the seller wants to sell his effort and the buyer wants to buy a result.

When those two don’t meet up, everything in the middle is negotiable. “Good customer service” often means biasing the negotiation outcome well towards the customer’s definition of success. But the cost of that is covered by slightly higher charges on all successful jobs. Ultimately all the customers collectively pay for all the outcomes, both good and not-so-good.

Which is a lot of the reason why low low prices and good customer service tend not to go together.

That’s a dealership specific thing. The place where I bought my car from sucks in the service department. I had a leak in my roof. SIX TIMES over the course of a year I brought it to their attention be it in person, calling the service writer or emailing. EVERY SINGLE TIME they said the same thing. “We’ll set up an appointment with our leak guy next week and get you a loner…we’ll call you” and I would never hear back. I finally called the GM and told him about my problem and it finally got resolved. Even then, when I went to drop it off and asked about my loaner (it was gonna take about 3 days to fix) the service writer said “Loner?” “Ummm, yeah the GM said since I’ve been getting the run around for a year now, he’d get me a loner until you’re done with the car.” It shouldn’t have taken that much work. I had a few other issues with that dealership as well, my next car, if it’s a Honda will be from a different dealership.

This is significant.

This is not.

I’m glad you had a good experience with the dealership you patronized, and there are plenty of good dealerships out there, but please be aware that there are some lousy ones and it really has nothing to do with the make of car.