This was cut and pasted from my blog entry of Nov 11, 2004

Customer Service: Dodge VS Mitsubishi

Part One: Dodge On Sunday, October 31, 2004 Ed and I were driving my 1992 Plymouth Laser (known as a “DSM”, the same thing as a Mitsubishi Eclipse or an Eagle Talon) on I-88 and we heard some grinding noises coming from the car. The noise came and went, but when we'd hear it the car would decelerate some. The second time we heard the noise we decided to get off at the next exit. Halfway up that exit ramp, the car came to a VIOLENT stop (luckily we were only going about 20mph, if it would have happened 5 minutes earlier when we were doing 80mph who knows what would have happened!) We thought the driveshaft had broken or the brakes had locked up. We got out of the car and took a look, but nothing looked broken or out of place. There were no fluids leaking, and the car was able to turn over and idle just fine. We tried driving forward, the car would rock about an inch or two, then it was like it was up against a wall. Reverse was the same. We turned the car off and tried to push it off the ramp. We could only push it an inch or two, then we'd hit that point where the car wouldn't go any further. Ed started thinking it might be the transfer case. As we pondered what broke we got in the car and dialed AAA for a tow.

Watching the drivers around us it was apparent that despite our 4-ways being on, and it being a white car under a street light, most people didn't see us or notice that the vehicle was disabled until they were about ready to hit it. We got out of the car, and waited in the cold where we'd be safer -watching and hoping that the car wouldn't be hit.

When the tow truck arrived, he used the winch to drag the car up onto the flatbed. There was no other way -the rear wheels were locked up solid. I cried. We just got new tires (and what else were we breaking?)… As we made our way home at $3.50 a mile, I wondered how we were going to get the car off the flatbed. Can't push with a winch…

At home, the driver backed into our driveway and tilted the bed as far back as he could. He started feeding cable from the winch, but the car wasnt moving. He hopped into the car, played with the gear shifter (didn't help), then went back to the hydralic controls for the flatbed. He kinda shook the bed with the hydralics -there was an audible “click” (not really a bad sound), and then the car began to roll back. We rolled the car off the flatbed and onto the driveway, and sent the man on his way with a pile of cash for the tow ($65). Ed started the car, and was able to drive it up and down the driveway just fine. No weird noises, no lockups, no fluid, etc… We went inside the house to search the internet for information on what the problem might be. As we searched we found a recall on the transfer case here: and more information here: including a story of a guy who's transfer case locked up while he was on the expressway -he lost control of the vehicle and his girlfriend was killed!

After work on Monday it was too dark and too cold to look at the car, and Tuesday was the same. By Wednesday we couldn't wait any longer -we wanted to know if the problem was the transfer case, so we both took the day off of work to take a look at it. We took the drain plug out of the transfer case and it was dry. This was, in fact, the problem descibed in the recall. Satisfied, we put the drain plug back in, and I called the nearest Dodge dealership to ask how to go about getting it fixed. The person on the phone told me I could bring it by anytime. “Uh… It's not driveable, can you guys send out a tow truck?” Nope, they don't tow vehicles for recall work. I briefly argued with them, stating that I can't believe that their part broke and I have to pay for the tow, but I hung up and decided to call AAA again to tow it to the dealership over the weekend.

Saturday we had the car towed to Dodge of Naperville (AKA Koeller Dodge of Naperville, Illinois). The service department was closed at the time, so we filled out their form and dropped off the key with the cashier.

Monday I got a call from the dealership notifying me that they were unable to look at my car because there was a fuel leak that made the car hazardous to drive. I asked if they actually needed to drive the car to determine that there's no oil in the transfer case. There was a pause, and then I was told that when the work was complete they'd need to be able to test drive the car -therefore, the fuel leak must be looked at. This time there was a pause on my end… The car was fine the last time I drove it. How could there be a fuel leak now? Surely the transfer case didn't cause it. We looked repeatedly for leaks, and were working on the car on Wednesday -how had we not noticed a “dangerous fuel leak”? So, I asked how they determined that there was a fuel leak. I was put on hold, then told that the tech smelled gas. “That's it?” I asked. “They smelled gas? It's an old car! And the charcoal canister has been removed. Maybe that's it?” The guy on the phone then told me that the tech said there was some “moisture” as well. Okay, well, at this point my back's against a wall here, so I ask what they'd charge to take a look at the fuel leak, $60 or so? “Our minimum charge for diagnostic is $180.” I choke. “Fuck that” I say (whoops!). “I'll come by tonight and take a look at it.” -Can't work on the car in their lot I'm informed. “So, I have to get it towed next door, fix the fuel leak, then have it towed back for you to do the recall work -or pay you $180 to diagnose the fuel leak and then maybe fix it (or charge me another $180 to fix it)? I don't think so -roll it out to the parking lot. I'll give you a call back in a minute.

I get off the phone, and tell Ed what just happened. He can't believe it either. We both figure they're jerking us around. I call back, ask for the service manager, and tell him that I can't believe that they want $180 to diagnose a fuel leak that they discovered by “smell” and some “moisture”. I repeat again that the charcoal canister has been removed, and that might be the only problem. He says he thinks it might be a fuel injector leak. I say “That's possible, we just replaced the fuel injectors.” I ask why they can't just diagnose and fix the transfercase without driving it -“I'll sign off on it saying that I wouldn't allow you to do a test drive”. Again he refuses, citing “corporate policy”. ”…And I can't work on it myself in your lot?”. A pause, “You can work on it here if you want, you just can't use our bays or our tools.” “No problem” I say, just push it out to a publicly accessable location and I'll be out tonight to take a look. You know, your tech told me I'd have to tow the vehicle off of your lot to work on it.” What he came back with next didn't hit me until later… “We don't have to push it, it drove just fine into the from the parking lot into the bay. It's driveable.” What!?! First, they're driving my car around with NO FLUID IN THE TRANSFER CASE!?! …and second they're advocating that my car is drivable with a fuel leak and a dry (previously locked-up) transfer case? (But not drivable enough for a test drive… ) Whatever.

So, after work, we stop by Napa to get new O-Rings for the fuel injectors figuring that they are to blame for the fuel leak (if it exists), then load the Jeep with tools and drive by the dealership to work on the car in the dark and in the cold. We pop the hood. We look around. Everything looks okay, so we fire it up. Fuel starts squirting out of the fuel rail inlet. They couldn't “diagnose” this on sight? (Guess they wanted their $180.) We remove the inlet, and it's obvious that the O-ring needs replacement. We head to Napa one more time, but they can't find the part in their computer or in their book. So, we head home and take the O-Ring off of Ed's car (which is down due to crank walk). His looks brand new, so back to Dodge we go. We replaced the O-Ring in minutes, then fired up the car once more. No more fuel leak. We leave. We eat. We shower. We sleep.

I call the dealership back at 8:10am the next day to let them know that I fixed the fuel leak, so they can now safely proceed with their work. At 3:45pm I've gotten no call back. According to the sales manager yesterday, the new transfer case was due to arrive today, so I call and ask where they're at with it before leaving work. “All done” they say (thanks for the call guys!). I tell them “Great! I'll pick it up tonight!”.

After work, I pick up Ed and we head straight to the dealership. I sign the form that says they replaced the transfer case under recall, and wait as the porter brings the car around. I can't wait to drive it, but I let Ed drive it home as long as he lets me drive to dinner. I follow him out, and he says he'll be stopping for gas on the way. 1 or 2 miles down the road Ed pulls off in a strip mall parking lot. I pass him because I had intended to go straight home and let the dog out while he got gas, but there's no gas station where he pulled off… I turn at the next enterance to the mall to go see why he pulled off there. -I meet him in the parking lot of Century Tile and he tells me that the car started to lock up again. What!?! We both wonder out loud if they forgot to fill the transfer case with oil when they replaced it. We call the dealership and tell them what has just happened. They give a monotone “we're sorry to hear that”, but refuse to tow the car back to take a look at it. This is a “Five Star” dealer? I give up and call AAA for a tow back Koeller Dodge of Naperville (our 3rd tow in less than 2 weeks -AAA rocks!). While Ed waited, I ran home to let the dog out and to pick up some tools. I made it back before the tow truck and Ed crawled under the car to see if there was fluid in the transfer case. There was, which disappointed me greatly -that would have been easy. What's the problem now? As I ran through the parts that would take abuse when the transfer case comes to a sudden stop, Ed told me to get in the car -he had something to show me. I did, and he let it roll back (in neutral) -the car made a crunchy sound as it rolled back. The same thing happened when he drove it forward, back into the parking spot. Not good. We discussed what may have broke as a result of the transfer case locking up as we waited for the tow truck. The same guy who towed us to the dealership before picked us up again. We dropped the car off at Naperville Dodge again, and then went and got some food.

The next day, Wednesday, I wait nervously for a phone call from the dealership. At about 11:30am I get the news. The transfer case is fine, he says -they think the problem might be the transmission. “The transmission!” I say. “It was just rebuilt 6,000 miles ago!” He explains that their transmission guy took a look at it, and he says that the noise is coming from the tranny. I'm about to cry at this point. I just put over $2000 worth of work into the transmission, and it looks like the transfer case lockup may have destroyed the tranny? Probably the center diff. I try to be logical “Okay, this was obviously caused by the transfer case lockup, so you'll take care of it, right?” Nope. They verified that the problem was NOT the transfer case, and additional work would be my responsibility. “Fine, I'll be by later to pick it up”.

I tell Ed the bad news, and begin freaking out about my transmission. I call AAMCO and ask how much it would cost for a diagnosis, I'm told $560 or so. Then Ed floods me with Do It Yourself tranny rebuild FAQ's (which I've listed here for future reference: ). Ed's convinced that it's not the tranny, but the rear differential. I have to admit that when he rolled the car back and forth and we heard the crunching sounds, it did sound like it was coming from the rear rather then from the front… So, we decide not to fight with Dodge anymore, we'll pick up the car, get it home, and this weekend we'll start by removing the rear diff cover and taking a look. Then we'll move onto the transmission if we have to.

So, after work we go home, grab a quick bite to eat, and head to the dealership. We pick up the key, and sign their paper, and walk to the back of the building to where the car is. Ed gets in, drives it around the lot, and talks me into letting him try to drive it home. I'm worried that we'll do more damage, but it's not making the crunching sounds anymore. If it's the center diff, Ed reminds me, it'll only have problems around corners -he'll take it out of gear around corners. I finally agree, and I follow him home.

Yep, we made it, and I was happy to have my car back in my hands. I really hate letting other people work on my car, and the frustrations in dealing with these clowns at the dealership just re-inforced that. Once the car was parked and turned off, Ed and I both took a look underneath. In the rear, the drive-shaft and diff cover looked good, no leaks or anything obvious. Ed went into the garage for a minute as I crawled under the front to take a look at the transfer case, transmission, drive shaft, etc. I noticed that there was a lot of fluid on the transfer case -in fact, the whole thing was wet, and it was dripping on the driveway! I called Ed over, and he stuck a finger in the liquid and then smelled it. Of course, he couldn't just say what it was -I had to smell it too. My least favorite smell -diff fluid. Yuck! Ed reached up and turned the fill plug with his fingers. The dealership hadn't tightened it…

We left it at that, and that's where it is right now. We need to finish putting up the drywall in the garage this weekend, then we can put the car in there to work on it where it's warm.

Part Two: Mitsubishi A friend of ours, Kris, just got his car back from Max Madsen Mistubishi in Aurora, Illinois. His 1996 Mistubishi Eclipse was in for recall work as well, and I find the differences in our experiences very interesting given the fact that most people would assume you'd get better service from a “5-Star Dodge Dealership” than from a Mitsu dealer.

Kris was turning into the parking lot at work when his front passenger tire nudged the curb and the wheel fell off. Okay, the wheel didn't really fall off, but the ball joint seperated and the body was left lying on an akwardly angled wheel. There was body damage as a result, and Kris was an unhappy guy. He had the car towed to our driveway, and described what happened to Ed who mentioned that he thought there was a recall on the ball joint of some 2nd gen DSM's. Kris checked it out, and it was true! It looked like this might be covered under recall. Kris called Max Madsen, crossed his fingers, and told them what had happened. Max Madsen had his car towed from our driveway to their dealership at no cost to Kris. They looked at it, and determined that this was due to the ball joint and that it would be covered under the recall. They fixed the ball joint, then sent Kris's car to a body shop to repair the body damage! The repairs took awhile, but I was there when he picked up the car. It was spotless! You couldn't tell that there was ever damage. Some of the plastic parts had to have been replaced because the last I saw them they were shoved up into the wheel-well behind the tire accordian-style… This was no cheap fix.

koller_dodge_of_naperville_il_review.txt · Last modified: 2010/06/16 13:42 (external edit)
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