I was driving near Boulder, Nevada, to see Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire State Park, and other natural attractions. The trunk of my car was loaded down with all sorts of stuff. I drove into a gas station to fill up and an attendant walked over to my car. He bent down and appeared to look at the area around the rear axle. He told me in a serious voice that my shock absorbers were in desperate need of replacement. He said he could repair them in a few hours. I declined his offer and watched him very carefully until I left.
After returning from my trip, I asked a dealership service advisor to inspect the shocks. He told me that they were fine.
I bought my full-size pickup new from Emich in Littleton many years ago. They always treated me well. Then Emich was bought by John Elway who moved the dealership to Lone Tree. Things really didn't change much. I was told by dealership personnel that John Elway treated his employees well. I tried to use the dealership whenever I could, but I was working all over the Denver area and sometimes was forced to use a facility close to where I was working at the time.
At a Goodyear Auto Service shop in Broomfield, I brought my pickup in for an alignment. The manager told me in a serious voice that there was a part somewhere in the area of the wheel that needed to be removed before he could do an alignment (his explanation was more involved than mine). I thought about my options. I could calmly inform him that it was highly unlikely that the manufacturer would include a part that had to be removed at the first removal of the wheel. Or I could call him a lying sack. Or I could leave, which I did.
Later at the dealership where I bought my truck, I mentioned the story about the wheel part that needed to be removed. The service advisor looked at me as if I was from Mars.
At a Goodyear Auto Service shop in Englewood, I brought an old Chrysler in for an alignment. I really wish I still had that car, with its V-8 and no smart technology backdoors. I remembered my experience with the previous Goodyear shop and was prepared to leave if he lied to me. I waited until the alignment was completed. I paid and drove out of their parking lot -- and turned back into the shopping center at the next entrance because it was clear that something was very wrong. When driving straight ahead, the steering wheel was turned a full quarter turn to the right. I returned to the Goodyear shop and told the manager of the problem. He returned in ten minutes and told me that the lube fittings were dry as a bone, supposedly explaining the problem with the steering. He finished his thought with, "I'm as serious as a heart attack," probably thinking I was so gullible that I'd agree to pay him even more money. I thought about calling him a lying sack for two reasons. First, I owned a lube gun and added grease every time I changed the oil. And second, lube fittings have nothing to do with a steering wheel being so far off center, though keeping them full of grease is important. But I simply told him to give me the alignment I paid for. As I drove away, I found that the steering wheel was properly centered.
Anyone who work in the parts department of dealerships and auto parts stores knows that the old wisdom that parts are generally available for a car for around ten years is not an accurate assessment of the situation. For trim parts, some beancounter estimates how many will be needed for warranty repairs plus a buffer. For body parts such as air dams which are often damaged when drivers run into snow banks, curbs, and other low-hanging obstacles, manufacturers supply them until the demand drops below a certain point, but in any case they are available for far longer than ten years. And mechanical parts, especially ones which are shared between different corporate models, are often available for decades after the model year ends. Except for trim parts, it's supply and demand.
I visited Century Chevrolet in Broomfield to inquire as to whether the seat of my pickup could be repaired, as I could tell that the spring or another under-butt part was broken. I sat in the waiting room for an hour until the service advisor returned with a story she thought I would swallow. She told me in a serious voice that seat parts were no longer available, but they could import a used part from the Midwest for $1100. I did not like this option and so I told her that I would think about it, though I knew that it was definitely possible that seat parts were no longer available.
Then she told me that my brakes were in serious need of repair. I thought about calling her a lying sack, as they had been repaired just one year before. But before I could do anything, she started giving me a sales pitch. She told me that the usual cost for a brake job was $800 but they would reduce it to $300. And then she said, as a smile appeared on her face, that the parts they used would be aftermarket ones with a limited warranty. I bid her a not-fond farewell.
I visited the dealership where I bought my truck and inquired as to the seat part. The service advisor informed me that there was a new one, in Denver, for $800. I took him up on the offer. I also asked him to look at the brakes. He told me that there was plenty of life remaining on them.
Later I asked someone I know who works in the parts department of a dealership about the aftermarket parts. He told me that reputable dealerships would not make such an offer unless there were no factory parts available, something that simply would not happen with brake parts. He continued by saying that for many parts, factory ones can actually be cheaper than aftermarket ones, so there's no financial advantage in using them. Maybe Century Chevrolet would have done absolutely nothing and charged me for the privilege.
I visited Grand Buick GMC in Thornton because I had an electrical problem with my pickup. It sat there for two days with nothing being done. I called on Thursday and was told that a power cable needed to be replaced. The service advisor told me that there were no cables in Denver and that it would take a few days to get the part to Denver, with the coming weekend being a major 3-day holiday weekend. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would retrieve the truck on Friday, one way or the other. He protested, asserting that the vehicle was dangerous to drive. I told him to use FedEx or UPS Next Day to have the cable delivered on Friday and I would pay the difference in shipping. I started to think he wanted to use my truck to drive in the mountains that weekend. When I arrived on Friday to rescue my vehicle, I noticed that there was a minimal charge on the receipt for extra shipping. Did he really not know about next day delivery services?
I brought my pickup in for AC service. John Elway had sold his dealerships to Autonation, a large corporation originally started by a guy who began with one garbage truck, which then became several. I was told that the compressor needed to be replaced, not surprising since the truck was more than ten years old. They replaced it for $1500, which was a bit much, but I had been satisfied with the dealership in the past. I noticed a few new faces in the service department.
Eleven months later, the AC failed again. I brought it into Autonation and they replaced the compressor under warranty, giving me another 12-month warranty. I noticed that none of the previous employees still worked there. When the new compressor started, it made a sound reminiscent of a turbine winding up, which was not a good sign.
Thirteen months later, the AC failed again. I called Autonation and was told that the warranty had expired, so I could pay to have it repaired. I contacted the general manager and asked him how two compressors in a row could fail at almost exactly 12 months in a state like Colorado where AC is not needed very often. He sidestepped my question and offered to fix it again for full price.
I took the pickup to McCaddon in Boulder which fixed the AC for $1200. There was no turbine-like noise emanating from the compressor. McCaddon told me that there was a lifetime warranty on the compressor. I pressed the service advisor on warranties and I came away with the impression that GM compressors normally have a lifetime warranty, with only Autonation offering a sub-par one. Does Autonation contract with a cut-rate shop to rebuild its compressors?
Now I buy tires at Discount Tire and have alignments and other work done at family-owned dealerships. As long as I live on the north side of the Denver metro area, I will use McCaddon. There's never a problem. And the work is sometimes cheaper than what swindlers would charge.
Women often complain that they are treated like idiots in automotive shops, often being taken advantage of. The truth is that some shops take advantage of everyone.