Finances & Money

Rant: The Dealer’s Mechanics are Messing with My Truck

I’ve been taking my Honda Ridgeline to a Honda dealer in Rockville for service for the last 18 months of ownership, and I just need to rant about one thing: the mechanics. Let me say this up front, though, that the guy’s checking in the vehicles are always very pleasant and courteous. My beef is with the guys working on the cars, and anyone who may also be driving them.

Here’s a little history. I’ll preface this with an explanation of all the “warranty fixes”. I’m a complainer. If there’s a squeak, rattle or other noise or inconvenience that I don’t expect to be there, especially on a new vehicle, I’m utilizing that warranty. I still think the truck is a quality vehicle:

  1. The first time I took my truck in to get a few things checked, and when I picked it up, I found that they had eaten all of my gum (6 sticks), listened to my CDs (it was on a different disc than when I dropped it off) and left my A/C running on full blast at 60 degrees. I went in and only complained about the missing gum (oh sorry, they left me 1 piece). The manager was “amazed” that his guys would do that.
  2. The second time, I took all of my belongings out, except the CDs in the changer and again they had messed around with the CDs and left the A/C on full blast. I didn’t complain because I know they were jamming to NeedtoBreathe and figured since it was summertime, they only used the A/C for a short test drive.
  3. The third time (more warranty fixes and a tire rotation), just last month. It was 40 degrees outside. I picked the truck up and found that yet again they had messed with the CDs, but this time I was listening to The Golden Compass on CD and was peeved that I lost my place. Even better was the A/C was on full blast again…in 40 degree weather! I had a half-tank of fuel left, so I went and got gas before a long trip to PA. I found that I got 12 MPG on that half tank! I’ve never gotten lower than 16 mpg, and that was on full city driving.
  4. The fourth time, I complained about the horrible gas mileage and how they keep running the A/C at full blast. I asked for an explanation of why they leave my truck running, especially with the A/C on in such cold weather. No answer. But when I got the truck back this time (they had to replace my seat rails), they had reset my tripometer…perhaps so I would lose track of my gas usage this time, which I did and couldn’t calculate the MPG. Oh, but the A/C wasn’t on, but they had messed with the CDs again.
  5. This last time, when they had to replace the steering column moulding (creaky steering wheel again), I asked them to “not touch anything they aren’t fixing”. I got the truck back and the tripometer was reset again, they had put 7 miles on the truck and messed with the CDs again. I went in to the manager this time and complained. Perhaps they needed to unplug a connection or fuse that would reset the tripometer, but I wanted to know why they needed to drive 7 miles in my truck. You only need to go 1-2 miles to test the steering fix. He’ll be “getting back to me today with an answer”.

Yes, overall I’m a complainer, but after a horrible experience with Jiffy Lube and another mechanic, and finding 20 new miles on my wife’s Chevy Malibu when we took it in for a minor fix at a different dealer, I keep track of small things with my truck before and after I take it in. I remove as many personal belongings as possible, but it’s inconvenient to remove every CD from the changer, and honestly I shouldn’t need to do that. But I can’t stop them from driving it around for no reason, or blasting my A/C, or stealing/wasting gas. Only then do I go to the manager to complain.

I told the manager that they give me quality service, but that I worry every time I bring the truck in what I’ll find missing, reset or just messed with. I’ve asked the service tech to relay information when I drop the truck off, but apparently the mechanics just don’t care or don’t understand that people notice what they’re doing.

Just another reason not to own a vehicle. And to clarify, I don’t care anymore about all the squeaks and rattles on our Pontiac Grand Am. It has almost 130,000 miles and I just expect it to rattle. It’s made of cheap plastic and there’s no tightening, gluing or welding I can do at this point to fix it. But that car has almost 10 years on my truck, which is one reason I hold the truck to a higher standard. Oh, and it’s a Honda.

I will say this: when I had the 2002 Acura TL-S, I never had any problem at any of the 4+ Acura dealers that I visited in the almost 5 years of ownership. I always got a loaner, even for an oil change, and I didn’t find my A/C, CDs or any other component messed with. But that’s what you should expect for an ~$8,000 premium over a standard Accord (at the time).

My rant is done…for now.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Well I sort of agree…many auto mechanics are shady. Oil change shops are particularly so…they are always trying to get me to pay for extra charges like air filter changes.

    I’ve had my air condition and radio fiddled with but I guess those type of things don’t bother me too much.

    It could be worse…you could have had things stolen

  • Just because it’s a Honda doesn’t mean it’s immune to rattles and squeaks. I would expect that an 18-month old G6 to have minimal squeaks, and conversely, that a Honda with 130,000 would not be squeak-free. The anti-American poke was somewhat unnecessary.

    Also, I’d recommend going to a different dealership. If complaining with your mouth won’t work, then complain with your wallet. They’ll get that one.

  • @ Michael,
    Do you really think that they’ll care if one customer leaves? I wish more businesses thought like that, but most don’t.

    I’m with you though CD, I take everything that’s important to me out of my car when it goes into service. And if the techs cleared my tripometer, drove my car excessively, stole from me, or messed with my things, I would be livid. Stangely enough, the tripometer thing probably ticks me off the most. How do they know that you don’t use that to track mileage for buisness? That could really throw off your records.

    In fact,.. I would probably pitch a story to the local news to see if they would do a undercover report on the poor service you had been getting. It would be interesting to have them put a GPS tracker (and maybe a camera) in the car and see where they have been driving it.

  • I think you need to pick your battles! Your complaints do seem petty, but I suppose it depends on your perspective. When you go in to the dealer hoping the tech won’t cut your speedo cable, slash a transmission coolant line, or take out random bolts and bang on things to generally create some other issue for which they can charge you, having the guy browse your CD collection doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

    Whenever I’ve taken my car in to a mechanic, which is extremely rare (see reasons above), they ALWAYS play with the GPS and changed my radio station, and yes often turn on the AC. It never really bothered me though.

    The gum thing is a little bizarre.

  • Actually, the gum was what got me checking in the first place. Also, the first time, they filched a few quarters, but as the first draft of this article had the dealer’s name, I left that out.

    And going to another dealership won’t really help. I do almost all of the service myself, except for something that should be covered under warranty, or anything that has to do with a safety system like the brakes. I don’t touch the brakes.

  • @ Beyond…,
    I understand how they could seem petty, but at the same time, there is a certain level of privacy/respect that you should expect. Sure changing the radio station isn’t a problem as long as they didn’t change your presets (of course thats going to happen if they have to disconnect your battery). But if they have no viable reason to be in a particular area of your car, then messing with your personal items is a breach of trust.

    In CD’s case, it would be like leaving your coat at a coat check desk and finding out that the attendant went through your pockets. Worse yet, that they wore your coat out when they went on their lunch break.

  • I’ve owned nothing but GM cars, and I’ve gone to probably 10 different GM dealers over the various lifetimes of my cars, and have never had my radio stations changed, my CD changed, my trip meter reset, or mileage that I was concerned with. And definitely haven’t ever come up short on anything in my car. Most of the time, when I get the car back, the radio is turned off but it’s always on the station or on the point of the CD that I left it.

    I suggested another dealership because maybe there are problems with that one dealership in particular or maybe you have developed a reputation where they think it’s funny. Either way, I don’t think it’s all Honda dealerships, so if it is just that one, I wouldn’t give them my business if I had a choice. Even if it’s warranty work and not out of your pocket, the dealer still gets a good chunk of change from each warranty repair from the manufacturer. Taking your business elsewhere would be no different switching grocery store chains if you were treated poorly or got sub-standard products.

  • If you want to get some results, escalate the issues to Honda’s regional customer service.

    Also, I am surprised you did not get a survey from Honda to rate the quality of the service at the dealership.

    If you go elsewhere you will only take a few dollars away from them. They don’t care. If you get Honda corporate involved and threaten their service ratings, you will get results.

  • The reason why they probably left your a/c is because it is required of them to check the a/c properly operates, yes even in cold weather. The reason your trip odometer was possibly reset was they press that button for resetting your maintenance light and have to toggle through to get to that function and sometimes accidentily reset your trip. Sometimes the cars are driven in excess of 10 miles if something like a transmission is replaced or there is a intermittant noise or engine concern that needs to be driven over a period of time, not mileage. There are porters who actually park and retrieve the vehicles, so it very well may have been them who were messing with the radio, gum.

  • Guiness, I understand all the potentials, but my truck’s service light wasn’t on, I didn’t bring it in to check the A/C, and the transmission wasn’t replaced.

    And yes, I’m not ruling out the porters. They’re kinda shady looking. However, they seem to be busy enough to not have enough time to drive around. Plus they’re not given the keys by the service techs until it’s time to pick it up for the customer and bring it to the front door.

  • As a technician I am suprised at the disappearance of the gum. That is just not justified. As for the a/c,radio, other electronic items,accessories. Our shop requires us to do a checklist of these things. Because of customers who have broken components prior to bringing their vehicle to get service then try to claim we broke them to get it fixed for free. Happens every week and this is how we are able to protect ourselves from being blamed for the damage. Just the same I/we dont go through customers personal stuff. But as part of our checklist we check the operation of the audio equipment as in make sure the cd changer works or not thats a item that is usually claimed to be “broken” and by using our checklist we can cover our butts and keep everyone honest. I for one have had to put 5-10 miles on a vehicle to duplicate a customers complaint ie, brakes, steering, noises. You think that because you pay high prices to dealership or service center that, that means you get a quality technician and that is not always the case either there are some out there that shouldnt touch customers property. And as a technician we only see a small portion of what you are paying to the business we are eeking out a living the owner of the business is the one getting most of your money. And im not saying that is a excuse to chew your gum its just something to think about before you go jump on the manager about a cd being left playing when you dropped off your car and they didnt turn it off when they did a road test or let it set and run while doing diagnostics. Because who do you think is gonna get balled out for a probably honest oversight. I always remember who treats me bad when I work on their vehicle and admittedly I could care less if I work on their car again. Especially when I did nothing wrong.

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