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Resolving Warranty or Repair Disputes

   Most of this was posted to the RTML by "T. Massoll"   flywheel[a]flash.net
.
Resolving dealership warranty or service disputes  

Submitted on a dealer survey form:

Service Advisor - daily experiences         date=2003
Any dealership is only as good as it's staff. After all the person you deal with can make the experience as painless and positive as possible or on the other hand can be over focused on up selling alone. You the customer know if you're being understood and listened to. Your advisor should be there to communicate between you and the tech and trust and communication is the ingredient, if one fails so will the other. When before taking you car in for service or repairs get as much information noted down about your problem, when does it happen, hot or cold eng, what are the signs (things you see) leaking fluid, smoke, engine light on, and what are the symptoms (things you can see but can feel). Hesitations, sluggish etc. This information will help your advisor write up your concerns so that the tech has a clear idea of what problem you are after and can fix it faster saving you money, time and repeat visits. Its just like going to the doctor! Final word... If you're happy with the person you are dealing with, stick with them and put it in writing as the majority of customers that take the time to write are negative, and the good work is often ignored. But if you're truly not happy, you need to know you are heard. After all you are the customer and you can choose to service elsewhere, a fact that will effect their bottom line. And remember, a Service Advisor has one of the most stressful jobs out there..tell them when you are happy - it goes a long way!

Date:         Tue, 31 Mar 1998 23:01:13 -0500
From:       "T. Massoll" <flywheel[a]flash.net>

This page is designed to help those who are having a dispute with Chrysler or a dealer.

Warranties

If you have a problem not covered by the normal warranty, see if it is covered by the emissions warranty.

Chrysler sometimes authorizes repairs after the warranty is over, depending on the circumstances and the staffer's mood. While dealers can do this in some cases, few will take the risk.

Dealers may think something is not covered when it really is. This is often due to their own misunderstanding. Politely ask them if it would be covered under the emissions warranty (if applicable, e.g. if it is an emissions-related part).

(You should read your owner's manual thoroughly, particularly the warranty sections, before speaking with a dealer, so that you can calmly and politely say something like, "I thought the warranty covered spark plugs until the first recommended change interval. Would you mind if I checked the warranty in my glove compartment?")

If cases where the service person is sure something is not covered, ask if they would mind if you called Chrysler to see if you could get an authorization for them. Make sure your attitude conveys the message that "I'm trying to help you to get paid for this by the company" rather than "I'm going to complain about your miserly tactics." Service people usually do not mind your calling Chrysler if you say up front that you are doing it to get authorization for them.

Resources

There are many resources for those who are having a dispute with a dealer or a car company. For some, you will have to wait until the end of this page, or visit our auto links sections. But since I think you should read the rest of this page, I'd appreciate your not going there now!

Ralph Nader's Center for Auto Safety, at (202) 328-7700, has information on hidden warranties, common problems, and a directory of lawyers who can handle auto fraud cases. The quality of the lawyers themselves is hard to judge - that doesn't mean we have received good or bad reports. A similar referral service is run by two lawyers in Boston, who head the National Association of Consumer Advocates (617-723-1239), but your chances of reaching CAS are higher.

Watch out in small claims or special civil court because many lawyers will be over-eager to settle, when you have a strong case. This is because it is easy to grab the quick buck and move on to the next case, and more trouble to actually sue. Of course you run the risk in court of losing and having to pay massive legal fees. In many states you can handle cases by yourself. Nolo Press has some good materials on this, but your best resource is often the local court clerks.

Used car guides are interesting but rarely too helpful, because they are often inaccurate or missing key information. Consumer Reports' statistical methods are questionable, and the others tend to be high on opinion. Consumers Guide's book has concise write-ups and details on resale value and some specs. Jack Gillis' Used Car Book is interesting, but some of its conclusions are questionable for the average driver. If you're serious about spending a real chunk of change for a used car, consider all sources, including mailing lists (which are usually more reliable than newsgroups).

When looking for used car prices, remember the difference between retail and wholesale. Kelly's Blue Book is the one most often used by car dealers; they buy at wholesale and sell at resale, and pocket a nice chunk of change, figure about $1,500, along the way. Sell privately if you can!

The Lemon-Aid Used Car Guide, by Phil Edmonston, has been recommended, but I've never seen it.
 

Choosing a dealer

Nothing beats the recommendation of a knowledgeable friend or acquaintance - except your own experience. The sales and service staff may be night and day in terms of quality and the "user experience," so never assume that a friendly salesman in front indicates friendly and competent mechanics in back.

Try to buy from five star dealers, even though someone new who buys or manages a business with historically good service and quickly screw it up. Some excellent dealers get fewer than five stars because they are not good at the "little things." The dealer I go to now has three stars but, as far as I am concerned, their record is excellent. The five star dealer across the street has high-pressure salesmen, crashed my car and refused to be responsible for the damages, and seemed to need three or four trips for each repair; while the 3-star dealer can fix things the first time, and quickly, too.

Buy from dealerships with good service departments. Avoid dealers with raucous ads on the radio where the announcer screams at you.

If you have a Dodge (except trucks) any Plymouth dealer can fix your car, and vice versa. You do not have to return to the dealer you bought from. Soon Chrysler-Plymouth and Jeep dealers will be merged, too.

Prevention

Get a copy of your complaint even if no problem is found by the service techs, so you can, later on, show that a problem existed earlier. That may convince Chrysler to make good after the warranty ends, or increase a lemon law settlements.

If there is a "small accident," insist on seeing the damage in person and get everything in writing. Otherwise you have little protection against shoddy repairs and peeling paint. Take my word on this one!

Do not blindly believe anything your dealer tells you. Get everything in writing. Check questionable statements with the FAQ and newsgroup.

If you bring in your car, do not accept the "I don't hear it" or "They all do that" defense. Ask for a test drive with the manager or a mechanic. Be assertive without being aggressive or hostile.

Treat your dealership and service advisors well. They have a lot of discretion in providing extra service. If they like you, they may also give you a better mechanic.

It's been said before, I'll say it again. Only use Mopar Type 7176+ Type 2 (now Type 3!) or equivalent in your four-speed or Neon automatic transmission. Do not use Dexron or Dexron II under any circumstances. Make sure your oil change place knows this and does it. Save yourself a massive bill. Oh, and only use the recommended oil (see your service manual, don't listen to service station people). Many Chrysler dealers don't stock the recommended oil weight! Which, BTW, is usually 5W30.

If you get a bad dealer, be sure to fill out and return your survey (knowing that dealers see negative surveys!). See the note at the bottom of this page.
 

Contacting Chrysler

Call 1-800-992-1997 to speak with Chrysler Customer Service. (USA only).
Other numbers that have been suggested are: 1-800-763-8422   and   1-800-227-0757

Send suggestions and complaints to:

Chrysler Customer Center
Box 302
Centerline
MI 48015.

Canadians, write to

Chrysler Center
Box 1621, Windsor
Ontario N9A 4H6

or call 800-465-2001.

The best way to contact Chrysler is by phone. Though there are times when the phone system is overloaded, the normal waiting time seems to be less than five minutes. Many letters go into a black hole!

A reader reported two fax numbers (don't expect your faxes to be read by the addressee):

Thomas Stallkamp (President)    1-248-512-1746
Robert Eaton (CEO)                  1-248-512-5143

If you live outside the US and Canada, see your owner's manual for addresses and phone numbers. (Area code 510 is now 248).

If you suspect your dealer has defrauded Chrysler with false warranty claims, report it to the Customer Center and ask them to let you know what happens.

Be polite and calm but assertive at all times. Do not take no for an answer but do not act angry or threaten them. This will make matters worse. They are often sensitive, defensive, and uninformed. If all else fails, call back and speak to someone else.

One key for them, with out-of-warranty repairs, is whether the problem existed during the warranty period! That's a good reason to get all your complaints acknowledged by the dealer in repair forms and to keep them (and keep 'em well-organized).

Never say bad things about your dealer or anyone else unless you absolutely must. Do not subject them to the anger caused by your dealer or their employees. This will only hurt your case!

It is easy to be pegged and written off as a "bad customer." Don't let them put you into the loony category.

Is the problem with your car or your dealer?

If your car has lots of problems, your dealer or mechanic might be screwing it up when trying to find other problems.

If you have problems immediately after having your car serviced, it may have been the mechanic's fault. Examples:

  • stalling after a tune up
  • brake noises after a brake job
  • overheating after the antifreeze was changed (system not purged properly of air bubbles)
  • oil leak after oil change
  • transmission problems after transmission servicing or fluid change.
Solutions:
  • find out what the problem was and fix it yourself or demand that the mechanic fix the car (may be risky).
  • ask for your money back
  • find another mechanic
  • report the incident to your Consumer Affairs Department, Attorney General, Chrysler, and/or the BBB (which may be useless in some areas).
Four speed (Chrysler) automatic transmissions cannot use standard Dexron or Dexron II automatic transmission fluid! They use Type 7176+.

Many new cars cannot use 10W40 oil. With transmissions designed to take only Chrysler trans fluid, a simple fluid change may solve a lot of problems!

Always use the recommended oil and trans fluid. Never take the oil change place's or the dealer's word for it. Look it up yourself.

Whenever your dealer deliberately and "provably" lies to you or is way too incompetent, send a letter to:

Dealer Agreements
Box 302
Centerline, MI 48015.

When they can't find or fix it...

When the service people cannot find problem, ask to take a drive with the mechanic or a service advisor. If they cannot solve it, ask the service advisor to escalate it; if they don't know the term, suggest trying new steps, such as requesting support from Chrysler or checking the service bulletins. You can also call the Customer Center and ask them to provide technical assistance to the dealership. Trying another dealer often works.

You may wish to bone up on the technical service bulletins. They are available on-line for a fee, or for $12-16 per annual book. If you post a problem on rec.autos.makers.chrysler, someone may look up a bulletin for you; it helps if you first get a title or do some legwork on your own to see if there is a bulletin, before you ask one of the altruistic net.good.citizens. Keep in mind that if you tell them you looked up the bulletin, you will likely be marked as a crank; but if you attribute the information to "a friend with the same car," you'll probably be OK.

Newsgroup Basics

Check the FAQ before posting.

Don't post messages like "this broke and I will speak to the dealer about it." Go to the dealer first if your car is under warranty.

If you are having problems with Chrysler, an angry message or two is fine. However, exaggerating and spamming reduce the value of the newsgroup to others in need.

Step by Step

Even if you are in an adversarial relationship, act in a friendly, non threatening, non-angry, non-adversarial manner -- but don't take "no" for an answer.

When you have a problem:

1. Try to resolve it through discussion with the service advisor.

2. If needed, ask to speak with the service manager.

3. The next step is to call Chrysler at 800-992-1997, from a pay phone if you have to. Often, work suddenly becomes free or your car gets fixed days or weeks ahead of time.

4. If your dealer keeps fixing the same thing over and over again, get another dealer, or ask the service manager to escalate the problem (as mentioned earlier).

5. If your dealer treats you badly, lies to you, etc., get another dealer. Dodge, Chrysler-Plymouth, and Eagle dealers are interchangeable when both have a version of the same car (e.g. Intrepid/Vision/Concord, Neon/Neon, Sebring/Avenger, Cirrus/Stratus).

6. If you have a continuing problem, speak to the people at your zone office (in your owner's manual). Be polite but assertive. Do not threaten them. If they still don't fix the car, politely begin to negotiate.

7. If you are still having the same problem despite several attempts at repairs, read your lemon law guide (in your glove compartment). File an official lemon law complaint with your state if possible. This will get Chrysler's attention and help your negotiation along, but chances are your problem is not serious enough to merit a legally imposed solution.
Important: File any lemon law complaints while you can! In New Jersey, for example, this is the first 18,000 miles - there is also a time limit!

8. You can also try going through the Customer Arbitration Board.

9. If all else fails, look through your Yellow Pages to find a lawyer *specializing* in lemon law problems. A good specialist lawyer will probably cheaply negotiate your way to a good settlement. If negotiation is not their first move, they are not the right lawyer. Negotiation yields better settlements than the courts, IMHO.

10. West's Causes of Action, Volume 11, contains tutorials and sample complaints for suing auto companies. Blashfield's Automobile Law contains information on car-related lawsuits. Nolo Press more information and publications. Your chances of getting cash are slim. They will probably buy back your car, giving you credit towards another instead of cash. You will probably not get all of your money back (even as a credit). Most states  impose a penalty on each mile of use before the first lemon-type complaint.

11. If all else fails, or if there is an emergency or a serious issue which cannot be resolved through normal channels, call the state department of consumer affairs immediately. If they are unresponsive, or if the dealer has done something truly offensive, call the state Attorney General's Office. Do not be afraid to call your Congressman; many will help out to get your vote. If the State helps you to get justice, think about it during the next election and vote accordingly - for "big government" instead of "completely unrestricted free trade."
 

Why are there so many bad dealers?

Blame it on greed, the worship of the dollar and small business, our culture, the automotive world's culture, poor local small claims courts (or policies that you cannot sue for damages in small claims court), or on Chrysler.

Chrysler will not control its dealers because it thinks it cannot control them. Either their contracts are truly badly written or they really need confidence and competence. If their contracts are badly written, shame on them for not admitting it and making up bad new contracts for new dealers and renewals.

I have recently heard that Chrysler does try hard to work with dealers when problems are reported. According to a dealer source, a customer complaint launches a barrage of faxes and phone calls which are invisible to the customer. Good dealers will take this as an incentive to work with the customer. Bad ones may blame the customer and become passive-aggressive.

Zone officials are often too lenient on bad dealers, but let's be fair - they may not have all the power they need. Chrysler has been slow to acknowledge the long-term damage done by bad dealers and to put it over the short-term high volume these dealers often generate.

Whenever your dealer lies to you or is too incompetent, send a letter to Dealer Agreements and to the Customer Center, Box 302, Centerline, MI 48015.

Paint issues

The good news: Chrysler seems to have fewer bad paint issues than GM or
Ford. GM seems to be the worst, especially
with blue paint. The bad news: there are still some vehicles with bad
paint.

A sample factory rep said paint should last at least 5 years or 100,000 miles, but that a six or seven year old car probably wouldn't get much factory assistance in repainting. Some have reported that Chrysler split the cost of repainting vehicles in this age range.

Surveys

What happens when you send in a Chrysler customer satisfaction survey? A sample dealer says:

Chrysler sends all the bad surveys back to the dealer so he can (or is supposed to) get in contact with the customer and attempt to correct the problem...it could have backlash at the dealership but several bad surveys from the same customer would have some damaging effects with the dealer though Chrysler. They take those very seriously.

The customer can call the 800 number and Chrysler launches what is called a CAIR (basically a complaint.) At that point the dealer has 24 hours to let Chrysler know what is being done with the vehicle.

I assure you Chrysler takes it very seriously (you best prepare for a flood of faxes). I have been involved in caires from other dealers and it is not pleasant for the dealer. ... I have seen so much that shows me Chrysler really does care that I won't work for another dealer. I think lots of the bad comes from dealers stonewalling people and trying to stop it from getting over them.

A factory rep from an unspecified company reported that Chrysler worked hard to improve its formerly-rather-poor surveys. They now include important indicators, such as the number of times a repair has been unsuccessfully attempted, and have been cross-validated against other indicators. Note that not all customers are surveyed, because of what they see as customer preference (based on focus groups); only about half are, which means that you have a 50/50 chance of getting a survey when you have a repair done.

 

Canada only (the US division has no review committee):

New March 27, 2000 - Posted to the TDR Forum. The original source appears to be the Phil Edmonston's Lemon Aid page. I have edited and added a few comments.

If the normal channels have failed, try the Chrysler Owner Review Committee    RAR17@chrysler.com

NOTE: Read the material below this box and use those channels before calling for a review of your case. With any claim, the Review Committee will want to know which model vehicle you have, what is/was the problem(s), what has been done (parts replaced, tests performed, adjustments made, etc), when it was done (have the dates, ticket numbers, etc), and who did it (dealers name and location, technicians name if available). If you are prepared to answer those questions and have documentation, they will be able to review your claim. Without that information, you will go nowhere.

   Chrysler's Review Committee was established in February 1998 in response to the bad publicity and threats of court action from Lemon-Aid and about six hundred Chrysler owners who helped form Chrysler Lemon Owners Groups (CLOG) in British Columbia and New Brunswick. These groups submitted the names of irate owners to Chrysler and have succeeded in getting sizeable refunds for brake, transmission, and paint repairs.
    If you have had any of these problems and want "goodwill" repairs or a refund for repairs already carried out, go through Chrysler's regular customer relations hot line at 1-800-992-1997 and speak with Chrysler Customer Service. I have heard that Matthew Dougherty has a good reputation for handling problems.

Only after the normal channels of communication have failed and you are still not satisfied by the response you got; phone, fax, or e-mail Mr. Larry Latta, Vice President Sales and Marketing, or Lou Spadotto National Service Manager, Parts, Service, and Engineering at: 519-973-2300; fax: 519-561-7005; e-mail: RAR17@chrysler.com. To expedite your complaint, have all service documentation in-hand before calling Mr. Latta or Mr. Spadotto.
    They will use the Review Committee to take a hard look at all claims, including those that were previously rejected. Up to now, I can say the Committee has treated most consumer complaints diligently and professionally. Three suggestions if you plan to contact the Review Committee: send Chrysler copies of all your repair bills or independent garage estimates, don't accept a refusal based on the fact that you're not the first owner, and finally, don't let Chrysler turn your claim down because the repairs were carried out by an independent repair facility. If you wish to contact CLOG (B.C.), call Patricia Wong at Tel. 604-657-2298, Fax 604-255-1831; E-mail underdog@Lynx.bc.ca.

 


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This page was edited on: May 3, 2004