A flat tire, and it got worse

Today wasn’t such a good day. Want to hear about it?

First, approaching my car as I prepared to leave for work, I noticed the front tire was a little low on air. I’ve long realised that if you can see a tire is low, it’s really low. No problem, I’d stop at the gas station on my way in. But there was a problem. The air pump thingy wasn’t working at the station I typically go to. No problem, I just went across the street to the other gas station and used their air pump. Problem, the tire’s valve stem insert is damaged. You know the little metal plunger you can press to open the valve? It was bent, so the pump couldn’t put any air in. I tried to insist and the plunger thingy ended up getting stuck down, so when I removed the air hose, more air came out! I’d previously noticed the plunger being bent before but everything still worked so I put it on my to-do list. With my tire damn-near flat, it rocketed to the top of the list. My dealer is right across the street from the station where I was so I drove over and asked if they might be able to fit in this comparatively minor job sometime during the day. They said it shouldn’t be a problem. I mentioned the outer CV boots needed replacing so if there was time for it, they should go ahead and do so.

Since I now write for a living, it’s not difficult to do so at home. I’ve seen some of my co-workers get permission to work from home given unusual circumstances, so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal for me. I left the car at the dealership and walked home. It’s a ten minute walk, and that’s a big part of the reason I go to this garage.

Not having heard anything by 3 p.m. I called them up and asked what the status was. I wasn’t cranky, rather just wanting to know what was up. The service guy told me he’d just handed the work order to a mechanic and he’d call me back when he knew when it would be done. The CV boots are allotted 3.6 hours (for the pair) so I figured they wouldn’t change them, but fair enough, at least they’d replace the valve stem insert and I’d be good to go.

They called me at 4:20 p.m. and told me it was all done, including the CV boots. Perhaps they put two people on the job, one boot each. I didn’t know … I just went and got the car. I paid and was pleased to see they didn’t charge me for the valve stem or the labour for it. Unfortunately the CV boots were just over $400 with taxes and labour so my pocketbook still took a hit.

The weirdness started after paying, when I looked for my car near the garage entrance, where the service guy told me it would be. It wasn’t there. Since my car is usually where I leave it, my eyes wandered to where I’d parked it in the morning. I spotted it immediately. Interesting coincidence. As I approached the car, the coincidence was replaced by disbelief. The front/driver tire was still almost flat. I looked closely at the valve stem and the plunger was still bent. What the?

I went back inside and the service guy tried to locate the mechanic who did the work. He came back, telling me he’d send out another guy with me to take a look. I can’t recall the reason he gave me for not being able to get the mechanic who did the work. I looked at my copy of the work order and it clearly states, “Replaced defective vale stem insert.” So they spelt “valve” incorrectly. I can deal with a mechanic whose spelling stinks, as long has he can fix cars! But it was obvious to me the valve stem was not replaced. The work was not done despite the invoice saying it was. Not good.

The mechanic came out with me and looked at the tire. He poked at the plunger after I told him it managed to get stuck open on me twice this morning. I hoped it wouldn’t happen again because if it went completely flat and the rim cut the tire, I would fight to have them replace the tire. He said he’d take the car in and replace the valve stem insert straight away. Barring problems, it should take five minutes. I don’t know if there were any problems but it took closer to a half hour. I could see my car on the hoist from the waiting room.

When it was done, I took my car and got out of dodge. On my way home it occurred to me I shouldn’t be so willing to believe in coincidence. The car was in exactly the same spot I left it, and (I’m pretty sure) the wheel had the same ‘to the left’ turn I’d given it when pulling into the spot. Given this and the service guy’s claim the job was started just before 3 p.m., I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to wonder if the CV boots were really changed at all. In addition to those two things, I find it very hard to believe a mechanic approaching the automobile from the driver’s side wouldn’t notice the front tire was a step away from being completely flat. Colour me displeased.

Interestingly enough, the cashier stapled a customer survey to my receipt and told me they’d really like to hear any comments I might have. So I came home, went to the web site listed and filled out the survey. I gave them low marks on the work done stating some/all of it wasn’t done when I arrived to collect the car. There was a large field for any comment I might have for the dealer. So I started typing:

I came in to have a valve stem insert replaced. With no appointment, I was told they’d try and fit me in sometime during the day. I also asked to have the outer CV boots changed if they had time as I was told it was required during my last service. When I returned to pick up the car, it was in the same spot I left it, with the valve insert still damaged, and the tire still almost completely flat (exactly as I’d left it). I had to go back in and bring this to the service department’s attention.

They did fix it, but I’m left wondering, were the CV boots really changed?…which is what I paid over $400 for. Could the mechanic seriously not have noticed the front/driver tire was almost completely flat? I can’t say for sure, but the car didn’t even appear to have been moved from where I left it. Now, either I live with the nagging feeling I may have been taken advantage of or I pay another garage to verify the work has really been completed. Given the amount of money I paid, I feel I must have independent confirmation … and I do not feel this kind of thing should be necessary.

I don’t write this because I want to be contacted. I’m really not at all sure what you could do to make this all good. I just feel that if I’m displeased enough that I never return, you ought to know why. That said, if I discover the work has not been done, you’ll certainly be hearing from me.

Again, I should’ve taken a break after writing to proof the text and make sure everything I wanted to say was included. I really should’ve explicitly stated the invoice said the valve stem insert was changed when it in fact was not. That’s a serious breach, in my opinion. Whether you do it for free or not, you don’t claim to have done something when you didn’t. I’ve already asked a car-guy friend about having someone else check the condition of the outer CV boots. If they still need replacing (as I expect they do), I’m going to be a handful when I contact the garage.

Looking over the invoice in preparing to write the story, I noticed something even more bizarre. There’s a spot on the invoice to report the mileage of the car when they received it, and another spot for the mileage when they return it. It’s listed as 246259/246270. No I’m not going to gripe over eleven kilometres. I’m going to gripe because my car only has 175705 kilometres on it! Could they have done the repairs I paid for to the wrong car?

I need to find out.

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