Why many auto shops do not install customer supplied parts

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I have observed that there are people who have plenty of spare time and spend hours pricing online and buying the cheapest auto parts they can find. This is fine if they are driveway tinkerers, but a problem arises when they cannot install the parts themselves and have to find a repair center. For enthusiasts this can be a hot topic, and sometimes they get offended when they can’t find a store willing to install their parts. Here is why I am not participating in the practice of installing customer supplied parts.

Profitability: Auto stores get discounts on parts like any other retail business. We buy in more quantity than your one-time purchase and therefore get a better deal. Buy for a price, sell it for a profit – it’s the name of the game around the world in almost every business. When you bring in your own parts, the store forgoes the income generated by the purchase of that part and the subsequent sale, resulting in a sharp drop in the profitability of this individual repair. In my case, most of the time my bays are full, and we are always pre-booked two to three days in advance. Considering this, why should I turn down a high paying job and take a less profitable one in its place? Most industry experts who offer auto repair business training report that owners who are willing to install customer-supplied parts typically haven’t built a solid customer base. They are therefore slower and look for any job regardless of the profitability to keep the cars in their bays. It’s a vicious cycle that results in new high paying customers being turned away because the store is busy doing discounted work.

Warranty: Most consumer protection laws in Canada require auto repair companies to provide a 90-day warranty on parts and labor, regardless of who supplied the part. When things go wrong and result in litigation, the owner of the repair shop is considered the legal expert. If we install your part and it fails, causing another catastrophic failure, the court finds we should have known better and refused to install it, making us responsible. Why would a store owner want to be legally responsible for a part they didn’t provide?

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Liability Insurance: This also varies by province, but there may be a clause in a workshop’s liability insurance policy that excludes customer supplied parts. As in the warranty situation mentioned above, if your vehicle burns to the ground after the failure of a customer supplied part, the store owner may not have coverage and be liable for any damage. Again, the court considers the owner of the business to be the expert, being the one who should have known better.

Wrong Parts: Everyone has a sister whose in-laws cousin works in an auto parts store. Guess what: they don’t care if you get the right stuff. I care, because when I have your vehicle, fully disassembled on my hoist, only to find out that a part you brought in is wrong, my productivity crumbles. While you are going to the Cousin Bobs Auto Parts store to sort out the bad part situation, my hoist is stuck unable to take on another job.

Don’t get mad at a company for refusing to install your parts. For me, all the reasons mentioned just make it a ban for customer supplied parts. I can’t understand why any store would do it, but it’s their business and their decision.


Your automotive questions, answers

I have experienced a lot what you said about the warranty claim at almost 100,000 km. My story is dated, but has been bothering me for five years now. I was driving a 2010 F150 that we bought new from the dealership. It was a remarkable truck, and we asked the dealership to provide service at all times. It pulled our trailer all the way to Florida, and it worked fine on the long hauls.

As the truck approached 90,000 km, a noticeable ticking sound was heard from the engine. Numerous appointments were made and Ford service technicians were unable to identify the problem. The service manager and his senior technician drove with me into the truck with their laptop connected and demonstrated that there was nothing mechanically faulty. They told me my hearing was good and the sound deadening material wears out with age, dirt, oil so I notice the natural sounds of the engine.

When we arrived in Florida that winter, friends walking by the truck were commenting on the ticking noise. I made three service calls to independent garages in the Panama Beach area and all three had an immediate diagnosis without a computer scan. It was the exhaust manifold. Needless to say, our local Ford dealership has avoided the work to avoid the expense of this repair to their dealership (apparently the amount that the dealership is given by Ford for this current warranty repair is not enough to pay the dealership for the actual time it takes). US $ 2,700 for both sides to fix – on me!

I replaced the truck a year later with another Ford, but I wouldn’t buy it from the local Ford dealership, which is unfortunate as I prefer to be loyal to local businesses, but the technical advisor was not acting as a in good faith or ignorance of the problem and denied my warranty claim.

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Ken, North Bay, Ont.

Ken, I’m so sorry you got stuck with that hefty repair bill right at the end of your warranty, but I’d like to give you a different perspective. I agree that exhaust manifold leaks do not require the use of a computer to diagnose. But the problem with diagnosing exhaust manifold leaks is that they are very temperature sensitive. When the problem first appears, it will only be noticeable for the first few moments after starting the vehicle from cold. Most evident when you are sitting outside all night in the colder months. As soon as heat builds up in the engine, the manifold will seal and the noise will be gone in an instant.

I find it hard to understand that an experienced technician trained by a Ford dealer is missing something so basic. Is it possible that by the time you went to the dealership for your service appointments, the truck was already at operating temperature and road tests resulted in a no-fault diagnosis ( NFF) because the noise was not audible once it was hot? Is it also possible that after driving in Florida pulling your trailer the problem gets worse and the manifold is no longer sealed after heating up, becoming completely obvious?

If your truck was still near the mileage warranty limit when you got down south, I would have called Ford Canada while still in Florida. Given your local dealership’s repeated failures, they might have been able to help a local Florida Ford dealership with the repair and pay for it directly.


I have a 2015 VW Sportwagen TDI which recently started showing a warning message that the front left side marker light was burnt out. I took it to the garage, and they told me it would cost over $ 1,200 to repair because the headlight assembly needed to be replaced – it is sold only as a unit rather than as components and a ridiculously high price. Is there a way around this manufacturer’s scam? Maybe turn off the right parking light so things at least look symmetrical up front? Looking for a second-hand part at a tow truck? Or could an ingenious mechanic fix the existing unit?

Thanks for your help with this.

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Better,

Paul L

As far as I know, there isn’t a bulb in your headlight that is not individually serviceable and replaceable. Is it possible that you are missing part of the story? Maybe your case is damaged and the bulb does not fit properly? You may have High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights and the control module has failed. Newer models have light emitting diode (LED) strips which may require replacement as a complete unit, but I don’t think your model would have been fitted with LED lights.

I just feel like something is wrong with the diagnosis you received. I would advise you to call the parts department of a VW dealer, give them your vehicle identification number (VIN) and ask them to check if the information you receive is correct. They will be able to tell you if any of the bulbs are not repairable. If I’m right, it’s time to start over. If by any chance I am wrong then yes I would suggest a used part as a better option.

Lou Trottier is the owner and operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. A question about maintenance and repair? E-mail [email protected], by placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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