Auto Repairs and Other Such Things
Those who follow our blogs know how much Graeme and I like taking our vehicles into garages to have repairs done. It’s a necessary evil of car ownership. Sometimes the squeak or shimmy is something that requires a minor adjustment and other times the pronouncement is much worse. At $100+ per hour becoming the standard service rate, even those minor squeaks can turn out to be expensive annoyances. But, unfortunately, with all of the new computer modules present in modern-day cars, it is often tough for the owner to tell whether the squeak is minor or major. That’s where the ‘trained’ technician comes in and, since the cost of all of the new computerized diagnostic equipment with the need for constant updating of the programs has become cost prohibitive for the smaller independent garages, I find myself more often than desirable spending time at the factory authorized dealership service center.
In the days when I worked downtown at a regular 9-5 type of job, the car repair routine involved dropping the vehicle off somewhere in the morning, hopping into a courtesy customer shuttle van that would drop me off at work and then finding some way to get back to the repair shop before they closed at the end of the day. The biggest problem with that routine was the end-of-day pick-up of the hopefully repaired vehicle especially since I couldn’t guarantee that my day would end at 5PM.
Now that I am ‘retired’ but still fully occupied most days, the drop-off-the-car-in-the-morning and pick-it-up-at-night approach doesn’t fit my lifestyle and that is where things can get a bit tricky. More than one repair shop has lost current business and future business by insisting that I drop my vehicle off as early as possible in the morning and leave it at the shop all day with the reassurance that “Don’t worry. We’ll fit it in somewhere.”
“Any idea when my car might be ready?” is my usual question. If the answer is, “Don’t worry, it will be ready by 5PM “, I begin to steam a bit and then I ask if they have a shuttle bus in the morning. I already know the answer before asking the question and can anticipate the answer that I will likely get when I tell them that I work from home and would like to get a shuttle ride, not to a downtown location along with all of their other customers, but a shuttle ride back to my home in the opposite direction. The usual answer is, “Sorry, we can’t do that” or “Sorry, we can’t do that until after our downtown shuttle runs”.
I’m an understanding person but already, before even figuring out how long I will be without my vehicle, I might have spent as much as 3 hours or more just to get my vehicle into the shop and to get myself back home again. And then, there is the problem of how to get back to the repair shop by some other means before the 5PM pick-up time. Rather than waste all of this time ‘in-transit’ I have determined that it is often more efficient for me to bring along m iPad and do some mobile reading or work at the service center waiting area or bring along my camera and walk around the neighborhood.
Given this possible scenario, I have come to hate repair shops that hold firm to the “Drop it off at 7:30AM and pick it up at 5PM” customer service model especially when they can’t even give me a hint as to how long the car might be sitting in some sort of queue.
Today, I was pleasantly surprised on two occasions at two different auto dealer service centers.
My first stop was the service center at St. Laurent Volvo in Ottawa.
My wife’s C70 Volvo convertible had signaled that the convertible top was not latching properly. Driving in a Canadian winter with a convertible with the top down is not an option. Driving with a convertible top that may or may not be latched properly is a rather dangerous proposition and is likewise not an option. Therefore, getting the vehicle to the dealer’s service center a.s.a.p. became my job. My wife had spoken to the dealership and arranged to have them take a look at it. Come morning, I fiddled with the controls a bit (men do that sort of thing :-)) and managed to do something to convince the computer that the roof was latched properly or, at the very least, I got the computer to stop issuing an annoying beeping sound. Confident that I had solved the problem, or at least, hoping that the roof would stay on, I headed off to the dealership on the other side of the city.
With no specific appointment time arranged beforehand, I wasn’t sure what I might be told when I arrived with my standard “Any idea when the car might be ready?” question. As it turns out, I was in for a pleasant surprise! After taking the pertinent details, the customer service advisor at St. Laurent Volvo, Sherry Verner, provided me with the WiFi code, without me asking for it, offered me coffee, donuts,etc. and asked me to be comfortable for a few minutes while she checked with their service technicians. I have received such initial promises at other service centers and then sat for an hour or more while waiting for the ‘service’ advisor to come back from the chat with the technicians.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when true to her word, Sherry came back not too much later, to advise me that the technicians would not be able to fit the car in until about 1:30 PM and gave me the option of taking the car away for a few hours rather than sitting and waiting. So much different from some other places I’ve been at where the 7:30 AM drop-off mentality prevails and the rule seems to be that once-they’ve-got-the-car, they-keep-the-car.
With keys in hand, I hopped back into the car and drove the short distance over to the Museum of Science and Technology, where I spent a bit of time photographing the locomotive that is on display outside of the building.
The rest of the day went just as smoothly. Although the Volvo technicians couldn’t replicate the problem, they did make some changes to the computer program which might have been causing the initial problem and, with their assurance that things now seemed to be all working fine, I headed over to the second dealership.
The second dealership was a Subaru dealership in the same area of town.
My 2008 Subaru Forester was subject to a recall notice relating to a possible premature rusting problem in one of the suspension and steering components. Another good experience, as the service staff gave me a specific appointment time and provided me with a rough estimate of how long the recall work might take. None of the bring-it-in-early and leave-it-all-day routine. Hopefully the work necessitated by the recall will go as smoothly next week as making the appointment did this week. My fingers will be crossed 🙂 .