The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

The dealership dance begins

1994 GMC Sierra truck on a roll back truck at the dealer

So I was on my way to get some horse manure this morning when the truck all of a sudden stopped and wouldn't start back up.

The local dealer was just a short hike down the road...Gulp.

It was only 50 dollars to have them go back and fetch our truck with the above bigger truck. They won't look at it till tomorrow.

Dealerships have always made me nervous. I think I might rather walk down a dangerous dark alley, but sometimes they're the best mechanical choice. I'll spare you the wallet munching stories that have helped me to form this opinion. So far today's experience is working out to change my mind at least a bit. This dealer is in for us, but most people would consider it a country dealership, which feels like an advantage. Maybe that's why the people working there seem so much friendlier than the last dealer I was at?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Dealerships worry me too. But the good ones balance their needs to sell new cars with their wants to create repeat customers and word of mouth advertising. I hope you have a good one!

Our dealer here (Toyota of course) always services our car with a smile, gives us a few freebies and knocks a bit off the price. They of course do make an effort to interest us in new cars though. Just stay strong and politely refuse (assuming the truck can be adequately fixed within a decent budget).

Comment by Eric in Japan Wed May 16 17:54:59 2012
Eric --- No chance they'd sell us another vehicle. That's not why I'm averse to dealers --- I just think they always charge a lot more than the average mechanic. But our favorite mechanic drew a blank with this problem two weeks ago, so we decided to cope with the extra expense and hope the dealer will be familiar with the issue. This particular dealership did come highly recommended.
Comment by anna Wed May 16 19:35:15 2012

Full disclosure: I am an ASE Master Certified Auto Tech, I have completed all of the manufacturer training available to me (which is substantial), and I currently work at a dealership.

Dealerships can be more expensive, for sure, but you generally get much higher trained and overall better techs working on the vehicles. I can't speak for all dealers, but my dealer seeks out ASE certified techs and rewards them. My dealer also rewards us for completing the manufacturer training. This, along with the necessary dues to the manufacturer so we can wear their name, drives up cost but generally leads to better quality for the customer.

Comment by Southern Marksman Wed May 16 21:14:27 2012
Dealers typically will charge more than the independent mechanic. Long time ago I started fixing and maintaining my own vehicles. Did you guys do some research around to see if you could figure it out or at least troubleshoot it?
Comment by Marco Wed May 16 22:22:40 2012
In small towns where people know everyone, or nearly everyone, the dealerships are apt to do their best work at a fair price because they know if they charge too much, they will loose business. When in a large city, people do not know each other to give recommendations or tell their friends and neighbors what a lousy job they did. Establishing a relationship with the dealer is also a help.
Comment by Sheila Wed May 16 22:44:10 2012
Mark, does the truck get any regular maintenance?
Comment by Roland_Smith Thu May 17 04:54:45 2012

Southern Marksman --- I'm glad you said that -- even though you work for a dealership, you don't work for this dealership, so I figure you're not that biased. :-) The potential for extra expertise is why Mark chose the dealership after trying the easier options. We'll see if his gamble pays off!

Marco --- It's an intermittent stalling problem that's been going on for several months. We've tried changing the fuel filter and putting additives in the gas, but it seems to be the same or worse, which is why Mark decided to move up the chain.

Roland --- We bring the truck to our regular mechanic for the basics --- oil changes and things like that. We use it as a farm truck, though, which means it sits around for several weeks and then does short runs.

Comment by anna Thu May 17 07:46:34 2012
Roland-We did recently get the oil and oil filter changed along with the fuel filter. We got the truck from Anna's brother Joey, who at that point was only using it maybe 2 or 3 times per year. Our state requires annual safety inspections, and that was done last month.
Comment by mark Thu May 17 07:48:01 2012

Safety inspections are good; they get the real dangerous clunkers off the roads. But they usually look at things like the brakes, steering and corrosion of the body, not so much the engine and reliability issues.

There are parts in the engine like the timing belt that can produce expensive failures and need regular check-ups and timely replacement.

A failing water pump or thermostat can also lead to severe engine breakage if the warning light on the dashboard is ignored or broken.

Comment by Roland_Smith Thu May 17 08:16:19 2012

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