Repair Lessons, Dealers Bad, mmmkay?

A couple months ago I took my S10 pickup truck into Larry H Miller Chevrolet to get the tailgate suspension cables replaced on a recall. Foolishly I had left the recall notice home (it was a 3rd or 4th notice, I hadn’t been in a hurry to fix something so small). When I got there I was told that there was no recall notice for my vehicle and if I did actually get a card that I needed to bring it with me to prove such a recall existed. A couple weeks later I did return with the card and got the cables replaced. While I was there I asked about the cost of fixing some bad alignment that was causing tire wear. For about $80 they fixed the problem and I was pretty satisfied. Somehow that lulled me into a false sense of security about dealing with the dealership, despite a small parts department fiasco.

I had broken the release latch for the drivers rear half-door a couple years before and my brother had broken his several times and complained about it being such a flimsy part. For about three years I had put off fixing it, because I figured I could cast a bronze latch from the broken piece and have a durable part that I made myself. While the car was having the alignment checked I walked down to the parts department and inquired about the latch replacement. They quoted me $60 for the replacement, which I thought was insane, so I went back to the casting idea. Upon relating this story, my friend Sam pointed me at and I found the same part for $6, plus $11 in shipping, so I bought it. I still want to cast the part, but at least my door is working for now.

This leads me up to the nice spring weather we were having last week. I was driving along and rolled the windows down to enjoy the weather and noticed that my brakes were squealing in a bad way. My last truck was a Toyota manual that I had for 10 years and over 160,000 miles. I’d never needed a brake job on it, and hadn’t had one in the 40,000 miles I’ve put on this truck, so I’ve never really had any experience with brakes. Intellectually, I knew that brakes are something I should be able to do with a little internet research and a trip to the parts store. I’d even chatted up Jack, who I knew had done it recently, and he offered to help. But the return of crappy winter weather and basic laziness overcame my thrift and Monday I ran back to the dealership figuring that I’d just get it done.

In short order they came back and told me that it was going to cost $250 per axle, and that all four brakes needed to be done. With what I hoped was my best poker face, I said I thought I’d take it somewhere else. The repair liaison said ok, and he’d put it back together. As he was checking me out he told me he found a coupon online that I could go home and print out that would save me about $50 per axle, if I remember the figure through the red haze of anger that was building. I acknowledged with a nod as I signed over the $55 it was costing me to have the evaluation.

When I told Debbie, she said I should have taken it to her cousin’s place. I hadn’t even thought of that, even though we’ve had her old car in there a couple times. I went in today (without telling them about the dealership fiasco) and they came back and told me the front brakes were ok, with about 40% of the pad left, but the rear were down almost to the metal. They were able to replace the pads and turn the rotors for a total price that was way below what the dealership wanted for just one axle.

Now the final straw that pushed me into publicly telling this tale was when I got back to work after having the repair, I got an email from my brother that had a forwarded message he’d received from Larry H Miller that was addressing me asking me to take a survey about how well my visit went. Somehow they’ve even crossed up our info in their database.

So I’m done with LHM and dealerships in general, and if anyone is looking for a good mechanic, I’d have to recommend The Back Shop in West Valley at 3105 West 3500 South.