Car Repair: Old Lady Gets Taken For $1500

An elderly woman brought her car to a local dealership because her interior lights didn’t work. A few hours later, the woman got a call from her service advisor. He explained to her in detail that they had encountered a difficult electrical problem, and that it was going to require more time than expected.

A large portion of her interior would need to be removed in order to access some wiring harnesses. She proceeded to authorize 4 hours of diagnostic time to investigate why her interior light didn’t work.

Several hours later she got another call from her service advisor. Finally, they had discovered the root cause – a corroded wire at the connector of a control module was the culprit.

Luckily, the control module did not need to be replaced, which would have exceeded $3000 including parts, tax and labor. However, in order to fix the wiring as well as remove and reassemble all the necessary interior components, it was going to cost $1500. She agreed to the charges, and was relieved that “that’s all it was.”

What Really Happened

The above story sounds perfectly plausible, doesn’t it? Here’s the real story…

The interior light problem was examined by a technician. Before we talk about what he did, here’s what he should have done:

  • First: ensure the interior light switch was turned on (it was)
  • Second: check to see if the interior light fuse had blown (it had)

The fuse was the cause of the problem: a $0.15 fuse that’s quick to check and easy to replace.

Instead, the technician literally spent hours working on the problem. He reviewed wiring diagrams. He traced the wiring harnesses, consulted technical manuals, and removed multiple interior components looking for the source of the problem. After several hours, he finally thought to check the fuse and found the problem.

Several hours to find a blown fuse!

This is an outrageous amount of time, and was a direct result of the technician’s incompetence. The repair should have taken 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, the technician expected to be paid. The service advisor made up the detailed and elaborate electrical story above, as well as the “lucky” savings to cover the technician’s time; the service manager didn’t care about this deception.

The elderly woman was billed $1500, not because she was elderly or because her car was older, but because scenarios such as this happen every day in every type of service center across the auto repair industry.

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