Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mechanical screw-up

The local Toyota workshop has generally been good to me about servicing the Goatmobile. I did once have a minor disagreement with the service adviser about brake pads. If it takes 40,000km to take a pad from 12mm thick to 6mm thick, the pads are unlikely to go down to the 2mm minimum in 5,000km or even 10,000km. But the mechanic changed them anyway. Grrr. And no, I do not want the disc rotors skimmed every time the pads are replaced. That's a sure way of needing new rotors just after the warranty has expired.

There have never been any complaints from the workshop about access problems because of the after-market bash plate believe it or not, I had a hole cut in the plate so that the sump drain plug was accessible.

So it was a bit of a surprise when the Al Futtaim service adviser rang me an hour after I'd dropped the Goatmobile off for its 80,000km major service to say that owing to accident damage (Eh?) the gearbox sump would have to be replaced. And the nearest replacement was in Japan. I suggested that the nearest one was actually attached to a wrecked Prado parked, or rather dumped, in the street outside the workshop. No deal. The workshop would have to omit changing the gearbox oil and I (Excuse me? Surely Al Futtaim?) would have to arrange a new sump to be fitted in a month or so.

"Oh, we had so much trouble," the service adviser told me that same evening when I went to collect the car. "It took us half a day just to remove your damaged bash plate. Here, let me show you."

He showed me some photos on his mobile phone that he'd taken of the Goatmobile's nether regions. Sure enough, there were a couple of dents and scrapes on the bash plate. Better there than on the engine or steering components, I'd have thought. Then we went into the workshop. I was just putting my head under the car to have a look, when the mechanic appeared and explained everything.

"No," said the mechanic, "there was no problem with changing the engine oil. There's a hole in the bash plate, so we didn't have to remove it at all."

"This differs from what I've just been advised. And the accident damage to the gearbox sump?"

"That's not accident damage," the mechanic explained. "The gearbox is way too high to get hit by a boulder. The sump plug was overtightened or cross-threaded when it was last fitted."

"That would have been in the same workshop then. At the 40,000km service. By an Al Futtaim employee. And not chargeable to the customer, unless I am very much mistaken!"

So then I was invited to discuss the matter with the service manager. He wheeled in everyone involved, and then asked the extremely pertinent question: "If we knew about this at eight this morning, when we could have taken the sump off and done the repair in half an hour, why are we sitting here after 6pm with the job not done? Get Mr Goat's car booked in, and we'll do the repair ASAP."

Full marks to Al Futtaim for eventually sorting out the problem and making good their cockup. But I'm left with a rather nasty taste. I vehemently object to being lied to by anyone, especially by people who are taking my money. If I hadn't asked to see the damage, if I new nothing about car mechanicals (and indeed car mechanics), and if I'd been unaware of Helicoil, there would currently be a complete new gearbox oil pan winging its way from Japan at my expense.


i*maginate said...

And this is where the men win in the battle of the sexes, and Toyota conquers unsuspecting women. Those service advisers are so pathetic and unhelpful. God knows what they do to my car and what they don't when it goes in for a service. I wish I knew more about cars to sort them out, but with this lack of knowledge, they win every time! And to think, they display so many trophies in the main entrance of "customer service awards". You gotta be joking!

Grumpy Goat said...

I know a load of guys who have no idea what goes on under the bonnet. As cars get more complicated, fewer people have the necessary special tools to do even simple stuff, and tinkering with the engine eventually becomes futile.

It can only be a matter of time until the bonnet catch will disappear and be replaced with a "No user-seviceable parts inside" label.

Seabee said...

It's not just Toyota/Al Futtaim, I have similar problems with Mazda/Galadari.


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