'What Would You Do?'
Every shop owner runs into 'situations.'
Editor's note: Shop owners run into "situations" all the time - situations that leave them scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to resolve the issue fairly to everyone concerned. They want to make the right decision in solving a dilemma, but things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are gray areas. Following is a good example of just such a dilemma. What would you do?
A long-time customer brought her older Toyota Corolla into an ASA shop for a 120,000-mile service. Four months later, the differential in the transmission died. The customer had the transmission and differential assembly rebuilt 18,000 miles ago, so the customer had it towed back to the transmission shop.
The transmission shop says the auto service and repair shop that did the 120,000-mile service drained the differential and didn’t refill it. The cost to repair the differential is $1,700.
The auto service and repair shop, which wishes to remain anonymous, claims it didn’t drain the differential because it’s not recommended by Toyota for the 120,000-mile service. Also, says the shop owner, the 20-year L1 Master Tech who performed the work would not have mistakenly drained the differential instead of the transmission.
Note: Almost all front-wheel-drive Toyota Corollas have the differential and transmission fluid in common, and there is only one drain and fill. This particular Corolla has separate transmission and differential sumps.
Prior to the 120,000-mile service, the transmission shop had replaced a drive axle, which would have caused differential fluid loss. An inexperienced technician would have checked the transmission fluid level and assumed that the differential was full.
The auto service and repair shop didn’t check the differential level because it required removing an engine mount to access the fill plug. Since there weren’t any leaks, the shop’s technician assumed it was full. What would you do?
• Kevin S. Leiby, owner, Leibys Automotive Service, Fulton, Mo. – “There seems to be barely enough information here to make a definitive decision on who was at fault, but let me do my best. How much time passed between the axle replacement at the transmission facility and the 120K service? I have been unable to find a maintenance schedule for a severe service Toyota Corolla 120K service that does not recommend a differential service in ALLDATA, which is supposed to be comprised of manufacturers’ information.
It would also seem that either shop would like this to be someone else’s fault or problem. If this customer was, in fact, a valued, long-term customer, why are these repairs being done at another facility? If the repair facility does not perform transmission repair, I am sure they probably would replace a drive axle.
Both shops obviously have benefited from work performed on this vehicle. And it’s quickly becoming a “they said/we said” scenario, so who really knows for sure? I would recommend to the transmission shop that in order for both shops to retain this customer as a future client, they should consider sharing the cost of the differential repair and make a happy customer.
• What the shop did: This shop initially placed the responsibility on the transmission shop. The customer sued the auto shop in small claims based on what the transmission shop told them. The case was then turned over to the shop’s insurance company who ended up paying for the transmission.
Many shop insurance policies will cover situations like these. Check with your agent to see if you are covered.
• T. J. Reilly’s thoughts on the dilemma: When a shop sells a major service, the customer expects “all” fluids to be inspected. Sometimes a shop may need to call a customer and explain the extra charges involved to inspect certain fluids like this.
I tend to believe that the auto shop did not drain the fluid and that the transmission shop is probably responsible. That being said, the final responsibility rests with the auto shop because they didn’t inspect the fluid.
If it were my shop, we would have paid for the transmission because the technician admitted that he hadn’t checked the fluid level.
In addition to this shop taking care of its customer, the owners also need to have a shop meeting to educate their staff on procedures to prevent future problems like this from occurring. Every shop should have written procedures to prevent costly comebacks and customer complaints. Written procedures will enable you to train your staff, as well as hold them accountable when they don’t follow them.
Would you like to participate in an upcoming “What Would You Do?” feature by saying how you would handle the problem? If so, just email your name and the name of your shop and its location to Levy Joffrion, assistant editor of AutoInc., at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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