Sunday

Repair Records are Important to Prove You've Got a Lemon

All too often consumers trust repair shops to accurately write down their complaints when they drive into the dealer's repair shop...that's mistake #1.

Service departments tend to use shorthand jargon that can be misleading and sometimes confusing. Then when you've been in the shop for multiple times with the same complaint, the repair records don't show it. So what do you do?

Rule # 1: Before you ever go to the shop, write out your complaints, one by one, with a clear and simple explanation of what your car is doing wrong. Don't get technical and don't try to diagnose it yourself. Just simply write out what it is. It's okay to say "feels like the engine is missing when it gets up to about 30 mph" but don't get so specific that you say something like "timing chain is slipping."

Remember, the service department has the mechanics so let them figure it out for themselves. If you make a guess and you're wrong, you may find them blaming you for a poor repair attempt.

Rule # 2: Leave a copy of the list at home and give an extra copy of the list to the service department when you arrive --- and let them KEEP it. Even if they try to give it back to you, don't take it! Tell them to put it in the repair file for your car. That way it becomes part of the permanent record of repairs.


Rule # 3: Read the repair order they type/write up at the start of the job. Make sure they have written down your complaints just like you did. Don't let them use any technical jargon or shorthand. If you don't understand what the repair order says, then don't sign it and insist that they list your complaints "in plain English" so there is no misunderstanding.

Rule # 4: Get a copy of the finished repair order when the job is done. Make sure it lists what they did to try to find the problem, and what they did to try to fix it. Again, read it carefully before you sign anything and before you leave the service department. Make sure you really understand it and that they did something to address each complaint you made.

Rule # 5: Get your old parts back. Always ask for them. In Ohio, and some other states, repair shops are required by law to offer the old parts back to you. The only way they can avoid that is if they give you a notice, in advance of doing any repair work, that they are going to keep the old parts for return to the manufacturer (so they can try to figure out why the old parts failed).

Rule # 6: After you've got the finished repair order, get in your car and leave. Even if you notice that something wasn't really fixed at all, just leave anyway. If you noticed something wasn't fixed, or something else is wrong, wait one full day before calling the dealership to make another appointment to go back.

Why? Because repair shops often keep a repair order "open" if they know you are coming back for more work. The result? The repair records then look like your car was in the shop for only one repair attempt when it was really in twice.

Rule # 7: Go back often. If something is wrong with your car, and you think it might be a lemon, keep taking it back to the dealer's repair shop. Remember, the more repair attempts your records show were made, the stronger your case is. And the stronger your case is, the more likely it is that the manufacturer will settle with you faster and on better terms.