Howdy Birmingham! I’m going to be completely honest about this post…
It was inspired out of sheer frustration…
Because the door locks on my 4 year old sedan seem to be more complicated to fix than the hardware on a Saturn V rocket!!!
Maybe the dealer (whose name shall not be mentioned) should bring down some engineers from Huntsville the next time we take our car in. Then it might not take a full three weeks of me driving a loaner to figure out a simple electrical problem.
My Car Dealership Experience from Hell that Inspired This Post
I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life. In that time, I’ve dealt with all kinds of local car dealerships. Good and bad. Ford, Toyota, Volvo, Honda, Nissan, Chevy…I’ve had my share of cars and two great trucks. Most dealerships were steller to work with, and I’ll get to those when I start my list later in the post. This one experience though…
It all started a couple of years ago. We were trying to get a good car at a great price, so we went to CarMax. I’ve always heard bad things about buying a program car but on the flip side, they do change the oil out regularly on a rental fleet vehicle. Plus, modern engines are so much more reliable and even if someone “dogs it out” the computer controls should prevent any serious engine damage.
So, I made the call to take a risk and buy a used luxury car with 20,000 program miles on it already. The car’s great, our experience with CarMax was great, and then it all fell apart when we had to go to the dealership.
A Simple Problem Becomes Three Weeks in a Loaner
Our car has these new fancy doors that unlock when you walk in range with the key fob. It’s cool as hell, but one of the doors didn’t function properly with either fob. Being under factory warranty, CarMax referred us to one of the local dealerships in central Alabama. That’s where things went south…
First they balked at giving us a loaner. Then they literally LOST OUR CAR SOMEWHERE ON THE LOT. You heard right. I get a call a week later asking me to come pick up our car. “It’s all ready to go”. But then I get there to find out that there was a paper mixup. They had to order parts (which would be another week) and to add insult to injury, no one knew where my actual car was. It took 30 minutes for them to find where another employee had parked it in the back lot so I could get some belongings out.
Delay after Delay
Fast forward another week. The parts are in and get replaced, but for some reason there is still an issue. Instead of the actual locking mechanism, they determine this is a grounded wire somewhere. Great! It took another week of tracking that down, and we were delivered a car three weeks into the experience with a door lock that only worked half of the time now. I guess half is better than none of the time, and it’s probably “good enough” in the eyes of the service tech.
Two Years Later – A Hot Car Door
Apparently all that troubleshooting they did caused another problem that didn’t manifest itself until two summers later. Now any time that same door gets hot in the sun, the entire door panel loses power. Windows, locks, mirrors, NONE OF THE CONTROLS WORK until you cool off the interior of the car. I can literally wait 5 minutes after the air conditioning starts and watch the little LED for the window locks come on showing me that the door panel has power again. Of course, the warranty is gone at this point. I’m so frustrated that I’ll never use that particular dealership again.
And while I’m not one to publically out a business for bad service, I want to make one thing very clear. This was one bad experience after decades of car ownership, and I have nothing bad to say at all about any of the other local dealers I’ve worked with over the years. In fact, these four are (in my mind) some of the best people to deal with in central Alabama. So instead of making this a totally negative post, let’s turn this one into a positive with my top four dealerships in central Alabama list:
THE LIST: Top Four Local Car Dealerships in Central Alabama
Time to give credit where credit is due. These dealerships have treated us right consistently over the years.
1 – Brannon Honda – From the moment I walked onto the lot, I was greeted with a smile and a legitimately no-pressure shopping experience. We were in the market for a used car with super-efficient gas mileage because I was commuting 90 miles to work at the time. That little Civic kept going until some dummy was too busy on his phone to pay attention to the suddenly stopped traffic on 20/59. But I put over 60,000 miles on that car while I did have it and Brannon was super-helpful every time we took the car in for service
2 – Limbaugh Toyota – I bought my first new vehicle at Limbaugh when I was 20. Confession time: I was the dumb kid who buys a new 4×4 and immediately starts wasting money on lift kits and tires. Yes, I abused that truck driving any and every mud trail I could find from Tuscaloosa to Gadsden. The Limbaugh service techs might have been shaking their heads in disbelief after I left them with yet another busted oil pan to fix, but they were never anything but friendly and professional to my face and I have nothing but great things to say about the whole experience.
3 – Benton Nissan – Years ago, I made a mistake. I bought a little red Nissan pickup for a dollar from a friend. That wasn’t my mistake. No, my mistake was trying to save even more money. I was told the engine was shot, and to save $400 I opted for a rebuild instead of a new motor. Through tons of trial and error, my mechanic finally gave up and I had to scrap the project. However, the whole time I was trying to make it run right, the part’s department at Benton on Academy Drive was extremely helpful with looking up parts and placing special orders.
4 – Oskar Motors – The 2nd used vehicle my family bought from Oskar was the result of a fateful trip to an Alabama v. Auburn game. We were on the way to the Iron Bowl and stuck in traffic one day when a guy in an F150 decided to look at his phone while driving. Once the insurance check came in, the folks at Oskar were able to help us find a newer, upgraded model of the same car. Super nice and honest, unlike the stereotypical independent used car dealership.
In conclusion, I would just like to say that if you’re going to take a car in for maintenance at a dealership, keep a record of the work done. Now that I’ve vented to the whole Internet, I’m planning to take our car in and beg for this problem to be covered free of charge next week. I know I’m going to be fighting an uphill battle, but it’s really telling that the same door they worked on two years ago has a very similar electrical issue going on right now. They broke it, and I’ll be damned if I pay to fit it.
Oh and what’s up with Alabama drivers??? Are we that bad, or am I just a magnet for distracted drivers?
Okay – Rant Over 🙂