Reader Question: Dealer Damaged Vehicle?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Yuriy asks: Back in 2018 I bought a brand new Toyota 4Runner TRD-OFF road, it’s an older proven design and that’s exactly what I like about it.

Since I bought my vehicle brand new I got a package deal from dealership on the condition if I service vehicle with them then I receive free lifetime oil changes, where “lifetime” means “as long as the warranty lasts.” I can’t believe they get away with this scam but they do! Anyhow, I did motor oil changes with them yearly and then I also did oil changes on my own also yearly (Mobil 1 full synthetic BTW), so that motor oil+filter were replaced every 6 months. They did screw up a bit every time but nothing critical.

A couple of weeks ago though I changed oil myself again and found that skid plate bolts were tightened insanely tight. I had a breaker bar on me but was barely able to undo them. Torque was probably more than 100 lb.-ft. Needless to say that when I changed oil+filter I found that 3 out of 4 bolts can’t be tightened to the specs anymore due to broken threads. I was running late and tired already so I didn’t want to diagnose where exactly the threads are damaged – on bolts VS internally. Luckily oil drain bolt is not damaged. So the questions I’ve got:

(1) How do I hold them accountable? Do I raise an official complaint with Toyota Canada or some other ways? Vehicle is most likely still under warranty.

(2) How to fix this myself or in another service, there’s no way I will ever trust them my vehicle again!

(3) What happens to the remaining warranty from Toyota if I just stop servicing with any official Toyota shops and go to a custom mechanic?

(4) Any other suggestions on my line of behavior in rectifying this both mechanically and morally?

My reply: Your new car warranty is not conditional on you having the dealer you bought the vehicle from service it. If they told you so, they’re lying. The warranty is issued/backed by Toyota – the company – not the dealer (a franchise that sells Toyota vehicles). You are nor required to have that store perform any service. All that is required – in terms of maintaining your warranty coverage – is that required service (per the owner’s manual) is performed on schedule and that Toyota-approved parts (and fluids) are used. Keep receipts and records and you’l be fine if you need to file a claim.

The “free” service – e.g., “free” oil changes is just a sales gimmick. It’s like buy one get one free; the cost of the one covers the cost of the second. But it seems “free.”

The real potential problem with this, however, is shoddy work – as you’ve found out. It is often the case that a dealer will have someone who is not a trained mechanic do oil changes as it is not a good use of a trained mechanic’s time to change oil. So they have a kid/apprentice do them. With the results you’ve experienced. Stripped bolts, loose bolts – too much (or not enough) oil. And so on.

It is much better to change your oil yourself for this reason. Or at least, to check the work before you leave the shop.

Hopefully, you will be able to simply have a friendly conversation with the service manager, show him the damage and explain how it happened. Tell him you’re not mad; you just want the damage to your new vehicle that you bought from them fixed.

Hopefully they’ll do the right thing and repair the damaged threads; probably using heli-coils. If the service manager refuses to acknowledge responsibility, then move up the food chain to the store’s manager. If he is unresponsive, the next move is Toyota. There should be a number in your owner’s manual/owner’s paperwork to call. Call – or write – and politely explain the problem. Point out that you love your vehicle but are disappointed with the dealer’s treatment of it, which has made you skeptical of the competence of the personnel working on vehicles there and the honesty of the management.

They will hopefully yank the dealer’s chain for you.

If you get no help, then it is time to be less polite. Let them know you will never buy a Toyota/Lexus vehicle again based on their lack of taking responsibility for the damage their dealership did to your vehicle; that you will let everyone you know know what happened and caution them about buying a new Toyota/Lexus vehicle, too. That you are going to speak with a lawyer – and the media – about the damage done by their dealership to your brand-new vehicle.

This will hopefully not be necessary.

You may also be able to purse this in small claims court, which may or may not be worth doing.

Very sorry to hear about this.

. . . 

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