September 1, 2011
6600 AAA Drive
Charlotte, NC 28212
Subject: Vehicle Repairs
AAA Car Care Center
2031 Sam Rittenburg Blvd.
Charleston SC 29407
Phone: (843) 769-2860
Repair Order: #2015784
Vehicle Information: 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 4WD
Overland Edition(4.7L V8-287 SOHC)
Details before Repair Work:
On Friday, August 19th, the vehicle was driven from a cold start from home to the mall, total distance 2.7 miles. It was observed that the electric fan was running very fast, however at the time it was thought that the accelerator had stuck.
After a short visit (10 15 minutes) the vehicle was driven across the street to another shopping center, the same issue with the fan was observed, however again it was thought to be the accelerator.
After about another 15 minute stop at this location, the vehicle was then driven another 3 miles, at which time the Check Gages indicator came on in the vehicle. While checking the gages, the vehicle was than driven another .75 miles, at which time it was discovered that the temperature gage was reading high. The vehicle was pulled off the road and then it shut itself down. Since my wife is a member of AAA she called AAA for a tow. The tow truck driver recommended that the vehicle be taken to the AAA Car Care Center since she was a member where she would get discounts on any repair work. At this time it was approximately 10:30 AM
Repair Work Begins:
At approximately 4:30PM, the AAA Car Care Center called the house to inform us that the problem had been found to be a stuck Thermostat. I was informed that the repair work would be approximately $360, which would include a complete flush of the cooling system. Repair was authorized.
On Saturday afternoon, the Car Care Center called and informed us that after replacing the Thermostat, and flushing the engine, that the engine was still overheating and that the problem now appeared to be the water pump. (Now that we have already started the repair work, we were now committed to complete it with AAA Car Care Center). We visited the Car Care Center that afternoon to retrieve several items from the vehicle since it was going to be over the weekend before we could get the vehicle back. At that time we requested that the parts be saved and returned to us after the work was completed. At this time we request that an oil change and spark plug replacement be completed (scheduled maintenance).
On Monday, August 22nd, we were called in the morning hours and informed by AAA Car Care Center, that after replacing the water pump, it was now discovered, after completing a pressure test, that the head gasket was leaking. It was recommended that in order to properly repair the problem, the cylinder heads would need to be removed and sent out to a machine shop to be resurfaced.
On Tuesday morning, the Car Care Center called and informed us that to properly ensure that the repairs being made, it was highly recommended that the timing chain also be replaced at this time. With the head job that was being done, the old timing chain could cause other problems if not replaced.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 24th, we were informed that the cylinder heads were back and we should be getting the vehicle back within a day or two maximum.
Thursday we were notified by the Car Care Center that the work done by the machine shop was not done to the specified requirements made by the Car Care Center. This was discovered after the cylinder heads were reinstalled, and the engine started. Several problems were noticed by the mechanic, and the cylinder heads would need to be returned to the machine shop and redone.
On Saturday, August 25th, midafternoon, we were called and informed that all repairs were done, and the vehicle was ready for pickup. Due to commitments already in place, we would wait till Monday to pick up the vehicle.
On Monday the vehicle was picked up. The total bill for all repairs and scheduled maintenance was $3,381.01. When we requested the old parts that had been replaced, we were told that they forgot our requested and did not have any of the parts on hand. After talking with the mechanic, a single bent valve was handed to us, with the comment that this was cause by the improper work done by the machine shop the first time the heads were machined.
On Wednesday we began a detail review of the bill provided to us and several issues arouse, primarily with the cost of the parts and the machine shop costs. We researched the cost of the parts replaced on the internet at the advice of friends and found we were charged highly inflated prices for the parts (100% or more). We were also charged for parts that did not make sense to us.
On Thursday, September 1st, I returned to AAA Car Care Center to confront the service manager with my findings. After reviewing the information in the computer, the service manager (Charlie) informed us that the cost for the Thermostat was in error, and the cost for the spark plugs was also in error. When questioned regarding the other parts (especially the head bolts) he informed me that these prices were correct for what they paid for them (adding a 16.67% markup). (I found out about the 16.67% markup after he informed me that he paid the machine shop $150.00 to resurface the heads, marking it up to $175.00 on the billing.) He also informed me that the parts he purchased were NAPA Fel Pro parts, and not the parts that are normally sold to consumers. The service manager then wrote me out a check for $42.00 to cover the errors on the cost of the spark plugs and thermostat.
At this point in time, we were really feeling like weve been taken advantage of. We contacted the Better Business Bureau on September 5th in regards to this matter. We were assigned case number 426280. To be fair, we also prepared a letter which we sent to AAA Carolinas, 6600 AAA Drive, Charlotte, NC 28212 outlining all that had happened. On 20 September, the Better Business Bureau informed us that AAA had failed to respond to their request for assistance.
On September 22nd we received an e-mail from the BBB of the Southern Piedmont with AAAs response from Heath Tinsey Operations Manager. AAA stated All of the parts that were charged to the member were necessary and installed on the vehicle. AAA further stated that The cost for parts used to repair of the vehicle are reflective of current fair market pricing.
On September 23, we received a letter from AAA, AAA acknowledged that two stand-alone head gaskets which we paid for, should have been covered by the machine shops error. We were provided a check for $159.71 for these head gaskets (two of the unknown gaskets listed in table above).
On October 7th, the vehicle once again experienced high temperature. This time the vehicle was immediately shut down before any damage could occur. On investigation into this problem, it was discovered that half or more of the coolant and water was missing from the radiator. No indication of where the water and coolant had gone was found. The vehicle was filled with water, and run for about 15 minutes in the driveway. No water was leaking from the vehicle. At this time (October 8th) we elected to take the vehicle to Hannahan Automotive & Truck Service (1297 Dickson Ave, Hannahan SC -744-7900) whom we had had previously used for other maintenance issues.
After conducting a Pressure Test of the coolant system, Hannahan Automotive found that the radiator had a leak in the top of it. This was causing the water and coolant to leak out under pressure. While it was a small leak, over the course of several weeks it would have empties out the system of fluid. The radiator was replaced at a total cost of $654.51.
After all of this, we are certainly hoping are problems are behind us., however, it brings to light questions.
First was the leaking radiator the initial cause of all of these problems?
Second When AAA first diagnosed the problem, did they assume that because of lack of water flow in the system, the problem was assumed to be a bad thermostat?
Third After the thermostat was replaced, and still no water flow in the system, was the water pump now assumed to be the problem?
Forth After the water pump was replaced, and still no water flow, did AAA now, at this point, decide to add water and pressure test the system, which we can only assume showed the already damaged head gaskets or warped heads?
Fifth -At this point, since everything was taken down to this level, was the timing chain actually needed, or was this an effort to tac on a few more dollars?
Finally If AAA would have done a pressure test of the system earlier, or even after all repairs were made, would they have found the leaking radiator?