My wifes 2003 Grand Caravan broke down recently. It would start and run- but it ran very rough, engine bucking and lurching and a loud ticking coming from the valve train area. I drove to the Monro Muffler and Repair near my home and asked them to set up the tow and take a look at the problem. This place was previously called Speedy and I had used them for repairs before and was very satisfied, so I had no reservations taking it back this time. The name had changed from Speedy to Monro, but more importantly the manager and workers were new. The manager said the diagnostic charge would be $85, which I thought was fair. The tow cost wasnt discussed, but I assumed it would be in the $65-$75 range.
I received a phone call from the manager at noon the following day. He told me they found a broken exhaust valve spring on #6 cylinder. He then recommended both heads be pulled and overhauled, at a cost of $2000. I was skeptical that this needed to be done; the van has 78K miles, oil changed every 3K miles, and running perfectly up until the valve spring broke. He told me that the heads needed to be pulled to determine what caused the valve spring to break. I replied that there was nothing that could cause the valve spring to break other than fatigue or defect, and requested that he put a new valve spring on after verifying that the valve wasnt bent. He said he wasnt allowed by company policy to do that, he had to tear into the engine and verify no other problems existed. I thought this was hogwash, and told him so. I asked him why he could not just put a new valve spring in and see what happens, and he told me that he needed to pull the head to get his spring compressor tool to hold the valve. I asked him why he couldnt use compressed air through the spark plug hole like most other people. He said yeah, we could probably do that. I asked him again to put a new valve spring on, and he again said company policy would not allow him to do that, he was required to pull and overhaul the heads. I equate this to performing brain surgery to fix an ingrown toenail.
I told the manager if he wouldnt replace the valve spring, to put it back together and I would have it towed home so I could do it myself. I then asked him what I owed for the diagnostic and tow. The total came to $210.51. The break down of costs: $85 diagnostic charge, $129 tow charge with discount of $32.25 for final tow cost of $96.75, and a $14.99 shop supply fee.
I have no quarrel with the shop supply fee and diagnostic charge, but I felt the tow charge seemed excessive for a 5.5 mile tow. I called the tow company that performed and asked them what they would charge me for the same tow, and was quoted $75 plus tax. I went back to Monro and asked why they marked up the tow cost so much. The manager was out on a part run, the mechanic helping me said he didnt know why. I asked if they could provide me a copy of the receipt the tow company gave them. He found it and it showed they paid $51.60 for the tow. I then asked why they are marking up almost $50 on the tow- pretty excessive for making a phone call- he couldnt tell me, said I would have to talk to the manager when he got back. I went back the next day and talked to the manager, his answer again was that company policy was to charge $129 for tow service. He said he applied the $32 discount as a favor. I asked if was trying to do me a favor, why not charge me his cost of $51
Anyway, after that longwinded story, my question is this. Are the managers explanations above as company policy true? I very much doubt that they. All indications to me are this guy was trying his best to sell me repairs not needed and gouging me on the tow bill mark-up. Hopefully someone associated with Monro will read this and follow-up. The Monro I dealt with was store #490 on Brandt Pike in Huber Heights, OH. I will also be pushing this up the Monro chain.
BTW I installed a new valve spring as soon as I got the van home and it runs perfectly for 150 mile and counting.
Huber Heights, Ohio