Well, it all started when I purchased a used 1988 Pontiac Trans Am GTA last August. Beautiful car, fast, custom black paint and custom brushed aluminum alloy rims. It has a thundering 350 cubic inch V8 with Tuned Port fuel injection and a 5 speed manual transmission with a posi-track (limited slip) rear end. Can we say FUN?
Well, now that you have the specs, soon after I picked up the car it became painfully apparent that it needed a new clutch. Trying to get up a nearby hill was an exercise in futility. Being my usual impulsive self, I took the car to my local Aamco transmission shop. Who could blame me? They are a huge company, their ads are very convincing what with James Brolin staking his name by endorsing them and all; how bad could it be? I was about to find out...
When I got the car back a few days later (they offered me their courtesy car in the meantime - I will save that for another story; suffice it to say it was about 15 years old and smelled like something had died inside it) it ran great! The new clutch really gripped and I could finally take advantage of all the car's awesome power. I was almost out of my mind however after paying slightly over $1600 for the clutch job! For that kind of money, the workmanship should have been perfect. After a couple of weeks, the problems began which lead me to believe Aamco had done perhaps the sloppiest, crappiest job in the world.
When engaging the clutch, especially when reversing, there is a pronounced "shudder" coming from the clutch/flywheel area. There is but one cause for this, and that is a warped flywheel. Every time a clutch is replaced, the flywheel mounted to the rear of the engine should be machined to remove any irregularities and to ensure smooth clutch operation. This was obviously not done on my car or it was done very poorly, despite the fact I was charged for it.
Soon after I noticed that problem, I also began to hear a strange ticking sound emanating from the clutch, but only when it was fully engaged, my foot off the clutch pedal. As soon as I pressed the clutch about an inch, the noise would stop, as if I was taking up some slack. The best was yet to come however. When replacing the clutch, the Aamco dealer informed me that the master cylinder was leaking. (This is part of the hydraulic clutch system) They replaced it for about $200 in parts plus labour. About the time I noticed the ticking sounds from the clutch, I also noticed the hydraulics were leaking like crazy.
So, I returned to the Aamco dealer to have these problems addressed. The mechanic came out to hear the ticking noise for himself, but claimed he could not hear it, of course. I took him for a test drive and still he could not hear it. Now, this noise was so painfully loud that you would have to be deaf not to hear it. This mechanic was just being an a*****e, trying to put one over on me. It was only when the manager came out and heard it that the so-called mechanic suddenly heard it as well.
They put the car up on the hoist, looked into the small opening in the side of the bell housing where the clutch fork inserts (this is the metal "arm" which pushes on the clutch pressure plate when you press the clutch pedal) and squirted some grease onto the release bearing. The noise went away after that, temporarily. For the leaking hydraulics, they claimed it was just "settling" and to keep an eye on it and top it up from time to time. Thoroughly not satisfied with their explanations, I drove away in frustration.
When the ticking noise reappeared a month later, I took the car back, and they once again squirted some grease onto the release bearing. I asked them if this was how it was going to be; with me brining the car in once a month for its "refresh squirt."
It was about this time that my 5th gear decided to quit. These Borg Warner T-5 transmissions are not known for their iron-clad robustness. Aamco told me that when I was ready to have the transmission rebuilt, they would then address the clutch problems. In other words, when it was convenient for them, not for me, since they would be making money off the transmission job anyway. I decided this particular Aamco location possessed some of the dumbest and most incompetent mechanics I had ever encountered, so I took it to a different location. This held a little more promise. I had the money to get the transmission rebuilt ($1100) and I told them I wanted the other parts fixed under warranty. They agreed to do this, and I got the car back a couple of days later.
With a great deal of excitement I picked up my car and boy did it drive nicely! The only downside was that 4 days later, 5th gear broke again!! Now I don't know how much of this is incompetence on the part of the mechanic and how much can be attributed to the poor design of the T-5 transmission, but I was pissed off to put it mildly. I returned once again to Aamco and the shop manager was even more surprised than I was. Its an expensive waste of time for them, as the transmission has to come right out of course, and opened up again.
The clutch was still making the weird ticking noise at this point, so I demanded they address that problem and the leaking master cylinder as well. They finally fixed it all, along with the 5th gear. The car drives wonderfully now, but recently I have noticed that ticking noise coming back yet again...
I found the level of incompetence and the apathy and outright dishonesty appalling. The first Aamco shop in Burnaby is like some island of deceit and apathy. I did complain about them on the Aamco website ( www.aamco.com ) and surprisingly I was contacted by an Aamco rep the next day. We played phone tag for a few days but I never did end up speaking with him. His final message to me was "well, the Aamco shop in your area informs me that you have been taken care of...so we will leave it at that." After spending over $3700 at their shops, and being put through the wringer they wouldn't even offer me the slightest bit of compensation. What a company. Big corporate America. As James Brolin says, "...Aamco...they are behind you all the way!" - Yeah behind you alright, having their way with you...as they bend you over.