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How to have a great Dealer repair experience

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Certainly the ideal is that your Cadillac never has any issues and never needs to go to the Dealer. But unfortunately, cars are mechanical, and mechanical things eventually wear out and require repair or replacement.

The Cadillac Dealer is not an employee of Cadillac. They are independently owned franchises focused on making money selling new cars, financing new cars, and repairing cars.

If you know that you need to visit the Cadillac Dealer, what things can you do to make your visit as quick, successful, and inexpensive as possible?

I would like everyone to input, but here are my thoughts to get us started:

A) Clean your Cadillac prior to taking it to the dealer. The impression I want to give is that this is a car that is well taken care of, well maintained, and that I am detail oriented.

B) At all times, no matter what, be courteous and clear with the Dealer personnel. They are people too, and they can help you more or less as they perceive is best for the Dealership.

On this topic, I should mention that one of my friends ONLY makes service appointments by calling his Salesman. A year or more after his purchase, he calls the Salesman for appointments. The Salesman then makes the service appointment. This seems to do a marvelous job of aligning the Dealership's attention.

C) Plan ahead and keep every receipt, every document, every shred of documentation from any interaction with the car and/or dealer. Get a ring binder, and some document inserts, and keep everything. Whenever the Service Writer tells you something that seems odd, ask him to write it on to the service order.

D) know what symptoms your car has, and write them down or print it out. I don't mean you have to know what needs to be fixed, but describe what the Cadillac is doing that caused you to bring the car in.

For example, "it shifts roughly in to gear at low speeds when cold". Give as much detail about the problem as you know, and when exactly it happens.

A normal problem in any trouble shooting / repair shop is that the mechanic can't duplicate the problem that you are having. Make it easy for them by writing down exactly what the symptoms are, and when they happen.

For visits consider printing out exactly what the symptoms are, and what you suspect is wrong with the car. Leave copies with the Service Writer, and on the dash or seat of the car for the mechanic. When you talk to the Service Writer, he will need to write down what you have on the printout in his own hand on the tech order. That's okay, just just your print out to be sure he gets all the details down.

E) Have as much knowledge of what the problem is and what the solution set may be as possible.

If one of the possible outcomes is a new engine, or new transmission, or new shocks/struts, you need to know going in how much those cost and have thought through options. After the car is apart at the dealer is a poor time to decide to take it somewhere else.

F) For a used car repair, you KNOW the car is not new. It is easier and safer for the Dealer to correctly remove and replace parts until the car is in fact new in the problem area. The Dealer prefers to put in a new engine, or new transmission.

Why? Because when you make a repair to a engine with 100K miles, what you repaired may now be great, but the thing next to it may fail. The Customer is mad because the car is broken again, and looks to the dealer to repair, even though nothing the Dealer did caused the new issue.

[your entry here]


2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing

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  • 1 month later...

Always, always, always talk to the mechanic who is going to do the work before and after. A lot of information can go missing if you rely on the service representative to convey information back and forth between yourself and the mechanic. It is also useful to have your shop manual with you when you go. Familiarize yourself with the solution to a problem if possible by reading up about it in the service manual. Example is I had to have the airbag module replaced in my Seville. Once the module is replaced it is necessary to program it with the car VIN. Mechanic did not know that this was necessary and had no idea how to do it. This by the way was a GM cadillac dealership. I brought out the shop manual and went over it with him in a polite nice way. Mechanic appreciated my effort and I saved some money by shorting the process. I have done this before with great success.

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  • 10 months later...

I agree with all of the above suggestions. I recently inherited a '93 Deville and the first thing I did was take it to the dealership. I inspected the car myself and noticed that the transmission fluid needed changing (was brown) and that the main oil seal was leaking. Since I haven't had a Cadillac in several years, the gentleman I used to work with was no longer there. I set a 9:00 am service appt to sit down and talk to an advisor about the car (9:00 is when most dealerships start to slow down...the early morning rush is over). I told him that I had most of the maintenance records of the vehicle (true) and I asked for a list of things that needed to be done and estimates on getting them done. He called me at lunch and faxed me over the following checklist:

Transmission Flush $139.99

Power Steering Flush/Refill $79.99

Coolant Flush/Refill $109.99

Oil Pan Gasket/Main Seal/Oil Change $734.99

Tune Up/8 Platinum Plugs/Plug Wires $379.99

Throttle Body Cleaning $99.99

Fuel Filter $69.99

He then called back to confirm receipt and to go over the list. He said they had no way of knowing if most of the list had already been done, and asked me to compare his list to the maintenance records on the car. I knew the Transmission needed servicing and the Main Seal was either shot or on it's way. I also knew that the plugs had been changed at 100000, and the water pump and coolant had been changed at 130000 miles, so both of those were ok. The Power Steering Fluid was nice and red and smelled right, and was having no unusual noises out of the pump so I figured I could get by without the flush. The front and rear brakes/wheel cylinders had just been done, and the brake fluid looked like it had been recently changed so no worries there. I can do the throttle body cleaning myself for $10 and can do the plugs/wires/distributor/rotor/cap myself at 150000 miles (or if the need occurs) for less than $100. Wild card was fuel filter, but I have noticed no performance or fuel economy issues so I decided to leave that for a future weekend project.

I asked him about the transmission flush, as I learned the hard way on my '89 that flushes are bad news on these transmissions if you don't pull the filter and clean the pan prior to flushing. I got some pushback from the service writer that 'changing the gasket and filter is an obsolete way of servicing transmissions'. I told him that I was told that by every service shop in town and they all refused to do anything other than a flush. I told him the only reason I would let him flush my transmission at $40 higher than the mom and pop shops was because I knew they had the service manual that states that the pan must be cleaned and filter replaced as part of the service and that if they didn't follow the service manual I could hold them responsible for any repairs incurred by their failure to do so. He said that he would check into the service manual to confirm, and they would do whatever was prescribed there at the quoted price. The price quoted on the oil pan repair was about $100 less than the mom and pop shops, so I let them do that as well. The service writer tipped me to their internet site where they have a 10% off coupon if I printed a copy off and brought in at pickup, which brought my total with tax to ~$850.

Here's the interesting thing...when I went to pick the car up, the service writer was very candid with me. He told me that when most people bring in older Cadillacs, they are usually trashed and the owners are looking to do something inexpensive to keep the car running for a few more months. He says, what usually happens is they do a bandaid repair and get blamed when a major component goes out. He told me that when I asked for an inspection up front, and when I pulled into the service bay and the car was clean, and I had service records made the transaction much smoother and made him more likely to work with me on the price. He noted that I seemed to know what I was talking about, and was correct about the transmission, which is why he tipped me off on the internet discount. He says stranger cars typically get charged more and are advised that more service is needed in order to cover the shop's rear and because they truly have no way of knowing if maintenance has been done properly. There was no pressure from him to buy any of the services other than the two that I really needed -- the oil pan repair and the transmission service. I had done my homework and knew what to expect as far as repair cost, and the service procedure on the transmission.

The moral is that at least at the dealership, the more records you have *in writing* (work done at dealership, yourself or elsewhere) and the better maintained your car, the lower the repair costs will be, the less extras you'll be proposed and the smoother the transaction will be.

BTW--I was offered a complementary loaner car and negotiated another $25 off for declining it since I have another vehicle to drive. A free loaner for a 14 year old car--Ha! The dealership has an awesome lounge with plasma TV, a full business center with 3 fully stocked cubicles and wireless, a breakfast/snack bar, a coffee/soda bar and both the shop and lounge were immaculate. And at the end of the day I didn't feel like I was funding too much of it. LOL.


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  • 5 months later...

I will have to try a couple of these things myself when I need to take my car into a dealer.

I personally have never had a good dealer experience in my life.

I always feel like I was ripped off when I leave!

They always push things like carbon flushes, or a transmission flushes way before its needed.

That's why I use a local gas station that I trust with all my cars.

He is fair and does great clean work!

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