In November of 2019, I wrote a blog post article about no longer being able to take my Toyotas to the Toyota dealership service department in Dickinson, North Dakota. I had taken two different Toyotas to this Toyota dealership service department over the past six years, on at least six different occasions, and they had never tried to rip me off before.
In November of 2019, when I took a Toyota 4-Runner to this dealership for an oil change, they wrote up a service estimate for leaking transmission pan, leaking oil pan, leaking main crankshaft seal, and leaking oil pressure sensor, totaling about $1,200 of work. The problem is, that this Toyota 4-Runner doesn’t leak anything. I check this Toyota where it is parked every day, and I look underneath it when it is running, and it doesn’t leak a drop of anything.
At that point, I realized that I could never take any of my vehicles to this Toyota dealership service department again, because I could no longer trust them, after they made recommendations for repairs that did not need to be done.
If you don’t think that this is a common problem at car dealership service departments, telling their customers about “leaks” that need to be repaired, here are two videos for you to watch from Scotty Kilmer of Houston, who is a third generation mechanic, who has been making a living working on cars for the past 52 years:
After this bad experience at a car dealership service department in Dickinson, that I could no longer trust, in December of 2019 I found what I thought was a good, inexpensive, independent mechanic in Dickinson.
At this independent mechanic on the north side of Dickinson, I took a Jeep there twice, and twice the owner made an extra effort and put in extra work to deal with repairs that turned out to have complications. I took a Toyota there once for an oil change. I took a Dodge there for an ignition switch replacement.
The Dodge ignition switch replacement cost about the same as what a dealership would charge, $183, but I felt that the owner had helped me twice in the past working on my Jeep, so I owed him.
My $400 Federal Income Tax refund, and my $1,200 coronavirus economic stimulus check that I would receive, I wanted to spend this money on vehicle repairs that I had been putting off. About a month ago, this independent mechanic service writer began preparing an estimate to replace the front axle half-shaft and seal on the passenger side of my 1/2 ton pickup truck. All the service writer needed was for me to bring this pickup truck in so that they could see what front axle it had, to order the correct half-shaft.
This pickup truck had been stolen in 2017. While the thief had it, he replaced both of the front axle half-shafts with used ones from a junk yard, and when he did this, he damaged the passenger side front axle seal, to where it was leaking very bad.
I explained all of this to the service writer, and I asked him, is there any way to replace this passenger side front axle seal, without taking off the wheel, brake caliper, wheel bearing, and half-shaft. He said no. So I said then replace the front passenger half-shaft and seal, because everything will be taken apart at that point.
When I brought my 1/2 ton pickup truck in for this independent mechanic to look at the front axle in order to be able to buy the correct half-shaft, the owner of this garage came out to look at it. The owner of the garage told me, that the front differential needed to be taken apart in order to replace the passenger side front axle seal, so could I replace both seals, and both half-shafts at the same time, because everything would be taken apart. I said yes.
All along, I feared that there would be no way to replace just the passenger side front axle seal, without taking the half-shaft out and taking the front axle differential apart. With everything taken apart to this extent, now would be the time to not only replace the passenger side seal, to not only replace the passenger side half-shaft, but to do both sides.
This was looking like it was going to be a $900 repair at this independent mechanic in Dickinson. Whereas three years ago a car dealership service department in Dickinson had quoted me $750 for this whole job, and a car dealership service department in Montana had quoted me $550. It was the car dealership service department in Montana that told me, “We don’t waste time trying to break down the half-shafts in order to replace the universal joints, due to labor costs, it’s cheaper just to buy whole new half-shafts.”
So I went back to this independent mechanic today, for the third time related to getting an estimate for this front axle half-shaft and seal replacement. I went through the whole story again with the service writer about the truck being stolen, junk yard half-shafts being installed, the front axle passenger seal being damaged, the owner of the garage wanting to do both sides because the front axle differential would be taken apart.
The service writer said O.K., I have the estimate here, it looks like it will be just under $900, it’s a seven hour job, it’s like $770 in labor. I said, wait a minute, what about the cost of the new half-shafts? The service writer said, “You want the half-shafts replaced?”
God Damn It! God Fucking Damn It! This is the third time coming here, and the third time explaining this entirely, about the truck being stolen, the used junk yard half-shafts being installed, and that there is no point in taking everything apart just to replace the seals, and not replacing the half-shafts.
In other words, I would be looking at paying $900 to get everything taken apart just to replace the two front axle seals. Then, 10K-20K miles down the road, when the used junk yard half-shaft universal joints go bad, I would have to pay this $900 all over again a second time to get everything taken completely apart again, plus the cost of the new half-shafts.
Why is this repair going to cost $900 at this independent mechanic, without even including the cost of two new half-shafts? This front axle work on an old American 1/2 ton pickup truck is not a $1,200 job.
That’s it. No more. Because of going over, and over, and over this repair to replace the seals and half-shafts at the same time, and the service writer saying, “What, you wanted us to replace the half-shafts?”, and because the price quote was getting much higher than what a dealership service department would charge, I will never take another vehicle to this independent mechanic again.
A couple of hours later, when I took this pickup truck to the dealership service department, the service department manager gave me a quote for $290 to replace just the passenger side front axle seal, because there is an axle access port to reach it, everything does not need to be taken apart. But this turned into another mess, which I will write about later.