I recently took my car to the HWY 99 Aamco, in Tigard OR to diagnose and fix a problem with the cooling system. The first time I take it in, the manager (Jim) checks over the system and tells me that the problem is the water pump, and additionally he will need to flush the radiator, replace the thermostat and the thermostat housing. I hesitate to agree to this because I literally just changed the thermostat a week prior, and flushed the radiator two months prior. The total is $460, and so I agree because I need to get the vehicle back on the road. He changes the items, checks the engine again and tells me it is fixed. The very next time I drive the car, the car gives me the same reaction (gauge reading overheating; irregularly going from hot to cold without warning). I tell Jim about this, and express my initial frustration because I had only spent 400 to buy the car. He tells me to take it back in, checks it over again and tells me that the problem is in a worn out spring inside of the fan. He says that he let the car heat up, and watched the fan turn off for no reason while it read overheating and assured me this really was the problem. $180 dollars more and he replaces my whole fan unit. He checks it again and says it is definately working now. My wife drives it out of the shop and is not even a mile away and it reads overheating AGAIN! She drives it back to Jim, he pops the hood and finally puts a laser heat sensor on the engine while the gauge is saying it is overheating. Then he looks at where the sensor cable goes in, and it is VISIBLY stripped and damaged! He offers to replace the part for seventy dollars more but my wife refuses to pay another penny without talking to me. I call Napa, and get the part for $15. Now I have just spent nearly 700 dollars and three trips to Aamco to replace a $15 dollar part on a car that only cost $400. When my wife mentions this to Jim, his only response was "well those other parts would have needed replaced eventually." The car is 20 years old, the whole engine could do with being replaced eventually, but that is NOT what we brought it to Aamco for.
I send this message as a complaint to Aamco's main office, HOPING that their entire company had better ethics than this individual store. The main company (to their credit) had a representative contact me within a week and it looked like they were going to do something about the poor service. But then two months later I don't hear anything from any of them. I write Aamco a second time, telling them I just wanted to hear some kind of response; either for or against my complaint. They have since sent me a letter from the HWY 99 Aamco that I went to, with the owner of that store saying that all of the work done was nescessary. Following is the letter sent by him, after each paragraph is my response to his letter:
"As I discussed with you Wednesday, the reason we recommended replacing the water pump was because the water pump was leaking. Prior to bring the car to our shop, you had added an anti-leak compound to the radiator and this had to be flushed out as it had contaminated the thermostat and kept it from working properly ( it did not close all the way). The thermostat housing had holes in it and there were some notches on the thermostat seat that could allow coolant to leak past the thermostat. After we replaced these items and road tested the car it seemed to work properly."
When I first called about my overheating problem, I was told that there would be no charge for your company to diagnose what was wrong with it. When I brought it in, you told me about the leak, and affirmed that this was what was wrong with it. However, the leak was very minor, and a small leak from a fully functional water pump is not at all uncommon in a 20 year old vehicle. If I had known you were just guessing that this might fix the problem, I wouldn't have agreed for it to be replaced. Moreover, I was aware that the coolant system had a minor leak, but over the course of two months it didn't warrant me adding coolant to the system even once. Now, I won't criticize the choice to change the thermostat housing. When you showed it to me, I could see a few minor scratches, and understand how that could cause the coolant to leak past. However, if the sensor was blown, there is no way you could have known that this was causing the overheating based upon the gauge reading alone. The wire leading to the sensor, that was visibly stripped, is right in front and should have been caught the first time the system was looked over. ESPECIALLY with what we told you about the temperature gauge going from hot to cold erratically.
"When you brought the Volvo back in and we let it idle we found that the cooling fan was not coming on all the time due to a weak thermal spring. The temperature gauge would go up at idle and show hot and the fan would eventually come on but very late. After we replaced the fan clutch the temperature gauge would show the temperature rising and then the fan would come on and the temperature would drop. again performing like it should."
All of this is based upon the reading of the temperature gauge which you were informed was going from hot to cold seemingly without reason. When you asked me if I wanted this replaced, you had not yet taken apart the unit and told me that this was the most probably reason for the fan not coming on when the temp gauge read hot. For all we know the thermal spring could have been working fine because the engine itself was not really heating up.
"Your wife called back and said it showed overheating again, I asked her to come right back. At that time we used a infrared temperature sensor to determine that the coolant was at the proper operating temperature. Steve began to diagnosis the functionality of the gauge. Very quickly he found temperature sensor wiring had issues. He found uninsulated wire at the sensor . I then got prices on the sensor and labor to replace it which was about $70. I then offered to replace it at no charge if you provided me with the part ( an attempt to mitigate concerns about our service). We did replace the sensor for you at no charge, however, the one you provided was defective and we had to reinstall a new one, again at no charge."
Now we come to a final problem which did not show up until a week after my first complaint. Since we last talked, the temperature gauge has begun behaving erratically AGAIN. My wife clarified that part of how you "fixed" the problem of the frayed wire, was to put a sealant over it, rather than replacing it. You may have replaced the sensor, but the frayed wire that was sending the signal is still not fixed. So after all has been said and done, our $700 dollar fix of a $15 problem is still giving a false read.
"There was a mis-understand regarding the communication with your wife. What I told your wife was that the parts we replaced needed to be replaced for the cooling system to function properly do its job. Just replacing the temperature sending unit would not have returned your cooling system to proper operation."
On the contrary, you have replaced several hundred dollars worth of parts that you did not confirm were broken, and left the only part of the system that is confirmed to be broken and the REASON we brought it to your company.
In summary, my service was bad on an unprecedented level. As someone who has worked in customer service, I made every attempt to let the individual store AND the company at large make amends for this poor service. However, the response I got was that my complaint was unwarranted, and then when I challenged this they gave me silence. This is the only time I have ever written a review of a company online, but I really feel that other consumers should beware before dealing with Aamco.
Monetary Loss: $700.