[LONG] Got burned by an Independent Specialist
So, here's what happened the very first time I paid somebody else to work on my car.
Back on Dec. 28, we took our new-to-us 1995 e320 wagon to Allstar Motors in Edmond, OK for major service, which included a new head gasket, transmission service, and EGR cleaning. I didn't trust the repairs to anyone other than a Mercedes specialist, this shop has an excellent reputation locally, and I was initially pleased with the customer service and the overall air of professionalism at the shop.
My first inkling that all was not as it appeared came the same day that I dropped the car off, when the shop called to inform me that the car had its original (and highly failure-prone) engine wiring harness, and that they recommended I spend $1k to buy a factory MB replacement. Not only does our car already have a replacement harness, but there is a clearly visible tag near the battery that shows the date that the replacement harness was manufactured (2001, in this case). This is an *extremely* common situation with mid-90s MBs, and I would've assumed that any tech worth his salt would know this beforehand. I ended up stopping back by the shop the next day to point out the date code, and they acted like they'd never seen one before.
During this same visit, however, I was very pleased to see that they were already reassembling the top-end of the motor following the head gasket replacement (I'd only dropped the car off the day before). The tech pointed out that only a few small things needed to be reconnected, and that the car should be ready to pick up the following day.
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon (12/30). I get the call I'm expecting from Allstar, only instead of my car being ready to go, there's now a problem. They tell me that while trying to remove two "petrified" rubber lines from the underside of the (thermoplastic) intake manifold, the tech broke off *both* of the hose barbs. A replacement manifold was only available from MB, and would cost me $500 plus labor. When I protested that THEY broke a perfectly good part, they responded that the part was faulty, the breakage was unavoidable, and I would be responsible for the cost.
What I know now is that the tech was trying to remove the brittle lines after the intake was back in the car (why didn't he remove them when he had the cylinder head out?). They're very difficult to access once the manifold is in place, and the supposed Mercedes specialist clearly didn't know what he was doing. Had I not found a good used replacement manifold elsewhere (delaying the repair for another five days), the tech's carelessness would've cost me more than $800. Instead, they still saw fit to charge me $300 labor to replace a part that they broke.
I wish it had ended here, but it did not.
Fast forward again to 1/17, when I notice that the car is leaking fresh oil in onto the garage floor. I could only ascertain that the leak was coming from the front passenger side of the motor, which pointed to a common leak point at the upper timing cover. Suspicious that the leak was caused by improper repair, I dropped the car back off at Allstar on Monday, 1/19, with written instructions that they investigate the oil leak and to call me before performing any repairs.
I got a call late Monday afternoon, informing me that the front crank seal was leaking ($350), but also that while the tech was under the car he noticed a small coolant leak. Upon "gently tightening the hose clamp," the hose fitting "disintegrated" and caused a massive coolant leak. That would be "at least $150" to repair. So, not only am I on the hook again for something the tech broke, it was something he wasn't even asked or authorized to mess with. Add to the the fact that the tech apparently told the front desk that he expected the part to be brittle prior to attempting to tighten it.
Once again, I protested, and once again I was told the part was faulty, and it was my responsibility. I asked for some sort of relief, and was told that they would "contact the owner" and see if anything could be done. When the car was ready the next day, they told me the repair had actually taken three hours, so their offer was the cost of the part and an hour of labor (which coincidentally totaled at little more than $150). Not wanting to make a scene, I paid the bill and left.
Remember how they told me that the crank seal was leaking? Well, according to the notation on the receipt, the leak is coming from the rear main seal. Needless to say, I declined the repair pending a second opinion.
So, this turned into quite an epic, but I wanted to get this off my chest. The long and short of it is that the ineptitude of the tech who worked on my car cost me $500, on top of the $2k+ I spent on legitimate repairs. If I'd wanted this sort of experience in the first place, I'd have taken the car to Firestone. I think these guys are used to folks with newer cars who have a "fix it no matter the cost" attitude, and I was extremely disappointed with their lack of knowledge where my car was concerned.
Suffice it to say that I won't be returning, but from the way I was treated I suspect that's what Allstar wanted in the first place.
Note - This is largely what I composed and posted to the service facility's website review, after they sent me an email asking me to "rate my experience." I was only too happy to oblige.
Am I wrong in feeling slighted here?