Dodge Dealership Can't Repair Truck After 6 Days, Local Mechanic Does It In 10 Minutes

A Dodge dealership in Alexandria Bay, NY, wasted over $700 of Joe’s dad’s money and a week of their time not repairing a 20-year-old truck. Joe says he heard that the dealership recently replaced all of its mechanics—maybe they took a page from Circuit City’s playbook?

Some days I wonder why Chrysler failed, others I don’t.

Rewind to Friday, July 3rd. My parents, myself and my girlfriend are vacationing in Alexandria Bay, New York. My father tows his boat with a 1988 Dodge Ramcharger, approximately 80K miles, and in very good shape, mostly because he has it serviced religiously and only uses it for towing.

Well, being over 20 years old, some part went, probably a vacuum tube somewhere coming off of the carburetor, or a related part. A couple of guys at the local marina took a look at it and replaced a couple of parts, including a mass air flow sensor and an electronic idle control. The engine would start and continue to run, but the RPM’s would climb and fall rhythmically. We had AAA tow it to a local Dodge dealership, F.X. Caprara in Alexandria Bay. I left after the weekend to get back to work, trusting that a dealership would fix the truck so that my parents can get home.

I understand that most new cars have so many electronic sensors these days that all a “technician” (mechanic) needs to do is plug in an OBDII scanner and order a new part. As complex as they are, they are rather simple to diagnose. Vehicles from the 80′s, need a bit more experience, what one would get from an experienced mechanic.

Well, the dealership was in contact with my parents over the course of the nine days that they had the truck; from Tuesday to Wednesday. I won’t bore you with the details of what they replaced, but basically it was everything electronic that was still available to order. The manager finally admitted on the sixth day that he could not fix it, and it needed to be towed 100+ miles home to our local garage. He charged $761.18 in parts and labor, yet it still needed to be towed home. It was in exactly the same condition as day 1. As of this writing, the truck is yet to show up at the local garage, but I can follow up later with what was actually malfunctioning.

I read horror stories about cars not being repaired, or shoddy dealership repair service all the time. I understand, sometimes the problem is deep in scope and is rather difficult to pin down. What is particularly bothersome, is that I overheard that this particular dealership, an established dealership, recently overhauled its repair staff and hired all new technicians. None of which, I’m sure, ever worked on a carbureted vehicle. I’m a bit astounded that a Dodge dealership could not diagnose and repair what is probably the simplest type of car engine still rolling on the road today.

Plus, charging labor on a repair that actually was not a repair seems like adding injury to insult. Do we have any recourse on this?

What kind of mystery problem was keeping the truck out of commission? Here’s the follow up Joe sent us this morning, after the truck arrived home:

Just an update for you, it arrived yesterday afternoon and our local mechanic fixed it within ten minutes. He disconnected the battery for about five minutes to reset the computer. Now it runs as if it were new; he had it up to 65mph on a local highway. They will replace a gasket that the dealership destroyed and tried to fix with silicone, but other than that, everything runs just fine.

(Photo: JacobEnos)