Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Husband Rocks

When I bought a BMW a few months ago, I knew that I should expect to pay an arm and a leg for maintenance once the original warranty expired. Mitigating that concern was my husband's promise that he would handle at least part of the basic maintenance to keep the expenses down. So I bought the car and I love it.

The original warranty expired two months ago and last week the "Engine Oil Level Low" light came up. I made an appointment with the local BMW dealer (South Bay BMW) to get what turned out to be a $325 oil change and an aggravating waste of my Saturday dealing with their bullshit.

Although we had a 10:00 a.m. appointment, it took an hour for a service advisor to write down "oil change" on a piece of paper. We did not leave the dealership until 11:00 a.m. and the phone call from the service representative came two hours later. With a serious tone, he told me that the oil "service" was done but the technician found several items of concern on my car. "The brake fluid is black sludge, we need to bleed the brakes, the brakes have 20 percent remaining and the rotors need to be changed, the belts are cracked and dry and could snap and you know what happens when a belt snaps". My head was starting to spin. He went on, "the car needs fuel service, the bushings are worn...."

That was it. I understood everything he said until he got to bushings. "Excuse me, I am going to put my husband on the phone."

Hubby began a series of "uh huh, ok, uh huh, yes, I understand." Then he began the questions, "are you telling me that a 4-year-old BMW wears that badly?", "it only has 46,000 miles", how much is labor?", "how much would all of that cost"?

Both of us nearly had a heart attack when he said $2,950! I was already pissed off about wasting an hour to be serviced, but that did it. The service rep said that the parts would be $900 and the labor would be the remaining $2,000. Given that labor is $150 per hour, it was 1:00 p.m. and the dealership closed at 5:00 p.m., how does $600 turn into $2,000? Hubby said "I am coming down to the dealership right now. I want to meet with the mechanic and see everything wrong with the car."

Did I mention that my husband is an aerospace engineer who designs rocket engine components and used to design turbochargers for engines and restores cars as a hobby?

The service rep greeted us friendly enough and walked us into the service bay (which was impressively clean by the way). Along the way, he explained why certain of the needed repairs could not be done at home because they require sophisticated tools, blah, blah, blah. This asshole has not seen our garage.

Piece by piece, Hubby followed the mechanic's flashlight around the car. The "black sludge" of the brake fluid looked like apple juice, a shade darker than what new brake fluid looks like. Those cracked and dry belts were no more cracked or dry than a belt that has been used for a little while - unless the belt is frayed, there is no great cause for alarm. The bushings, one of the things that service rep said you need a hydraulic press to replace, were accessible by hand and, at worst, would need a C-clamp, which we have at home.

It made me so happy when Hubby said "there isn't anything of immediate concern on here and anything that needs to be replaced, I can do myself. Please put the car back together and we will buy the parts."

I can only assume that the dealer gets away with these antics becase most people in my middle class suburban, latte-drinking utopian neighborhood do not understand enough to question what the representative said or would be too embarassed to question the cost out of fear of appearing poor. Either way, we are never going back to South Bay BMW, we saved $2,000 (we bought the $900 in parts) and my husband rocks.


At 9:13 AM, June 19, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

II, your experience is a classic example of the way people on the winning side of "information assymetry" behave, as laid out (among other places I'm sure) in the book Freakonomics, an entertaining, pedestrian-level view of the way things work, how we're motivated, etc...

Good for you for correcting the assymetry & shutting down the nonsense.

At 12:14 PM, June 19, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

I miss my Beemer. I drove a Beemer for 5 years, then purchased a more practical, Toyota Tacoma Pickup, which I have been driving for the last four years.

The maintenance story you referenced about mechanic BS was a constant problem I had to deal with.

Still, nothing like the power, handling and comfort of my former car.

At 4:44 AM, June 20, 2006 , Anonymous fro-litical said...

Is your husband for rent? I gotta take my car in soon.

At 9:58 AM, June 20, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Thanks Squawpeak.

Fro-litical - maybe we'll auction him to the highest bidder. :-) Everyone who has come to our house and seen all the renovations he's done himself have dibs.

At 7:06 AM, June 22, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

Geeze, our newest car is a 1992 Geo Metro I paid $1,000 for five years ago. The doors rusted out, so I put tinfoil in the holes. It works. Sort of.

I used to do my own wrenching on bikes in years past, but now that I actually own a bike that wasn't built by a guy named "Bob" in his back yard I tend to let the pros do the work. I trust the local Kawasaki guy to do an honest job - I've known him for years and have never had a problem.

At 7:07 AM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

I've been doing nearly all my automotive work since I was a kid and I'm a certifiable gearhead, but it can be hard to get across to service writers that you know more than they do. But your big mistake was consulting a dealership while female, and the more "upscale" you car is, the more they think you're a patsy.

At 10:03 AM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I have owned about 5 BMW's and the last one we bought back in 1998 was a 1996 740iL and at the time was a lot of money for an 80k car when new. I put 28k cash down and we eventually paid it off and we still love it

My biggest mistake was not buying the extended warranty for $2500 that would have saved me a fortune.

I too have done what your hubby has done as my younger brother is a BMW mechanic and when I go into the Dealership, I am really armed for bear.

Every two years the rotors must be replaced and the dealership wants 2,000 to do it. I do it myself for about $500.00 if my memory serves me.

They are really expensive on maintenence and the dealers assume that the buyers will blindly "follow their friendly advise".....Not the frugal buyer!



At 3:39 PM, June 26, 2006 , Anonymous iam said...

i love this story... if only i were a rocket scientist

At 11:14 AM, November 03, 2006 , Anonymous ryan said...

Here is my question.. if your husband restores cars as a hobby, why couldn't he change the oil on your car?

How'd you let the oil get low any way? Don't you get it changed every 3000 miles?

Sounds like you are abusing your BMW to me. Treat it well and it will return the favor.

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