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Old 01-20-2009, 11:43 PM   #1
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Service Nightmares

Since I went through all the trouble to write this, I thought I'd share it with the public. Has anyone had this much bad luck with a dealer?

Dear Sir,

I'm writing you this e-mail to detail the service I have received at your Onalaska Service Center (where my car currently still is). I have registered my complaints with Henry on a few occasions and while he has always been friendly and made sure the problems have gotten resolved, it has always been (and today especially) with an attitude of indifference. Travis and Harold have always treated me with courtesy as well, mainly my complaints stem from the actual service that has been performed on my vehicles. I don't have all of my service records with me at the time of this writing as they are in my car which is currently locked in your garage. All of my records are in the computer though.

Back at the beginning of May of 2008 I took my 2000 Taurus into the Onalaska Service Center to have the head gaskets replaced. For the duration of the repair I was given a Ford Focus as a loaner which I was very thankful for. In fact, it's because of that loaner that I ended up purchasing a 2005 Focus ST. (I did try to purchase it through Dahl but your buyer was unable to find me a ST and I was only interested in purchasing that sub model.)
Shortly after picking up my Taurus from being repaired my wife called to inform me that the CEL was back on. Unfortunately the Onalaska location was not going to be able to look at it again that day so I took it to Autozone to have the code read, which came back with a problem with the EGR system. Given all of the information on the Internet and the fact that I know my way around under the hood pretty well I was able to narrow the problem down to a faulty DPFE sensor. Upon inspection of the current sensor I found that the clip that holds it into the socket had been broken off and the remains loosely zip-tied together. This had to have happened during the head gasket replacement. I replaced the sensor, cleared the code and have not had a CEL since. Since the DPFEs are known to go out on Tauruses anyway I just ate the cost of the repair and chalked it up to a careless technician.

Later that month I purchased my Focus and in probably June it was due for an oil change. Since I run a business in the Valley View Mall the Onalaska location is convenient for me so I took my Focus there even after what happened with the Taurus. After waiting 45 minutes for my oil change I went on my way. I immediately noticed that something wasn't right with the way the car was running but thought maybe I was just imagining it. I stopped at the KT by the shop and left the car running while I went inside only to come out to find smoke coming out from under the hood. I shut the car off and popped the hood. What I found almost gave me a heart attack; there was oil all over everything under the hood, and no oil cap. I've changed my own oil dozens of times on my other cars and have never had any problems; the only reason I brought it in to start with is because the Focus was still under warranty and I didn't want to risk voiding that by doing it myself.
I immediately and slowly drove my Focus back to the Service Center and showed Travis the problem. Even he looked shocked. The oil was checked and refilled, the cap replaced and the engine was cleaned (albeit with brake cleaner, which I would never use to clean anything other than, well, brakes). Travis asked me if there was anything he could do for me to convince me to come back again. I told him that he didn't owe me anything, but that he needed to have a talk with the technician that worked on my car and tell him to slow down so the same thing didn't happen to anyone else.

My next visit a few weeks or so later was because the car had completely lost responsiveness on 2 occasions and had become difficult to start when warm. The Service Center reflashed my ECU to 2007 spec as per the TSB I noted but were unable to duplicate the problem. While it was in there they replaced a brake light and a license plate light under warranty. (It's also worth mentioning that the license plate light had been out when it had been in for the oil change, but somehow was "overlooked" during the 99-Point inspection.) In the process of replacing the license plate light, the technician somehow managed to put the wrong wattage bulb in which caused the plastic trim panel that covers it to heat up and warp. It took awhile before I realized that was what had caused the dime-sized dimple in the plastic and I noticed that the light on one side was MUCH brighter than the light on the other side. I immediately took the Focus back into the Service Center and talked with Travis again and also requested to talk to Henry. The proper bulb was installed and again Travis apologized. A new trim panel was ordered, painted, and installed on my car about a week later.

The starting issue continued and again I took it into the Service Center before my warranty expired. Again I was told that no problem was found, but that according to Ford this was normal for the Focuses equipped with the MTX75. Through research I am unable to find anywhere that Ford admits to this problem, but I can find plenty of owners who have been told this by their Ford mechanics. At this point I'm no longer worrying about it unless it becomes a driveability issue.

Today was the final straw. I took the Focus in because the hood wouldn't latch and I didn't have the time to look at it myself. Out of convenience I again dropped it off at the Onalaska location. A couple hours later Harold called to tell me that the car was done, that all it needed was to be lubed and adjusted. (This is purely speculation, but I would guess that any lube that was originally on the latch was probably cleaned off by the use of brake cleaner in the engine bay.) Having learned my lesson, the first thing I did after getting my keys was test the hood. I pulled on the inside handle and again it was abnormally hard to pull. I went to close the hood and was very surprised to find that the hood again would not latch closed. Thankfully at that point Harold was leaving for the day and he got to witness this firsthand. My words to him were, "At this point I am done coming to this Service Center. I'm just done. I'm tired of having to return every time I bring my car in here." to which his response was, "Well obviously it worked. The technician opened and closed the hood at least 30 times." Then he tried it, told me to leave the car overnight since they were closing, and went home. I went in, gave my keys to Henry (not remembering that he was actually the Service Center Manager) and after calling for a ride (I was offered one by Travis.) asked Travis if I could speak to the Service Center Manager. I went through my records with Henry detailing all of my repeat visits and he offered no apologies, just stated that he would personally see that it actually got fixed this time. I then had to request that the car be put in the garage overnight since the hood would not close and I didn't feel safe having it sit on the lot all night with the hood open. Had I not requested it, it never would have happened, Henry made that quite clear.

And here we are now. I know this was kind of drawn out, but I wanted to make sure everything was as clear as possible. I know people who have worked for Dahl Service in Onalaska and an acquaintance of mine has a father who works at the one in LaCrosse and has for many years. The general consensus is that what I've dealt with is business as usual at the Onalaska location. I've also been told that if I want it done right I should go to the one in LaCrosse instead, and I have had work done there and it's always been top notch. The problem is that it's just way too far to drive for service when I live and work in Onalaska. I will tell you however that I have absolutely no intentions of ever returning to the Onalaska Center except to order parts (which I have done several times with great luck).

Your job now is twofold. First and foremost you need to fix the problems with your Onalaska location. When a Master Technician says he won't transfer to the Onalaska location because of it's reputation, that says alot. Secondly, you need to convince me why I should go through the extra effort to come downtown for service when I need it. Like I said before, I know my way around under the hood and have done everything from my own oil changes to my own clutch, but every once in awhile I would rather just pay someone else to do the work. Every week I spend a day or two in Winona for business and drive right past Sugar Loaf Ford every time. I have had work done there in the past and have nothing but good things to say about that service center, same as Dahl in LaCrosse. The point of this e-mail is not to get Harold, Travis or Henry in trouble, my issues really aren't with them, overall I think they've done what they can.


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Old 01-21-2009, 12:05 AM   #2
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I sincerely hope your letter (which was eloquently put together) gets read by someone who still has a heart in this viscious industry.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:06 AM   #3
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WOW! i hope they tie up their ends for you.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:23 AM   #4
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sorry to hear that. i hope you get it all fixed up. good luck
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:35 AM   #5
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mmm wow...... sounds like they need a new tech. hah hire me, I could do a better job, and I've not even started the certification process outside of basic auto shop, which I'm in now.

hopefully you get it resolved and not a "We're glad you've taken an interest in our company.....blah blah blah info about how great they are...... nothing addressing my issue...." that's happened to me a couple times, but not at a service center or anything...just online disputes :P
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:43 AM   #6
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Very well written. Clear and professional.
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:52 AM   #7
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wow sorry to hear your troubles, this is a very very well written letter i hope good things come from it!
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Old 01-21-2009, 12:52 AM   #8
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Wow. I would have called the bbb after trip 2. You have the patience of a saint!

I have never heard of anyone with that kind of problems with a single shop. Looks like you have a real winner there!
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Old 01-21-2009, 01:38 AM   #9
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I took my car to a local delaership 4 times because my EGR valve kept coming off. One time I drove 2 miles and it happened. Each time they put it back on,cleared the code and told me nothing was wrong. When it happened the 5th time I took it to another dealership. 3 hour after dropping it off they told me that the cat was plugged, they already had a new one on and I could come pick up my car. They also had to order the part. Then I was a moron and changed my spark plugs to some bosch platinum's. One of them fouled and took out my cat again. My car was still under warranty. The service manager was so cool that he said he would warranty my cat but I had to buy a set of copper plugs. I was like, $10 for a new cat, ok. By far the best service I have ever received and if I ever own another Ford, I would not hesitate to take it back to them.
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Old 01-21-2009, 08:14 AM   #10
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I've heard TOO many stories of shops screwing up simple oil changes... that's why i can never let someone else do mine. That's rediculous man. For the money they are charging for crap you'd think they'd be able to at least put the damn oil cap back on!
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