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Old 07-29-2001, 01:21 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
A about a month ago, my 190K 300E started making a noise from the front of the engine. About a week later, the belt started making some noise, which suddenly became embarassingly loud. Conveniently, I was picking up parts at American Service Center (ASC), so I wheeled in and asked them to check it out. They diagnosed it as water pump bearings and quoted $800 for replacement. They also recommended addtional work for a total of $3200. I declined, paid them $79, and drove off sqealing.

I ordered a water pump from Fastlane and started on the job early the following Saturday. As soon as the belt was off it was easy to determine that the trouble was in fact the fan bearing. This caused me to make an emergency trip to another dealer (HBL) open on Saturday, where I paid list price for the part.

I will now have to return the water pump to Fastlane. Bottom line is that ASC's faulty diagnosis cost me a couple of hours time and maybe $15 in shipping charges, plus about $35 in additional parts costs, since my options were limited on a Saturday morning.

My question: Am I justified in asking for a refund from ASC for their faulty diagnosis? I can add that we have been good customers of ASC over the years: a lot of service and parts, plus we bought my wife's C220 from them.

I am particularly interested in comments from guys in the business on how they view this situation.

TIA for opinions!

Chuck Taylor
Falls Church VA
'66 200, '66 230SL, '96 SL500. Sold: '81 380SL, '86 300E, '72 250C, '95 C220, 3 '84 280SL's '90 420SEL, '72 280SE, '73 280C, '78 280SE, '70 280SL, '77 450SL, '85 380SL, '87 560SL, '85 380SL, '72 350SL, '96 S500 Coupe
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Old 07-29-2001, 01:51 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: charlotte hall md.
Posts: 248
chuck you can ask all you want.Your chances are slim.but there is no law against taking a shot.After all Asc screwed up.Lets hope unintenionally
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Old 07-29-2001, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
Since you ask, I will try to give a different perspective.

This is both an easy and a hard question. The first obvious answer is that yes you should get a refund for a defective product. After that the answer gets complicated. If you have a history with this company they will honor your request for goodwill.

I have little sympathy for those who think diagnostics should be free. I do not know what you were charged for but I can tell you that the cost of processing an invoice is probably equal to an hour labor in most shops. I can not imagine charging $79 to diagnose a waterpump noise. I can tell you that estimates are guesses in many cases. It requires considerable disassembly to make a real repair sheet. We often estimate high and then bill for what we find. It has been years since I accepted the burden of all the potential risks in every job. With thirty years experience I still miss a part in a significant number of parts estimates.

What you must understand is that in many cases a proper diagnosis can require half the work of the whole repair. Usually in the interests of efficiency a calculated risk is taken which is then covered when doing the work.

I will give you an example: a car comes in with a driveability problem. With thousands of dollars of the best equiptment I can only hypothesize that the problem is the engine management system controller. There is absolutely no way to do this diagnosing absolutely. The controller can not be tested in the field by anyone! I make the call. Now a couple things can happen. The most common is that I buy a used controller as a test case and if I am right the customer gets a great deal. If I am wrong I put the controller on the shelf and the next car I use it for the diagnostics. But, we didn't talk about the estimate. Before I tested I told the customer that I would be charging them two hours labor for the diagnostic. At that point I have had more than one customer want to get their own controller and maybe even do the simple installation. At that point I inform the customer that they have paid me for my time and they only get the warrantee with my doing the work and providing the part as I will then be accepting the risk of my diagnosis as I won't be charging them if I am wrong (for the part not the diagnosis). I will also then have to do more work to find where my testing didn't add up.

BTW in cases where there is no used controller available (or used is not an option such as late model engine controllers that marry the chassis number) I will spend probably double the standard diagnostic time before making the call. I call it diagnostic risk. The testing necessary for calling the 200 dollar used is much less than a 1600 dollar new Porsche one (been there many times).

I did say that any good businessman would return your money, didn't I. But let me warn you that business is run off doing the repairs not writing estimates. The amount of diagnostic risk a business will take for you depends on your presence as a customer.
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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Old 07-29-2001, 09:04 PM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Suwanee, GA, USA
Posts: 4,712
To add to Steve,

Just think, they could have quoted you high then pulled off the belt and found a fautly fan bearing...At that point they just call back and tell you what they found and that it will be considerably less expensive and they are the heros.

This is one of the senarios for calculated risk.
Donnie Drummonds
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Old 07-29-2001, 09:48 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Republique de Banana
Posts: 3,496
1. I would probably just keep the waterpump. You are going to need it sooner or later anyway. If not, just sell it.
2. By your own experience, you have just proven a key point, which is that estimates are sometimes best guesses, based upon the knowledge and experience of the person doing the estimating (which is a big variable). Very often, it is impossible to know the root cause of a problem without actually getting into it and taking some things apart. Once you do that, sometimes you get lucky and find an easy problem right away as you did, or sometimes it takes considerable troubleshooting to get to the root cause of a problem. Once in a while, things can turn to poope even for the best technicians with the best intentions.
3. In this case, since it seems obvious that the guy never did even the most basic troubleshooting, I think you would be justified in bringing this concern to the attention of the Service Advisor. Most businesses really do want to keep you coming back, and will comply with a reasonable request such as this, especially if you are an established customer.

Good luck, and please let us know the outcome.

2004 C240 Wagon 203.261 Baby Benz
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Old 07-29-2001, 11:52 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Falls Church, VA
Posts: 5,316
Steve -

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. BUT THE $79 WAS FOR AN HOUR'S LABOR TO DIAGNOSE THE NOISE!

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Old 07-30-2001, 08:31 AM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
You should ask for a refund, if for no other reason than to inform them politely that if one wishs to charge an hour to diagnose a waterpump noise, then one should get it right!

From the business side, this also is a calculated risk. One must charge for the time every car takes. As I pointed out before the entire business transaction: ticket write up, technician assignment, discussion of estimate, cashier, data entry, accounting costs a business the value of an hours labor. Notice I didn't include actually doing of anything to the car. As a result of these calculations a simple non invasive estimate should be charged for if the work not done.

But, I guarantee I have never charged anyone for a diagnosis on a water pump. If I have never seen you before I will do a walet biopsy first, before I waste valuable time on you. I will tell you that you have to leave the car!!!! I will tell you that it cost more than you want to pay and give you every opportunity to make an informed decision. And, after you have trusted me with your car I will do everything in my power to keep the costs of quality repair to a minimum and call with a exact cost before I start.

If I have to write two estimates for a person without doing any work, I will write no more. My time is too stretched to do all the work I do for hundreds of customers that have been with my company for tens of years. I say all this not to strut but to try and give you a feeling for the other side.
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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Old 07-30-2001, 06:18 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Posts: 437
I'd take a shot at getting your $79 back. The additional $3200 they recommended above the $800 for a water pump bothers me considerably. It appears that they were doing a bit of science fiction writing rather than honest estimates. I'd bet that if you had the work done you would have had the water pump replaced and also a new fan clutch assenbly for well over 1K$.

Too many times I've had one of my kids or a neighbor get an estimate from somebody for a major replacement when the trouble was something very minor and very obvious. Case in point: my daughter was towed into a shop when her alternator light came on. Estimate was for a new alternator. When I looked at it when I went to pick her up, the screws had fallen out of the brush assembly and it was hanging by the wires in plain view. I bought two screws from a very ashamed shop owner and fixed it with my swiss army knife.

Keep the water pump as you will eventually need it and you'll be glad to have it on hand.
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