Dealing with horrific authorised repairer service

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by starlight, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    Some of what follows has been discussed in a technical thread. This narrative brings the story up to date with a further development and asks the question: what do you do when an M-B authorised repairer turns out to be a nightmare and there's no easy alternative?

    The car in question is a 2003 SL500 (R230) with 54k miles on the clock.

    After running the gamut of the usual problems - mainly caused by defective seals - the ABC system started playing up. Malfunction:ABC Visit workshop.

    I'd had a bad experience with a local indie and took the car to the the local M-B franchisee, who replaced a strut (£1,300). When I called to collect the car, it couldn't be driven. On the turn of the key, a red warning: 'ABC: Drive carefully'.

    I left the car with the workshop. They replaced the tandem pump (£1,377). I reckon there are three possible reasons why the pump failed after the strut: (1) couldn't cope with the new strut; (2) fluid contamination; (3) air in the system. Spoke to the service manager, of course, and after 30 minutes of 'smoke and mirrors' I just had to give up on getting an intelligible explanation.

    Next up, four days later, another malfunction warning: 'ABC: Visit workshop'. But a few miles later, after the car was booked in again,the front offside suspension collapsed. The dealer recovered the car (that, incredibly, took some persuasion on my part). Turned out to be a snapped connecting rod. I'd feared it was the strut, of course. Repaired FOC. Cost (discounted): £120.00.

    After a lot of soul searching (thought the worst just had to be over), I decided to keep the car and had it serviced and MOT'd by the same people (yes, I know).

    This time, when I collected the car, there was a clunking noise from the steering when the wheels were turned from side to side with the car stationary. Oddly, not evident before the service but in any case it should have been picked up during the 'lock to lock' part of the MOT. Cost (discounted): £120.00 ('because you've just had a service).

    If you've read this far, thank you for the your patience.

    Now the question. The car has a service plan with further services pre-paid. I've found the Mobilo service brilliant. I want the car to be looked after by an authorised repairer. But the people responsible for the above have a number of M-B outlets with a 30 mile radius of where I live and going elsewhere would involve a round trip of 90 or so miles.

    Mental block. What do I do? I'm a long-in-the-tooth lawyer... and the truth is that we often can't see the wood for the trees with our own problems.

    I don't fancy another smoke-and-mirrors discussion with the service manager, not sure if involving M-B UK would be fruitful...
     
  2. DrFeelgood

    DrFeelgood MB Club Veteran

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    My personal experience would be telling me to get rid of it.

    The reason I say this is that I have found that when cars need repeating repairs they are at the end of their use to me as I hate cars that keep breaking.

    Selling it on will protect you from the all the potential future hassle.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    That's certainly what the 'head' is telling me. The 'heart' keeps saying it's a gorgeous looking, powerful car and great to drive... I just need some 'closure' with the dealer. I would have thought that having a major multi-million Pound M-B group franchise was pretty close to a licence to print money and turning out a car three times in a row with a new fault just isn't acceptable. Plus, I like driving Mercs and feel that I shouldn't be driven towards another marque just because the local monopoly is so awful. And it annoys me no end that M-B don't seem to exercise some quality control over their chosen ones. Sorry... that was heading in the direction of a major rant!
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
  4. markjay

    markjay MB Club Veteran

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    To clarify... the service plan you mentioned, is it an official MB service plan, or one that is unique to the chain where you had the car repaired?

    On a general note, I stopped servicing my car at the dealer as soon as it was out of warranty, not because of cost, but because of very poor service.

    The overall feeling I got from the 'service advisor' was akin to how you feel when dealing with low-cost airline staff who are ordered to smile but can't hide the fact that really they just want to see the back of you....

    Regarding the car.... complex technology does not age well. Time to get a newer model, I think.
     
  5. DrFeelgood

    DrFeelgood MB Club Veteran

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    You wouldn't need to change brand, affordability allowing.

    2003 wasn't MB's finest hour but within 2/3 years things improved considerably.
     
  6. notsofast

    notsofast Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    A very good indie for any repairs would be a good place to start.
    Where about are you in Scotland?
     
  7. toffee-pie

    toffee-pie Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    your location probably not the best for a old powerful specialist car like that IMO. You should consider leave the car with a specialist in England who knows what they are doing, depending of course how far you want to go, re - costs.
     
  8. Druk

    Druk Administrator Staff Member

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    2003 R230 SL. Has the SBC brake pump been done? That's another couple of £rand staring you in the face if not.
     
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  9. uumode

    uumode Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Depending on how attached you are to the car, I would try a different dealer.
    Though the sequence of events could have been incredibly bad luck and coincidence, and on the brighter side this was all picked up under warranty.
     
  10. OP
    OP
    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    It's on official MB service plan.

    I know what you mean about service advisors; and the ones I deal with regularly tell me they have 'no technical knowledge'.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    When it was launched in 2003 the R230 received golden praise from the motoring journos and the SBC (see reply to Druk) was hailed as a wonder braking system. Fact is, the car was far too over-engineering and those who bought between 2003-2006(08?) got a lemon that was likely to have cost north of £80k. Mine cost £86k (it has the pano roof).

    If you sticking with the brand and use the dealer network, in principle that should be fine. You ought to expect a high standard of service, you get the benefit of Mobilo and the bodywork guarantee.

    Mobilo have bailed me out on a couple of occasions when the RAC couldn't (no disgrace there: only an MB tech would have worked out the problem). On one occasion, the car was stranded because the auto shift wouldn't move out of park. Defective brake switch and the Mobilo guy carried the part in his van.

    All of that said, suspect I'm being pig-headed about this and should switch to an indie.
     
  12. OP
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    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    Unhappily, the repairs weren't paid for under warranty.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    Good point, Druk. Yes... I know. I think I'm right in saying that the SBC system was changed on a number of affected models in the fairly early days, but MB left out the R230. Also understand that MB would be likely to contribute to the cost of a failure for cars (with an service history) up to 10 years old but not after that.

    It's a ticking time-bomb.
     
  14. gIzzE

    gIzzE MB Club Veteran

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    It was an £85,000 car.
    It is now 13 years old.

    I will start to cost you a fair bit to upkeep.

    Time to move to a indi who can diagnose and repair things rather than using the main dealer who simply read codes and replace parts. That is fine when they are paying, not so good when they are swapping parts willy nilly using your money.

    Or sell it and buy a newer version, it may work out cheaper in the long run.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    Yes... and this is not to defend them, but I suspect that dealer doesn't see many 2003 R230s - while indies may have a lot of experience; and, as you say, nowadays, it's a case of codes/parts swapping. And where there's a tricky problem you just keep swapping the parts until you get a solution.

    All of that said - and here's the mental block again - if the company that builds the cars endorses authorised repairers as the 'go to' people for the marque, isn't there' something terribly wrong with quality control?

    Putting aside the complexity of the ABC system, as I said in my original post, the basics here went wrong: e.g., steering repair needed immediately after a full service and MOT.

    Perhaps this is a controversial proposition, but I think that car repairs should be licensed by the local authority, in the same way that second hand car dealers have to be licensed (at least in my part of the UK).
     
  16. gIzzE

    gIzzE MB Club Veteran

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    But during an MOT they have to check the bushings, it can be the testing of those bushes that can cause them to finally go. They would have gone pretty quickly anyway imho.

    NO!!

    They did this with extended warranties a few years back, and said they all had to become insurance policies rather than in house warranties, being insurance policies allowed them to be licensed, the price went up 300% over night.

    All you will do by doing that is kill off the small independent garages, and they are the ones I want to use, it will give main dealers a monopoly.

    At the moment garages that do well tend to do well because they are good, word of mouth is everything to them, so they do the best they can do at the best price possible, leave it as it is.
     
  17. OP
    OP
    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    Sorry... yes, I entirely agree with those points - I just didn't explain myself properly. I meant that businesses selling second hand cars (not policies) or indeed any other pre-owned goods have to be licensed by the local authority in most parts of Scotland (and elsewhere in the UK for all I know). This provides a degree of consumer protection.

    I was suggesting that the licensing scheme should be extended to car repairers. At this point I'm not thinking about my own experience which didn't have any real safety implications... but it's not hard to see how a lack of competence on the part of a mechanic could expose a car owner to serious risk.

    Good point on the checking of the bushes, if I may say so. However, I think it's odds on that whoever took the car from the ramp and parked it must have noticed there was something wrong. I spotted the noise right away.
     
  18. lxi

    lxi Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I understand that SBC pumps can now be purchased directly from Bosch for about £600. ABC struts are available from MB "remanufactured" for a lot less than the price of new
     
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  19. OP
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    starlight

    starlight Active Member

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    Yes - it's important that information's made available. The dealer initially quoted me £1,796 to replace the strut (inc. around £1,300 for the part), until I pointed out that MB had made available the re-manufactured version for around £800. In fact, I think I'm correct in saying that's now the only option from MB.
     
  20. oldguy57

    oldguy57 Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Yep this all smacks of the dealer having little expertise with ABC. It would seem from owners experiences that a good indie who knows the system inside out is a far better bet than a dealer who will make you throw money at the problem.
     

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