A couple of weeks ago my timing belt snapped while I was driving. My fault for not getting it replaced when I should have but it’s a non-interference engine so no major problem. I take it to the local place I use, get a quote and tell them to go ahead with the work. Friday night I go and pick up the car. It starts but I don’t even get out of the parking lot without knowing something is seriously messed up. The idle is way to low, wants to stall (and has stalled both at idle and while braking) plus there is a serious lack of power through all RPM’s.
There are plenty of things that can cause these problems one of which is the timing being off. Since the timing belt was just replaced I figure checking the timing is a good place to start. I had some minor issues with the garage and follow-up service on a repair before and they won’t be open until Monday so I figure it can’t hurt to call a Ford dealer and find out how much it would be to have them check the timing and adjust it. Normally I stay away from dealer’s service but I wanted a second set of eyes on this and who better than the dealer to check the timing on their own car.
I call and ask how much to check the timing and, if it is off, adjust it. I’m asked why I want the timing checked. I explain everything above and ask what the cost would be. I’m told $110.00 and I agree since they say they can look at it right now. I take it up and while they work on it I test drive some new cars.
After about an hour I check and I am told that they have certain procedures that they follow, that the diagnostic showed that one of the cylinders was misfiring, that the spark plug wires were bad and they could not check the timing until they fixed the misfiring cylinder. They quote me $115 to replace the spark plug wires and I tell them absolutely no way; I will do that myself. They button up the car and hand me a bill for $110.00. I question why I am being billed when they never looked at the timing but I stupidly pay it just to get my keys and get out of there figuring I will take the car back and have the work done on the timing once I have taken care of the wires. I spend about $25-$30 on a new set of wires and plugs to boot. I have those installed in about ten minutes.
On Monday morning I go back to the dealer and basically demand that they check the timing that I had paid for on Saturday. They agree. About fifteen minutes later the tech I originally dealt with comes over and tells me that checking the timing is a lot more involved than he thought and would cost much more than $110. I ask why he quoted me $110 on the phone. He tells me that I didn’t ask for the timing to be checked and adjusted, that I told him I didn’t know if the timing was the issue and that the $110 was for a general diagnostic which they had run on Saturday so to bad for me. I’m pissed but I don’t want to start screaming at this guy since I know that goes nowhere so I leave.
I get the name of the head of the service department, call and talk to him. I explain everything that happened as I described it above. He agrees that there was some miscommunication regarding what I wanted done and what I had been charged for. I tell him at this point I just want the $110 refunded. He states that the problem I am having does sound like the belt was installed one tooth off, that these belts are notoriously difficult to install correctly without special tools and he tells me that if I bring the car back in he will have the timing checked and if it is as he suspects he will have the belt removed and re-installed in the correct position. He says this would normally run $300-$400 but he will do it for cost at about $130 to $140 and he will apply the $110 to that so my out of pocket cost at this point would only be $20 to $30. I agree and I go and drop the car off last night. I make sure I write out everything he said on the work order.
About 2PM today I call the dealership to find out what is going on with my car. I get the original tech I spoke to on Saturday and, well, I pretty much just lost it.
Him: Well let me tell you what we have done so far. We have procedures we need to follow. We ran the diagnostic and the cylinder is fine but we found the spark plugs to be slightly loose so we tightened those up for you. We checked the fuel pressure and we found it was low. We checked the fuel filter and it’s an aftermarket filter so we suspect that might be the problem. We really can’t continue until we get this fuel pressure problem fixed.
Me: Jesus Christ! You haven’t even started checking the timing! I don’t care about the spark plugs. I don’t care about the low fuel pressure! The car has been running with low fuel pressure at start-up for SIX YEARS! Back when it was first discovered and the car was under warranty you told me the low pressure was NORMAL! You told me you don’t even need the engine running to check the God Damned timing! Can you check the timing or can you not check the timing? Give me a straight damn answer!
Him: Well…I was just trying to help.
Me: You can help me by checking the timing and if the timing is off you can remove the belt and replace it in the correct position. Can you do that or can’t you?
After I got off the phone I called back and left a message for the head of service to call me. It’s like the f-ing scripts people always complain about with tech support where they have to go through twenty steps before they will address your problem. Considering that I am not paying for anything other than checking and adjusting the timing and I am only paying a certain amount for that you would figure it would be in their best interest to throw away the script in this case and just check the damn timing.
If anyone out there is a mechanic or knows about cars please tell me if I am wrong here. I looked this up in Chilton’s. You remove the valve cover, you locate the timing mark on the belt, you rotate the shaft by hand and make sure the belt mark lines up with the marks on the cam shafts and on the crank shaft. If they do the timing is good, if not the belt needs to be removed and put back on in the correct position. That’s also how the head of service described the procedure (the last time I checked timing was in the eighties and it was a strobe light and a screwdriver).
Tldr: I get a quote from a dealer to do a specific thing. I am charged but because of other issues that I did not ask to be checked but were checked anyway the thing I wanted to do can not be done. When I refuse to pay for the additional work I am charged for the original thing that was not done and sent on my way. I fix the additional stuff myself and take it back but now they want more money to do what they originally quoted. I get things settled with the boss and think everything is fine until I find out today that they did more things they were not asked to do and insist that they still can not do what they were paid to do until these new issues are fixed. I demand they stop looking at things they weren’t asked to look at and do the work they were paid to do.
ETA: I got a call from the tech last night telling me there was no problem with the timing but they wouldn't have the car buttoned up until tomorrow. This morning the same tech called and told me the timing was definitely bad and they were in the process of fixing it (no mention of why there was a change of heart and I didn't ask). Then I got a call from the head guy returning my call from yesterday.
I suspect that the head guy got my voice mail this morning and went to talk to the tech before calling me back and that was the cause of the "timings fine" to "timings bad and we're fixing it" change.