Air Cond Leak

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  #1  
Old 05-10-04, 10:20 AM
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Air Cond Leak

Hello,

I have a 97 Dodge Ram. End of last summer, the AC was working great. This summer rolls around, and I go to turn it on and it blows hot. I slide by my local place where i'm friendly with the guys (an oil change place) and they hook up their AC machine. The truck holds around 3 pounds of freon, it only had 2, and this was keeping the compressor from turning on apparently. so, they topped me off with a pound of freon for no charge. Over the course of the last week it has apparently leaked again because today at lunch I turn it on and it's blowing hot again. So, I assume I have a leak. Does this mean I have to throw myself on the mercy of the rather merciless people at the Dodge service department, or what?

Any comments on where to start, pitfalls or traps to be aware of, etc? I've never had to deal with AC before, and I don't want some dishonest place charging me for a bunch of stuff I don't need. Any advice is appreciated. I need to get this fixed before summer sets in...

Thank you,
Scott
 
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  #2  
Old 05-10-04, 11:13 AM
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Skip the dealership; find a reputable AC specialty shop or independent garage that does full-service ac work. Finding leaks in AC systems these days is not hard as there are all sorts of high-tech leak detection tools. Most good ac shops will even show you where the leak is being detected by the test equipment. Most shops use either a "sniffer" or a special dye that shows up under blacklight.
 
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Old 05-10-04, 02:36 PM
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TowGuy has the right idea. Those Dodge trucks are notorious for evaporator leaks. You'd also change the drier and possibly the expansion valve at the same time. It won't be cheap. You could be looking at $700 and up, but that's A/C these days.
 
  #4  
Old 05-10-04, 03:51 PM
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Thanks for the replies... I talked to two diff. shops today and one of them said the same thing.. dodges are notirous for the evaporator. a evap repair could start around $550 up to a grand... said they have to take the dash apart. not what I wanted to hear. One place uses a dye to detect the leak, the other one uses a sniffer. Since the recharge leaked out in less than a week, is this a 'fast leak' ?

Also, this truck has established a pattern of needing work beyond standard maintenance every 6 months or so (largely the recurring steering column issue in my other thread). It's 8 years old, 112k miles. That's doesn't seem all that old for a (commuter) truck (1500) to me... does it?

Thanks for lending your expertise,
Scott
 
  #5  
Old 05-10-04, 05:05 PM
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They shouldn't need any dye to find a leak that big. that's a very large leak.
It's a pretty common repair. Actually I'm surprised it hadn't happened earlier. As far as your other question, 112K is just getting broken in these days.
 
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Old 05-11-04, 04:42 AM
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Recently had to replace the evaporator core in my wrecker, so I sympathize, scott. Only ten years old with 350,000 miles and ac used about 10 months out of the year - don't make things like they used to, LOL. Mine would leak down inside 4 or 5 days, but oddly enough did not register like I would have expected that big a leak - just enough to get a few beeps out of the sniffer they used.
 
  #7  
Old 05-12-04, 12:13 PM
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I have a 97 Dodge Ram 1500 also, mine takes 134a refridgerant (available very cheap in any auto store, I get the cans with the oil mixed in already)....If it was my cheap self...I would first look around for oiley spots around the evaporator, condensor and such..look at the AC hoses too especially around where their crimped for oiley residue, it you see any thats where the leak probably is..I would also get the dye and light from the auto store and find the leak myself. If it was a expensive part that was leaking I would go over to car-parts.com and get the part from the junkyard (making sure they pressure test it for leaks)...This is what my cheap self would do but if your made of money or don't have any mechanical skills then take it to a trusted garage...

Bug
 
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Old 05-12-04, 12:35 PM
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Beware....Attempting you own A/C repairs can result in twice the damage and expense of paying someone that knows what he is doing. Everything seems easy but a million things can be overlooked or done wrong and result in major expense. Odds are that the evaporator is leaking. You don't have any access to get a visual on any dye and the entire dash has to be removed to replace it. I've had to come to the rescue of many DIYer's that thought they could save money doing it themselves and ended up spending double before it was over. You haven't had a real headache until you start chasing A/C problems.
Also note......the oil capacity is critical and if you just start dumping cans in either with or without oil, you'll never know how much is in there and that will cause more damage.
 
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Old 05-12-04, 02:34 PM
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Thanks for all the great info guys.... I'm a bit shy when it comes to any 'real' auto work... I can do the basics, but I think AC is getting in over my head... and it's my primary vehicle, I depend on it to get to work, so if I screwed something up I'd really be in trouble.

About to go drop it off at the dealer to get one of its other issues looked at (the steering column). I'm contemplating having them check for the AC leak there, but I'm sure they'd want twice as much as the shop in the small town where I work charges for finding the leak. I just don't trust the dealership, every experience I've had with that service department has been awful. I wouldn't even be setting foot in the door if it wasn't for the possibility that the work on the steering column might be warranty (if it's the same problem that caused my last two visits there).

Once I find out what hte problem is with the AC, and how much $$ it'll take to fix it, I'm going to have to make a decision on this truck. It's starting to get too expensive to maintain. I really like that truck tho. But, I like having money in my savings account, too.

Scott
 
  #10  
Old 05-12-04, 03:39 PM
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Just get a couple of estimates to compare. Make sure the shop you use does a lot of A/C work. Experience is key with A/C. You don't want anything broken in your dash either.
 
  #11  
Old 05-12-04, 05:00 PM
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I just dropped my truck off at the dodge dealership, they're going to see if the steering column issue is covered as part of their previous work, and also going to find the AC leak. Finding the leak is $39, they quoted $850 to replace an evaporator.

So, I'm awaiting word on the steering column and AC leak estimate to determine the fate of the truck. In the meantime, I'm driving a tiny little Jetta. It's a fun car to drive.

Desi501, or anyone else, could you give me an idea of what to ask to determine if a shop is competent to do AC work? I've talked to a couple local shops in the little town where I work, some residents I work with gave me the names.

Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Scott
 
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Old 05-12-04, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by scottaa1
Desi501, or anyone else, could you give me an idea of what to ask to determine if a shop is competent to do AC work? I've talked to a couple local shops in the little town where I work, some residents I work with gave me the names.

Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Scott
Basically you want to know how much of their business is represented by A/C work this time of year. Your looking for a shop that does 30-40% in A/C repairs to be considered competant in that area. The problem with people that don't do it all the time is they tend to misdiagnose the leak and in turn a comeback soon after. See if any place claims to specialize in A/C. In other words, the friendly corner gas station is not the right one. The dealer doesn't sound too far off. If you don't beat that quote by more than $150, I'd stay with the dealer.
 
  #13  
Old 05-12-04, 05:49 PM
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Thanks, Desi501. Your input is very valuable. I will ask those very questions of the shops. If the dealer is close enough (and since my truck is already there) I'll have them do the work. $80/hour for labor at the dealer, ouch!

I will hear tomorrow what they will do on the steering column and where the AC leak is. I will post what I'm told.

Again, many many thanks,

Scott
 
  #14  
Old 05-12-04, 05:50 PM
trendar
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Just out of curiousity, what is it about the Dodge evaporator cores that make them prone to leaking? That's not something I would normally expect to be a problem; does it leak at the connection, or in the core itself?
Wonder if they've updated the part so that the replacement won't suffer a similar fate.
 
  #15  
Old 05-12-04, 06:50 PM
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No. the cores themselves leak. The quality has never been that high and the R134 is more corrosive than the R12. Chrysler has big problem with all their vehicles. The Caravans and Jeeps are real bad too. I've seen Caravans that had one changed every 2 years. Sometimes they're more frequent than brakes.
I used to work for an A/C specialist and we had days that all 3 techs were working on 3 Caravans at the same time.
 

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  #16  
Old 05-12-04, 07:08 PM
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Yet there is nothing done by the manufacturer. Thanks, Daimler.

I appreciate all the information given here. It will all factor in to my decisions. Thanks again,

Scott
 
  #17  
Old 05-12-04, 07:47 PM
trendar
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Thanks for the info; certainly an eye-opener..

Good ole R12. So much better for the job save one.

Too bad they didn't just stick with it and just put better controls on uncontrolled venting.
 
  #18  
Old 05-13-04, 03:45 PM
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Well, just heard from the dodge service guy. The steering column is $150 to fix, it is of course a different electrical issue than before... this time it's the ignition control switch, or something along those line, causing the issues. According to the service dude, their electrical guy 'spent all day trying to find the issue' yeah, sure he did. So, 150 for that. On the AC, it is the evaporator (of course) which they quoted 650 for. A second place (non dealer, a local shop in the small town where I work) quoted $550, and a third place the owner is going to get back to me with an estimate in the morning.

So, going with what Desi501 recommended, if another place can't substantially beat the dealer estimate go with the dealership service dept. And since the vehicle is already there and they can have it done tomorrow close of business, I think I'll have dodge do the work. looking at $820 plus tax for all the repairs. I've already had them fix the wiring, going to tell them yes/no on the evaporator first thing in the morning.

If any of you helpful souls have further comments on the above, I'd love to hear them. From what I heard about the evap tho, I almost feel 'lucky' that all the repairs are under a grand. aint that sumthin??

again, guys, you have all been very helpful. Thank you,
Scott
 
  #19  
Old 05-13-04, 04:12 PM
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You have a pretty accurate view of the situation. I'm sure the guy quoting $550 will not be using OE parts and that has a value. Some of the aftermarket stuff has fitment problems and is not usually as high of quality. I think you've made the right decision. I think you'll get at least a years gaurantee from them also.
 
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Old 05-14-04, 02:01 PM
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Maybe that after market part would be better then this particular OEM part, seems like the OEM part in this case is a POS....A guy in the Dodge forum I visit was faced with a high AC bill like that and what he did was buy a home window AC unit for 100 bucks, a gas generator and 6 feet of plastic duct..Put the generator and AC unit in the pickup bed and ran the duct from the AC vent to the back cab sliding window..He says it works better then when his truck factory AC was new..

Bug
 

Last edited by Bugalou; 05-14-04 at 02:11 PM.
  #21  
Old 05-14-04, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Bugalou
Maybe that after market part would be better then this particular OEM part, seems like the OEM part in this case is a POS....A guy in the Dodge forum I visit was faced with a high AC bill like that and what he did was buy a home window AC unit for 100 bucks, a gas generator and 6 feet of plastic duct..Put the generator and AC unit in the pickup bed and ran the duct from the AC vent to the back cab sliding window..He says it works better then when his truck factory AC was new..

Bug
More great words of wisdom.........
 
  #22  
Old 05-14-04, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Bugalou
Maybe that after market part would be better then this particular OEM part, seems like the OEM part in this case is a POS....A guy in the Dodge forum I visit was faced with a high AC bill like that and what he did was buy a home window AC unit for 100 bucks, a gas generator and 6 feet of plastic duct..Put the generator and AC unit in the pickup bed and ran the duct from the AC vent to the back cab sliding window..He says it works better then when his truck factory AC was new..

Bug
If you knew how a/c worked you would know that setup working that way is hogwash.A/C systems remove heat they don't blow cold air so the heat in the passenger compartment would remain.You also would have $2500 to $3000 in the system laying in the truck waiting to be stolen.Not to mention the safety factor involved.
 
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Old 05-14-04, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Bugalou
Maybe that after market part would be better then this particular OEM part, seems like the OEM part in this case is a POS....A guy in the Dodge forum I visit was faced with a high AC bill like that and what he did was buy a home window AC unit for 100 bucks, a gas generator and 6 feet of plastic duct..Put the generator and AC unit in the pickup bed and ran the duct from the AC vent to the back cab sliding window..He says it works better then when his truck factory AC was new..

Bug
Do you make this stuff up or are you really that gullible?
 
  #24  
Old 05-14-04, 03:54 PM
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Welp, just got my truck back for the low low price of $873, after all taxes, 'shop fees' etc. I asked about the steering column, and was told that was 'the last part in there' that hasn't been replaced. Makes me proud.

Of course I tried the AC as soon as I got in. Guess time will tell if it leaks more or not. First thing I noticed is that the vent controls weren't hooked back up correctly... when you set it to blow out the dash, it comes out the floor, split level does defrosters, etc... (editorial: why didn't he check that?) and when I went to pull out the drink holder to put my pop in it, the right side dropped down and a screw fell out, fortunately onto the floor and not into the dash.

so, called them, and the service guy is going to get back to me on how big a job that is to fix the vent controls... if it's fast I'll just go over on a saturday and wait while they fix it, but if he's gotta rip the dash out again, I assume they cover the rental for me as well.

This has been such a fun week!!! Why can't I do this every week. oh well, I'm home, got a beer in my hand, and it's the weekend. time to kick back and forget about the last 5 days... until I take it back for them to fix the vents.

Scott
 
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Old 05-14-04, 10:07 PM
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sorry you had a bad dealer experience, there's good and bad everything out there, it just takes time to find the good ones and let them know it. a poorly run dealer usually starts from the management and works it's way downhill.


truck evaps do go bad every so often, i can't say as it's a pattern failure, as i don't really do a lot of them(let's not talk about older caravans and intrepids please) 90% of the ones i've pulled out or seen, had leaves and pine needles stuck to it. i know pine needles and water(condensation) form acid. i would be keeping the cowl clean all the time from now on or get creative with some fiberglass mesh/screen.

as for the current problem, without a doubt, they broke something or didn't hook up something when the dash came out. might be as simple as the knob on wrong, or as hard as vacuum lines on the wrong actuators(which is actually hard to do) either way, it's a free repair now. look closely at the shift indicator too, it sometimes gets a little 'off' after the big job. (don't look under your floormats, if you see any more screws, you might be in trouble, the person we fired might be working there now)



side note to others: r12 leaves an oily residue when it leaks, r134 leaves an oily residue maybe 5% of the time when it leaks, that isn't an accurate way to find leaks.
 
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Old 05-14-04, 10:35 PM
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now, when my a/c went out, here's what i did CLICK HERE


didn't think i could do it, did ya davo?




is this not funny or what?
 
  #27  
Old 05-15-04, 04:22 AM
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I would be proud to drive around in that bet he get's all the girls.Lol
 
  #28  
Old 05-15-04, 06:12 AM
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The evap in my 87' Power Ram leaked right in one of the bends. Since this was my hunting/fun truck I just cut into the plastic box housing the evap, removed and replaced and made a nice cover out of sheet metal painted black.

The A/C in the truck window is funny. About 10 years ago I had a E350 extended van we used for camping and I'd put a window unit in the passenger side window at camp and it actually kept the inside nice and cozy.
 
  #29  
Old 05-15-04, 03:18 PM
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Hi again,

Something else happening that isn't normal. When I start the truck, it revs upon ignition up to about 2500 RPMs, and when it returns to idle, it idles higher, and fluctuates... it wavers between 900 RPMs and a 1000. It used to idle around 600, steady.

They changed out the "ignition switch wiring connector" in the steering column in addition to taking the dash apart and replacing the AC evaporator. I know this is a speculative question, but could the work they did in any way have caused a change in the idle?? The vent controls were not hooked back up properly... just throwing that in just in case. I seem to recall that the vacumn hoses can affect the idle (happened once on an old Honda I had).

Any thoughts on this? I don't like the fact that it's not behaving as before. Thanks for your opinions and time,

Scott
 

Last edited by scottaa1; 05-15-04 at 03:54 PM.
  #30  
Old 05-15-04, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by scottaa1
Hi again,
I seem to recall that the vacumn hoses can affect the idle (happened once on an old Honda I had).

Any thoughts on this? I don't like the fact that it's not behaving as before. Thanks for your opinions and time,

Scott
You could be right on the money with that suspicion. No matter what, I would bring it back to them and let them know that started since the repair. With the other things noted from your visit, it might be time to speak with the service manager and let him know how many problems you've encountered. He should personally take charge of the situation and if there is a problem with the tech that worked on it, then he'll take some action about that too.
 
  #31  
Old 05-15-04, 05:17 PM
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I know how AC works Davo..I didn't get into detail of what he did to the duct and the baffling around the front of the AC unit because this was just a bit of humor and didn't want to prolong the post with boring details..Humor Davo...do you know what that is??...Also Davo, I see your starting to take sides in the mechanics vs me war that I didn't start..I saw it when you deleted my last post on the other AC thread but managed to leave the previous posters questionable mathematics in marking up parts to customers who was ofcourse a fellow mechanic ..Your supposed to be a neutral moderator, I suggest you act like one...

Bug
 
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Old 05-16-04, 03:45 AM
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Bugalou you have a PM.Please read it,if you have any questions ask the proper way.
 
  #33  
Old 05-18-04, 05:13 PM
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Welp, just got my truck back (again). They gave me a MINI VAN for a loaner... oh man, I couldn't wait to get my truck back. Upon inspection in the lot the issues from the evap replace seemed to be fixed (the idle and vent controls were working) (from pinched vacumn tubes). Going to give it a couple day's observation before I pronounce it fixed.

One thing I noticed is that there is still air 'by-product' coming out the floor vents when other vents are selected. I had no reason to check this before, so for all I know it was always like that. When I crank the AC and put it on the recycle setting (to redo the inside air, whatever that's called), it seemed like it used to only blow thru the dash vent, and now it's partially out the bottom too. Again, I never had a reason to take notice before this repair if it always did that. For you experts, does that sound normal?

I'm hoping all is well now. Time will tell. I hope it's not become a cliche, but thank you all for your patience, time, and help.
Scott
 
  #34  
Old 05-18-04, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by scottaa1
One thing I noticed is that there is still air 'by-product' coming out the floor vents when other vents are selected.
Scott
That may be another problem too Scott. They may have jammed a door there. Can you switch it completely to floor or is it stuck in the "partial" position?
 
  #35  
Old 05-18-04, 06:50 PM
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Desi, I just took a look. When I switch to defrosters, there is mostly top defrost flow, some bottom flow (80/20). When I switch to floor, it's the reverse... mostly floor, some top. (I would say, if I held a lighter in front of a vent blowing out the 'by product' from the top when I had switched to bottom, it would be tough to light it.) When I switch to vents straight out from the dash it also has the same blow ratio as above (80 vent/20 bottom).

Maybe it was always like this. Should those vent settings be 'exclusive' when set? or is some extra airflow escaping through other means an acceptable condition?

if it needs more work, I wonder if I can have it done at another dealer, as a 'loss of confidence' kind of thing. Any thoughts on anything stated above?

Thanks guys,
Scott
 
  #36  
Old 05-19-04, 12:48 AM
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a dealer would be able to fix another's warranty work, not likely for 'pay' work.

sometimes the small felt strips that seal the doors disintegrate when the box is taken apart. ordering them likely would have taken another day or two and added to the bill. normally they don't rip. i've felt what your asking about, i can't say as i've remembered to feel one after thinking about this problem. meaning, i've felt the 80/20 as i was checking my work. but i haven't as yet checked an untouched truck yet(slipped my mind), also, i've not had a complaint like this yet. maybe if i come across a truck in the next week i'll try to feel this.
 
  #37  
Old 05-19-04, 07:51 PM
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Hi guys... here's another days worth of observations...

When I start it, it still revs more than it used to... also, it's not idling the same at different times. this morning when it was warmed up it was around 600 RPMs, when I pulled into the garage after driving home from work, it was around 900.

Also, after about 30 minutes of driving with the AC cranked, the generator light came on. I had turned the AC down by that point. I turned it off when the generator light came on, and opened my windows. It was on for a couple minutes, and shut off when I was driving through my neighborhood.

The manual says when that light comes on, it isn't charging correctly and have the generator drive belt and charging system checked... I just stepped back out (ok, I made a beer run) and the light didn't come back on. Any thoughts on this new trouble light???

Thanks guys. Have a good night,
Scott
 
  #38  
Old 05-19-04, 11:35 PM
mike from nj
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it might all be a coincidence, but i don't think so. have the foreman look over your truck, politely explain what was done, what was redone, and redone again. then explain that this never happened before this. there is the outside chance that the battery was unplugged for the job(which erases the idle memory) and if the idle air valve is sticking, it's having a tough time with the relearning procedure.


dodge alternators are about the most reliable thing under the hood, however the belt tensioners sometimes stick, and don't automatically put the right tension on the belt. if it's a little loose, the light will come on, especially with the load of the fully charged a/c system. the way to check this, is to grab the belt between the p/s pump and a/c compressor and pull hard. the auto tensioner should move freely back and forth. i'll admit, i've replaced a few for being completely seized, meaning the belt won't budge it, or if it does, it stays where it shouldn't. you'll see what i mean if you try this. it's also an easy DIY job.
 
  #39  
Old 05-20-04, 10:13 AM
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I'm fairly certain the battery was unplugged, as the clock on my radio is now incorrect.

Something else that just started happening is the check engine light is on. I just called the dealership, and the service manager is on vacation till middle of next week, so I'm stuck with my original service writer. Guess I have no choice but to tell him what's going on. Which I'm sure will result in:

1) drop it off again (rearrange my day and drive to a horrible traffic area to drop it off tonight and again to pick it back up tomorrow, for the third time in a week), and hope it doesn't die on me while I'm driving there.

2) wait to see what they have to say.

Yep, he just called me back, I get to drop it off again tonight. ARGH!!!
Scott
 
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Old 05-20-04, 03:25 PM
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Sounds like your a little too easy going. Right about now they'd be hearing me all over that dealership. The service manager is on vacation is NOT an answer I'd accept. Somebody has to be in charge. I wouldn't stop until I got to the owner in that case. I'd also be demanding my money back. A dealer can't survive doing work like that.
 
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