Winning at the car dealership

Not many people enjoy going to any type of car shop, mechanic, dealership… you name it. Everyone hates car trouble. So when I received an email about an open recall on my car, I scheduled an appointment at my nearest Toyota dealer. When I went in for the checking, they said the CVT needed a reflash.

This basically means that since modern transmissions change gears when a car’s computer tells it to, the reflash would update the shifting points on the transmission. Apparently the engineers at Toyota decided that the original shifting points were not optimal, with some chance of actually damaging the transmission. Besides fixing the recall issue, I asked the dealer to perform their complementary courtesy inspection for a few reasons:

  • I wanted the “free” car wash
  • These inspections usually tell you how much brake pad is left
  • The tires are checked for wear and tear and pressure is adjusted too
  • I wanted to see if they would recommend any crazy fix or maintenance I knew was not needed
  • Free car wash!
  • There is a constant squeaking noise coming from the front every time I take a bump I wanted checked out

After about two hours, I was called that my car was ready. The inspection results said that everything checked out great for my car. The CVT software patch was done, without any problems, but they noticed during the inspection that the Throttle Body and the Mass Air Flow Sensor needed servicing, as well as an Air Conditioner Servicing. Right off the bat I knew the A/C needed a new cabin filter, since I had never replaced it and still had the original one at around 50,000 miles. Besides that, the A/C works great, has no odors or debris.

The recommended fixes would cost $213.95. Notice that free car wash!

Since Toyota uses representatives to talk to customers, you never get the chance to see or talk to an actual mechanic. If you ever get services recommended to you at any dealer or mechanic, always ask questions.

Would you have a medical procedure just because your doctor told you too?

So the questions I asked the service rep went sort of like this:

Monster: What issues were found on the Throttle Body and Mass Airflow Sensor?

Toyota: It needs servicing.

Monster: Yes, I saw that on the recommended services. But do the parts need replacing or fixing?

Toyota: When we service these parts our technicians do a thorough cleaning to restore the Throttle Body and Mass Airflow Sensor to original performance.

Monster: Were there any error diagnostic codes for these two parts?

Toyota: Based on car mileage and age, the TB and MAF sensor need servicing because they have enough carbon build-up to cause poor performance.

Monster: Does that mean the technician removed the TB and MAF sensor and saw the carbon build-up?

Toyota: Based on car mileage and age, the TB and MAF sensor need servicing because they have enough carbon build-up to cause poor performance.

Monster: Then this $130 recommendation is based on a guess?

Toyota: Based on car mileage and age, the MAF and TB need servicing because they have enough carbon build-up to cause poor performance.

Monster:   … … …

Monster: Besides a new Cabin Air Filter, what else does the A/C Servicing consist of?

Toyota: Our technician will perform a thorough inspection of all the A/C System and service all parts, to have the A/C working in optimal conditions.

Knowing where this was going, I bought the $25 original Cabin Filter at the parts department and installed it in the dealer parking lot. When I got home I checked the tire pressure. All four tires were around 26psi, nowhere near the 32psi recommendation.

All four tires were around 26psi, nowhere near the 32psi recommendation.

All four tires were around 26psi, nowhere near the 32psi recommendation.

All four tires were around 26psi, nowhere near the 32psi recommendation!

I had to say that once for each tire. This alone tells me the incompetency of this particular dealer.

To be on the safe side, I wasn’t going to neglect the TB and MAF sensor, as they can affect air intake in the engine, resulting in less power and poor fuel efficiency. I bought two cans of cleaners one for the TB and another for the MAF sensor, for $15, and easily cleaned the TB and MAF sensor. As you might expect, when I removed both parts, they were both free of any carbon build-up and still looked brand new. My car has always run like new and I have noticed no improvement in my MPG after cleaning the TB and MAF sensor. Since I recently started tracking my MPG I’ll hopefully notice if there is any change next time I clean the TB and MAF sensor.

The cabin air filter. $25 vs $108

Just doing a few questions to the mechanic or dealer saying you need these fixes can save you money. From $214 that the dealer was charging me to $40 doing it myself, I think it was worth it. Another plus; the TB and MAF sensor cleaning cans will last me a long time.

Have you ever beat the cost of the mechanics recommended car fixes?!

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