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Ever have your auto shop fix the wrong noise?

I got a call from KTAR reporter Bob McClay the other day who was singing the auto repair blues. Being the car guy, I get these phone calls every day from friends, acquaintances and radio listeners — and Bob’s story was no different than many I hear.

He had taken his 10-year-old vehicle into the dealership and complained about a noise. While he keeps his car well-maintained, a vehicle of that age is typically going to be full of noises, so he left it with them to be diagnosed. He was called with an estimate in excess of $450 to fix the noise, and he had them proceed as they advised.

The following day, after he had paid the bill and left the parking lot, he immediately realized the noise was just as evident as when he dropped the vehicle off. The only difference was that his wallet was now almost $500 lighter. He immediately got a dealership representative to come check it out. When Bob pointed out the noise to an employee, the man’s eyes got big and he said, “Oh, that noise.”

Long story short, they fixed the wrong noise.

What Bob was hearing was a faint noise from the planetary gears in the transmission that presented a real reliability concern. You could only hear this noise at parking lot speeds and not during usual driving. The noise the dealership heard was typical of any 10-year-old vehicle. It was an exhaust manifold leak that you would hear with the vehicle cold, in the driveway or when just leaving for work.

These were two totally different noises with two totally different outcomes if not addressed. One is slightly annoying, while the other would eventually leave you stranded.

This is a fairly common problem in our industry, and it comes down to service counter communication or lack thereof. In Bob’s instance, I would place the fault with the service adviser for not insisting Bob show him the noise he was concerned about before leaving the vehicle for diagnosis. This is a standard operating procedure for some in our business. That way, there would have been no confusion over two needless days without the vehicle and no question mark about the $450 repair that Bob could have lived without. Remember, 10-year-old vehicles have many noises — some are crucial and some are not.

Although I place the blame on the dealership in this instance — because it should know better — I do want you to be well advised when it comes to taking your vehicle to the shop for repairs. When you have a noise concern, as in this instance, or a vibration concern, a topic for another day, ask the service writer if he can experience the concern with you. Any diligent shop will be more than happy to go for a ride with you. They will also be thankful you asked.

It is a sign that they care, and that’s what you are looking for. You may not think you have time, but if you knew the hassle when things go wrong, it is well worth it.

When the shop calls to present the repairs and the estimates, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Did your technician hear the noise? What did he hear? Then make sure it fits your concern. If it doesn’t exactly fit, the service writer should have an explanation between the disparity in your concerns and what they found.

For a more in-depth look at topics like this, join Matt Allen and Dave Riccio on Bumper to Bumper Radio, Arizona’s top automotive show heard every Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon right here on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR. Call in your questions at 602-277-5827 or find them at for the best partners, products and advice! Dave Riccio is also the owner of Tri-City Transmission in Tempe.