Automotive Dispute Resolution
This page is designed to help those who are having a dispute with Chrysler or a dealer. Please use this link to provide feedback on dealers or repair shops.
If you have a problem not covered by the normal warranty, see if it is covered by the emissions (or another "secret") warranty.
Chrysler sometimes authorizes repairs after the warranty is over, depending on the circumstances and the staffer's mood. While dealers can do this in some cases, few will take the risk.
Dealers may think something is not covered when it really is. This is often due to their own misunderstanding. Politely ask them if it would be covered under the emissions warranty (if applicable, e.g. if it is an emissions-related part).
(You should read your owner's manual thoroughly, particularly the warranty sections, before speaking with a dealer, so that you can calmly and politely say something like, "I thought the warranty covered spark plugs until the first recommended change interval. Would you mind if I checked the warranty in my glove compartment?")
If cases where the service person is sure something is not covered, ask if they would mind if you called Chrysler to see if you could get an authorization for them. Make sure your attitude conveys the message that "I'm trying to help you to get paid for this by the company" rather than "I'm going to complain about your miserly tactics." Service people usually do not mind your calling Chrysler if you say up front that you are doing it to get authorization for them.
There are many resources for those who are having a dispute with a dealer or a car company. For some, you will have to wait until the end of this page, or visit our auto links sections. But since I think you should read the rest of this page, I'd appreciate your not going there now!
Ralph Nader's Center for Auto Safety, at (202) 328-7700, has information on hidden warranties, common problems, and a directory of lawyers who can handle auto fraud cases. The quality of the lawyers themselves is hard to judge - that doesn't mean we have received good or bad reports. A similar referral service is run by two lawyers in Boston, who head the National Association of Consumer Advocates (617-723-1239), but your chances of reaching CAS are higher.
Watch out in small claims or special civil court because many lawyers will be over-eager to settle, when you have a strong case. This is because it is easy to grab the quick buck and move on to the next case, and more trouble to actually sue. Of course you run the risk in court of losing and having to pay massive legal fees. In many states you can handle cases by yourself.
Used car guides are interesting but rarely too helpful, because they are often inaccurate or missing key information. Consumer Reports' statistical methods are questionable, and the others tend to be high on opinion. Consumers Guide's book has concise write-ups and details on resale value and some specs. Jack Gillis' Used Car Book is interesting, but some of its conclusions are questionable for the average driver. If you're serious about spending a real chunk of change for a used car, consider all sources, including mailing lists (which are usually more reliable than newsgroups).
When looking for used car prices, remember the difference between retail and wholesale. Kelly's Blue Book is the one most often used by car dealers; they buy at wholesale and sell at resale, and pocket a nice chunk of change, figure about $1,500, along the way. Sell privately if you can!
The Lemon-Aid Used Car Guide, by Phil Edmonston, has been recommended. Phil seems like a very nice guy, based on a brief e-mail correspondence around a questionable clutch job (a job that normally costs $450, billed out at $900 - and their work seems to have permanently damaged the car) by Dodge of Paramus. I did get this review from a reader:
Phil Edmonston is the founder of the Automobile Protection Association (APA) and is a former member of Canadian Parliament. He has fought car manufacturers both in and out of the courtroom. He is Canada's best-known consumer advocate and rates all vehicles, both new and old. He is often called into court as an expert witness.
Choosing a Chrysler or Dodge dealer
Nothing beats the recommendation of a knowledgeable friend or acquaintance - except your own experience. The sales and service staff may be night and day in terms of quality and the "user experience," so never assume that a friendly salesman in front indicates friendly and competent mechanics in back.
Try to buy from five star dealers, even though someone new who buys or manages a business with historically good service and quickly screw it up. Some excellent dealers get fewer than five stars because they are not good at the "little things." A five star dealership guarantees nothing, but it does increase the odds.
Buy from dealerships with good service departments. Avoid dealers with raucous ads on the radio where the announcer screams at you.
If you have a Dodge (except trucks) any Chrysler dealer can fix your car, and vice versa. You do not have to return to the dealer you bought from.
Check the Allpar customer forum and see if your dealer is listed there, and whether there are recommendations for someone in your area. If you have had either a good or bad experience, we suggest you post there.
Note. Some people think dealers hire the best and the brightest. In fact, according to some research I've been reading, dealers have a terrible employee loyalty rate, and their mechanics may have low morale and little experience. Though there are many dealers who have excellent mechanics, with lots of experience and a desire to do the job right, many others do not. Don't assume that the dealer is always better than the garage across the street.
Choosing a body shop
Get a copy of your complaint even if no problem is found by the service techs, so you can, later on, show that a problem existed earlier. That may convince Chrysler to make good after the warranty ends, or increase a lemon law settlements.
If there is a "small accident," insist on seeing the damage in person and get everything in writing. Otherwise you have little protection against shoddy repairs and peeling paint. Take my word on this one!
Do not blindly believe anything your dealer tells you. Get everything in writing. Check questionable statements with the FAQ and newsgroup.
If you bring in your car, do not accept the "I don't hear it" or "They all do that" defense. Ask for a test drive with the manager or a mechanic. Be assertive without being aggressive or hostile.
Treat your dealership and service advisors well. They have a lot of discretion in providing extra service. If they like you, they may also give you a better mechanic.
It's been said before, I'll say it again. Only use Mopar Type 7176+ Type 3 or equivalent in your four-speed or Neon automatic transmission. Do not use Dexron or Dexron II under any circumstances (unless that's what your three speed transmission was designed to take). Make sure your oil change place knows this and does it. Save yourself a massive bill. Oh, and only use the recommended oil (see your service manual, don't listen to service station people). Many Chrysler dealers don't stock the recommended oil weight! Which, BTW, is usually 5W30 for the 1980s-1990s cars.
Call 1-800-992-1997 to speak with Chrysler Customer Service. (USA only).
Send suggestions and complaints to the Chrysler Customer Center, Box 302, Centerline, MI 48015. Canadians, write to Chrysler Center, Box 1621, Windsor, Ontario N9A 4H6 or call 800-465-2001. The best way to contact Chrysler is by phone. Though there are times when the phone system is overloaded, the normal waiting time seems to be less than five minutes. Many letters go into a black hole!
A reader reported two fax numbers (don't expect your faxes to be read by the addressee):
President's Office 1-248-512-1746
CEO's Office 1-248-512-5143
(names removed due to high turnover rate!)
If you live outside the US and Canada, see your owner's manual for addresses and phone numbers. (Area code 510 is now 248).
If you suspect your dealer has defrauded Chrysler with false warranty claims, report it to the Customer Center and ask them to let you know what happens.
Be polite and calm but assertive at all times. Do not take no for an answer but do not act angry or threaten them. This will make matters worse. They are often sensitive, defensive, and uninformed. If all else fails, call back and speak to someone else.
One key for them, with out-of-warranty repairs, is whether the problem existed during the warranty period! That's a good reason to get all your complaints acknowledged by the dealer in repair forms and to keep them (and keep 'em well-organized).
Never say bad things about your dealer or anyone else unless you absolutely must. Do not subject them to the anger caused by your dealer or their employees. This will only hurt your case!
Is the problem with your car or your dealer?
If your car has lots of problems, your dealer or mechanic might be screwing it up when trying to find other problems.
If you have problems immediately after having your car serviced, it may have been the mechanic's fault. Examples:
stalling after a tune up
brake noises after a brake job
overheating after the antifreeze was changed (system not purged properly of air bubbles)
transmission problems after the transmission fluid was changed
Note: on Neons, if you hear bubbling when you shut the engine, immediately refill your antifreeze and change your radiator cap (which, perversely, is not on the radiator). On any car, check the antifreeze and/or oil a few days after any change.
Find out what the problem was and fix it yourself or demand that the mechanic fix the car (may be risky).
Ask for your money back
Find another mechanic
Report the incident to your Consumer Affairs Department, Attorney General, Chrysler, and/or the BBB (which may be useless in some areas).
Four speed (Chrysler) automatic transmissions cannot use standard Dexron or Dexron II automatic transmission fluid! With transmissions designed to take only Chrysler trans fluid, a simple fluid change may solve a lot of problems!
Many new cars cannot use 10W40 oil.
Always use the recommended oil and trans fluid. Never take the oil change place's or the dealer's word for it. Look it up yourself.
When they can't find or fix it...
When the service people cannot find problem, ask to take a drive with the mechanic or a service advisor. If they cannot solve it, ask the service advisor to escalate it; if they don't know the term, suggest trying new steps, such as requesting support from Chrysler or checking the service bulletins. You can also call the Customer Center and ask them to provide technical assistance to the dealership.
Trying another dealer often works.
You may wish to bone up on the technical service bulletins. They are available on-line for a fee, or for $12-16 per annual book. If you post a problem on rec.autos.makers.chrysler, someone may look up a bulletin for you; it helps if you first get a title or do some legwork on your own to see if there is a bulletin, before you ask one of the altruistic net.good.citizens. Keep in mind that if you tell them you looked up the bulletin, you will likely be marked as a crank; but if you attribute the information to "a friend with the same car," you'll probably be OK.
Check the FAQ before posting.
Don't post messages like "this broke and I will speak to the dealer about it." Go to the dealer first if your car is under warranty.
Step by Step
Even if you are in an adversarial relationship, act in a friendly, nonthreatening, non-angry, non-adversarial manner -- but don't take "no" for an answer.
When you have a problem:
Try to resolve it through discussion with the service advisor.
If needed, ask to speak with the service manager.
The next step is to call Chrysler at 800-992-1997, from a pay phone if you have to. Often, work suddenly becomes free or your car gets fixed days or weeks ahead of time.
If your dealer keeps fixing the same thing over and over again, get another dealer, or ask the service manager to escalate the problem (as mentioned earlier).
If your dealer treats you badly, lies to you, etc., get another dealer. Dodge, Chrysler-Plymouth, and Eagle dealers are interchangeable when both have a version of the same car (e.g. Intrepid/Vision/Concord, Neon/Neon, Sebring/Avenger, Cirrus/Stratus).
If you have a continuing problem, speak to the people at your zone office (in your owner's manual). Be polite but assertive. Do not threaten them. If they still don't fix the car, politely begin to negotiate.
If you are still having the same problem despite several attempts at repairs, read your lemon law guide (in your glove compartment). File an official lemon law complaint with your state if possible. This will get Chrysler's attention and help your negotiation along, but chances are your problem is not serious enough to merit a legally imposed solution.
Important: File any lemon law complaints while you can! In New Jersey, for example, this is the first 18,000 miles - there is also a time limit!
You can also try going through the Customer Arbitration Board.
If all else fails, look through your Yellow Pages to find a lawyer *specializing* in lemon law problems. A good specialist lawyer will probably cheaply negotiate your way to a good settlement. If negotiation is not their first move, they are not the right lawyer. Negotiation yields better settlements than the courts, IMHO.
West's Causes of Acction, Volume 11, contains tutorials and sample complaints for suing auto companies. Blashfield's Automobile Law contains information on car-related lawsuits. Nolo Press more information and publications.
Your chances of getting cash are slim. They will probably buy back your car, giving you credit towards another instead of cash. You will probably not get all of your money back (even as a credit). Most states impose a penalty on each mile of use before the first lemon-type complaint.
If all else fails, or if there is an emergency or a serious issue which cannot be resolved through normal channels, call the state department of consumer affairs immediately. If they are unresponsive, or if the dealer has done something truly offensive, call the state Attorney General's Office. Do not be afraid to call your Congressman; many will help out to get your vote. If the State helps you to get justice, think about it during the next election - would you rather have "no big government interference with business" or "customer protection?"
Why are there so many bad dealers?
Blame it on greed, the worship of the dollar and small business, our culture, the automotive world's culture, poor local small claims courts (or policies that you cannot sue for damages in small claims court), or on Chrysler.
Chrysler will not control its dealers because it thinks it cannot control them. Either their contracts are truly badly written or they really need confidence and competence. If their contracts are badly written, shame on them for not admitting it and making up bad new contracts for new dealers and renewals.
I have recently heard that Chrysler does try hard to work with dealers when problems are reported. According to a dealer source, a customer complaint launches a barrage of faxes and phone calls which are invisible to the customer. Good dealers will take this as an incentive to work with the customer. Bad ones may blame the customer and become passive-aggressive.
Zone officials are often too lenient on bad dealers, but let's be fair - they may not have all the power they need. Chrysler has been slow to acknowledge the long-term damage done by bad dealers and to put it over the short-term high volume these dealers often generate.
Whenever your dealer lies to you or is too incompetent, send a letter to Dealer Agreements and to the Customer Center, Box 302, Centerline, MI 48015.
What happens when you send in a Chrysler customer satisfaction survey? A sample dealer says:
Chrysler sends all the bad surveys back to the dealer so he can (or is supposed to) get in contact with the customer and attempt to correct the problem...it could have backlash at the dealership but several bad surveys from the same customer would have some damaging effects with the dealer though chrysler. They take those very seriously.
The customer can call the 800 number and Chrysler launches what is called a CAIR (basically a complaint.) At that point the dealer has 24 hours to let Chrysler know what is being done with the vehicle. I assure you Chrysler takes it very seriously (you best prepare for a flood of faxes). I have been involved in caires from other dealers and it is not pleasant for the dealer. ... I have seen so much that shows me Chrysler really does care that I won't work for another dealer. I think lots of the bad comes from dealers stonewalling people and trying to stop it from getting over them.
A factory rep from an unspecified company reported that Chrysler worked hard to improve its formerly-rather-poor surveys. They now include important indicators, such as the number of times a repair has been unsuccessfully attempted, and have been cross-validated against other indicators. Note that not all customers are surveyed, because of what they see as customer preference (based on focus groups); only about half are, which means that you have a 50/50 chance of getting a survey when you have a repair done.
“I have been a Chrysler tech for many years, their product is getting better. District managers are actually starting to get much better in dealing with the public. More vehicles are being repaired under warranty, that are well out of warranty. Our dealership actually got in trouble for not doing enough good will work.
“As cars become more complex they also become harder to repair. There are very few techs that can come in and repair these vehicles correctly the first time, and that leads to customer complaints. Customers need to allow auto techs enough time to properly do ther problem. Too many times people need it NOW, and then complain that it wasnt fixed properly. If a person is having a problem at a dealership while getting ther car repaired, have them ask to talk to the person who is actually working on there car. A talk with the right person can go a long ways in customer satisfaction.”