by Mark Koskenmaki
I deal with dealers' service departments regularly, often giving technical help. There is one constant that holds true... Quality is variable. Even the same dealership can go from one that gives excellent service to to one that's horrible, and back again, in a few years. Personnel turnover in dealerships is often quite fast, and that's usually a sign it's a bad place to work. And, if it's a bad place to work, the chances of getting a totally green or else a simply incompetent mechanic are very high.
Your chances of getting good service improve if: The dealership is small, but has been around many years OR The service manager and several of his techs have been there at least 5 years or more. Look at the cars in the bay, or waiting to be serviced. If competing makes are inside, chances are your service will be at least better than than the competing dealer's.
Look at the facility. If the service department is well-lit, large, and full of equipment, and the showroom small... Go for it. Management has put priority on service.
Lastly, be aware that not everybody can be an expert on everything. If you drive something specialized, like a diesel pickup, the dealership may not have a tech trained in diesel at all. If not, go elsewhere.
Last resort. Ask the independent repair shops if the dealer has good service. Some will tell you. Or, ask them who they recommend.
(Our "dealer trouble" page, with lots of advice on what to do if you picked a not-so-good dealer).
Problems with dealers and shops
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