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I left my car at the dealership for a few hours today to get my suspension looked at and to find out what was causing the creaking noises coming from the back. The service advisor told me that the techs would need to test drive my vehicle, and after asking what route they'd take for the test drive, I agreed and left them to it.

Apparently my suspension was fine, so they went ahead and removed the back seats and carpet to make sure there wasn't anything loose under there. They didn't exactly find the source of the noise I brought the car in for, but they did find some loose change under the back carpets.

When I came back to pick up my car, I found that my car had been driven a total of 19 km (or 11.8 mi). Is this normal when test driving a car to diagnose hard to find noises? The techs had left for the day, but the service advisor's explanation was that they probably needed to take the car out for several test drives in order to diagnose the noise. I still find this hard to believe considering their usual test drive route is only 2.5 km (1.55 mi).

  • 3
    I suppose it sounds pretty reasonable, considering they didn't locate the problem. The technician(s) repeated the drive in an attempt to duplicate and/or isolate the problem. – SteveRacer Mar 27 '18 at 4:01
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    You have driven it much further and still not worked out the source of the noise... – Solar Mike Mar 27 '18 at 4:10
  • It's common practice, and not a long distance. It's always done after something has been done to the brakes, suspension, or anything alike. We have to assure we did our work good before handing the vehicle back to the owner. It saves time for you and us if something is not quite right yet after we're done; we can fix that immediately instead of you having to come back for it. When there's avahue intermittend problem, it's not even unheard of for a mechanic to use the vehicle as personal transport for the day. It's a free diagnosis for you and free transport for the mechanic. Win-win. – Bart Mar 28 '18 at 20:31
  • The latter is usually agreed with the customer first though. – Bart Mar 28 '18 at 20:32
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I see this completely normal and not a cause of concern. The service advisor's explanation is certainly a valid reason, but they could have needed to drive the car for a total of 19kms for many legitimate reasons:

  • The service technician could not diagnose the source of the noise on his own, so he went back and picked up another service technician to help him.
  • The service technician could not identify the noise and took a longer route to identify the noise.

etc, etc.

Either way, I don't think they were taking your car for joy rides!

  • Completely agree. If they would have figured it out, they mileage would have been less. The service technician(s) were just doing their due diligence. If they are going to charge for a 1/2 hour of diagnostic troubleshooting work, it's going to put a bit of mileage on there. Completely normal in my humble opinion. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 27 '18 at 10:17
  • Agreed. Noise-hunting is often complicated by difficulty in replication and then compounded by difficulty in locating. It's necessarily an iterative process with few tools simpler than a drive test. – DGM Mar 30 '18 at 10:35
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  • Sometimes behavior of a car changes once it has warmed up.
  • Some noises only occur during specific road-conditions that are hard to find.
  • Sometimes a specific load condition my be required to reproduce (People on the backseat etc.)
  • Sometimes it is just convenient with another task (fetching a spare part) so it saves (billed) time.

There are lots of reasons to take more than just a short drive, especially when the reason is still not found. If you are worried about the mileage you should try to give precise, reproducible information on when the noise occurs, or offer to go on a test drive with the mechanic to show it to him.

Generally speaking, most mechanics would rather get on with their repairs to create billable hours than drive around fruitless without being able to sell you a fix in the end.

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I'm going to take a rather subjective approach to this...

You should find another Dealer for servicing. Not because the Techs took the vehicle out for an unreasonable distance (which I don't feel was unreasonable at all), but because you don't have firm trust in the facility.

Trust is very, very, important. If you don't trust the people working on your vehicle, then they could be doing all the right things, even being altruistic and you still will feel that you're being mistreated. It's human nature.

I completely understand how you feel about someone else working on your car. Coming from a family who did all their own work, always, it took me a very long time to find a mechanic I could trust. I've finally found a Local Independent Mechanic I can trust. It takes time.

You want to find a Mechanic that you can trust... And often times, it's a Local Independent which will provide that. They have less overhead, less middle-management, etc... Less hands in the pot. For complex issues, yes, Dealer Techs are a much better idea, buy for most of the common Automotive Issues, an Independent is going to be likely cheaper, and higher quality level of care. One issue with Independent's is that their Customer Service might be a bit rough around the edges... Personally, I'd rather have someone be a bit less polished, but be honest and fair rather than have a fancy waiting-room and lip-service.

So again... Highly subjective stuff here.

The best way to find a quality mechanic is to ask around. Ask friends, neighbors, etc... Ask, ask, ask. You can check local review sites like Google, Yelp, YellowPages, as well. Find one you feel is a good fit, and take your car for a basic service, and see what the experience is like. If something rubs you the wrong way, then just go back to the drawing board. Simple as that.

So in conclusion, while I feel that the Techs didn't take your vehicle for any concerning length, I feel it's more important that you're confident that the folks working on your car CARE! I completely understand how you feel, and I urge you to look into other options if your feelings for this Dealer don't seem to improve.

I hope this helps.

  • You shouldn't ever trust the service department. You should verify every repair, look at every part replaced, and carefully read your bill. Their incentives are to make as much money as they can. They have a temptation to overcharge and replace everything, even if that part is not the problem, and it is a compelling temptation. – geoO Mar 28 '18 at 14:02
  • @geoO Absolutely. I meant trust in the context of the query. Meaning trust that they weren't abusing the vehicle, or purposely keeping it/driving it longer than they should have. There's plenty of horror stories about this happening... But there's also the every day honest mechanics which people don't hear about because decency isn't as juicy as drama. – NitrusInc Mar 28 '18 at 14:08

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