Car dealership service department fail

My 2007 Toyota Corolla was subject to the recent airbag recall. On Thursday I took it to Stewart Toyota Sutherland to have the required work done. When I collected my car I noticed (after I had driven away) that the “instrument cluster” (owner’s manual term for the display containing the speedo, fuel gauge etc) was crooked. So I turned around and went back. The car was returned to me a short while later with an apology and an explanation that the problem had been a single clip. This time I had a good look before I drove away, to make sure the instrument cluster was straight, which it was.
Later that evening I pushed the button to reset my trip meter, and the instrument cluster moved. Upon investigation, I discovered a 10mm gap at the right hand end between the clear plastic cover of the instrument cluster and the black plastic surrounding it. The left hand end was flush, as it’s supposed to be.
Friday morning I took the car back (again). The same man who had returned it to me the previous day apologised (again) and took it into the workshop (again). This time when he returned it he assured me that he had personally checked that it was right. Needless to say, before I drove away I ran my fingers around the edges to verify that the instrument cluster had indeed been correctly re-installed.
And this experience is a perfect example of why I don’t have my car serviced at a dealership. What a fiasco! They took three attempts to correctly re-install the instrument cluster! (I shudder to think what could have happened if they had been working on the brakes.)


I’m not sure if Toyota is the same but VW, and many other car companies, make statements on their websites that their dealership service centres are the best place to go because their people know the cars “inside and out”.
This is why many of us go to dealerships for our car service… to make sure it’s being done right. So what happens when it doesn’t “go right”?
My experience is with a 2009 VW Tiguan. It has a factory installed sunroof and 18 months ago we noticed we were getting water inside the car. When I took it in for service I questioned this and the service centre said they had no idea what was doing it. It kept getting worse and at the next service I stated the issue must be the sunroof. They couldn’t find anything wrong. I complained again when water started pouring into the car and took it back to the service centre. They pulled the interior out to take photos for VW.
VW came back saying the drains were worn out. By this stage the interior was mouldy and the electrics started playing up. With the net rain the car flooded.
I was told by VWs “Customer Experience Ambassador” (Yes, that’s what she called herself) that replacement and repairs due to not replacing, was my responsibility, even though their service centre had not been able to tell me what the problem was for nearly 2 years. So much for knowing the car “inside and out”.
Three letters and 6 phone calls later and no one will take any responsibility. In fact, when the service centre removed things to photograph, they appear to have left something loose as there is now a rattle and the water flows in even more freely.
I told them I’d make a complaint to Fair Trading and Choice and they really didn’t give a toss…
This is not a rare story unfortunately… product suppliers advertise promising everything but provide much, much less if they can get away with it.


UPDATE: I took this car to another service centre in March this year. They discovered the leak had created rust on the airbag ignitors. The car was promptly written off (7 years old) and Allianz comprehensive car insurance didn’t cover it and just as promptly cancelled the insurance.
Took this to the NCAT tribunal. The member turned up late and didn’t have time to properly review the case and it was thrown out. The appeal has to be made within 28 days from decision AND costs you around $800.
Amazing thing was a neighbour just started putting a tarp over their 2009 Tiguan. When I asked they told me the sunroof appeared to be leaking but their service people couldn’t tell them why. He went white when I told him it could rust the airbag ignitors and would be written off. He also said he had met others with the same problem.
This seems to be a VW sunroof problem… the US had a class action go through for this same problem and the class action won. Why do we have to put up with the same issues here that US residents have proven are defeats?


I know you know the answer :wink:

We have government enough voters support at the polls that historically protects ‘not us’. Hence the legislation they pass protects businesses either overtly, by omission or by scope.

The ACL is an interesting step and while it is a law and looks good, if a business chooses not to comply the ACL is toothless except in the most egregious circumstance; the ACCC does not have a brilliant track record of prosecution. Should a business not do the right thing it is most often on the aggrieved to lodge legal proceedings whether civil or via the state _CATs.

Australia is far more libertarian (eg caveat emptor) than the US even though we do not fear the word ‘socialism’ that puts a bigly number of Americans into apoplectic fits. Although we are alike we are very different. Last comment is that as I see it at the end of the day, the US government represents its people, and ours represents itself, more often than not. It is also easier and less financially onerous lodging class actions as well as individual suits there.


lol… yep. Although I believe we fear the “socialism” word here too… much too comfortable in neo liberalism.


I think part of the problem is vehicles becoming increasingly difficult to service. There was a time when you could work out just through a little nouse how to get to a part, or remove a panel - for some models those times are gone. Look at the dash or under the bonnet of many cars and its a sea of plastic with no obvious method of fastening or access.

Case in point - new car warranty claim on a ford bought a few years back. The fresh air/recirculate no longer worked, permanently on fresh. It took until the third visit and me demonstrating with smoke from an extinguished match that the problem existed, but that’s beside the point.

Parts were ordered - took a week or two to arrive at the dealership - and the car went in to have it fixed - for three days! Got the car back, and both the drivers and passenger side doors were quite badly scratched. Luckily noticed before we left the dealership. There was some too and fro and they eventually agreed they had done it - ‘but how?’ I asked …

In this model Ford - the fresh air/recirculate is controlled by a small motor which connects to a flap in a plastic molding that is a single replaceable 'part;. Also located in the same part is the entire airflow vent to the outside and inlet from recirculate, the heater element and the air conditioning element. This part was about the size of a carton of beer. The service manager brought it out and dumped it on the counter to show me. To access the part, the entire dashboard had to be removed. To remove the dashboard, they had to take both front doors completely off the car. It was while the doors were off the car that they had been mishandled and scratched. I imagine the cooling system needed topping up as well (heater) and he said they had re-gassed the air conditioner.

We had to get a quote and get the doors resprayed at the dealerships expense. It was north of $2k before the respray, well over $3k including the respray … to replace the fresh air/recirculate vent. Luckily under warranty.

Now while I am personally of the view that the dealership people were muppets - I hate to think the stress and anxiety some poor sole trader motor mechanic might have gone through. Of course, someone like that might have had a more realistic fix - like some araldite/etc applied appropriately :slight_smile:

I have a much older car now that uses things like screws, nuts and bolts - and I can see where they are … It is not my intention to ever again willingly purchase a car made in this century …


ANOTHER UPDATE: The saga ends… After the NCAT debacle I took this to Fair Trading… they actually tried to help and were very good but admitted that there wasn’t much they could do about it. They contacted VW but VW told them it wasn’t their problem… Fair Trading seem to be more toothless than ASIC.
However, after failing with NCAT and Fair Trading I went back to the insurance company to tell them that the Tribunal said it wasn’t the service centre and Fair Trading were told it wasn’t VW so it must be accidental damage… they tried to side step but due to the fact that I’d done the leg work via NCAT and Fair Trading they backed down, picked up the car the next day and had it inspected. Within a week they had come back to me with a woeful offer (which I refused)… a week later they came back with a proper offer and, after over a year of fighting, I am finally getting a payout.

Moral of this story? Want your insurance company to pay your claim? Know your rights and prepare for battle.


The moral of this story in my opinion is don’t buy a VW they have a rep for poor customer service.


WARNING: novel ahead!
I had a similar experience, but with a Volkswagen Golf wagon. We bought it brand new in 2015 and before it was even 12 months old, the sunroof seized up and the sunroof motor had to be replaced.
Then the reversing camera started having issues - about once or twice a week it would fail to engage when I put the car in reverse.
Then there was a leak in the water pump, which was replaced under warranty.
Then the side mirrors malfunctioned and would turn up to the sky and lock when I tried to move them.
THEN we had a leak into the rear of the car via the sunroof, which was found to be due to an incorrectly installed sunroof drain.
THEN the car developed a strong mouldy smell, but they assured me that it wasn’t mould - apparently it was due to a brake fluid leak. So they ran an antibacterial and deodorising treatment to address the smell.
THEN that didn’t fix the problem, so they did it several more times and each time the smell came back.

By that point, I was absolutely fed up. My car stunk; it’d been twelve months without improvement; and I couldn’t even sell the car - which I desperately wanted to do, because I felt like it was a lemon.

I booked it back in to have the smell looked at and sent a strongly-worded email to the service manager saying that they’d failed to rectify the problem in a reasonable period of time and that, under the Australian Consumer Law, that constituted a major failure, the remedy for which is replacement or refund. I also attached an ACCC document outlining car dealers’ responsibilities under the ACL and told them I’d lodge a complaint with NSW Fair Trading.

That got their attention. They looked at the car properly and found - what a surprise! - that it actually was full of mould. There was mould under several layers of carpet, all the way through to the underlay.

I was absolutely furious. I have a documented mould allergy, plus a two-hour a day commute, and my 2.5-year old daughter was in the car five days a week. I told them I wanted a refund or replacement and that it was unacceptable that my daughter and I had had our health put at risk because they’d failed to properly investigate the issue.

They didn’t address my concerns and kept trying to fix the issues, until I sent yet another strongly-worded email telling them that I would not accept the car back, even if they could fix it, because it represented a risk to mine and my daughter’s safety, and that I was prepared to go to NCAT if necessary. I also told them they’d need to replace my daughter’s car seat as it also stank of mould.

At that point they finally came back to me with an offer of a brand-new (2018) VW Golf wagon with the same specs as the original car, at no cost to us, plus a cheque for the cost of the car seat. Given how much effort it took to get to that point, I decided to accept it (as I knew they wouldn’t be keen on giving me a full refund) and now I’m the owner of a brand-new car.

The terrible irony is that NSW Fair Trading finally responded to my email requesting help the day after VW made the offer, and basically said that they couldn’t do much to help except mediate. I’m not entirely sure what the point of them is.

Moral of my story? Know your rights and don’t take no for an answer. It frustrates me that I had to push so hard to get an acceptable resolution - how many people who don’t know about their rights under the ACL are still being stuffed around by dodgy car retailers? If I hadn’t been a CHOICE employee, I suspect I’d still be stuck with a smelly lemon of a car.


I’m pleased it got worked out but mould is a huge health risk and we were struggling with the same thing… VW were absolutely useless in my case and I shall: 1. Never buy a VW (or Audi) again; and 2. Will tell everyone I know not to buy a VW and why.


Yep! I’m really unhappy about it. Planning to sell this VW and then buy a cheap Hyundai or similar. We’ve always driven VWs but I’ve really lost faith in them.


LOL… yep, after over a year I can now get another car… am looking at a Toyota, purely because the road services guy says he sees less Toyotas to be fixed than anything else.


Check this out: there was a class action in the US over leaking VW/Audi/Skoda sunroofs:

This was in cars older than mine, so it seems like VW is still manufacturing faulty cars, despite knowing that this was a problem with older models.

I’m going to do a bit more digging to see what I can find. If you hear of anything else, please let me know!


Yes, I did a lot of research and I brought that up with VW, the Tribunal and Fair Trading… apparently it means nothing.
I even told them to do a search on YouTube for people experiencing leaking sunroofs in their VW… there are quite a few, but apparently that means nothing also… amazing really.


awww - my '62 Beetle was a bottler !! sad I got rid of it … I guess I didn’t test the customer service side much :wink:


Our less than 3 month old Mazda with1,865km since new, suddenly just went into limp mode only juddering forward slowly, with malfunctions flashing across the console like a small Christmas tree. There was all sorts of varied malfunction warnings: traction control, driver fatigue, smart city forward brake support, engine, etc, etc…

I think that going into limp mode without warning is a major safety issue!! Fortunately, the car was not being driven on the M1, which is were it was headed. Imagine driving at 100kph or 110kph and suddenly the vehicle slows down to a crawl.

Called Mazda dealership. They said drive it there, and they will have a look. I told them it wasn’t possible, and they had to come and collect it, because it cannot be driven there. I explained that under the ACL, the business was responsible for collecting the goods.

In response, they said to call Mazda Roadside Assist to collect it. We don’t have Roadside Assist, so they referred me back to the dealership.

Dealership said I would need to pay for transport to them, and if a warranty issue, they would reimburse the transport. When I declined, and tried to explain it was Mazda’s responsibility. They said that Mazda Customer Care would need to authorise them to pay for it, otherwise, they claim back as a warranty cost from Mazda.

Talked to Mazda Customer Care. Contact person aware of the ACL and said it should be covered, but said she had to go to her manager. Supposedly talked to several managers who reiterated Mazda policy that I needed to get the vehicle to them and IF it was warranty issue they would reimburse. I asked how it was possible for such a new vehicle to have a major electronics failure, and not be a warranty issue. She said that it did seem likely to be warranty, but apologised and reiterated Mazda policy.

I read out the relevant part of the ACL in relation to large goods which says it is the businesses’ responsibility to collect, and they can recover costs if not a warranty issue. She wouldn’t budge. I referred her to Returning the product. Still waiting for a call back.

I don’t know if it is a systemic problem, or not, but it is certainly incredibly dangerous, and I can’t see how this is not immediately dealt with as a warranty issue.

I have been asked to send in the relevant section of the ACL because the Mazda Customer Care people couldn’t find that section. They said if it’s there, they will comply and collect our vehicle. So I’ve sent it in. Let’s see what Monday brings. :slight_smile: :oncoming_automobile:


It is but: Limp home mode is a problem in how to implement re safety versus utility. The electronics think they have sensed a major failure and the program tries to do both of stop further damage to the vehicle and get you ‘home’ without a tow and taxi. The design engineers err on the side of getting you ‘home’ (eg to a safe place or garage).

As a practical matter If there was a warning how many seconds should it be? How should it be delivered to the driver (visual and sound)? If the driver has to acknowledge the impending limp mode, that itself becomes a safety distraction. On the Monash at speed in the centre lanes and faced with the ‘here comes limp mode’ warning would you panic in the middle lane or calmly pull over? Will you have enough seconds to get off the carriageway? I punt drivers would fall into both camps so it becomes a statistical problem regarding which is worse, with valid arguments for both.

Sometimes stopping and restarting the car reboots the ECU and all is well with no recorded evidence of its erroneous behaviour (!); then one has a real argument with the manufacturer since they hang their hat on what they see not what the customer reports. When your Mazda gets towed that could be what they see or if you are lucky (!?) there will be codes in the memory or the ECU will clearly be faulty. A classic ‘we cannot replicate the problem’ sometimes happens when they remove and reconnect 12V, usually the equivalent of a cold boot on a computer where many things tend to correct themselves but what caused the problem remains undiagnosed and unknown, sometimes for the fault to repeat.

If Mazda see nothing hold your ground until they can tell you authoritatively what happened; get their reponse in writing (or witnessed and logged in a notepad) in case you need it to press further. If you are lucky it will be ‘hard broken’ and they will fix it all while hoping they identify the underlying problem and fix that, not just replace things that mask the symptoms that could result in a replay.(*) A valid question is what will it take for you to regain confidence in the vehicle?

May the ACL and Mazda technicians be with you :wink:

(*) - ex. a classic problem is a faulty power supply in a TV. The screen or electronics board will fail and the warranty service will replace the screen or electronics board. The power supply will damage another, and another, and another until the warranty runs out. They replace what they see is broken and are not paid to troubleshoot what was causing it. It could have been the a faulty screen or electronics board (or a fault caused by the power supply but diagnosing that that takes more time and training, so not on).


Hyundai’s are no longer the cheap and cheerful purchases they once were as they have now become a popular and sought after vehicle and the market is voting with its dollars and coming to them. But more importantly they are becoming the new ‘toyota’ a gold standard for reliability and the manufacturers support is also good, and in my experience the dealers don’t spend their time trying to duck and weave to avoid warranty claims. Lastly at the same price point they include so many extras that are options on the competing makes.
As you can see I am sold on the south korean car makers.


Doesn’t the car now start or has no ability to be driven? If it doesn’t, then you would be in your rights to ask for them to tow to the nearest Mazda service centre. This would fall into the category of ‘When a product is too large, too heavy or too difficult to remove, the business is responsible for paying the shipping costs or collecting the product within a reasonable time of being notified of the problem (ACCC website)’. Note, the sentence is OR so the car would be difficult to move if it couldn’t be started or driven.

If the car is in limp mode and can be driven albeit at slower speed (assuming that the only way to get to the nearest service centre is not on a 100km/hr road), they may be in their rights to ask you to drive it to their service centre. It could be argued that the car could easily be returned in limp mode…which is covered by the Returning the Product on the ACCC website, namely…'You are entitled to return a product if you believe that there is a problem. You are generally responsible for returning the product if it can be posted or easily returned’.

If I had a car in limp mode and a similar request was made, I would be asking for them to cover/warranty any additional damage which may be caused by the operation of the vehicle from your house to the nearest service centre. Such request may change their tune in relation to the car being driven to their service centre.

If the route includes a 100km/hr road which can’t be avoided (viz, there are no alternative routes to avoid the high speed road), one could argue that driving a car in limp mode on such a road is a significant safety issue and thus a tow is warranted. This would mean the car it creates an unsafe situation and should not be used (see ACCC Website).

From a quick google search there is a significant number of things which can make a car default to limp mode. These can result from the driver (dirty fuel through to bunny hopping the car on take off which wouldn’t be a warranty claim) through to some sort of mechanical/engine/transmission fault (which could be a warranty claim).

These faults can be real or thought to be real by a sensor/on board computer.


But how do you prove it was the “Limp Mode” that caused the extra damage or if it was your prior driving habits that caused the extra damage and is thus a negation of your ACL rights. The car is in defect mode, you don’t know what driving conditions you may have to navigate on your way to a Dealership thus making it an unknown as regards safely getting there so it becomes an issue for the Supplier and or Manufacturer to safely get the vehicle to their workshops not the owner of the defective product.