Main dealer monkeys

c: | f: /

White man in pinstripe suit speak with forked tongue.

I had the misfortune to have a warning lamp appear on my dash; first time anything like that’s ever happened. Not knowing quite what to do about it — and being in the neighbourhood — I drove over to the local main dealer and asked them to diagnose it.

As befits most cars these days, they offered their laptop up to the engine management system and asked it what was wrong. “ABS failure” it said, though further inspection revealed it was actually just the sensor that had broken.

The guy in the expensive suit cheerily told me that it would cost £75 + VAT to replace the part and they found all manner of other things wrong with the car. He showed me the prices, at which point I laughed hysterically and drove away (£60 lighter for the privilege of them having a look, though they did wash and valet the car).

I took it to a local garage — friend of a friend I know. It turns out the part is £4.90 and would take 20-30 minutes to fit. £25 tops. I asked him to look at the other stuff as well (things I suspected the main dealer was going to charge over the odds for: £315 for a pair of brake discs and pads — don’t think so, Mr I-Wasn’t-Born-Yesterday) and left it with him.

When I went to pick the car up, I was told they’d had a hell of a time getting the information from the engine management system to clear the faults down. The reason? The main dealer — Mercedes Benz in this case — had locked the onboard computer to its own system so nobody else could access it.

Does that smell of ham to you? It does me. The cheeky bastards not only smile sweetly while they rape your bank account, they try and force you to go back to their garage by hijacking your car’s computer.

Luckily in this case, my friend spent the morning ringing round to find an expert in that particular management system, and between them they managed to hack my car back to its unlocked state. All hail real engineers!

Meanwhile, the main dealer’s underhand antics have ensured that’s the last visit I’ll ever make to them.

2 bods deemed this worthy


    Name and shame them Seth. Send this article to the local paper.

    Stef Dawson

    I did consider it, actually and then forgot about it. Apparently, it’s quite common practice and it may well be the software the garage uses and not the actual garage themselves doing anything untoward.

    Perhaps when they set the system up for the first time it logs their dealer location/ID and from that point on they are at the mercy of whoever wrote the code?

    I can’t believe there’s not an option to switch it off, but then the mechanics have probably got better things to do than change default options in badly-written software.

    Who knows who’s to blame. I’ve learned my lesson and written the story. Hopefully other people who read it will think twice before using a main dealer and avoid the problem altogether :-)

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