Although in general I have been satisfied with Barrett's Automotive Services in the past, especially his willingness to bring me my car when I needed him to, when push comes to shove you know if you can do business with someone when they make a mistake and are willing to own up to it.
In June I took my 2003 Odyssey to Barrett to have the10500 mile service, the most expensive service I've needed because it includes replacing the timing belt. I had been going to the dealer for service ever since I bought the van new in 2003. I was hoping for less expense and more personal service with Barrett, who had worked on some of my family''s other cars.
About a month after the belt was replaced, the van started having starting problems, making terrible noises and smells. When it did start, which was sporadic, the engine would sometimes chug and skip. In July I took it back to Barrett who kept it for an entire week. At the end of the week he told me that there were some loose wires to the computer that he fixed but that really I needed a new computer to solve the problem and he slapped me with an $800 bill. This did not include a new computer - that would cost, he estimated, another $1400. Apparently the $800 bill included an inspection, some new spark plugs, driving it around for four days, gas to drive it around for four days, all kinds of diagnostics to follow the codes it was giving, and repair of the four loose wires.
Although I was both miffed and surprised that he would do $800 worth of work without calling me to tell me what he was going to do and how much it would cost, I let it go, thinking it must have been necessary work anyway.
I drove the van for another three months with the starting problems and backfiring, trying to avoid the inevitable $1400 expense of a new computer. Finally it wouldn't start at all, but I decided to take it back to the dealer to get another opinion about the computer since the whole $800 affair seemed a little fishy to me.
I had it towed to the dealer who looked at it for five minutes and declared that the timing belt was three teeth off and had not been properly installed and that no diagnosis of the computer could be made unless the timing belt was properly installed. I then had it towed back to Barrett to fix the timing belt. He did, and all the the problems of four months duration disappeared. He acknowledged that in reality it didn't seem to need a new computer.
I drove it around for a couple of months and it was still working great so I called Barrett and told him I didn't believe that there was ever anything else wrong with it than the fact that the timing belt was improperly installed and I would like my $650 out of the $800 back because I think it was chasing codes that were really a result of the timing belt being off. After a little discussion Barret hung up on me. A few weeks later I wrote him a letter again requesting my $650 and politely explaining my point of view and asking how he would like to resolve the issue. No response, so I called him and asked for an appointment to come talk about it. He said he could give me 10-15 minutes of his time in four weeks. I said ok.
Four weeks later I showed up at the appointed time, waited for twenty minutes and he finally came out and asked me if he could help me. I reminded him that we had an appointment and told him again that I did not think there was anything wrong with my car to cause the problems other than an incorrectly installed timing belt but that I would like to hear his point of view on the issue. After an exchange of about four sentences, he unceremoniously cut me off and marched back into his shop, figuratively hanging up on me again.
I would have been open to coming to some understanding of his point of view but I can't do that if he refuses to finish a conversation. There you have it. I still have not received a refund for the (by my understanding) unnecessary work.