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It's me again <sigh>. I have a car repair saga and I've declared war on the repair shop.

I bought a car (used) from a local dealer about a year and a half ago. It was a very Foolish deal, I think; it's a 1992 Plymouth Acclaim and when I bought it it had about 37,000 or 38,000 miles on it (don't remember exactly without looking it up). Not too bad. Decent price. Paid cash for it, too.

The dealer where I bought the car is a AAA-approved repair shop that is supposed to offer discounts on repairs to AAA members. When earlier this year the car started to act as if it were overheating (the temperature gauge kept showing in the high range), I brought the car in. Up till this time, mind you, the car had behaved perfectly -- no hesitation in starting, good gas mileage, utterly dependable.

So they check it out at the dealership and tell me nothing's wrong, charge me about $32 to find this out, and tell me that they can't afford to give me the AAA discount "because they wouldn't make any money." Well, this is not my problem; they're the ones who offered the discount in the first place. (I suppose I can afford it better than they can?) Anyway, SO *hates* it when I make a fuss, so I let it ride instead of giving in to my better instincts which are screaming at me to call and report the place to AAA.

Fast forward a couple of months to maybe a month and a half ago. The car overheats and I take it in to the same dealership (hey, they're close enough for us to get back and forth on a bike if we have to to get the car, and besides, we did buy the car there). Guess what. It's the thermostat. They fix it, I spend another -- I don't remember exactly -- sixty or seventy dollars (they give me the AAA discount this time) -- and they tell me that it needs a tuneup and a new ignition coil. (The car had been getting a little hard to start.) I have a business trip to go on and decide not to have the work done till after I get back.

When I get back (about two weeks ago) the car won't start and I have it towed in (AAA) to the dealership, figuring that it's the ignition coil. They tell me that it needs not only the ignition coil but a fuel pump. They do the tuneup. They charge me nearly six hundred dollars for this (they give me the AAA discount) and I take the car home. On the way home I notice that the muffler is rattling against the frame of the car something fierce -- something it has never done before; it is making a terrible racket. I call the dealership immediately when I get into the house (it was late Friday afternoon, the mechanic had already left for the day, and it was pouring rain) and they tell me to bring it back Monday morning when they open and they'll take a look at it.

Surprise, surprise. Monday morning the car does not start. Same problem as before. Finally I get it going and drive over to the dealership, steaming. They tighten the muffler and tell me that the fuel pump wasn't sealed properly and that they resealed it. (They couldn't do it right the first time, when I paid them nearly $600? In lots of places if people do work like that they get fired.) I drive the car to work and it's okay.

Gradually over the last couple of weeks the car begins to hesitate. When I step on the gas to accelerate, when I want to go when the light turns green, I *think* I feel hesitation. This car has never done that before. It progresses. It gets really noticeable over this past weekend, and I resolve that this morning I will call the dealership. I go out to get in the car and go to work and -- guess what? The car won't start. I have to bum a ride to work (thunderstorms predicted; can't bike in). Now I am boiling, not steaming.

I have already called AAA and complained about their "approved" repair shop (this time I told them the whole story, including the "no discount -- we can't afford it" saga of a few months ago). I have called the dealership and told them of the problem, and the service manager (I did not speak with any of the other service workers this time -- they never call me back anyway, not that this guy was exactly Johnny-on-the-spot.) says they stand behind their work. So I say, "Are you going to come and get my car?" Tomorrow morning at 7:30 they are coming to tow the car back to the shop. I am not paying for this tow. I do not want to give them any more money for repairs. I don't want to pay as much as I did for what they did, considering that this is my second trip back on this set of repairs. I put the repairs on my credit card, and the bill just came in the mail the other day; I have not paid it yet and if they don't resolve it I will dispute the charge with the credit card company. The car is not fixed.

Any advice from anyone out there on how to deal with a repair shop that obviously has problems, and how to get satisfaction from them? (Needless to say I will not be going back once this is resolved, but I want this car fixed and with what I've already spent to get it that way I am very, VERY angry that it is taking this many trips back to fix it.) Tony, you always seem to know just what to do when you have situations (like your recent trip). Any suggestions? Jeff?

Thanks to all in advance -- and to anybody that read this insanely long post.

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