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How to deal with auto dealer's service dept. and not get hoodwinked? Hi Breanne: Hoping you can help with this. I have a 1996 Dodge Caravan, that has been fairly reliable but has also had some major repair bills. A few weeks ago, my husband noticed it had a leak. I took it in, and was told by the Chrysler dealer's service manager (where we've always had the car serviced since buying it used 3 years ago), that they had to replace some seals, and in order to do that, they had to take the whole transmission apart, and for that reason, the cost would be in the vicinity of $800. Sure enough, 8 hours of labor, several parts, and it was ready to be picked up. Now, less than 100 miles later, the van today left me stranded -- transmission failed. The van was towed into the Chrysler dealer, and when I called to talk to the service manager -- thinking "Aha -- they screwed something up" -- he denied saying they'd had to pull apart the transmission on the last report, said they'd just had to repair the power take-off (all wheel drive minivan). Now, in order to diagnose the problem, they're saying they have no idea what the cost will be until they diagnose it. And I'm thinking (1) I have no idea if I'm willing to pay to determine how much it will cost to repair it, and (2) I don't trust them anymore (even though the dealer has just 1 BBB complaint against them in the past 3 years) to not rip me off. Any advice to help me get through this, without throwing money away on something that may not be worth fixing? Thanks -- Beth Darnell

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Patty Streeter,  at Beth, Information about the previous repair is key to answering these questions. You must find out exactly what seals were replaced and which steps had to be taken to replace them. Then and only then will you be able to determine if your dealers service department is at least partially responsible for the transmission failure. You might take your copy of the previous repair order to an ASE certified technician and ask Him or Her to explain what repair had been made. You could also call a Chrysler parts department and research the part numbers listed on your previous repair order and request a picture of each parts location in or on your vehicle. Then consult with the service manager at your dealer for clearification of the previous repair. Patty

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