Suspicious bad alternator day after servicing
2012 Toyota RAV4 a/t
My sister brought in her RAV4 to the dealership yesterday for 60k service and general inspection in preparation for her roadtrip for Thanksgiving. In addition to the 60k service, they did a number of repairs/"recommended services" (see below). Today she started her roadtrip and the car suddenly just completely died - all the lights on the dash panel came on and the car would not turn on - zero power. She had it towed back to the dealership and they diagnosed it as a bad alternator and battery. They said their multi-point inspection yesterday would not have identified a bad alternator and because it was driving fine then, they didn't see this issue as having anything to do with yesterday's service. My sister had to get back on the road, so she basically had no choice but to agree to the immediate alternator and battery replacement.
Here is all the work they claimed to have done yesterday according to the records my sister showed me:
- 60k service: oil change, rotate tires, inspect brakes, top up fluids, replace air filters, test battery, multi-point inspection
- Identified/repaired major coolant leak - replaced hoses and coolant pipe
- Replaced rear brake pads and machined rotors
- Replaced spark plugs
- Brake fluid change
- Fuel system service: cleaned throttle body and cleaning additive
Any suspicions? I'm sure they gouged her with some services she probably didn't need, but what about the claimed alternator issue? To my knowledge, doesn't a failing alternator usually produce some noticeable symptoms before it completely fails? My sister said she hadn't noticed anything unusual. None of the above work would seem to potentially directly cause alternator damage. Could stray coolant from the leak/repairs have gotten onto and damaged the alternator? It just seems way too coincidental that this happened the day after a lot of work was done.
You said in your post "test battery." Anyone with a frontal cortex knows that testing a battery means a static test, a load test and a charging test. Apparently, the dealership's idea of a battery test is to see if the car has one, at all.
To my mind, this kind of outcome is pure avarice and thievery. Take the rotors, for example.
Rotors have been engineered with thinner and thinner thicknesses, make machining unsafe. If you paid $100 to have the rotors trued or machined, well, that's the cost of two new OEM rotors (parts.mcgeorgetoyota.com)
So, the question is: Why does a dealership machine these rotors, even it's unsafe? Answer: High profit margin, no parts required.
Take the alternator: It's VERY rare for a Denso alternator to quit at 60K miles, even though it's not entirely unheard of. (I have 154K miles and 14 years on my OEM Denso). And yes, the regulator or rectifier or even the brushes can be the problem, but it's rare.
Here's a question: Did your sister receive a new Denso alternator or a remanufactured Denso alternator from the dealer? (Here's what a new one costs, at McGeorge):
Denso also directly remanufactures these alternators, available from parts.mcgeorgetoyota.com
So the new Denso unit is $465 and the remanufactured Denso is $213.00, from this particular Toyota dealer. The warranty is the same for the new and reman alternator.
See, there's a $252 (plus tax) difference between these two alternators from this dealer.
Parenthetically, remanufactured Toyota parts are same as the new parts, in terms of the stock number, with the suffix 84 at the end of the number.
In future, you might find significantly better prices by going to parts.mcgeorgetoyota.com or parts.olathetoyota.com and looking for the "84" versions of the parts that you're interested in. (The carcarenut has a video explaining how all of this works)
And then have an ethical independent mechanic install them.
What to do about this dealership:
1. A narrative with supporting documentation should be sent to the appropriate Zone office. I've had a couple of interactions with unethical and dangerously negligent work (in the early 00s) by a dealership service department. The Zone office dropped the hammer on those folks, then. (As they say, mileage will vary).
Where are the Zone Offices?
2. In terms of the tone: Stick to the facts, unemotional, coherent and rational (as you have, in this post). Back it up with documentation. Offer to fax a letter and supporting materials.
3. Write these folks up on Google Reviews, as well. At the very least, they're greedly, irresponsible and incompetent.
4. As MountainManJoes says, don't step foot in the place, again.