I took the Passat in for routine 45k mile maintenance yesterday which is just an oil and filter change (still ~$60…) and got a little more than I wanted.
There are a couple outstanding recalls on the car, but I waived them off until another time. We had an ultrasound/OB visit at 1PM I couldn’t be late for despite my morning oil change. The recalls required removing the steering column and rewiring the front side airbags. It was a “minimum” of three hours of work and not the sort of thing I would have wanted rushed. Not too mention that a “minimum” time required at a mechanic tends to be pretty conservative.
Working away on my laptop on the complimentary wireless, a service associate found me in the nice waiting room and informed me that the rear brakes were worn to the point of needing to be serviced. New rotors and pads, he informed me, would cost ~$430 for OEM or ~$350 for third party. I elected to go with the VW parts at this juncture (brakes are important, the brakes are good now, and third party could mean cheap organic pads which should be banned for city driving) and he promised me the car would be done in an hour. About an hour and half later it was 11:30 and I was getting concerned about the timing of the days events. He looked grim and said he needed to show me something on my car. I seriously doubted this meant that they had found a wad of Benjamins in a wheel well and braced myself for the worst.
He began to explain to me that there had been an incident with the parking brake. You see, my Passat has an electric parking brake that is automagically engaged in park (clamping down the rear brakes) and in order to service the rear brakes you need to have VW service computer or special software to back off the rear calipers so they can be serviced. I had investigated rear brake servicing after I had been given the quote quickly to make sure I wasn’t being completely ripped off. Given the special equipment required and the consequences of even slightly flubbing it up – the ECU of the car throwing an error and refusing to start the car – figured the dealership had to be the safest place. The service advisor told me as much again while we walked back into the garage area, which must have had some 30 lifts and a small army of mechanics swarming all over the place, and then he “broke” the news.
While the pads were off, one of the mechanics had noticed that the headlights of the car were still on. He then reached into the car and did something, this wasn’t made clear to me, and that caused the car to engage the parking brake. This drove the pistons through the calipers and destroyed them. When I was shown the car, it looked like they were still trying to figure out how to disengage the parking brake at that point. In any case, they stocked no calipers and and had to order them in. I was given a loaner and promised “the best possible deal” on the brake job.
What’s funny is that the guy seemed very relieved that I wasn’t getting angry at all and said as much. Getting angry wouldn’t have fixed the problem was my reply – and there was more to it than that. I think the worst thing you can hear at an import dealership is “there is something I need to show you on your car” – something so bad they get you out of the service waiting area where you have other customers watching before they break the news. You might as well figure $1k and go from there it seems. I was so relieved that they had just messed up and that in the end I would be paying less – well, it was all good.
Now I am driving a loaded CC and that is a pretty swanky ride – essentially a re-skinned Passat with a much lower roof line and nicer curves. It’s got some hail damage but has the sport package, man I would love to steal those seats!
The final thought I have on the matter is that these are the same guys who are going fix the recalls on the car – including pulling out the steering column and rewiring airbags! Great…