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When a problem car leads to dealership purgatory

A reader who owns a used 2005 Hyundai Tucson GL has spent nearly as much as the car is worth in repair costs. What can he do?

Published May 16, 2012
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In April 2011, our car was sluggish so we booked a service appointment at a local Hyundai dealer. Unfortunately, prior to the appointment date, the car stalled on the highway and had to be towed in.

It cost $1,115 to replace the “B1” catalytic converter. The work order noted that the secondary converter is slightly contaminated, but the dealer service advisor said “not to worry, you’re good to go” for our planned Florida trip.

The car broke down three times on that journey, costing over $2,300 for repairs in the USA. We aborted the trip, “limped” back to Canada (stopping every two hours), and returned to the same Ontario Hyundai dealer.

After two weeks, they finally resolved the problem by replacing the fuel pump for another $605.

Hyundai Canada Head Office says there is nothing they can do. I am extremely upset at the five dealer visits and $4,200 spent on repairs that I feel weren’t necessary.

Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. treats all customer feedback with the utmost urgency and sincerity. It’s regrettable to hear of the service experience described by your reader and I can certainly understand their concern.

The customer’s story is a unique one, with visits to different Hyundai dealerships in one province and two American states, and because of that it has been reviewed by Hyundai managers in Canada. While the circumstances of their trip are unfortunate, it’s good to learn that the problem was eventually resolved.

The customer’s request for support was not approved because the vehicle was well outside of warranty coverage. For any vehicle with over 200,000 km and without a detailed review of the service history, the cause for the described symptoms can be varied. All Hyundai dealers in Canada are independent businesses, so the customer may decide to discuss the matter further with the dealer directly.

(Hyundai Canada cites they were limited in the scope of their comments because of the customer’s request not to be identified.)

In response to our inquiries, the customer indicated that their 2005 Hyundai Tucson GL was purchased used, in a private sale, in November 2010 with over 194,000 km and “we were told it had been serviced by Hyundai.”

Further investigation via a Carfax vehicle history report showed that this reader is the third owner of the Tucson and a $2747 front-end collision occurred in November 2009, prior to this reader buying the vehicle.

To be fair to both sides, there are a few objective points to be made. Note that the general comments below may or may not apply in this particular case.

This high mileage auto was clearly well outside of warranty at the time of purchase.

Intermittent problems can be extremely difficult to diagnose. After all the tests and diagnoses are done, sometimes the only way left to proceed is to try replacing a part to see if that fixes the problem.

As an oversimplified example, if a signal lamp fails, the tech would reasonably first try replacing the $2 bulb before moving up the ladder to search for deeper electrical system problems.

Ultimately, the key determining factor in a court trial, if you should wish to proceed in this manner, is whether or not the repair shops followed accepted industry protocol in attempting to resolve your mechanical issues.

This high mileage auto was clearly well outside of warranty at the time of purchase.

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