Dealing With Summer Car Service Woes at the Dealership

We may be facing challenging times right now and adjusting to a new normal due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but your vehicle doesn't know that. As we approach summer, it still needs your attention to get ready for the hotter temperatures ahead. Plus many vehicles will still need to get their regular vehicle maintenance as well. The good news is that automotive service shops have largely remained open this spring as essential businesses, even as some showrooms were forced to close. Many dealerships will even pick up the vehicle from your home and return it to you so you don't have to visit the service department yourself.

Summer is always a busy time for a car repair shop, and could be even more so since many drivers may have postponed their spring service to a later date. I already often hear from frustrated Car Pro Show listeners who note the long wait times for appointments. Once, a Texas listener reached out, totally frustrated with her dealership. She loves the dealership overall, loves her salesperson, and loves her vehicle. However, she gets irritated when she calls the dealership to make an appointment, and the first available time is two weeks away.

Here are some of the challenges dealership auto shops and customers face when it comes to car service during the summer.

Summer Heat = Challenges

All the years I owned car dealerships, I dreaded the summer heat. The heat from the sun was one thing, the heat from my service customers was even worse. The fact is, cars break down more when the temperatures get hot, putting stress on your employees, and causing customers whose cars are broken to be less patient than usual.

I was often asked why I didn’t just hire more technicians for the summer. The truth is, hiring good technicians, people who can actually fix one of today’s complicated vehicles, is one of the biggest challenges a dealership faces. You hire young apprentices and it takes years for them to get to do solo work. If you could magically staff up for summer, your tech staff would starve in the other times of year and leave you. Summer service is really tough on dealerships and their personnel.

If you are in an area that the temperature can get close to or exceed 100 degrees, it will take some patience on your part to avoid a frustrating experience. A breakdown cannot be avoided, but if you have an extended warranty, you’ll likely get a free rent car to drive, which will take some of the pressure off you and the dealership. Your dealership may offer loan cars as a customer perk, but be aware, in the summer, they may run out of them.

Appointment Times

Also frustrating, are those who make an appointment for service, and once they arrive at the dealership, they cannot keep that appointment exactly. What consumers must understand is that service departments are specialized. When you get there for your appointment, the technician most qualified to repair your car could have his or her bay tied up because of a wrong part or unforeseen complications. Those things happen often, and it throws everyone’s appointments off schedule.

Consider Spring, Not Summer For Maintenance

If you want maintenance work done on your car to get ready for summer, consider doing it before summer, say in April or May before the onslaught comes. The same would be true for routine scheduled maintenance. If you see your 60,000-mile service is going to come in June, do it just a little earlier. This will allow you to get it done quicker, and possibly get the job done better.

Today, many dealership service departments are climate controlled, which certainly helps. However, the shop doors are constantly opening and closing, so about the best you can hope for is a shop temperature about 15 degrees less than the outside temperature. You can do the math if you are in an area that regularly gets well past 100 degrees outside. It is not uncommon for a technician to work on an engine that is so hot, it cannot be touched without burning him or her.

Realize too, these same scenarios happen at independent shops and national chain repair places. While a dealership may have 50 service bays, a smaller place may be even more backed up due to lack of space.

Schedule Weekday, Not Weekend Service

Bottom line, if it is hot outside, know it is going to take longer to get your vehicle repaired. If possible, take your car in during the middle of the week, a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Service providers are slammed every Monday morning, and they try to clear every vehicle out of the shop by Friday afternoon, to be ready for that Monday morning rush.

Be Patient and Realistic

Finally, if you are at a good, caring dealership try to remember they are doing all they can under difficult circumstances. Stress levels are high, people get tired quicker when it is hot, and they want to get your car back on the road as badly as you do. Patience and realistic time expectations will make life better for everyone.

Photo Credit: takoburito/Shutterstock
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Historically I would have skipped over an article like this. But I own an Audi nowadays so this is a completely relevant article to me now. 😭. Thanks for the advise Jerry!