Sometimes the Customer Can Be Their Own Worst Enemy

Listen to Dave Riccio Talk About This Issue on Bumper to Bumper Radio


Tri-City Transmission Case Study:
Customers initial phone call was from her brother inquiring for a price of a transmission for her 2002 Toyota RAV 4, 4WD. He was adamant about getting a price on a transmission over the phone. I told him I would be happy to give him one once we had a chance to take a look at it. He said, my sister was already told she needed a transmission, how much is yours!? Here is how the story ends……

Customer Concern / Symptoms:
Vehicle feels sluggish, sometimes feels like the engine won’t connect with the tires when leaving a stop light. When you punch it to accelerate, it won’t shift down.

Test Data & Diagnosis:
Diagnostic trouble codes (DTC’s) on arrival: P0750 – Shift Solenoid A Fault
Transmission fluid condition on arrival: Black in Color, Burnt in Smell & Fluid Level was full

Transmission started in wrong gear and would bind up from time to time. Vehicle drove horribly. Scanner data and light bar test showed power going to the wrong solenoids in the transmission applying opposing clutches. This pointed us in the direction of a failed sequence of operation from the computer. Research of the known problem data base shows technical service bulletin from Toyota for the exact symptom that we verified. The computer is bad.

Recommendation & Resolution:
Replace computer as a first step repair and then road test the vehicle to verify the transmission is either good or bad. The transmission may have already been damaged from the computer going bad. However, this transmission is pretty tough and could very well be ok. If transmission checks out good after replacing the computer, then service the transmission with complete fluid exchange to remove the oxidized fluid and to verify there is no evidence of transmission failings lying in the transmission pan.

Tri-City Transmission Comments for this Repair:
We learned this one the hard way several years ago. We sold a transmission to a customer with this same vintage Rav 4 and when we removed it from the vehicle, dis-assembly of the transmission showed there was nothing wrong with the transmission. The transmission fluid on this one did look bad as well; however, it was more from lack of maintenance than anything. We ended up resealing this transmission at no expense to the customer and selling them a computer. This was an expensive mistake for us, and our customer was fortunate that we didn’t just sell them a remanufactured transmission or we wouldn’t have known the error of our ways.

In the case study, this customer left our shop for the price of a transmission service and engine control module. She was told by XYZ transmission shop that she needed a transmission for $6000. This price must have included a computer, not sure. At Tri-City Transmission, we have done this repair enough times and we have seen this transmission survive several years after we replaced the computer and not the transmission. Guess what? They still work great to this day.

We have seen this same time of problem to be more common in the Toyota line. This particular transmission is referred to as a U140E or U140F depending on if it is 2WD or 4WD. We found computer problems like this to be more common among the Toyota line. This transmission can be found in many cars in the Toyota product line. This would include the Lexus as well. Here are just a few of the models: Lexus ES300, RX300 or the Toyota Rav4, Highlander, and Camry.

Customer’s Final Comments Posted on Dex Knows

Best in the West(Southwest) by Ragmop - 05/27/2011
Tri-City Transmission is the Best in the West (southwest). I have never had such an awesome experience with these First Rate, First Class group of professionals. My car I was told had to have my transmission replaced the first quote I received was $6000. I almost had a heart attack. My good friends said get another quote. They recommened Tri-City Transmission and I had 2 other companies referr them also. There is no transmission they cannot fix. Listen to their ad on the radio..they are so up front and honest and it was to refreshing to have a BIG company go that extra mile. They wanted to find out really what was going on with my car they didn't buy into the lie I was being told. They are very good at communicating with you EVERY step of the way and they even had a car for me at no cost to me to drive while they worked on my car for as long as it took them to finish the work needed on my car. I did not have to have a new transmission it was a computer problem. Call them they are #1.

Industry Comments & Insight:
Our industry is programmed to think that transmissions only last 100k miles. This is partly because 1 in 3 transmissions are rebuilt or replaced unnecessarily, and because the installing shop never sees the inside of the transmission, they never knew the mistake. Sometimes they have to call back to the customer and add a computer to the bill.

We have found that 2/3rd of the time at our shop; the relationship with the customer generally follows this same path as described above. Customers need to beware that if you call a shop for a price on a transmission, some will be happy to sell you one, whether you need it or not. It wouldn’t be because they are dishonest. The process started on the wrong foot. Especially if it falls into the incorrect expectation that transmission only last 100k miles. This particular car above has 130,000 miles on it. We find this particular transmission to regularly last 200,000 miles.

In our industry, we are often rushed by the customer and the first pieces of the repair process to get short cut is the “Sales Labor” and the “due diligence” needed to make an accurate diagnosis. Sale discipline is greatly lacking and is needed. It is easier to just sell a transmission then take the necessary steps to correct the customers’ wrong expectations and spend the customer’s money wisely. Frankly, the customer is as much to blame for unrealistic expectations.

When I think of how long it takes my family to set aside $3,200, I realize that in the scheme of 365 days a year, that I drive my car, I could hold out for an accurate diagnosis, and spend a little money on a rental car. Also, if a customer would realize how much money is spent “right or wrong” on an auto repair, they would not choose an auto repair professional simply based on convenience. Your car can be your second biggest investment. Don’t trust it to just anybody. Consumers need to be honest with themselves and do their homework before picking an automotive professional.

2005 E. Rio Salado Pkwy
Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 968-5062


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