Dependable Dodge

Dependable Dodge is located in Canoga Park, CA. I was driving my car in the dark, and in the rain. I ran over a piece of wood which was about 4"x4"x16". It broke my transmission case in half. I went to the nearest Shelby authorized dealer, which was Dependable. They said they could rebuild the transmission. I decided to replace it with a stronger transmission that had a hardened case (the 555 trans). This work was done using my AAA insurance. Even though the transmission was removed and replaced with a new one, they didn't want to align my front-end. They said that they marked where the everything was before taking everything apart, and put it back. I thought if I hit some wood hard enough to break the trans, then the front end could use an alignment. I called AAA, and they said of course they would cover a front end alignment. The trans is a 5 speed manual, and has a floor mounted, cable operated shifter. There are springs so that if the shifter is in neutral, and it is pushed to the right (needed to engage 5th gear), the shifter will spring back to the center. Also if the shifter is pushed to the left (needed to engage 1st and 2nd), the shifter will spring back to the center. When the car was new, it worked fine. After the new transmission was installed, and the shifter was pushed to the right, there was a very weak force pushing it back to the center. I complained about it, and was told tough. I won't go back there again.

Dave Ellis Chrysler

Dave Ellis Chrysler is located in Canoga Park, CA across from Dependable Dodge. After my bad experience with Dependable, I decided to go to Dave Ellis. Their mechanics are usually pretty competent folks. Lately, things have gotten much worse. The last few times I was in for service I had a few problems. I was having the engine rebuilt. I decided to get the turbo rebuilt also (at Turbonetics). I told them to send to the turbo shop, but the parts people seemed confused, and never shipped it. After I called the parts people up, they finally shipped it out.

The engine was rebuilt at Dick Landy Enterprises, who is well known for building high performance Mopar engines. What I didn't know was that it would take them many months to rebuild my engine, which was a unusual engine for them (2.2 liter) compared to their mainstay V8 engines. When it was done, they said they would send it to Dave Ellis. It took about three weeks from the time I paid them until it actually arrived. I am not sure who is to blame for that, but each place, had the others phone number. After many calls on my part, it finally got to Dave Ellis.

But the fun was just beginning. Dave Ellis 'lost' my battery. Someone told someone else that they had seen me take the battery. This was not true, and the someone was never named. I did ask the main mechanic, Simon (a pretty competent guy) to charge the battery every month. When I went to get my car, there was a new Dodge battery inside. I thought this was a nice gesture, but I had a less than one year old Optima 800S battery in there. The Optima is perhaps the finest battery you can buy for a car. When my previous battery died (due to sitting at Dave Ellis for many months without being charged), I bought a new one. I did mention that they should have charged my battery quarterly or so. I told them I wanted a new Optima, as it had a 2 year free replacement policy, as well as a 6 or 7 year warranty. At first they said no way. Then they said if I provided a receipt, they would replace it. I had just moved, and couldn't find the receipt. Perhaps I had lost it prior to the move. After I called Dave Ellis himself, and made quite a stink (I was prepared to sue in small claims court, but didn't mention that), I was given a new Optima 800S battery (with receipt).

The car wasn't running very well. It turns out that the timing had never been set. The mechanic assumed that the engine builders had set the timing. The cam wasn't broken in by the engine builders, nor by the folks at Dave Ellis. After paying for some more diagnostic time, it was determined that the fuel filter was clogged. The fuel filter and the timing was making the engine run too lean. Being a bit trusting, I sorta assumed that they has checked these things when installing the new engine.

Well, that was fixed, and the car passed the smog check with flying colors. But when it got hot, and I turned on the air conditioner, there was a terrible squealing. I hoped the AC belt was just loose. I took the car back, and they tightened the AC belt, and that fixed the squeal. One would think that the belts would have been tightened when the engine was put in the car...

Now the car seemed to be running well, but there were some odd noises. I took it in, and they replaced the starter which they had replaced when they rebuilt the engine. They also replaced the exhaust donut. These fixed didn't fix the noise, and they thought it was coming from the clutch. I told them to take it apart, and fix whatever was wrong. This is a 10 hour task. They took the trans out, and ordered a new clutch and flywheel (these are Mopar performance parts). The clutch is a centerforce clutch that has a bunch of weights which are used to clamp the clutch to the flywheel. The weights were making the noise. Same noise on the brand new clutch. The mechanic (Steve, a very nice and smart fellow), said my clutch looked fine. He also said there was some play on the trans shaft in one direction. I told him to take it apart, and fix it.

Now, I was not very clever. I should have had this done while the engine was out, when it wouldn't have taken 10 hours, but no. Steve found that 1st and 5th were a bit worn. I told him to put in new parts. The car was finally ready. I got the bill. Imagine my surprise to see the clutch and the flywheel on the bill. I went to talk to Steve. He said he had not installed the clutch or the flywheel. He had ordered 1st gear (and the synchro) but they had gotten the wrong parts, and he decided that mine were serviceable. Nonetheless, there on the bill was 1st gear and its synchro. So I went to speak to the parts folks. They agreed not to charge me for 1st gear and the synchro, but they insisted on charging me for the clutch and flywheel.

They said they were special-order, and they could not return them. I told them that was their problem, not mine, and they couldn't charge me for parts that I didn't order, and that weren't installed in my car. Also on the bill was the starter $110 + $30 core. I told them that the starter was a warranty replacement, and they said that nobody told them that. This was odd, considering they installed the previous starter. Also on the bill was a Sleeve Assy cl rel $62. I think that was a throwout bearing. I asked Steve about it, and he said that he didn't install one of those. The head parts person, Michelle, went to talk to Steve. Steve said that he ordered the clutch, because I had said to replace whatever was broken or worn. This was the key. If I had ordered it, I would have had to pay for it. If Steve had told me that once it was ordered, I would have to pay for it, then I might not have told him it was ok. Steve also didn't tell me when he was looking at my clutch and the new clutch, that I had bought it, whether or not it was to be installed.

So they tried to overcharge me about $675 in parts. This is quite the 'profit center'. Now I can get Dodge parts at 25% below MSRP, by ordering them from Koller Dodge (Napirville IL 630 355 3410), and I order stuff from them, but I was willing to pay more for the convenience of getting the stuff quickly at Dave Ellis. After over one hour of 'gentle discussion' I got the unused and warranty parts removed from my bill. If I had not examined the bill closely, and talked to Steve about it, I would have been out quite a bit of money.

But wait, there is more. Today I decided to rotate my tires. I was unbolting them (actually unnutting them), when I found that all the nuts were not 19mm. They used to be 19mm nuts. I had actually replaced a few of them, after the cheesy metric cover popped off the nuts. It is possible that some more metric nut covers had popped off without me noticing. However, one of the nuts did not have a metric cover, but instead was a one-piece closed nut which was 18mm. This certainly didn't come with my car, but someone had placed it there. Now I am not 100% certain when that happened, but Dave Ellis was the only folks to work on my car for over 2 years. Also another nut's metric cover was severely damaged. It took great cleverness and force on my part to remove the nut. But the switched nuts weren't a big deal. I could always buy a few more. What would have been worse is to have to change a flat, with the 19mm tire iron socket. I would have been 100% stranded, as I could not have removed the 18mm nut, nor the mashed nut, nor the 6 nuts that were missing their metric covers.

Now my car has factory alloy (really cast aluminum) wheels. The wheel nuts are supposed to be torqued to 95 foot-lbs or so. The nuts were all too tight to remove. So out with my trusty craftsman torque wrench. I have been using this trusty tool for 13 years or so with no problem. Surprise! most of the bolts were torqued to over 120 ft-lbs. This is no good. Now, when I was at Dave Ellis, I noticed that the left rear wheel was wobbling a bit. They fixed the bearing, and in the process, removed and reinstalled the wheel. When I tried to remove that wheel, the bolts were totally stuck. Some were torqued to around 150 ft-lbs, which is the limit of my torque wrench. Finally I got one really stuck one. I gave it a mighty tug, and it came loose. Also my torque wrench broke. Now I have a simple and reliable torque wrench. No fancy ratcheting ones (after I borrowed one, and didn't hear the quiet click, and broke a bolt). I had a simple beam torque wrench. The main load bearing beam is a piece of hollow steel tubing about 1/2 inch in diameter. There is a non load bearing solid steel rod with a pointer at the end of it. There is a scale which is welded onto the load bearing tube, and the pointer points to the load on the scale. Pretty simple and rugged. The scale weld broke. I don't know how much torque the wheel bolt was torqued to, but it was well over 150 ft-lbs. I know that many shops use air wrenches to install and remove bolts. I know it is quick and easy, and doesn't tire out the mechanic. I also know that the torque limit can be adjusted so as to not overtighten bolts or nuts. I tried to glue the scale back on, but it didn't last long. Now I am not 100% sure that Dave Ellis mechanics torqued all of my wheel bolts. I am sure that the left rear was done by them, and that one broke my torque wrench. Some may say that I should have used a breaker bar to loosen the nuts. Sure, in hindsight that would have been the best way. I don't happen to own a breaker bar, and I had no idea that someone would have tightened any wheel bolt to well beyond 150 ft-lbs. I have been using my torque wrench for many years to remove wheel bolts with no problems.

Today someone from Dave Ellis called me and asked me how I liked the service. I told him. I decided to put this up on my web page so others can know. It would be nice if they sent me 8 wheel nuts. A new torque wrench would be very nice. I sure hope that they haven't damaged anything with overtightening it. Of course, I am unlikely to find out what might have been damaged until something actually breaks.

The last time the engine was replaced there were also a few problems. The AC line was partially smashed. It didn't leak, so they didn't fix it. They managed to loose a few of my spark plug wires. They replaced them with OEM wires. I mentioned that my wires had a lifetime replacement warranty, and that the OEM wires wore out quickly. After a bit of arguing, they replaced all the wires with Mopar Performance wires, which are probably better than OEM, but has no warranty whatsoever. (As an aside, when I called Jacob Electronics who made the wires, they sent me the missing wires, without even requiring a receipt. They make really nice wires, and are very friendly folks).

I happen to have racing seats in my car. The drivers seat is literally bolted in place. There are slide rails, that have a 6-32 bolt through each rail, as well as some more bolts behind the headrest. When I got my car back, the bolts behind the headrest were broken. The 2 6-32 bolts in the seat rails had sheared off. Some ape had decided to push the seat back. This also broke part of the seat (made of kevlar) where it ran into the seat rails, when forceably pushed back. I took it in, and showed it to them, and they said they were sorry. Guess who had to fix it?

But wait, there's more. I went to start my car, and I could not get it into gear. When the engine wasn't running, it would go into 1st through 5th, but not reverse. With the engine running, it would not go into any gear. It turns out that one of the bolts that hold the clutch on loosened up and kept the clutch from disengaging. The clutch was last worked on by Dave Ellis Chrysler. I have never had a clutch bolt loosen up before.

Keys Toyota

Keys Toyota is located in Van Nuys CA. Keys has many car dealerships. A friend has a 1995 Tacoma 4wd. It had a technical service bulletin about the springs (along with lots of other stuff). My friend got the new springs from Keys Toyota. It took him four trips to Keys until the springs were installed correctly. (The first time trip was to get the part numbers, the second was to get it all installed, but they forgot to order the springs, the third was to get the springs installed and the fourth was to get the nuts put back on and tightened. Keys did provide a rental car for trips #3 and #4.)

I went on a 7 hour drive with him in his 1995 Tacoma on the day before Thanksgiving to Big Bear CA. There was a small snow-storm. The truck may have been handling oddly in the snow, and when we got near my place there was an odd suspension-like noise. Shortly after he left my place, he heard the odd noise again and he pulled over, and noticed that 2 or the bolts that hold on the leaf springs on one side were missing, and that the other two were loose. He drove home very slowly. The next day, he called Keys, and after some argument, they agreed to tow the truck in on a flatbed. He believes that the tech at Keys neglected to tighten down the bolts on the leaf springs on one side. Needless to say, had the bolts came off, things would have been exciting.

Classic Transmission

Classic Transmission fixed the loose clutch bolt problem with my Shelby transmission. They said the car was all done. I paid them and drove off. About an hour later in traffic, I noticed that there was a funny smell, the water temp gauge was pegged high, and nasty smoke was coming out from under the hood. I pulled over as soon as possible and opened the hood.

Imagine my surprise when I found the positive battery terminal was not bolted to the battery. This is pretty important to provide a low resistance connection, and also because my electric fan is connected to the positive terminal and held on via the missing (metric) nut. The fan motor wire was floating freely in the engine compartment. It is a wonder that things didn't heat up much before. I also noticed that the air intake hose was cleverly disconnected. Clearly these parts were removed to check out the transmission, but someone forgot to put the things back together. After securing the battery terminal, and putting in lots of coolant I went back to Classic.

They said that everything looked ok. I sure hope that my multi-thousand dollar head wasn't warped by the experience. I will retorque the head bolts this weekend. I would not recommend Classic Transmission of Tujunga under any circumstances.

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