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Old 08-27-2011, 10:30 AM   #1
ModeOne4Ever
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Default Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

I bought a 1995 Saturn SC2 Coupe on July 19, 2011. Everything has been working fine, with the possible exception of my engine temperature going past the halfway mark when I sit in a drive-thru too long and/or idle too long.

On Monday (August 22, 2011), I took my Saturn to a local area GMC dealer's service department for an oil change and Routine Maintenance check. They changed my oil, rotated my tires, and they were supposed to a number of inspections, including a thorough brake inspection. I also had a new pair of wiper blades installed. Total cost: $64.35

Hours after I left the GMC dealer, I noticed this loud "groan" and/or "screech" in my brakes whenever I had to make a quick and/or unexpected stop. I had never heard this before Monday's visit to this particular GMC dealer. I called the GMC dealer's service department, and told them about it, and they told me to bring the car back in.

I bring it in this morning (Saturday, August 27, 2011), and the Service Manager said they would check things out. First diagnosis was that the rear brake discs might be "dirty," and needed to be cleaned. Recommended charge: $49.95 My question for that was, why weren't these "dirty brake discs" discovered/identified/noted during the initial maintenance on Monday?

Then, about a half-hour later, the Service Manager tells me to come over to the car. He points out to me that both of my rear wheel cylinders are leaking, and particularly my right wheel cylinder. He said I can still drive the car safely for the next few days and/or the next few weeks without a safety risk, but the leaks are going to get progressively worse if not taken care of. Now the recommended charge for repair is a whopping $525.00(!!!)

If I have leaks in my rear wheel cylinders, why wasn't this identified before this car was sold to me by a dealer in suburban Chicago in mid-July? More recently, why were these leaks not discovered/identified/noted in the initial service maintenance check on Monday?!?!? Why did I not hear this "screech/groan" in my rear brakes until AFTER the maintenance check on Monday??

Needless to say, I am very ticked off bordering on livid. I feel like either a) the dealer that sold me the car knew about these leaks, or b) the local GMC dealer is guilty of some sort of car repair 'scam' that is being executed on me. This does not sit well with me at all.

What is some helpful advice for how to proceed from this point forward??

Thank you ahead of time for anyone able to give me advice and guidance.

Last edited by ModeOne4Ever; 08-27-2011 at 10:39 AM.. Reason: minor grammatical editing

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Old 08-27-2011, 10:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Well, they're either lying or making things up one way or another. It can't have discs and cylinders. "Wheel cylinder" is a part of a drum brake system, and "disc" is part of a disc brake system. So the FIRST question is, does the car have rear disc or drum brakes? That needs to be established before knowing/doing anything else.

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Old 08-27-2011, 10:57 AM   #3
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Thought all the Twincam SC2 models had rear discs-might be wrong on that, though.

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Old 08-27-2011, 11:01 AM   #4
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Only ABS-equipped cars had rear discs. And not all of them did. _Some_ wagons with ABS had rear drums, and starting in about '99 (?), all cars had rear drums.

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Old 08-27-2011, 11:12 AM   #5
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

This is what was written on the recommendation they gave me this morning:

"Customer states that the brakes are making a 'noise'; will check and advise."

and

"Inspected Rear Brakes and found that the Wheel Cylinders are leaking; Right Wheel Cylinder leaking worse than the Left Wheel Cylinder"

"Recommendation: Replace both Rear Wheel Cylinders and Brake Shoes"

"Estimated Cost: $525.00"

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Old 08-27-2011, 11:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

"Shoes" and "cylinders" both refer to drum brakes. Maybe the service writer mentioned "discs" the first time, before having looked at the car. But that's just giving the benefit of the doubt.

If you don't have the means to diagnose it yourself, I'd recommend a second opinion at a reputable under-car (brake, exhaust, etc) repair shop. Yes, leaking wheel cylinders can contaminate the shoes, so the diagnosis is reasonable. But the estimate seems high. That sounds more like a $300 job. For $500, I'd insist on a brake fluid flush and replacement (having the hydraulic system open, it's a good opportunity to do this), and probably all fresh hardware in the rear.

This is not Saturn-specific (or even GM-specific) repair. The car is way older than most dealership service departments are used to working on (they're used to cars up to 5-6 years old). At your car's age, it's better to take it to a reputable general auto repair shop, or one that specializes in the area of work, or just do it yourself.

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Old 08-27-2011, 11:51 AM   #7
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
"Shoes" and "cylinders" both refer to drum brakes. Maybe the service writer mentioned "discs" the first time, before having looked at the car. But that's just giving the benefit of the doubt.

If you don't have the means to diagnose it yourself, I'd recommend a second opinion at a reputable under-car (brake, exhaust, etc) repair shop. Yes, leaking wheel cylinders can contaminate the shoes, so the diagnosis is reasonable. But the estimate seems high. That sounds more like a $300 job. For $500, I'd insist on a brake fluid flush and replacement (having the hydraulic system open, it's a good opportunity to do this), and probably all fresh hardware in the rear.

This is not Saturn-specific (or even GM-specific) repair. The car is way older than most dealership service departments are used to working on (they're used to cars up to 5-6 years old). At your car's age, it's better to take it to a reputable general auto repair shop, or one that specializes in the area of work, or just do it yourself.
Thank you for your feedback madpogue

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Old 08-27-2011, 11:59 AM   #8
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Apparently they still have not found your noise. Leaking wheel cylinders don't make noise.

Also there is a TSB for the wheel cylindrs to let techs know not to mistake assembly lube under the dust boots for leaking brake fluid. So unless there is actual brake fluid coming out from the dust boots and contaminating the shoes....

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Old 08-27-2011, 12:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Contaminated shoes can make noise. Once again, this is why a second look is in order.

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Old 08-27-2011, 12:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssicarman View Post
Apparently they still have not found your noise. Leaking wheel cylinders don't make noise.

Also there is a TSB for the wheel cylindrs to let techs know not to mistake assembly lube under the dust boots for leaking brake fluid. So unless there is actual brake fluid coming out from the dust boots and contaminating the shoes....
Good feedback ssicarman.

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Old 08-27-2011, 12:47 PM   #11
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Both disc and drum brakes have cylinders. The cylinder is in the caliper on a disc brake. Both can leak. The dealer should have found these problems the first time, and should not be charging you for the second examination. Personally I would never let anyone else work on my brakes unless they were under warranty. It is always far more economical to make inspections and repairs yourself when concerning brakes.

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Old 08-27-2011, 01:07 PM   #12
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Post Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Parts cost $50.00 2 wheel cylinders, new shoes and brake fluid. (did this repair recently) Labor time 1 to 2 hours. Look up Richpin's videos in the how to library.

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CHECK YOUR OIL!!!

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Old 08-27-2011, 01:50 PM   #13
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

About 4 years ago, I took my car in to a "Brake Check" to get the 'free' inspection. They told me that my wheel cylinders were leaking and needed to be replaced. I've never noticed a reduction in brake fluid and decided not to do anything, but check with folks here and monitor the brake fluid. If they were really leaking, it must be the slowest leak in the world because I never replaced them and have never added fluid. (Though, I'm thinking I will eventually do this some time in the next year just because I've never done brake work on my car other than replace front pads). Even so, Brake Check only wanted to charge me about $130 to do this which included the fluid flush.

Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that I think they were trying to rip you off.

...
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Old 08-27-2011, 01:59 PM   #14
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Quote:
Originally Posted by td1238 View Post
Both disc and drum brakes have cylinders. The cylinder is in the caliper on a disc brake..
Yes, they work the same way, but they have different names for obvious reasons. A wheel cylinder means drum brakes, 100% of the time. Technically, the piston does fit into the cylinder, in a caliper, but no one talks about the cylinder, they talk about the caliper as a whole.

And for the OP: brake fluid leaking into the drums will cause the symptoms you describe. There's a fair chance only one is leaking, if you just noticed it, but you should replace both, as the other probably isn't too far behind.

Also, as others have already pointed out: they are charging quite a lot for the work that needs to be done. With a car this old, your best bet is to take it to a good independent shop--it will be cheaper and there's no reason they can't do just as good a job (brake work is not specific to any one type of car, and there's nothing complicated about it). Be sure to find a good shop, though... many if not most are not trustworthy (this applies to dealers as well, although perhaps not quite as often).

As for the temperature gauge going up while idling, that's completely normal. Once it gets a bit past 3/4, the fan will come on to cool it back down. (This bothered enough people that for '96 and newer cars, they changed the way the gauge responded, while keeping the same operation.)

Once warmed up, when driving on the highway, the gauge should sit just barely below half-way (NOT at 3/8, as you may see in other threads--that's only newer models). If it's any lower than that, you need a new ECTS or thermostat (very common problems--search and you'll find all you need to know). If the fan doesn't come on before it reaches the red zone on the gauge (turn the heat on high, to cool it down), you need a new ECTS (there are two for your year: one for the gauge and one for the computer--it could be either one--remove both and check to see if they're made of brass--replace whichever one (or both) isn't).

edit: Oh yeah--I doubt they caused it with the free inspection (possible, but very unlikely). You were probably just paying more attention then, and/or that was the first time you did something to notice it. Technically, if they thoroughly checked the brakes, they should have caught it, but no free inspection is that thorough: basically they take it for a test drive, and maybe take a look at how much of the pads is left. If it feels alright, and the pads still have plenty of material left, they'll say it's fine (they're not going to pull off the drums unless there's a reason to suspect a problem).

Last edited by PlasticCarsRock; 08-27-2011 at 02:09 PM..

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Old 09-01-2011, 12:31 PM   #15
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

I had a Saturn dealer service department tell me my left rear wheel cylinder was leaking in January of 2009 on my 98 SW2. The tech even showed me that the cylinder was wet with fluid and a puddle of fluid on the garage floor. They also broke off one of the wheel studs and claimed that it happened because it was crossed threaded. They where the last ones to have the tire off with one of their multi-point inspections. That has been well over two years and 25k+ miles ago. Have not had to add any break fluid and have not seen any leaks. Although I have a new wheel stud and brake shoes for the rear, I still have not installed them.

Rip off? Sounds like it to me, based on my passed experience with dealer service departments.

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Old 09-01-2011, 01:00 PM   #16
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

my '97 SW rear drumbrakes (ABS car) grind/squeak disturbingly , but only intermittently , and usually only the day after driving home in rain.

some say removal of dust from drums cures such complaints....

I installed two new drums , and two new wheelcylinders , for about $110 ; that includes a quart of fluid.

Most likely your vehicle could use a bit of maintenance ...
but i'd not pay $500 for rearbrake work!
An aftermarket brake shop (as noted above) ... or even backyard mechanic , would be preferable,{although quality is very important in brake work}.

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Old 09-01-2011, 02:24 PM   #17
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Gah!!!

$525.00??? That would buy a couple of Sets of rear brake hardware and Wheel Cylinders.

Seriously.

Do you have tools? Do you have friends with tools that work on their cars? Tell the dealer to screw themselves.

I replaced the rear wheel cylinders (they are $12.00 EACH at Autozone!); as well as a rear brake hardware kit (about $60.00)

Not making these prices up. Replaced this stuff on my 97 SW2 last year.

That is ridiculous. If they were bad when you took the car in, they wouldn't just "Start" to make noises until AFTER you left the dealership.


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Old 09-01-2011, 03:03 PM   #18
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Quote:
...you need a new ECTS (there are two for your year: one for the gauge and one for the computer...
On all models there is only one ECTS. the '95 and older also have a temp gauge sender that looks like an ECTS and is close by, but has one wire to it, and it rarely cause an issue.

A bad ECTS may prevent the rediator fan turning on when it should, as can a number of other issues. The ECTS should be replaced as a preventive measure if it is the original resin tip type, even if not failed yet. See info on ECTS in the first few sticky threads in the How-to Library forum.

Be aware the some '95 and earlier cars will run with the temp gauge at 3/8 scale, although a bit higher is more common. It depends on variation in the t-stat, temp gauge, and sender calibration. However, below 3/8 scale is not normal when the car is warmed up and at open road speeds.

Not unusual for a dealer, especially one that is hurting for service shop business, to try build some with "early" maintenance/repair recommendations. Easy to make a cylinder look as if it is leaking with a slight squirt of fluid and maybe a second on the floor under the car. But on anything but a new leak you can might expect to see some telltale signs under the car in the AM, and the leak source should show some accumulation of road and brake dirt/dust in the oil. Any leak bad enough to leave fluid on the shop floor under the car would probably show up as low brake fluid in a hurry.

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Old 09-01-2011, 05:17 PM   #19
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

Quote:
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On all models there is only one ECTS. the '95 and older also have a temp gauge sender that looks like an ECTS and is close by, but has one wire to it, and it rarely cause an issue.
.
I know it's different, but it does the same thing... it is an engine coolant temperature sensor. But yeah, I should have specified that it's not interchangeable with the computer's ECTS.

They were also resin, just like the main ECTS, and fail just as often. While they won't cause engine problems, they will cause the gauge to read incorrectly, which could easily make someone suspect an engine problem (or miss one, for that matter, since they tend to read cold when they fail).

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Old 09-08-2011, 11:59 AM   #20
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Default Re: Is my local GM dealer trying to rip me off? Need advice...

I realize I'm really late to the party, but want to add another data point.

I had a Firestone store quote $252 for new wheel cylinders about 4-5 months ago. Just the cylinders; no shoes or drums.

I purchased new cylinders, shoes, and a brake hardware kit (little springs and clips and things) from Advance Auto. Used a $20-off coupon. Think it was $45 or so after tax

Considering labor rates are generally $85-$125/hour and that a seasoned technician should be able to do it in less than an hour, $550 is an outrageous rip-off, even at a dealership.

Even if the book time is 2 hours and the labor rate is $125, that's still $300 charge for less than $100 of parts.

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