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 #342679  by chaostic1
I have a 2003 Chrysler 300M with a 3.5L V6 and 97k miles. Never had any issues with the car at all, ran like a dream. I was driving on the highway home from school and I happened to notice the temperature gauge was rapidly rising so I pulled off asap and shut the car off. As soon as I cut it off I notice white smoke coming out of the right side of the hood. Upon inspection I see quite a bit of coolant has spilled onto my alternator (opposite side of coolant cap/fill area). AAA tows it for free to a local Chrysler/Dodge dealership and I assume its a hose issue (easy fix). They notify me it will be 150 for diagnostic testing to pin point the issue I say ok. 3 days later I receive a call stating a pressure test revealed a large crack on my radiator requiring a new radiator and cap. They also power flushed the coolant system, performed routine maintenance of cooling system, refilled/bled it, and replaced both front drive belts. The cost for me was around 790 dollars (seemed high but didnt have time to do it myself). I pick up the car the next day and within 20 miles it starts overheating again (gradual overheat) and I bring it back with the heat blowing full blast (temp never goes above halfway). They then proceed to tell me its a thermostat problem and that will need to be replaced (242 dollars normal price but 120 for me since I had to come back). I wonder why they didnt check the thermostat right off the bat (feeling hoses for circulation is not really labor intensive). They claim they have to pull the thermostat out to check it and then tell me they had to heat it with a torch for it to open up. After installing the new thermostat it still overheats on them so 3 days later I find out the water pump impeller has been damaged from grinding on the housing and also the timing belt needs to be replaced also. This is an additional 1100 dollars and they do the work without my approval. At this point I have only paid the initial 790. They call me to let me know they replaced the timing belt and water pump yet it still is overheating. They suspect now that its a head or head gasket problem (i actually asked this before the first repair because the cars only worth 3k). They claim they did a combustion test and it was negative after the radiator replacement but now its showing traces of exhaust in the coolant. They expect me to pay the 1100 discounted to 600 for the water pump/timing belt I never authorized to be replaced. and another 600 to send the heads out to a machine shop for inspection which may come back inconclusive due to a "hairline crack". Also they said that since I have aluminum heads they cannot be fixed if warped and must be replaced (exceeding the value of the car). Now I am faced with a dilemma of already paying 790 for a useless radiator/drive belts, potentially being charged 600 for a water pump/timing belt installation I never authorized, and gambling 600 more to see if its just a head gasket because they cant figure it out without disassembling the engine.

My ultimate question to you guys is what do you think I should do? I have already spoken with the service advisor, service manager, service director (all at the dealership) with no clear resolution. I have also contacted Chrysler corporation and filed a complaint against the dealership, and I am now moving forward by contacting the BBB & and FL Dept. of Agriculture/Consumer Affairs.

Wouldnt you think that the original diagnostic including: Pressure test cooling system, replacing radiator, replacing drive belts, replacing radiator cap, performing a general inspection, servicing the engine radiator cooling system, routine maintenance of cooling system, power flushed cooling system + installed new coolant, and bled out system and test ran for proper operation (Totaling 459 dollars in labor alone) would identify a completely seized thermostat, failing water pump, and leaky head gasket before being released back to the customer?
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 #342681  by FIREM
Radiators do fail and that MAY have caused the thermostat to fail (but I doubt it. run hot usually causes a thermostat to fail open= no heat)
Water pump and timing belt are maintenance issues that do need to be done on these cars (7 yrs/100K) BUT is would ask to SHOW ME THE DAMAGED WATER PUMP.
Heating a thermostat with a torch to test it is beyond back yard. Ask them to show you the procedure in the service manual (boiling water)
Head gaskets VERY RARELY fail on these engines. IF truly failed that can be proved by a technician, not guessed by a mechanic. There are conclusive tests that can be done to prove/disprove head gasket failures.
Not properly testing the cooling system after the radiator replacement in inexcusable.
Do the fans work properly? Were they tested?
Any work done "unauthorized" is on their dime,and should not be charged to you.
Follow up with BBB/ Consumer affairs.
Obviously more knowledge is available on this site than in that dealership.
Odds on bet a) thermostat not properly installed, b) cooling system not properly purged of air,

Search our forums for many threads similar to yours of "guessing" to repair....
 #342683  by cin993
Sorry to hear your many times in the past i've heard similar horror stories from friends (right patrick???), family, and me too.
Now i try to tackle most repairs on my own, with some pretty kool guidance from this forum.

Have a little experience with exactly what you're going through-- almost bought a 300m last year that "overheated" and needed a head gasket...but i did the combustion leak test up front on it, the car failed, knew it needed too much work for me, plus that car was rusty underneath

First, no way the dealer did a combustion leak test because that would certainly turn the dye from blue to yellow; sounds to me like they are trying to cover their A$$. why would they replace your rad first, then later tstat??? your car cannot continually overheat and have passed a combustion leak test

The dealer probably wouldn't even use the dye; instead place an emissions probe over the coolant bottle to detect exhaust gases escaping into the coolant...takes 10 seconds. Once the car failed this test, they would call you and say so instead of doing other repair work first.

your coolant system is pressurized to less than 20psi. one way a head gasket can fail would cause HOT exhaust gases that run at maybe 200psi to get pushed into the coolant system. this overheats the engine with exhaust gases escaping out the coolant bottle

that's very poor diagnosis/troubleshooting especially from a dealer, even though head gasket issues are supposedly "rare on the 300m"

IF you need them, new heads are way too expensive. another option is used set of heads from a junk yard from an engine with low miles. some worry how the bottom end will run with used heads but i know from another guy who did it worked just fine. last year when i checked they priced at about $175 for used set. and $600 seems quite high to diagnose if they are warped or around to machine shops

i think the dealer will work with you on cost-- your car has very low miles for head gasket failure, but with all the recent work and parts thrown on your car you should be good to go for a while
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 #342688  by Maximus
OMG.....what a terrible story.....shame on them....that's why you need to learn how to fix this car yourself.
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 #342692  by adu1982
I agree with these guy i doubt, i m gonna say 99%, its a head gasket.

I will tell you why,both my mom on the 98 concorde she had, me on the same car when she gave it to us, me again when we went to my grandmas funeral in miami on the 01 LHS, run the cars to red line untill it actually died and not restart till it cooled of. Both cars were fine ( no head gasket) just different cooling issues.

Now , talking about chrysler dealers here in jax, between 3 of them, my dad got cheated off - 2900$ in 2 jobs that i remember.

One for 1100$ when his friend that was a senior mechanic at chrysler orange park, did the head gasket at around 100k (like you) cause my mom overheated he said. Now why nowadays i believe that was a (CENSORED) story, 4 years later, when i got the car i did the valve covers and lim gaskets ......all original, no stamp from machine shop, al bolts looked like they never had been touched. Also like they should have suggested no talk of timing belt even though it was about due.... (this story is alot like yours).

Did you try the heat after the rad/thermostat they replaced. On my dads buick after they did the head gasket (those cars actually had a know gasket failure because of material used) it was still overheating. My dad called me and i suggested opening the burp valves (has 2 on the rdvz).... Guess what it worked..... Now that wasnt a dealer but a big shop in miami where he is now....a friend that owns the place.

Also , until last week when i changed lim,valve covers,heater oring,etc.... My lhs put out quite a bit of white smoke to where i almost got to get a compression test thing, but since i replaced those.... All clean now .....(the smoke was a bit white even on warm days compered to the special ....

Sorry but personally i think you got hosed from the get go....

Maybe even worse after they chnged the thermostat they pluged the heater core or some coolant pasage when they did their "flush".
I think if i add all the money between me and my parents that we got cheated off from mechanics (even the friend ones) i could have gotten myself a low mile special like the ones around 10k i've seen posted here.....hehehe
User avatar
 #342693  by LUNAT1C
This is why I'm very cautious and selective with who touches my car. I wish I knew more about how to perform larger repairs, but many times I have to rely on others who have the skills I lack (mechanical engineers are NOT always also mechanics). Currently I only trust two independent shops that are within 30 minutes drive, and FIREM (if I can swing the 600 mile trek!).

Like Bob said, follow the BBB and Chrysler Corp (FCA US) path to find resolution. In the mean time look for smaller independent shops near where you live that you can build a relationship with. Both of the shops near Detroit that I do business with have their owners manning the front desk and phones, and both of them are more than happy to discuss the details of any repair, share their experiences from their decades in the business, and advise me on what to do going forward. They don't "guess the problem" and throw parts at this like your dealer is.

Out of curiosity, what dealer is it? In case I drive either of my Mopars to my parent's house again I want to be sure I don't have to go there if something happens. Their local Chrysler dealer is in Stuart, Martin County, not too far from Jensen Beach and Port St. Lucie.
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 #342694  by monte4
I got a headache just reading this. Aside from your fight with the dealer over what you'll end up paying, you definitely need a second opinion/diagnosis or tackle this yourself through this forum. I doubt very much you have a cracked head. The dealer is who has the cracked head. I'd be surprised if they even used the proper type of coolant when they did the work.
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 #342695  by adu1982
Maybe they threw some dexcool in it just fir giggles...
 #342700  by chaostic1
The dealership is Firkins Automotive at 2700 1st Street in Bradenton, FL. They actually have multiple dealerships (Nissan, FCA LLC). I am currently in communication with their corporate customer relations department (filed complaint yesterday). Today I filed a complaint with the FL Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, and later this evening I will be filing a complaint with BBB.

Lastnight I downloaded the Chrysler 300M 2003 Chrysler Technician Service Manual online (1800 pages). The services they claimed to perform and charged me on the invoice were definitely not consistent with ANYTHING in the manual.
 #342768  by chaostic1
Interesting update I just had to share. I called Chrysler LLC today and found out I have a "case manager" so I left her a message to call me back. A few hours later I am called by no other than the original service advisor at the dealership. He asks me if I had made a decision about what I want them to do with the car. I let him know that I need to wait until I hear back from a few people and he tells me that even if I wanted to proceed they refuse to take this any further, that I am responsible for the water pump + timing belt bill (600 in addition to original 790). He is going to have his technician "wrap my car up" and park it so whenever I want to come pay the 600 I can have my car back. So after long debate over their failures he informs me that my "lack of intelligence and knowledge of cars" is apparent. He said its their dealership policy that their test drives are 2-5 minutes long and that is sufficient for making sure they fixed the original problem. So I pay 790 dollars for a new radiator and drive belts and all you can invest is 5 minutes of your technicians time to make sure they fixed the overheating problem? In the end I had to hang up on him because he started shouting words like "mechanics lien", etc.....
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 #342771  by Mottman
ARROGANCE ! Pure arrogance !
If I haven't seen this sort of thing with my own eyes in the past,
I wouldn't believe it.
You brought the car in with an overheating issue, They charged you a fee to
diagnose and provide an estimate,
You agreed to the repairs, and that didn't solve the problem.
Now they are threatening you to pay more, or they will put a mechanics lien
on you! WHAT GALL !
I really hope Chrysler corp. makes this right.
It would be good to hear about them " cleaning house " at this dealership !
And giving that service adviser the boot !
However, I would suggest you don't pussyfoot around and wait for Chrysler
to do anything too long.
If you don't hear from this " case manager " by the end of tomorrow,
you should contact the BBB. or Consumer Protection Agency.
Who knows what this crooked dealership is going to charge with this mechanics
lien and storage fees.
I would also be concerned about exactly how you're car is going to be " wrapped up "
( Parts just haphazardly tossed in the engine or what ? )
So getting your car back without paying the unauthorized work is only the start.
You need to get Chrysler to make sure its right 100% in the end.
Sadly, I think this will require more than some persuasion.
I am always sorry to hear about this kind of customer experience.
Keep us all posted, and good luck.


The EVIL Sickness
 #342778  by cin993
If this were my car I'd want this answer asap before i discuss w chrysler or anyone else-- has my head gasket failed causing my car to overheat? If so, their service tech misdiagnosed the initial problem.

Your car is parked on their lot. I'd get my spare set keys, go there after service closes tonight, and rent a Engine Block tester (good one is $50, refunded when returned) to do a combustion leak test to see the results myself. In less than 10 minutes you will either see the dye change color (which means you failed the test and head gasket has to be replaced) or not.

see youtube for video on this test. i've done it myself, you don't need any tools at all; just the tester and bottle of $10 dye.

sounds to me like if you want restitution here you'll be heading to small claims court

try this test though
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 #342779  by LUNAT1C
At this point, I wouldn't let the day end until I've spoken with the case manager and informed them of what you just experienced with the service advisor. Tell them your next phone call will be to an attorney to drag that crooked dealer through small claims court.

If I had a service advisor telling me I owed him hundreds of dollars for work I didn't authorize, I'd ask him to "show me where I had authorized the work. Where did I agree to it? When? Over the phone? Did I sign something authorizing this extra work? Go ahead and pull out the parts I didn't authorize and replace them with the parts the car came in with, the labor to do that is on you. Oh, you threw them out? Your loss then. Return the car to me before you hear from my attorney."

If he's holding your car behind a locked fence, tell him you'll file charges of auto theft against the dealer. Talk to the service manager, talk to the dealership manager, talk to the owner of the dealership. Let them all know you've been in contact with FCA US, BBB, etc. If you decide to contact an attorney, have their office contact the service manager and case manager ASAP to impress upon them how serious you are. If they don't back down, contact local media and try to have them do a story right in front of the dealership.

You have a lot of avenues. Some of them legal, and some of them intended to ruin whatever reputation they have.
User avatar
 #342780  by adu1982
This is not the first real case i have heard of dealers or shops doing this ... I guess i should consider my self lucky i got only hose for a few hundreds every time and not an actual car .

DO THE TEST cin993 talked about , i bet there is not a head gasket damage ... I just read another post the other day about car getting hot and after rad,thermostat,hoses and all that inspection all it was ....a rad cap that still looked good but didnt hold pressure.
User avatar
 #342847  by 300maximilien
I would go pay the bill and take the car home. Then immediately call my credit card company and dispute the charges. I would also file in small claims court.

Some good reading ... 88435.html
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 #343014  by Mottman

Any word on what happened ?

The EVIL Sickness
 #343211  by chaostic1
New Updates:

So after a long drawn out battle giving the dealership every chance to make things right civil action is the only answer. I received word from the BBB in the form of a letter from the Operations Manager at Firkins. He states in his response that my father authorized repairs earlier in the month without any problems. That he also approved the repairs and the vehicle was delivered back to me without any questions or debates. (I signed the written estimate and invoice - father merely paid with credit card via phone). He then says that I refused to pay for repairs on my latest visit so he contacted my father again offering to put the old parts back on (this never happened). He closes with the original repair was a cracked radiator, radiator cap, and belts which were "obvious repairs that in any circumstance needed replacing". "Unfortunately the vehicle did overheat and caused more extensive damage. The warning light may have been ignored by the owner and we discounted the repair to cost with no mark up to help".

So me being the good Samaritan figured that this guy was merely misinformed by his employees as to what has happened. He made no correlation between the original service that "had no problems or questions" with the return 2 days later. His answer was to discount the bill another 100 dollars; so I would pay 560 in addition to original 790 to pick up my still overheating car that they have yet to find out why.

After a few hours of research Florida Auto Repair Laws I find section after section they violated blatantly during our interactions.
The first and most pertinent to the latest repair is:

"Customer" means the person who signs the written repair estimate or any other person whom the person who signs the written repair estimate designates on the written repair estimate as a person who may authorize repair work"

So he claims that I gave "verbal authorization" to only contact my father regarding any problems or changes in repairs.

Then even more......

the customer shall be promptly notified by telephone, telegraph, mail, or other means of the additional repair work and estimated cost thereof. A customer so notified shall, orally or in writing, authorize, modify, or cancel the order for repair

559.920ÔÇâUnlawful acts and practices.-It shall be a violation of this act for any motor vehicle repair shop or employee thereof to:(2)ÔÇâMake or charge for repairs which have not been expressly or impliedly authorized by the customer;

(5)ÔÇâMisrepresent that the vehicle being inspected or diagnosed is in a dangerous condition or that the customer's continued use of the vehicle may be harmful or cause great damage to the vehicle


(1)ÔÇâAny customer injured by a violation of this part may bring an action in the appropriate court for relief. The prevailing party in that action may be entitled to damages plus court costs and reasonable attorney's fees. The customer may also bring an action for injunctive relief in the circuit court.

(4)ÔÇâIt shall be unlawful for any motor vehicle repair shop to fail to return any customer's motor vehicle because the customer has refused to pay for unauthorized repairs or because the customer has refused to pay for repair charges in excess of the final estimate in violation of this section.

So I bring all of this to the dealership today demanding they return my vehicle because I obviously did not authorize the repairs done to my vehicle. The service director begins shouting at me challenging me at the interpretation of the law. I asked if he had any lawyers on board and he claims the owner himself is a lawyer. So I go outside to contact the local PD, he calls me back in to offer me the vehicle at no cost (except the original 790 and possible head damage caused by their inept original service) if I was willing to sign a waiver releasing all liability or future claims against them. Luckily the local PD informs me that I can just walk down to the courthouse and obtain a bond in the amount of the invoice which requires them by law to release the vehicle to me and allows them 60 days to file a civil suit against me and prove they are entitled to the invoice amount.
So as it stands now Chrysler LLC has dropped out of the complaint due to arbitrary boards being involved. BBB and FL Dept of Consumer Affairs await more information from me. The dealership refuses to give me copies of all signed documents and/or any old parts back so I am currently seeking official legal representation.

More updates to come!
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 #343217  by Maximus
Sounds like too much of a hassle to me to deal with. I would have moved already.
User avatar
 #343238  by monte4
Wow, all this B.S. with the dealer (I don't blame you one bit for taking legal action) and you still have a car that's got to be fixed. Sounds like you've called the dealer's bluff on this and they're backing down in a hurry. Good for you. Good luck and keep us posted.
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 #343470  by 300maximilien
I would have paid via credit card to get car out and then called credit card company to dispute the charge. Force them to prove what they did/didn't dom