We experienced a few more sob stories recently.
A Canadian gentleman brought in a Dodge minivan and asked me to listen to the engine. We were very busy, "in the weeds" as our food service people like to say, but I like Canadians. They are usually very polite, and they don't arrive on inner tubes or by hiking through deserts. I walked out to the parking area to listen to his engine. It had a terrible knocking noise, which I think was a wrist pin. Not that it mattered whether it was a wrist pin or a crankshaft bearing, it was serious, and knowing what we know about this model of engine, it was terminal. This engine cannot be successfully rebuilt. As I began to explain this to him, I noticed that he didn't seem surprised. He seemed resigned to his fate. He then began to tell me his tale. He had bought the van locally. After only a few miles it had begun to knock. He went back to the used car dealership he had bought it from. They said it was his problem, not theirs, but they would fix it. He agreed, and they charged him $300 to put in new crankshaft bearings. This time he got about 60 miles on it before it began to knock.
An important point to make here is that if a crankshaft bearing goes bad enough to cause a knock, it has damaged the crankshaft. That means the crankshaft has to be removed and machined or replaced. That involves removing the engine and that would cost in the thousands. Putting new bearings in on a damaged crankshaft is simply nonsense. This time they refused to do any more, telling him he had bought it as is, where is. He is stuck with an older van with a blown engine. We offered to replace the engine with one from a wreck, which would be the least expensive way out of this, but he had put $7,000 into this van and was now financially strapped. I feel terrible about the treatment he received. I suggested he contact a lawyer and sue the socks off of the dealer, but that would take more time and money than he could afford. I don't know how it has turned out for him, but I do know how it could have been prevented.
Buying a pre-owned car can be hazardous. (I don't know why they're called pre-owned, I think it should be post-owned). Anyone buying a used car should always have it inspected by an independent mechanic before buying it. Previous owners might not know about hidden problems, and selling dealers are notorious for ignoring them. An experienced technician can spot previously unknown or hidden problems that a buyer simply will not notice. Shiny paint makes us smile, and smiling makes us stop being critical. Dealerships put the most effort into the wax jobs for good reason.
If a dealership refuses to allow an independent inspection, it should raise an immediate red flag. We recently had a young lady bring in a car she had just bought. She said the dealer said she could not take it to a mechanic because they didn't have a license or insurance for it to make the drive. That, my friends, is complete baloney. If they're a licensed dealership, they have dealer plates and blanket insurance for test drives. Fortunately, for this girl, her car checked out except for a cheap dime-store battery that had to be replaced. She had been jump-starting it since she bought it.
The repair expense for the discovered problems can be used to renegotiate the price, thus saving more than the inspection fee. It is always money better spent than for extended warrantees, which are great profit-makers for dealerships. If you know you should, you can, and you intend to, remember that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. So, as Larry The Cable Guy says, "Get'er done!"