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Maruti Alto LX BS III (With Immobilizer) / inapropriate service of my car by sarathy autocars

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Dear Sir,

I am Krishnan Potty V and I own a Maruti Alto. Before coming to the matter please see the details of my car for your reference.

Model: Alto LX BS III (With Immobilizer) (2007 May)
Reg No: KL 16 D 6541
Dealer: Sarathy Autocars, Thiruvananthapuram
Chassis No: MA3EYD81S00936728
Engine No: F8DN1169404
Color: Solid Bright Red
Insured to: Royal Sundaram
Policy no: MP50050653 (valid till 06 June 2010)

I was quite happy with the performance of my Alto and with my dealer Sarathy. They were maintaining a satisfactory service record of my vehicle. Till now I have not claimed insurance and hence I enjoy no claim bonus. And I have not given my car to any other service station than authorized dealers for repair.

In the last week of April ’09, my car got overheated, engine oil and coolant got mixed up and the car ceased. Sarathy took the vehicle and tried to repair it. First they figured out that the head gasket is damaged but even after replacing it, the problem persisted. They said there are cracks in the Head unit and they tried to correct it but in vain. Eventually, they replaced the unit (under warranty) and I got back my car in around 3 week’s time.

Things were going smoothly till Sunday, 12 July ’09 as my car’s underbody hit a small rock while I was coming from Kottayam. The rock hit at the front part of the exhaust pipe (where the curve comes) and there was a sound coming when I started driving again. The next day itself I went to the dealer and after inspecting it in detail for about 90min, they said the evident sound is because the front portion of the exhaust pipe is damaged and it needs to be replaced (they said the cost is approximately Rs. 2000/-). That time I just got a feeling to have a second opinion, took the car back and made to inspect it in another Maruti authorized service centre nearby. They quickly identified the reason and told me there is a leak in exhaust manifold unit and air is coming out from it. The Exhaust pipe does not have much problem and need not be replaced even though it has a small depression due to the impact. They presumed that by replacing the manifold unit’s gasket - if I am correct, (I don’t remember the exact word) the sound will be gone.

I took the car back to Sarathy quickly and told what I learned from the other service centre. Sarathy again asked me time to fix it and the next day (Tuesday) they showed me in detail that the manifold unit does have a bend and replacing the gasket won’t do. Since the unit is expensive (they said it costs Rs. 15, 000) I was left with no option but to claim. Here again I just got an intuition that I should have a second expert opinion before claiming. I said I should get back the car in riding condition and I’ll let them know when to claim. After paying the amount for new gasket and labor charge I took my car from there.

Then I took the car to Hercules and through them I tried to claim. When the surveyor came from Royal Sundaram, he immediately ‘identified’ the car and said that he is ‘familiar’ with it as there was some issue regarding this car in Sarathy. I was claiming the insurance for the first time and I don’t know how he knows my car very well. He put the file on hold and later on it became clear that Royal Sundaram rejected my claim saying that the manifold will not bend by the kind of impact my car had. The surveyor said that to accept the claim, the car should show traces of a possible head on collision, which my car did not have. Now the car is in Hercules and they are trying to repair the manifold. There is no way I could replace the unit.

The statements from the insurance surveyor threw a lot of confusion to my mind. I would try to list out those intriguing matters one by one and would like you to look into it.

1. After the underbody impact of my car, why Sarathy - after 90min long inspection of my car - did not find out the exact cause of damage. I believe that the responsibility of diagnosing the exact problem of a vehicle lies on the Dealer, not on the customer. If I had not consulted with another technician, I would have been unaware of the whole picture.
2. Even if I had replaced the frontal part of the exhaust pipe (as suggested by Sarathy), the real problem would have still persisted, wouldn’t it?
3. Sarathy told me that the bend of manifold unit is happened because of the under body impact when my car engine was in very hot condition. I agree that my car travelled around 300KM before the impact and was very hot then. Initially I was convinced by their statement but later-on, after consulting with my friends in automobile field, I learned that a small impact on the exhaust, even in a hot engine condition, will not make the strong manifold unit to bend.
4. The surveyor also was very sure about the fact that such a bend will not occur after the kind of impact my car had. So I came to the following conclusions: (a) the bend somehow happened before the impact or (b) my Alto has a damaged or bent manifold unit right from the time of purchase
5. Since conclusion (b) is highly unlikely, I guess the real issue is that the manifold unit would have been already bent before the underbody impact
6. Conclusion (a) throws light to the former incident of Head unit replacement in my car that was done in Sarathy a couple of months back. Recently I learned that the Head can be replaced only after removing many important parts of the car, including manifold unit. To reassemble it, the workmanship should be very precise and sharp. There is every possibility of a human error that must have happened while installing the Head unit.
7. The most interesting statement came from the insurance surveyor. The moment Hercules showed him my car, he ‘recognized’ it. It’s been almost 26 months since I purchased Alto and this is the first time that I am claiming. Then how is he so ‘familiar’ with my car? He said he knows the car and there was some issue in Sarathy related to my car. I am absolutely unaware of an ‘issue’ that occurred in Sarathy based on my car.
8. I now starting to reach a conclusion that while replacing the Head unit, by some human error, the manifold unit might have become bent. To rectify that, Sarathy might have consulted with the surveyor without intimating me and the surveyor might have rejected the ‘unofficial’ claim intimation. This incident might have been the reason for the surveyor being much ‘acquainted’ with my car.
9. I conversed with Sarathy and they did not admit any of the statements. They have washed off their hands, Insurance Company has got away with my claim and now I have no options but to repair it. Hercules is now trying hard to fix manifold unit’s deformation.

I now started to think that, as a customer, I am the only loser in these series of events. The dealer and the insurance company have washed off their hands. Instead of getting a new manifold unit straight away, I now need to pay for the repair and then have to cope with a repaired unit in my new car. I just get the feeling that the interest of a genuine customer is on stake here.

I hope you would look into this matter and I would urge you to take necessary steps to make my car trouble free.

Yours Truly

Krishnan Potty V

22 July 2009

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