It happened just 41 days short of my three-year anniversary as a Subaru owner: I finally took advantage of the no-deductible, seven-year, 100,000-mile vehicle service contract I included in my financing. And what a feeling it was to hear, “The extended warranty you purchased saved you $700.”

I was so thrilled I didn’t bother to correct my service advisor’s use of “extended warranty,” or to explain to him that what I really saved were interest charges on my credit card. So, yes, I’m now a VSC believer, but my experience put that trust in peril.

"Still, my first VSC claim wasn’t the worry-free service experience I’ve heard so much about. Hopefully, my story will prevent one of your customers from having to wait six months to hear those magical words: 'The repair is covered.'"

See, by the time Subaru’s two-year, 24,000-mile complimentary maintenance expired, several unexpected “stuff-happens” events had occurred and that monthly payment the VSC helped me come to terms with didn’t seem so affordable. Then Subaru informed me it was extending my powertrain warranty to 10 years or 100,000 miles.

In October, just as I was reaching the mileage limit on my basic warranty, I took the Forester in for routine maintenance. The first thing the service advisor noticed was the odd balding on the outside tread of my tires. He said he’d have his tech check things out.

I don’t remember the exact conversation, but he said something about the tech opting against a more thorough inspection because “everything seemed to check out” during road testing. That’s when I informed him I had a service contract. “Oh, you do?” he asked, clearly intrigued. But he assured me my tires would hold up until my next visit, at which point we would replace all four and inspect my suspension.

Well, on Dec. 24, between holiday get-togethers and with the family in tow, I started to feel a shimmy in my tires, as if they needed balancing. That meant staying off the freeways until I got it checked out. By February, I’d had enough of street driving and took the car to a nearby tire chain for a new set of tires. I paid $200 less for them than what the dealership had quoted me. And I declined the alignment, figuring I’d have the Subaru tech do it during my next visit.

But that shimmy hadn’t gone away. In fact, it was more intense. So I took the Forester to the dealership in early March.

Once I revealed to my service advisor that I’d purchased new tires from a tire chain, she insisted I take it back to them. She then explained that if my tires did need balancing, it would cost $100. And if I decided against having the dealership do the work, the diagnosis would cost $140. Noticing I was undeterred, she then informed me I was out of warranty. That’s when I informed her I had a service contract, to which she replied with the same, “Oh, you do?”

I waited in the customer lounge a few hours before deciding to walk to a burger joint down the street for lunch. Of course, my service advisor texted me just as my food arrived. “Hi Gregory, the technician doesn’t feel an abnormal bounce when driving at high speeds,” the text read. When I asked if he took it over 70 miles per hour, which is when I really felt the shimmy, her boss texted me that his techs are prohibited from driving over the speed limit due to liability issues.

I walked back to the dealership and offered to demonstrate it myself, but according to my service advisor, the tech had gone to lunch. So I took my car back and went back to that tire place to get the tires balanced as she suggested. But the shimmy remained.

So I was back in the dealership 13 days later. This time I had a new advisor, but our conversation began heading in the same direction when an irritated customer butted in. I stepped aside and let my service advisor take care of the young woman’s issue. My patience was rewarded, as he seemed more determined to get my issue resolved when he returned.

He said he’d call me once the tech diagnosed the problem, then reminded me that I was out of warranty and that I’d have to pay for the repair unless I purchased the “extended warranty.” I proudly said I did, to which he responded, “Then you just have to pay the $100 deductible.” I told him I didn’t have one. I was about to show him my paperwork when he finally pulled up my file on his computer screen.

It took them two hours to diagnose the problem: My left lower control arm was loose and the entire assembly needed to be replaced. I ended up waiting another four hours for them to finish. But all was forgiven the moment I heard the repair was covered.

Still, my first VSC claim wasn’t the worry-free service experience I’ve heard so much about. Hopefully, my story will prevent one of your customers from having to wait six months to hear those magical words: “The repair is covered.”

About the author
Gregory Arroyo

Gregory Arroyo

Editorial Director

Gregory Arroyo is the former editorial director of Bobit Business Media's Dealer Group.

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