Saturday, September 9, 2017

Good Tires, Bad Service Rectified (correction after 26k miles, bad tires)

Have you ever been to a Sears Automotive Center and been pressured into buying tires that are the wrong size? That should have been my first indication that I should not deal with this store anymore. I purchased my last tires here, and some oil changes and a bed. Probably other incidental stuff over the past few years. But this particular transaction wasn't great to start with and went downhill from there.

My transportation activities revolve around energy efficiency and renewable energy. I typically have very energy efficient tires to complement my plug-in-electric hybrid car. The plug-in enables me to use solar energy from my local electric utility. 
2011 Type III Prius with Plug-in 4 kW Battery
Initially worked with the salesperson for some automotive service a few days in advance, going over options of tires in stock that would fit my car. Good tires were chosen to be put on the car,  195/65R15 is the correct tire size, to be installed in two days along with an alignment and full synthetic oil change. Thursday came, I was early to the appointment as often I am. The sales person checked my car and I signed paperwork. Then it turned out they wanted to put 196/60/R15 onto the car at a total discount of $6. I said "No".  I am a Mechanical Engineer and know the car was designed for specific tires.  I was being pressured onto a wrong tire for 60,000 miles. I didn't want to be thinking that any maneuver was compromised because of the wrong size sidewall. "You won't even notice the difference". The guy was adamant that they had the tires in stock when I made the appointment. Then when the day came to install them he ran around the facility literally like a chicken with his head cut off looking for the tires that were not to be found. So I had to make another appointment, on the day I preferred not to get service work done, on a Friday. To me, if people are going to be at work drunk, it is most likely on a Friday. And apparently they didn't have enough staff so this salesperson was going to personally do the work, and he doesn't take lunch breaks. 

After getting the tires installed, and supposedly getting them balanced, and alignment and full synthetic oil changed I left to pick up my son from school.

That weekend we took a trip up to the mountains where my gas mileage was 10% lowered. Oil changes usually increase gas mileage, tires can decrease the gas mileage depending upon rolling resistance. I wanted to confirm they used the correct oil and needed to check on some red marks on the tires. Since that time my gas milage has increased to a reasonble value. 
Red mark on tire, center of photo
As shown in the photo, these red marks were on three of the four tires. So I went back to the service bay, saw that their work order did show the correct oil used (but this doesn't mean it was correct), and asked about the red marks. The guy who wasn't my original salesperson didn't know why there were red marks. The tire manufacturer wrote me that the red is some dye that had leaked out during manufacturing and would be a warranty item if I wanted them replaced. 

During our trip to and from the mountains and just driving around on the new tires I noticed an unbalanced condition between 63 and 70 miles an hour speeds, but mostly at the higher end. A periodic vibration what wasn't there before the new tires. I really liked the tires, they were quieter and had a smoother feel. But I had to address the balance. If they didn't balance the tires correctly it would be insane to bring it back to the same place and get them balanced correctly. Definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I now had no confidence in this Sears shop. So I took the car to another Sears Automotive location and scheduled another appointment to have them balanced. This Sears Automotive center was better, an indoor service counter, and they did the balancing correctly after which the car did not vibrate at higher speeds.

What do you do with a company that wasted your time for not having the gear in stock (1 additional hour of my time) and didn't balance the tires correctly, if at all (1 hour to go to other shops, schedule and 2 hours to get the correct balance accomplished)? 4 additional hours of my time.

Tires are great. Price was competitive. Second Sears service center was great, tire manufacturer customer service was great.

I also wonder about all the people who are driving on the wrong tires from this first service center. I wonder about unbalanced tires on the road from this first service center. I wonder if my oil is correct and I wonder if my car actually had an alignment performed.

The exact Sears Automotive location is Southwest Plaza mall in Littleton CO. The good Sears Automotive is at 7001 University in Littleton. The tires are made in the USA Cooper CS3. I am quite pleased with these tires, they are quieter than previous Michelin energy efficient tires and from what I can calculate, just as efficient with the gasoline.

UPDATE: CS3 tires only lasted 26k miles. Now off the market, Cooper Tires did give warranty credit. Still not a good way to do business.

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