In November 2011 my beloved 1983 Chevy Caprice reached the point where it was no longer suitable as a daily driver. The engine needed major work and with gas prices what they were it didn’t make sense to continue using it for my daily commute and weekend road trips. I had the financial means to purchase a new car so I decided I would finally make the leap. Since this was going to be my very first new car and the largest purchase I had ever made, I took my time. I created a list of possible cars to purchase and took each for a test drive. The 2012 Toyota Camry XLE 4cyl was the right fit for me. I purchased the car from Dorschel Toyota in Henrietta, NY. The sales process was excellent. Dorschel had the car I wanted in stock. The salesman was friendly and patient. I dealt with a single person throughout the entire sales process. At no point did I feel pressured or rushed. I couldn’t have been happier with the whole process. Unfortunately this is where the love story ends and every car buyers worst nightmare begins.
Just two days after accepting delivery of my new 2012 Camry I took the car on it’s first road trip—New York City bound—when the windshield suddenly and unexpectedly cracked while taking a turn on Interstate 81. The crack was on the passenger side of the windshield and started along the top edge. The noise was down right frightening. Just a sharp, loud, crack. At this point I had absolutely no idea what caused the crack. There were no cars within 100 yards of the front or back of my car and I was in a section of road where northbound and southbound lanes of traffic were separated by a large hilly swath of land. I chocked it up as bad luck. A rogue rock perhaps. Little did I know this was the first symptom of a larger issue.
A few months after accepting delivery of my 2012 Toyota Camry I was enjoying spring and loving my shiny new car. The days were getting longer and the air was getting warmer. This is when the real trouble with my car began. I started hearing creaking/popping noises emanating from the car’s roof. At first it was just a series of pops as I pulled out of my driveway. As the air temperatures increased, the more frequent the noises became. The first day above 75 degrees had the roof creaking/popping on every turn or bump in the road. This is also about the time my Camry’s Entune radio started acting up—refusing to play anything other than AM/FM radio for hours at a time.
Service Visit #1
On May 11, 2012 I took my Camry in for it’s first service at Dorschel Toyota. The car had it’s first oil change and I asked them to investigate the roof noises and the radio problem. Dorschel’s service department was unable to reproduce any of the issues I described and the service adviser actually argued with me, telling me the problems I described simply didn’t exist. I left thoroughly frustrated. This is what Toyota service is like? What good is a warranty? My car has legitimate issues and the dealer isn’t addressing them! I now knew I’d have to come back with evidence of the issues. The next time the Entune radio acted up I captured it on video. The next time the roof made noise (which was pretty much any warm day) I recorded audio of the noise.
Service Visit #2
When I returned to the dealer on June 21, 2012 I again asked them to look into the issues I was experiencing. I showed the service adviser the video of the radio issue and I played audio of the roof noises. His response to the roof noise was “Holy crap. That’s really annoying!” During this service visit Dorschel acknowledged the issues and performed work. Finally—my problems are being addressed…or so I thought. While the dealer performed work they also damaged my car’s interior. I couldn’t believe the condition my new car was returned in. The drivers side A-Pillar cover was broken and there was a large gap between it and A-Pillar. The overhead console was hanging down far enough to fit fingers between it and the headliner. The passenger side C-Pillar cover had scratches and chips all over it. There were dark fingerprints all over the headliner and several areas of the headliner were pilly, as if they had been scrubbed. Pictures of the damage caused during the second service visit can be seen below.
Service Visit #3
Following contact from Dorschel Toyota notifying me that the replacement parts had arrived, I returned for service on July 13, 2012. When dropping off the car I asked the service adviser if he felt the roof problem would ever be fixed. His reply was that the issue was structural, Toyota was aware of the issue, and that they would do everything they could to resolve it. I asked if the windshield cracking on my third day of ownership could be related and he sidestepped the question. Reading into his response and taking note of his referring to the issue as structural, it confirmed my suspicion that the windshield cracking was somehow related. Dorschel would end up having my car for a total of 10 days during this service visit. On about the fourth day the car was in for service I stopped by the service department to speak with the service adviser. I asked him how I would go about getting Toyota Corporate involved in diagnosing and fixing these problems. He replied that they already contacted Toyota Corporate and Toyota Corporate suggested inserting body glue between the different layers of the roof and that the work was already under way. For the Entune radio issue they were going to install an updated version of software. In addition to the work being performed on the roof and Entune radio, the damage from the previous visit was going to be repaired. After a week and a half without my car I finally received a call that the car was ready for pickup. Upon picking up the car I immediately noticed a heavy glue smell. The service adviser assured me the smell would dissipate in a couple of days—an answer I accepted. The damage caused during the previous service visit was repaired. The roof noises seemed to be gone. The radio seemed to be fixed. The headliner was no where near as new or clean as it was when I put the car in for service.
The glue smell decreased—even disappeared, for a time. It returns anytime there is a large fluctuation in temperature. Unfortunately, nine months later, the smell still returns. In the 40’s overnight? 60’s or higher in the daytime? The car stinks of glue. I had to drive with the windows down five out of the last ten days to avoid getting a headache. Over the last few months I’ve also noticed several other interior items that show wear and damage from the repairs performed by Dorschel Toyota. The headliner has developed ridges that appear to be the result of folding. No doubt related to the numerous times the headliner was removed and reinstalled while diagnosing and repairing the roof issue. The roof grab handle retaining clips have pry marks and plastic discoloration from being flexed. There are issues with gap fitment between the pillar covers and the headliner. The headliner—which I’m not sure I’ve ever touched—looks worn. The original issue with the roof making creaking/popping noises? It’s still not completely fixed. Better? Yes. But it still makes noise. It’s easy to ignore if I keep the sunroof cover closed or drive only on smooth roads. If I open the sunroof cover and drive on a moderately rough road I’m treated to a chorus of popping noises. As bad as this may sound, I’ve almost conditioned myself to tune out the roof noise. The glue smell, however, is something I’ll never get used to. Since my last service visit I have had another issue arise, which, like the cracked windshield, signals a structural issue. The dashboard on the passenger side of the vehicle has loosened. You can hear the dashboard shift when you drive over uneven roads. Between the roof noise, windshield crack, and dashboard shifting, I can’t help but feel as though there is a larger structural issue looming. Here are pictures of the damage caused during the third service visit at Dorschel Toyota. If only it were possible to capture the odor of body glue offgassing…
A Different Dealership
This is where things got interesting. I spoke with the service manager at a different dealership (dealer/manager name available upon request). I explained my car’s history. I explained the work performed by the original dealership. He immediately pulled up my Camry’s service history on his computer. After taking a moment to review the vehicle’s service records he says “I don’t see the service history you describe. Something’s not right here. It looks like someone has deleted information from your service history. I don’t see any corporate consult either.” But Dorschel told me they consulted Toyota…how is that possible? “If they consulted Toyota Corporate I would see a report attached to your vehicle history.” Why would Dorschel have lied about consulting Toyota? I have kept all of the service invoices for my car and I told the service manager I could produce them at any time. He asked if I could bring him copies. I did even better—I assembled a packet of information including all of my correspondence with the original dealership, pictures of the damage caused from previous repairs, and copies of all the invoices. It seemed like I had finally found someone that was able to help me.
That was more than a month ago. The new dealership’s service manager was supposed to get back to me with information on how to proceed. He did not. I have tried calling him but we’re never able to connect. I’ve left messages but never receive a callback. I can only speculate that after researching my car’s problems he decided that his dealership should not take on the work. I could just show up at the new dealership. Would this elicit the reaction I desire? A renewed interest in fixing my car’s issues? If I don’t force the issue how will I ever get my car fixed? Is there a fix? How do I get the damage caused by the original dealer’s service department fixed? How do you fix a smell? All questions I’d love an answer to.
Throughout this ordeal I’ve contacted Toyota’s 800 number. The 800 number was actually my first resource for the Entune radio issue and I have turned to it for advice on the roof issue. The response has always been the same. A generic apology and the suggestion that I bring the car back to the dealership I purchased the car from for service. Unfortunately the advisers never seem to be able to understand the roof issue. Following the service visit on June 21, 2012 I located a phone number for Toyota’s regional office. I tried to explain my experience at Dorschel Toyota. I never made it past reception. The woman that answered the phone insisted that I call the 800 number. When I voiced my concerns that the 800 number did nothing more than open a report and direct me back to the dealership I was having problems with, she responded by saying this was the process. Not knowing what else to do I continued as instructed. During my last discussion with an adviser at the 800 number, a call which followed the third service visit at Dorschel Toyota, I informed them that I did not feel as though I should return to Dorschel Toyota for service. I explained that I did not have confidence in their ability to repair my vehicle and how they had caused a lot of damage to the interior of my car. The service adviser had difficulty locating service records for my vehicle (just as the alternate dealership would) but authorized me to take the car to a different dealership.
I would describe Toyota’s involvement in my situation as completely ineffective to the point of negligence. At no point have they shown a genuine desire to resolve my problems. I’ve even tried engaging Toyota Corporate on Twitter, as a last resort. After an aggressive tweet Toyota finally responded. “Our apologies again Chris. The invite to discuss direct with Corp is always available. 800-331-4331 ^GT.” I followed up explaining my situation—how the 800 number was no help—but I never received another response. Forever ignored. At this point I have no idea how to resolve the situation. No one cares. Certainly not Toyota Corporate. This blog post might just be my last hope. If anyone at Toyota reads this; PLEASE HELP ME!