Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Helena

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Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Helena

I wish my purchase through Lithia of Helena Montana had been a smooth purchase, however, it has proven to be a costly experience. | After driving from John Day, Oregon to Boise, Idaho placed a down payment over the phone with Lithia Motors of Helena, Montana on on a 1995 Dodge truck on Friday the 13th of June. The next day I picked up a rental car and then drove from Boise, Idaho (486 miles away from Helena) with my wife and Dad to Lithia of Helena Montana to pickup the truck. Before making the down payment, I had been told over the phone by the salesman that the torque converter needed replacement if I was going to tow a trailer with it and the replacement converter should only cost about $150. Other than that the truck was in sound mechanical condition and would be fine to drive back to Boise, Idaho. | Half way to the dealership I contacted the salesman I had been dealing with and asked if the truck had been cleaned, I was told it had not been cleaned and there wasn’t enough time as they were short handed. I called back and talked to another salesman and he said there is no reason why it should not be clean by the time I get there. I received a call while on the road from the salesman I had been dealing with and was told the truck would be cleaned and have a safety inspection before I pick it up. | My family and I arrived late Saturday afternoon and the truck had been vacuumed, but the rest of the truck inside and out was filthy. | My Dad and I checked it out and the first thing I noticed was that the coolant level was low, and by low I mean there wasn’t anything in the recovery bottle. We checked the rest of the truck out and it seemed sound. We took it for a test drive and it seemed to be running fine in sound mechanical condition. | I purchased the truck, returned the rental car and my family and I had diner before we began the drive back to Boise, Idaho. I wanted to get as far as Idaho Falls as I had to drive my wife to John Day, Oregon on Sunday so she could be rested when she returned to work on Monday at the local hospital. | There was a little front end hop at 65mph, but I attributed that to the wheels needing to be rebalanced. 20 minutes south of Helena, the engine started to stumble and then wildly accelerate. I stabbed at the throttle trying to get the RPMs down, the engine then started to wildly fluctuate, I got the truck over to the side of the road where the engine died, no power brakes, no power steering and the truck came to a rolling stop. I checked the engine for any signs of problems: stuck accelerator cable, disconnected throttle return spring, etc. But, found none. After a couple of minutes I turned the ignition key and the engine roared to life without a problem. The truck drove fine for another 10-15 minutes and the engine started to act erratic again. I pulled the truck to the side of the highway, where the engine died again and I loosened the fuel cap thinking there might be a vacuum in the system starving the engine of fuel. Going down the road everything seemed fine, so we passed Butte thinking that the problem was solved. We were wrong. Two miles south of Butte the episode repeated. Finding ourselves on the side of the road again I decided we had to go to Butte, rest and figure out what to do in the morning. | Same thing happened again almost to the offramp and I was able to nurse it to the off ramp, where it died again. Fortunately, no one was behind me while I waited a minute or two for the engine to recover. | I pulled the truck into the hotel where we spent the night. Unable to sleep I was up until 2 am trying to find out what the problem was with the truck. I finally found out the problem was injection pump related and was a minimum $800 dollar repair; not a $150 torque converter repair. There was no way to effect a field repair on such a problem so we had to put our new ( to us) truck that we drove a total of 67 miles into storage as it was unusable. We then to make up the time that was lost from the previous day to get back to Boise. Going through the trucks service records I received after the sale I found out that the torque converter had already been replaced a month ago by the previous owners at the same dealership that sold the truck to me. | I had to find a storage lot on Sunday to park the truck at and then paid $180 to rent a car to get back to Boise. I was so exhausted from driving over 1,000 miles in 3 days my 81 year old father had to go with us as I didn’t feel I could make it the rest of the way ( my wife only has a learners permit for driving). It was a good thing my dad came as I found myself no longer able to drive 60 miles outside of John Day. If we had been able to get the extra distance whittled down by staying the night in Twin Falls, ( and I had gotten a proper nights sleep not having to diagnose an engine problem) my dad would not have had to come with us to John Day. | I e-mailed “Lithia Cares” around Tuesday the following week and informed them of what happened. I received a call from the dealership in Helena a few days later. I informed them of everything we went through (staying civil), the salesman apologized several times and when I asked if they were going to do anything I was told “ I’m not going to do anything, you bought the truck as is.” I said this was not a $150 torque converter problem and that we could have been killed in such a truck if I had turned the wheel over to my inexperienced wife on the return trip ( wiled acceleration, no power brakes, no power steering and engine dieing while traveling at 70mph) or if I had not been experienced enough to handle such an emergency. But, his answer was again he wasn’t going to do anything. | I was able to get in touch with the previous owners and they told me that the truck suffered from the same problem before they traded the truck in. They had brought it into the dealership a little over a month before I purchased it and the service manager said he knew the problem had to be a bad torque converter. $1,500 later the previous owners ran into the same problem after they picked up the “fixed truck.” So, they brought it back and the dealership talked them into purchasing a used truck as the Dodge they had was old and not worth very much. The previous owners also traded in another car and gave a set of studded tires to the dealership saying to give them to the new owners; which I am told the salesman said the dealership would do. Needless to say, I never saw those tires. The previous owners also asked if the truck would be fixed before they sold it, again the salesman said yes, ……… obviously, that did not happen. The problem was just passed on to me to diagnose and repair. Unfortunately I had to do it on the return trip to Boise. | Two weeks after purchasing the Dodge I had to borrow a friend’s car to drive from Boise to John Day, while my Dad took our Ford truck, a borrowed trailer, borrowed chains, binders and a friend to retrieve the Dodge from Butte Montana. | After getting the truck back, I spent all of Saturday, and half of Sunday pulling the injection pump out of the Dodge, pulling an ejection pump from a project truck ( thankfully both trucks use the same pump) timing and installing the project truck pump into the Dodge, in over 100 degree weather. While installing the new injection pump I noticed that the power steering oil level was so low, it was below the dipstick. In fact, I could see the metal parts of the pump through the inspection hole. While my Dad was under the truck rotating the engine over to center ( It is necessary for the 1 piston be at the top of it’s stroke for proper timing of the injection pump), he noticed that the passenger side front brake hose line was frayed. Before I bought the truck the salesman said it would undergo a safety inspection. | After the repairs were made, the engine ran fine and without further problems. | So, a month after purchasing a “running truck” I was finally able to drive it after changing pumps, but, I’ll have to spend another $800-$1200 to get the original pump fixed so I can get my project vehicle running again. My dad and his friend spent two days picking up the truck and I spent another day and a half making repairs. | So, here is a list of things that the previous owner is upset about: the studied tires were not given to the new owner as promised by a salesman the truck was not fixed before selling it to a new owner and the service department can’t tell the difference between a transmission problem and an injection pump problem. This severely devalued the resale value of the truck when it was traded to the dealership. It was also information that I was not privy to that would have affected my decision to drive all the way to Helena and purchase the truck. It seems Lithia is about as honest and knowledgeable as a politician during election season. | I really wished this had been a good experience, but it showed me the dark underbelly of dishonest salesmen who don’t care about their reputation or about being an honest businessman. My experience with Lithia motors exemplified the stereotype that salesmen only want to make a quick buck. | It is a shame that Lithia cares could not live up to their name. I am writing this hoping a full explanation of my experience will give a second chance for this large corporation to make amends to me and the truck’s original owners. If not, I will need to make sure other people are warned off from doing business with such a large conglomerate who does not care about being an honest business. I believe this vehicle was most defiantly unsafe for the road. |

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