Toyota refuses to fix my fast-lane sensors — can you help me?

His Toyota fast-lane sensors aren't working.

Patrick Taves would like our advocates to help him with his Toyota fast-lane sensor repair case. And we will — when he sends us his paper trail.

Taves filled out our help request form, giving us information about a Toyota dealership’s unwillingness to apply his warranty to fix his fast lane sensors.

But that’s all.

Taves’ problem is an example of what we call a “Magic Wand” case. Consumers often want us to advocate their cases based solely on their word –to wave a magic wand and make their problems disappear — without having the full story. But our advocates need to see — in writing — whether the Toyota dealer’s story is consistent with Taves’ account.

Broken fast-lane sensors

In March 2017, Taves purchased a new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid from Jerry’s Toyota in Baltimore. Last January, he took the Toyota to his local dealership, Ourisman Fairfax Toyota in Fairfax, Va., to have the car’s fast-lane sensors repaired under warranty. But the dealership refused to make the repairs, claiming that the lane sensors weren’t working because the car had been involved in an accident. The dealership staff told Taves that he would have to pay approximately $2,000 to have his sensors fixed.

Here’s Taves:

I thought at first that they had hit a pillar in the garage after I dropped off the car that morning. Instead, they said there was a tiny, almost invisible, dent in the right rear side of the car and that is what they claimed caused the problem with the sensors.

There is a tiny dent in that area of the car — it occurred when I tapped another car’s open door as I was backing in very slowly to a parking space. I questioned how they could determine the sensors were harmed by that tiny dent incident and they just said they know.

The tiny dent occurred in October 2017, but [I] do not believe that the malfunction light started to flash at the same time the tiny dent occurred. The service advisor said that the sensors are so sensitive that they could malfunction if somebody’s shopping cart hits your car.

“Go back to the dealer that sold you the car”

According to Taves, the service advisor also suggested that he have his car repaired at Jerry’s Toyota, about 60 miles away from his current home, because that dealer could possibly do more for Taves under his warranty. This suggestion bothered Taves as well:

I thought warranties applied throughout the nation and that treatment [by] a single dealer should be no different than [by] any other dealer. … Common, everyday occurrences such as tiny dents and shopping carts hitting a car should not cost $2,000 to repair.

Taves complained to the Toyota Customer Care Hotline, but to no avail. He might have escalated his complaint to higher-ranking Toyota customer service personnel using our executive contacts. Instead, he reached out to our advocates.

No paper trail

Our advocate, Michelle Couch-Friedman, then asked Taves for his paper trail.

A paper trail documents the interactions between a consumer and a company. It helps third parties, such as our advocates, to determine what obligations the consumer and the company owe each other and whether either side has failed to honor those obligations.

We need the paper trail to establish that there really is a case and whether the company is at fault. Without the paper trail, we have no way of knowing if that person is asking us to advocate about a real situation.

And that’s where we stand with Taves. When he provides us with his paper trail, establishing that Ourisman Fairfax Toyota refused to fix the problem, we can then consider advocating for him. Until then, his case is stranded on the shoulder, far from the fast lane.

Should our advocates accept "Magic Wand" cases that lack paper trails?

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