Over the past decade that I’ve spent in southwest Florida, I’ve seen my share of ups and downs. One of the definite downs of my residence here has been the service offered by the local area’s Pontiac dealerships. From that fateful day in 2001 when Naples’ big-name Pontiac dealership of note first got its claws into my Trans Am, I’ve been on a roller coaster ride of poor workmanship, damaged parts, rude service writers and flat-out brainless employees of every conceivable position. Imagine my surprise, then, at finding a Pontiac dealer nearby that doesn’t flat-out suck donkey nipple.
That dealership is Dixie Buick
Pontiac GMC in south Fort Myers, part of that area’s “big row” of car dealerships lined up as far as the eye can see. Formerly known as Galeana Pontiac, a dedicated PMD shop, the dealership was bought out by Dixie Buick GMC when GM was doing their big consolidation of those three brands under one roof. I took my GTO there for some routine work in 2008 — tire rotation, alignment, and brake fluid replacement — which was performed competently as far as I could tell, though for some reason the techs felt the need to put an inordinate number of miles on the car while it was in their care. Back then, I drove away with a few nagging concerns in the back of my mind, but no evidence to support them other than the trip odometer. The car’s ride had improved, there was nothing damaged and the cost for the work was reasonable.
Fast-forward to last month when I changed the oil in the GTO and discovered, to my heart-stopping horror, a thin film of oil coating the bottom exterior of the oil pan. Although GM cars have been derided endlessly over the years for leaking oil like a sieve, none of the ones I owned have ever leaked so much as one drop. (From the engine, anyway — my Trans Am did leak a few drops from the differential at one time.) I went immediately to the online encyclopedia of all things goat, LS1GTO.com, and discovered that leaking oil pan gaskets were a relatively common issue on the LS2. In my case, it did indeed seem to be coming from the oil pan gasket. I found one bolt on the pan slightly looser than the others, snugged it up, cleaned up the oil and hoped for the best.
Checking back a couple of weeks later, I found the sheen of oil had returned. Welp, that was it. I had six months of my extended 5-year / 50,000 mile GM Major Guard warranty left, and it looked like it was about to get its first use whether I liked it or not. The leak was so insignificant that there wasn’t even any oil on the garage floor after two weeks, but I wasn’t going to chance it.
Perhaps coming as a blessing in disguise — or poetic justice? — the local big-name dealership that had given me so much grief during the years that I owned my Trans Am had since dumped all of its GM franchises (except for Cadillac) and thus were no longer an option to me. The nearest Pontiac service department, in fact, was the aforementioned Dixie in Fort Myers. So I really didn’t have much of a choice in scheduling my repairs there, but as it happened, that choice turned out to be a good one.
I brought the GTO in this Monday and was taken care of by a service consultant named Lynne, who — next to Aaron at the former Scanlon Mazda — was easily the best service consultant I’ve ever worked with. She actually listened to what I had to say and discussed the issues with me, rather than simply acting numb and mute or cutting me off like the rude bastages at the Naples dealers always did. She actually entered all of the suggestions and requests I made onto the work order as I watched. She then shot the breeze with me for a bit about Pontiac and was clearly a fan of the brand, cut from the same cloth as I. How refreshing. (And bizarrely unusual, even amongst the Pontiac dealer service personnel I have met.)
Aside from the oil leak, I also requested a tire rotation, balance and alignment, plus a brake fluid replacement, since it happened to be right on time for all of those services. I also specifically asked if they’d recenter my steering wheel; it has to be ever so slightly turned to the right in order to drive straight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for that exact procedure over the years on my various cars and almost never is it actually done. Dixie’s service manager had informed me by phone prior to my appointment that they have a dedicated veteran tech in-house who handles the work on Pontiac products, being an old-school Pontiac guy himself from the former Galeana shop next door, so I was hoping that the guy’s skills would be put on full display.
Dixie kept the car for the first day. I didn’t even call them until Tuesday morning, when I rang them up to get a status report, since I knew the oil leak was going to be a big job. When I called, Lynne responded that she had just been looking at my ticket and was about to call me. Apparently the leak had not been the oil pan gasket or rear main seal, as I had feared. Instead it was a leaking oil galley plug on the rear driver’s side of the block. The plug was re-sealed without any significant loss of oil, and that was that. Still a fairly sizable job, but not as bad as it could have been…I hear dropping the oil pan requires removal of the front cradle and steering rack, and from looking at the underside of the car, I couldn’t see any way to argue!
The extended warranty had covered the repair, and everything looked to be in order, so I checked out — even got to use a 10% discount coupon that Dixie had sent me in my email. On the (loonnnnng) way home, the GTO drove smoother and straighter than I could remember, and the steering wheel had indeed been perfectly recentered, with the car tracking straight as an arrow when you took your hands off it. I almost went to sleep, the ride was so smooth. And unlike after other major dealer services that I’ve had on previous automobiles, there were no new noises, knocks, whines, scuffs, cracks, chips, or equipment malfunctions as a result of the work. Everything was exactly as it should have been.
I’ll be getting down on the garage floor again to check the oil pan this weekend to confirm with my own eyes that the leak hasn’t returned, naturally. But from what I can see so far, Dixie appears to have done excellent work with the car and — just as importantly — treated both it and me with respect, which is more than I can say for 75% of the dealers I’ve been to over the years.
If you’re a southwest Florida resident with a Pontiac that needs warranty work, specialty service or even just some routine maintenance performed by people who actually know the product and its history, I doubt you can do better locally than Dixie Buick GMC. And in today’s post-Pontiac era, that’s a great relief indeed.
I’ve already rated Dixie on DealerRater.com, which can be a good resource when you’re looking for intelligence on a car dealership prior to a purchase or service appointment. That site is also where, if you know what you’re looking for, you can find my earlier two scathing reviews of that former big-name Naples dealer for which I harbored such contempt. (I barely recognized that immolative writing as my own…I guess I’ve mellowed out a lot since 2004!)