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Old 26th June 2016, 18:58   #1
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Default Bad experience at Apollo Motorworks, Lonavla

With the monsoon finally upon us, many folks from Pune and Mumbai wish to spend their weekend making a trip to Lonavala and Khandala, enjoying the rains.

This is also the season where most car/bike breakdowns happen. I wish to highlight the ordeal one might have to go through if their car breaks down.
My experience is based on the services provided on the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway and Lonavala city.

Yesterday, my uncle was on his way to satara when his car stalled in the ghat section of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. His car is a used 2009 Mahindra Logan CNG/Petrol 1.6. The car had run over 75k Kms without a hitch before he bought it off from his friend. Now this was the first major highway run after getting the car, it ran butter smooth until the ghat section when it started to sway a little. Assuming a puncture, he stopped the car on the side and there was none. The car wouldn't start after this point. Now here's where the actual troubles start. Knowing the car wouldn't start, it was decided that it would be towed to the nearest mechanic to get it fixed.
Now one might expect that i will rant about the non existence of towing trucks but no, on the contrary this is a rant about how these emergency services personnel tried to rip us off.

There seems to be a tow truck mafia in place here. The mindset here is not to help the victim, but to extort as much money possible out of unsuspecting victims. Figures went upwards of 3k for towing the car to a garage in lonavala. One might expect a proper tow truck for that much money but instead all you get is a pickup truck pulling your car with a rope.
After hours of calling and waiting he was able to get a proper tow truck at decent cost. What bothers me is that shouldn't emergency services like these be free ? or at least be regulated ? Shame, there's a money extortion plot here too and the cops are involved as much as everyone else.

Now the ordeal doesn't stop here, there's a monopoly in place here. All the vehicles being towed are brought down to apollo garage in lonavala. They flat out refused to take the car anywhere else. The garage is run by a crook and all he wants to do is squeeze money out of you.

Most of us will be already out of their minds and would want the car to be fixed and on its way asap. This is exactly what they use to extort money from you.

Our car had it's timing belt snap during the ascend in the ghat. As my uncle used to own a garage, he was familiar with the guts of the machine. To his surprise, the garage owner consistently kept on insisting that there is a complete valve blowout, the valves have bent and needed to be replaced and that we should pay up 10k and leave the car there for at least 3 days. This is upfront extortion. Fortunately, not all the mechanics there are crooked like the owner and one of them advised us to get the timing belt sourced from elsewhere as the owner refused to get it as he wanted to keep the car there for longer. The owner simply refused to get the part saying "Poora lonavala chaan maaro nahi milega".

It was 2pm when i got a call about the breakdown. I quickly had lunch and left in search of all the mahindra service centers starting from satara where i stay, all the way to pune. It was only by 6.30 pm that i was able to find the part at Mahendra Sahyadri Motors, Swargate. They were very helpful in finding the part across their service centers in pune. I left for lonavala by 7 and reached around 8.15.

We had to arrange "chai pani" for the mechanic to coax him into staying as the owner was trying to send him away hoping we'd leave the car there out of no option. He'd even had asked to open up the engine so that the car won't leave ( Worked out in our favor since he didn't know i was on my way with the parts).

The car was finally fixed by the mechanic after a lot of reluctance and interference by the owner. We had to grease his pockets for him to stay back and had agreed to drop him home on our way back.

It wasn't the breakdown that made us mad. It's how people don't leave the slightest of a chance to fleece people who are already victims.

It's like going to a doctor with toothache and coming back home with your knee operated.

Lonavala is packed during this season and there is very heavy traffic on all the roads. Most failures are just cars stalling due to overheating as the traffic jams last hours at times. We thought he's just trying to fleece us because it was a seemingly major job but as it turns out, we ran into fellow colleagues who were also fleeced by the same shop earlier in the morning. Their car had over heated and the shop demanded 500 rupees just to put a bucket of water in the radiator. They were later asked to pay 3000 rupees for a new radiator citing radiator has "jammed" and broken and needs replacement.

Apollo being the only and the nearest "Big" garage in the area, it has sort of become a monopoly. Quoting exorbitant rates for small jobs and over stating problems and fleecing people with un necessary repairs seems like a daily thing that goes on there now.

The point of this post was to create some awareness among all the users on the forum who might be considering taking a trip to lonavala, and in general to share my bad experience. I would also like to know if anyone has similar experiences.

Note to MODS: I am not sure if this post belongs in this section, or if this even warrants a thread of it's own. Feel free to move it to the appropriate section.
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Old 27th June 2016, 11:45   #2
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Default re: Bad experience at Apollo Motorworks, Lonavla

@hakunabatata - Thanks for pointing out the errant service center.

It is always wise to contact MASS (Manufacturer authorized service center ) in case of breakdown while you are on a long journey. This avoids getting into such issues in unknown garages. Also the resolution will be much quicker and the fix would be permanent. Also there are very little chances of getting ripped off. The rates may be higher but worth the money you pay for breakdown fixes.

If there is any dispute later there is always the manufacturer's sales/customer service department to help arbitrate the issue.

Also one can't expect free/subsidized breakdown service on Indian highways. What we should and do expect is a professional service using proper equipment.
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