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Auto mechanics ripping you off

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Walter_Sobchak, Nov 29, 2007.

  1. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Active Member

    Today I went to the local Firestone to get a bunch of stuff done (oil change, tires rotated/balanced) and some additional stuff that's called for in the owners' manual that was somewhat overdue (transmission fluid changed, radiator flush).

    I left my keys around 2 p.m. and was told it'd be a couple hours. I went to the mall down the street for an hour, came back and sat in the waiting room. At 4 p.m. I asked how long it would be and the guy says a little bit longer. So I leave to go to the Dunkin' Donuts behind the shop, and I find my car sitting there in the back lot.

    So I go and get my coffee, come back and ask my guy what the deal was. He says, oops, made a mistake, your car's all set. I have no idea how long the car was sitting there, but I get the feeling they didnt do everything I wanted, and I was charged almost $400 for everything. On top of that, they tell me I need new struts, which would come in at the bargain price of $1,700.

    I know I'm getting ripped off, but I don't know dick about cars. Anyone have any suggestions on how I can proceed? I probably should have raised a bit more hell and I do have an itemized bill, but I want to know if they did everything they say they did.

    I'm never going there again, but again, how do you find a mechanic that isn't going to rip you off and can be honest about what you truly need? I keep thinking about George Costanza's line.... "Well, of course they're trying to screw you. What do you think?
    That's what they do. They can make up anything. Nobody knows. "By the way, you need a new Johnson rod in there." "Oh, a Johnson rod. Yeah, well, you better put one of those on."

    Sorry for the long-winded, pointless post. I just needed to rant. But helpful advice would be appreciated.
  2. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    Word of mouth is usually the best way to find someone trustworthy and reliable.

    Ask some people at work, ask some friends, ask some relatives.

    That usually will work.
  3. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Norm is right.

    A good mechanic is a gift more valuable than gold. My wife and I have had two great ones in the 10 years we've lived together...I don't remember how we found our current guy, but he is an absolute godsend. A few years ago, we were trying to nurse a couple more months out of my wife's beat up Chevy...her uncle is a Rain Man of cars and gave us some suggestions for the mechanic to try. He comes back to us and says "Look, I'll do this if you want. but you're just throwing money away. I could fix this and then next week the head gasket goes and you're out another thousand. This is a money pit."

    A few months ago, I was picking up one of our cars and I thanked him again for always being honest with us. he said I wouldn't believe some of the shit I hear about other garages and that, sure, he's in this to make a living but he realizes he can get more business by being a solid guy as opposed to just trying to screw people.

    My favorite story: A couple years ago, I was putting off junking my old car (sentimental and lazy and all that). I get a notice from a towing company employed by the apt complex that they'll tow my junker if it's not gone in 24 hours. I call my mechanic to see if he can tow it to his place for a couple days until I can junk it...I figure he'll tell me to go fuck myself. Instead, he says he'll be right there. Unbelievable. A godsend.

    (Reminds me I need an oil change and an inspection)
  4. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Never, ever leave your car without specific instructions on what needs to be done and without getting a price quote.
  5. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Active Member

    We agreed on what needed to be done and how much it was gonna cost. I just don't think they, you know, did it. And I want to find out how I can figure out if the work was actually done.
  6. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    I was once in a similar situation buying tires at Goodyear -- including the "you need new struts" line. They told me to leave the car and come back in two hours. I walked to a mall, killed three hours, went to pick up the car. My car was now on the lift, tires off... and they hadn't done a single thing to it, but had a new list of things they felt it needed. I told them to put my old tires back on the car and get it the hell off the lift, because I was leaving. He warned me I was putting myself in grave danger by driving on the struts.

    I drove 1000 miles over the next two days, then took the car to a different mechanic and asked him to check the struts. He got on one knee, glanced under the car for literally two seconds, and said "nope - struts are fine."

    If I ever return to a Goodyear shop it will be to through a brick through the front window.
  7. Hustle

    Hustle Guest

    You could take it for a second opinion, once you get those recommendations from your friends, etc...

    Before I got my current ride, my '99 Jimmy was on its last legs. I was driving up 95 one day to softball when I hit a bump, and all of a sudden the gas pedal doesn't work. Worse, I'm smelling gas. I pull over, wife calls AAA and it gets towed.

    Some sort of coupling on the fuel line busted. A $30 or so part that, because of circumstances they didn't foresee, cost more than $300 in labor. I've not been back to the place, nor will they ever get another dime of my money.

    Lastly: An internet friend in Ohio is married to a guy that's a mechanic. She claimed that they've got a book that estimates how long it'll take to replace a given part/do given work, and you get charged that rate no matter how long it actually takes.
  8. Sleeper

    Sleeper Member

    In a past life I worked at a few chain automotive repair places. There's a pretty easy way to see if you really need new struts/ shocks.

    First of all, the easiest way to tell if your struts are bad is if your car bounces all over the road after going over a bump. Second, with the car parked, you can push down hard on each of the four corners of your car. If the car doesn't "bounce" -- i.e., the corner of the car simply levels out immediately after you let go and doesn't continue going up down on its own -- you don't need new struts.

    Struts are a major pain in the ass to replace usually, which is why it costs so much (although $1,700 sounds really high). And if you replace the front struts, you'll need the car to be aligned, which adds another chunk of change to your bill.

    I'd definitely get a second opinion.
  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Getting recommendations from neighbors is good.

    I try to avoid chain places. Look for a guy who's got his name on the biz, who lives nearby, who has roots. If they sell gas, buy gas there regularly even if it isn't the cheapest, maybe not every time, but enough so they see you regularly. Start them with something small, an oil change, see how they do business. Talk to them like you would with any neighbor. If they seem like good guys, they probably are, if they don't, follow your instinct. Make sure you drop by with a case of beer or a bottle of Jack around Christmas.

    My all-time favorite mechanic has since become mayor of that 5,000-population town. Think he's gonna screw people who will be voting for him? (Oh. Never mind.) Anyway, I live about 20 minutes away now, but if I need an opinion on something, I drive over. Also, I make campaign contributions. The first time I did that, I'm driving away and I think, holy shit, I'm not even sure what party he is -- did I just give money to a Republican? But he's a Dem. Last time I needed his opinion was a little more than a year ago. He looked it over and wouldn't charge me. I said, well, do you need a campaign contribution instead? He said yeah, that would be good, the other candidate was trying to buy the election. He was on the town council and it was his first mayoral campaign. I think the people in that town made an execllent choice -- very solid guy.
  10. OTD

    OTD Active Member

    I've got a good mechanic, thank goodness. He's waved me off a few times when I thought something needed to be done and he said it didn't.

    I didn't used to go there for oil changes because I couldn't always get in when I wanted. Once I took it to Sears. The guy insisted I needed a radiator flush. I told him I'd just had one about a month before (at my actual mechanic). He said some test proved it. I suspect that test ALWAYS proves it. Last time I went there.

    Walter, if you DO need new struts, they shouldn't be $1700. You might be able to tell if the tires have been rotated. Look at them--if they were dirty, do they have finger marks on them where they would've grabbed them? You might be able to tell if the radiator's been flushed. If the fluid looks rusty, it wasn't. Check the oil--does it look kind of golden or black? If it's black, it wasn't changed. Tranny fluid's hard to tell without draining it, but you can check the level. There should be instructions for that in your owner's manual.
  11. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Yeah, they usually go by what they see in the Chilton or Hayes manuals. Those are usually available in the reference section of your library, so you can get an idea of what you may be facing.
  12. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    Well, Mr. Sobchak, if you're going to throw down the Seinfeld lines, I'm not sure what my purpose is. ...

    George: Well, of course they're trying to screw you. What do you think? That's what they do. They can make up anything. Nobody knows. "By the way, you need a new Johnson rod in there." "Oh, a Johnson rod. Yeah, well, you better put one of those on."

    My suggestion is to always take your car to your local dealership for your vehicle's make. I've got a Honda, so it might just be that company, but I've never felt more confident in a mechanic as when my car was in a Honda garage.

    Who knows? Maybe you'll find this guy:

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