At the end of the day, automotive repair shops are out to make money. A good shop wants to serve its customers and attend to their needs along with turning a profit, but, unfortunately, there are a lot of mechanics out there who will take every opportunity to inflate your bill.
When it becomes necessary to visit a mechanic shop during the course of your car ownership, don’t go in unarmed. Being aware of some common scams, schemes, and traps can help you save money and identify reliable mechanics you can trust your car to.
Have you ever gone in for a $40 oil change only to be told you need hundreds of dollars in car repairs and maintenance?
Most every motorist has experienced this at some point: You go into a shop for something small, and the mechanic reveals a list of “urgent” repairs you didn’t know you needed. Too often, the reason you aren’t aware your car needs this work done is because it doesn’t.
When a mechanic tells you your car—which has been running just fine—isn’t safe to drive until you have work performed that amounts to hundreds or thousands of dollars, that’s when you should get a second opinion.
Word to the wise: When you go in for that second opinion, don’t tell the second repair shop what the first mechanic’s diagnosis or cost estimate was.
Beware the trap of coolant flushes, power steering flushes, transmission flushes, and other such automotive work.
It’s very common for mechanic shops to tell drivers they need one of these services, but the reality is that many cars have coolant and power steering fluid that has been designed to last up to 100,000 miles. So unless your car has very high mileage, it’s highly doubtful you actually need a coolant or power steering flush.
Transmission flushes are also a big money-making scam perpetrated by repair shops. The reality is that manufacturers don’t recommend tranny flushes, and they’re almost never necessary.
Drivers should also question it when a mechanic says an engine flush is needed. Engine flushes are not a common maintenance item. If your engine is running too hot or has been neglected, it could be gunked up with sludge and need a flush—but to know for sure, simply take a look into your oil filler cap for deposits.
Another service that is typically not necessary is fuel-injection cleaning. Many additives you can purchase yourself will do the job just fine. If a mechanic tells you your car needs a fuel injection cleaning, but your vehicle has been operating just fine and your “check engine” light isn’t on, adopt Nancy Reagan’s philosophy and just say no. You might also consider going to a different mechanic next time. Ask trusted friends for recommendations, and look online for reviews of local shops to find one you can trust.
March 28, 2016 by Jamie Rettig