Honesty is a virtue but not everybody has this quality, unfortunately. These drivers share the time they almost fell pretty to a scammy mechanic.
“Many years ago (around 1998) I took in a 1992 Isuzu Rodeo to a well-respected A/C & electrical shop where I lived – the original owner had sold it when he retired, but many of the same employees were still there, I knew the man who had taken over and I felt secure in the quality of their work.
As suspected, I needed a compressor – OK…I planned on keeping the vehicle so I sprung for a new (not rebuilt) one. In a couple of days it was done and I picked it up, and everything worked fine.
About a year after the repairs, the A/C again had issues, so I took it back to the same shop – when I got there I pulled the original receipt from the glove box and lo and behold was surprised to find a note in with the other stuff saying ‘If you can find a good looking used compressor use it and charge for a new one’ in the owner’s handwriting. Somehow it had gotten into my papers undiscovered until that time.
When I went to the shop manager I gave them the paperwork and was promptly told there was no warranty after a year. That was when I asked to see the owner, who wasn’t there at the time – when I went back later to meet him I asked the same thing and received the same answer. That’s when I pulled out a photocopy of his handwritten note and gave it to him, saying ‘last year you charged me for a new compressor but put in a rebuilt one – either you can deal with me in a fair way THIS TIME or I’ll contact everyone who has authority over your shop and the news media and show them the original of this note YOU wrote’.
He read the note, paused for a few seconds, and then told the shop manager to install a new compressor at no charge for parts & labor. He said it would be ready the next day and I told him ‘No, I’ll wait,’ until it was completed – it was done within a couple of hours.
That was the last time I ever went there, but I kept the note and told everyone I knew about the cheating, lying manner in which I’d been treated. The shop ended up being sold a few years later and I don’t know what happened to the owner. It is no longer in business.”
That’s Not A Repair…That’s Sabotage
“We recently bought out my wife’s company car, a Subaru Legacy, which we got a great deal on. Shortly before, while the car was still owned by the fleet, we had taken the car in to the dealership for an oil change. This was before it got warm enough to need the air conditioner. Along comes summer and we notice the AC isn’t putting out cold air. I pop the hood and notice the wires to the compressor have been cut. I took a number of pictures from various angles took the car back to the dealership and acted stupid, as if I had no idea why the AC was suddenly not working.
An hour later they called to let me know they discovered that the wires had been chewed through, probably by a rat, and said the entire wiring harness needed to be replaced at a cost of somewhere around $400–600. I lost my cool and told them they were lying to me and said it was obvious the wires had been cut. The service manager then told me they had found evidence of a rat’s nest under the hood. I told him I had taken a number of pictures of the engine compartment and that I had not seen any evidence of any rodent and said the wires were cut far too clean for them to have been chewed through and that it was pretty obvious this had been done when the car had last been in for service.
Thankfully my wife had a good relationship with the fleet manager and called him and asked for advice. He said to give us an hour and he’d get back to us. The dealership reached out shortly afterward and said they would be taking care of the damage at no charge to us. Apparently the fleet manager told them it seemed as though they were trying to take advantage of the fact that it was a fleet car (as it would have been had we not bought it out), had likely cut the wires expecting the fleet would be covering the repair bill (as they would have done had the car still been a fleet vehicle) and he was prepared to recommend blacklisting Subaru over their actions.
We will never take our car back to Carter Subaru in Shoreline (Seattle) again. Clearly they’re not to be trusted.”
That’s Why You ALWAYS Check For Yourself
“I’ve caught them lying about a needed repair, but we didn’t authorize the work on the car.
My wife brought her car into a shop nearby for an oil change and brake pad replacement. I used to do that sort of stuff myself, but over the years, my time outweighs the cost of doing things like that.
Anyway, the shop tells the wife that we need to replace all the rotors, they can’t be turned due to deep grooving, and quotes her some ungodly amount. I tell her that I can do it for a quarter of what they’re charging. I even went to the parts shop and bought new rotors, shoes, and pads, so I could get started that afternoon.
Once she got home, I look at the rotors and while there were marks of uneven wear, there is not a single deep groove in any of them. For a sanity check, I ask my neighbor to come over and tell me what he thinks. He had the same conclusion that all we needed was a resurface.
I then take the car to the shop I normally go to and trust, and actually tell them I may need new rotors. The reason I told them is partly because I trust them but want them to thoroughly inspect the rotors, and partly because I still want to test their integrity.
As a sidenote, while I’m no mechanic, I’ve been turning wrenches on cars for a long time. I purposely act like I know nothing about repair when I go to a shop to see how they’ll treat me though.
After inspecting, this shop tells me I don’t need new rotors, they can tell the ones on the car have never been turned, and just recommend a resurface. No warping, no deep grooves, just normal wear. Because I act ‘auto illiterate’ he even went into how under normal circumstances, we could have them turned at 1 or 2 more times before having to replace them, and also explained problems once they’re shaved too thin.
After paying a small amount and waiting for the resurface and pad replacement, I now had to go home, load up, then return all the parts I bought but didn’t need. So much for saving time.
BTW, I love that shop. They aren’t the cheapest, but they’re fair and honest. I’ve even seen them talk customers out of services they don’t need, and give the reasons why. They’re the only place I’ve ever seen that actually tells their customers that outside of extreme driving conditions, oil doesn’t need to be changed as often as every 3k miles, and pulls the recommended schedule for the car. They actually turn away easy money for the benefit of their customers.”
It’s Good To Have Mechanic Friends
“I had a rather nice little Audi A4 Cabriolet (3.0 V6 Quattro), which at one point started leaking coolant. I had had it serviced at the local Audi garage (yes, I was stupid), I took it to be looked at by my excellent local garage run by two brothers who have consistently been brilliant.
One of them looked at where the leak was coming from and said that he’d have to dismantle half the engine to get at it, as the leak was from somewhere between the two cylinder banks. I peered in with a lamp and — yep — It was leaking badly from somewhere in there, but I could see it was going to be a pain in the butt to get to.
So I said ‘go for it’ — when I picked up the car the next day, the mechanic showed me the seal he had pulled — no, chiseled out like some kind of maniac.
But as the Audi mechanic had been putting things together, it clearly slipped, and only one fastener held it in place. The rest was rotated about 90°. Of course, it didn’t seal anything, and the coolant must have waterfalled out. So — genius — instead of fixing it properly, he smeared some sort of goop all around it until it hardened and kept the coolant where it was supposed to be. As you might expect, this absolute mess of a repair job had sprung a leak…
My brilliant mechanic took it all apart, chiseled the cemented goop away, cleaned everything up and installed the seal properly. Problem solved.
These two brothers are my mechanic heroes, and they know it.”
Don’t Cheat On Your Mechanic!
“I stayed with my sister-in-law in Gaithersburg, MD (two states away from my home in NC) while doing an art show in Frederick, MD. At the end of the last day of the show, after tear-down and loading up my little Ford pickup truck, exhausted beyond belief, I was finally on my way back to Lesli’s.
Problem, though. I saw that my battery wasn’t charging. It was getting late, I was in an unfamiliar area, and while I considered it, it was probably a really bad idea to try to make it to Lesli’s before the battery ran out of juice. But I was in luck! There was an open store and it had ‘batteries’ in its name. What a relief.
They discovered that I had a bad alternator. They could change it for me right then and there. Great! I asked for a rebuilt one (something that is not out of the ordinary). They said no-can-do—they only had brand new ones in stock. A rebuilt one wasn’t in the budget, let alone a brand new one, but I had no choice. They put in their brand new alternator, I winced while handing over my credit card, but was grateful nonetheless.
Two months later my regular mechanic back at home got hurt feelings when he found evidence that I’d been cheating on him—he saw that someone else had worked on my little truck. I explained about being stuck out of town with no other option, and about having to shell out for a new alternator, to boot.
He said, ‘That’s not a new alternator.’ I said, ‘No, not now. It’s been in there a couple months.’ He said, ‘Ok, but it wasn’t new when those bozos installed it. It’s a rebuilt alternator. And it’s lucky you still have it, too, because they just stuck it on with a little JB Weld.’
So. I went home and wrote a letter. Basically a narrative of who, what, when, where, why, and what I expected the store to do about it. I sent that letter to the actual facility in Frederick that took me for a ride (no response). Just for kicks, I sent that letter to the Better Business Bureau. I ALSO sent that letter to the one place it would do the most good—the Maryland Attorney General’s office.
My very reasonable request was that they reimburse me the difference in the cost of the rebuilt alternator I received, and the cost of the brand new alternator I paid for.
But when they received a letter from Maryland’s Attorney General’s office requesting information regarding my complaint, the store sent me a full refund.
Liar, Liar Pants On Fire
“I needed a new transmission. Well, I took it to one of the national chains that specialize in transmissions. Three weeks later they STILL had not finished after daily calls.
I called them to say I’m picking up my car. They told me I couldn’t because the mechanic had it in pieces.
I showed up (with my spare key) and found it perfectly put together, covered in dirt from sitting there for three weeks.
They had the audacity to try and charge me. I told them they did not do anything but they wanted to charge me because they had to put it back together for me.
I popped the hood and every bolt and battery terminal was caked with oil and dirt (was a very oily car). I asked them how they managed to put all of the oil and dirt back over every single bolt.
They let me leave.
I took it to this sketchy place next (closest to the other place because the transmission was really not drivable). These muscle-bound dudes came out and gave me a quote (at least a fourth of what the other place charged.)
Turned out they were powerlifters and needed a place to lift so they bought the garage for their weights and lifted the transmissions with their bare hands into place.
They were the best mechanics I’d ever used. Oh, and they did it in one day. Took it off, rebuilt it, and put it back together in less than 36 hours.”
Some Crossed Wires
“Many years ago, just after I got my driver’s license, my Mother had a ’72 Ford Gran Torino. We had a family friend who had just given it a tune-up and it needed a smog test so she could renew her registration and get tags. She asked me to take it down to Tune-Up Masters in San Fernando, CA for the test.
When I got there, the guy said there was a line, it would take about 45 minutes, so I gave him the keys and walked over to the Carls Jr next door where a few friends worked. When I returned, he said the car had failed the smog test and needed a tune-up, did I want them to go ahead and do it? They said it would run about $120, I said no and drove home. On the way back, there was something noticeably wrong and it ran very rough.
When I got home and told my Mom, she called the friend and I drove it straight over. When he looked, they had swapped two of the spark plug wires to cause it to run rough and fail the test, he swapped them back and it ran like a top again.
My Mother called a family friend, Fred. Freds older brother just happened to be a Vice President for Tune-Up Masters. Fred’s brother spoke to both me and my Mother, then said he’d call us right back. His next call was to our mechanic friend. Fifteen minutes later, I was driving back to Tune-Up Masters for a free retest, which I passed this time. The very unhappy manager watched the whole thing then made a call while I was there, and looked even unhappier after the call!
Fred’s brother called my Mother and said there had been numerous complaints about this location, but now he had evidence from a very trusted source, so had taken action, firing the store manager over the phone as I was standing there. Every mechanic in the place was also put on notice that if this happened again, they would all be gone!
As Lincoln said, ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.’ This guy tried to fool the wrong person, a 17-year-old kids Mother with connections!”
Even Experience Mechanics Get Cheated
“Being a mechanic for over 40 years you think I would know better and not get taken advantage of but it has happened to me. My wife’s Lexus ES-350 had an AC problem so we took it a place called Drivers Auto Repair. They diagnosed the problem as a faulty expansion valve which would require dash board removal to replace. They quoted a price of $1500.00 for the repair and said they could have out by 5:30 the same evening. Red Flag number 1: (I could not see them removing the dash and re-installing it in one day)
We authorized the repair and they called us around 5 that the vehicle was ready. I had checked online about average repair costs for expansion valve replacement and they were about 50% high. Red flag number 2. We paid for the repair and were informed that there was additional work required to bring the vehicle up to safety standards. The quoted cost of the repairs would be around $3000.00. I told them I would think about it. We took the vehicle home and I started checking it out. I first discovered that there were no signs that the dash had been removed. Red flag number 3. I then lifted the front hood and discovered the expansion valve was outside the firewall in the engine compartment. Red flag number 4. I then decided we had been bamboozled. (cheated)
When the service representative called me to ask if we wanted the additional work done I told him that we would not be bringing our vehicle back to them ever. I told him they had lied to us and I would not trust them to do any further work on my vehicles. He was not happy to have been found out. Other than telling others not to take their vehicles there we did not take further action. I think they just put Freon in the vehicle and sent it down the road thinking we would not be the wiser. The problem happened again and it turned out to be a leaking evaporator core which did require the dash to be removed to be replaced.
I am happy to report that the automotive repair shop went out of business shortly thereafter.
Just goes to show you that even experienced service technicians can get cheated.”
The Scam That Still Makes His Blood Boil
“I got royally scammed and it still makes my blood boil!
Years ago, I bought my then-wife an SUV to replace the two-door car that we had when our daughter was born. I had spent some time as a body shop manager in a dealership before switching careers, and when the transmission began acting funny, I contacted one of my old employees to see if there was a technical service bulletin for that issue. Turned out that there was, and the issue was in the ignition switch, of all places. The switch would throw the transmission into a safety mode where it would start out on second gear, skip third and shift directly into high. It was horrible for power!
I took the vehicle to the dealership that it was bought from that just so happened to be a franchise for the brand of SUV we had bought from them. No brainer, right?
When the wife went to pick the vehicle up, there was a $750 bill for an internal wiring harness to the transmission. She was unsure of what was going on and paid the bill and brought the vehicle home…. And it acted up again on the way home.
I was off the following day, so I took the vehicle back in and asked to speak with the general manager. The service manager came out and immediately began telling me that we needed a replacement transmission. ‘It’s a common problem for that model,’ he said and began describing the internals of the transmission. I once again asked to speak with the general manager, but not until I had the service manager put the estimate for repairs in writing.
Finally, after an almost three-hour wait and at least five more requests to speak with them, the general manager came out. I informed him of the charges, showed him the written estimate, and lay the technical service bulletin on top of the estimate. His face turned white and he asked where I got the technical service bulletin. I told him it’s available online, it’s a recall from GM, and he was going to refund my money, or I was going to every newspaper with the proof that they were taking advantage of what they thought was a woman that didn’t know any better.
I got the money refunded, but I refused to do business with them again.”
Don’t Mess With A Military Spouse!
“Back in 1996, we bought a Nissan 4×4 manual transmission pickup truck. We drove it for about two years. The mileage piled up and the 100,000-mile warranty was depleted. I was headed home one day and shifted gears, heard some grinding and clunking, had difficulty pulling the gearshift… then I heard a ping, a clunk, and a zing, and watched something fling itself down the road from my rearview mirror. I somehow managed to drive the remaining eight miles to home and called a repair shop. They towed the truck and called later to tell me I would need the whole transmission rebuilt. I gave the go-ahead and scraped up the cash. $1600… ouch! A week or so later, it was good to go, or so they said. They had recommended I get the clutch done as well, but money was tight, so I had to put that on hold.
Two days after I picked it up, I heard something grinding again. I called them. They immediately blamed the clutch. I took it to another garage for a second opinion. They looked it over and said my clutch had another 5000 miles or so to go, but recommended repair. They also suspected something wasn’t right with the transmission repair and I would need to take it back where I had it done to have it checked. I had them do the clutch. They told me what I already knew, that the clutch and transmission worked together, but one wouldn’t cause the other to have the issues I was having.
So I called the place that did the transmission. They were still adamant that my ‘faulty clutch’ had caused the problem. I took it back along with a written statement from the other garage that they had replaced it, and it had zero to do with the transmission problem. So they start over. They called to tell me that some of the bearings in the housing hadn’t been replaced and it would cost another $450.
At that point, I had already done my homework, so I knew they were in trouble. A complete rebuild included all the parts, every nut, bolt, gear, and bearing inside that transmission housing that should have been replaced whether it looked good or not. The cost of the rebuild included all those parts…
I explained that to them, quoting word for word the laws regarding a complete rebuild. I also reminded them of their shop warranty on the work. I might be a woman, but I’m not stupid!! So you WILL repair it, and I won’t be paying another dime. They finally agreed.
So they called back stating it would be another week or so before it was completed because they had to order the parts. Ha! Wrong!! I told them they had 72 hours and they’d better figure it out because I would be contacting the BBB and the local investigative news. This was San Diego, we were a military family, my husband was deployed, and boy, they would just love to do a piece on how this garage was ripping off a military wife… I got another call 15 minutes later that they sent a driver to LA to pick up the parts and my truck would be ready in three days.
Three days later, I picked up my truck. Perfect. Shifted like it was brand new!
Do your homework ladies and gentlemen. Never let a garage run you over and clean out your savings account!! Ask questions, research and document everything. Those dirty garages will rip you off in a heartbeat if they think they can get away with it!”