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Feeling Cheated?
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Posted On: 9/7/2011 1:01PM
kingdomboost

As a mechanic, I never like delivering bad news to a customer; it's not one of my favorite parts of the job. I don't like telling a customer their 5-year-old heavy duty truck needs $1600 worth of brakes, front coil springs (because they are broken and dangerous), tires, ball joints, tie rod end and work to pass state inspection, but I must if that's the case. I don't like telling the single mother that her car needs tires because the ones she has now have metal cords worn through the edges and are about to blow out, but someone has to tell her there's a problem. How many customers check the inner shoulders of their tires? How many remove their wheels every week to check out their brake specs? Very few. And that's why I have a job. Continue reading...

Nobody wants to come to a mechanic. They are there because they HAVE to be. Very few people maintain their cars, let alone repair them if there is a problem. That's why many states have state inspections. Now let's be clear here: I'm not the kinda guy that goes looking for spiders. I know the difference between 5/32's of tread and bald. I can reasonably judge at what point a given customer is going to need those rear brake shoes replaced. I can sleep at night, because my living is honest and straightforward. If it's dangerous, I say so. If it's not, I tell them. If they have time before a repair is needed, I let them know. If mechanical trouble is looming on their horizon, I tell them they may want to make a decision soon.

Our shop is very well established in most every way, but this week I pretty much got called a cheat by a newer customer who doesn't know us. Straight to my face. After delivering the bad news concerning the aforementioned 5-year-old heavy duty truck needing so much work he pretty much shot the words "BS" and "I don't believe it". That's fine. I guess if I had a 5-year-old pickup truck that seemed to drive fine (mind you, it didn't) I'd be pretty upset too at a mechanic telling me I was on the hook for $1600 worth of work, none of it warranty. What's worse, if it doesn't get the work done, it doesn't get a sticker for the state. Mr. Officer keeps CLOSE tabs on that around here. of course, this fine gentleman waited until last minute, that is, Aug 30th to get his inspection done.

As they say, "the proof is in the pudding". I'm pretty sure he got bad news from a shop before me because he didn't go storming out when I broke it to him. Rather, he demanded proof. I actually LOVE it when a customer does that, because I love to be vindicated of any accusation they make against me. Vindication that I don't have to rub in, because the problems with their vehicle are so straight up it's in your face when inspected. Totally proveable, totally valid. All the more reason to be straight.

I showed Mr. C his busted coil springs, ready to slip off their perches and cause a severe control issue or tire blowout. I showed him the tires that were down PAST the wear bar (illegal here and actually citable) and almost bald. I took the brakes apart and showed him where his pad backing had ground into his rotors (he didn't hear a thing; I heard it immediately) and even showed him the specs with a micrometer that proved his rotors were already undersized and uncuttable. I even bolted on his wheels and proved that his balljoints were so bad they needed replacement, and backed it up with factory specs. Mind you, I did this ALL on my own dime in good faith. As satisfied as he could be that I wasn't lying, and a bit miffed at a new truck needing so much, we hit the office. Then it came to pricing, and every part and charge was called into question. My labor rate (which is actually slightly below the area average), my parts, every little thing called into play. I charge too much. I'm ripping peeps off.

See folks, it's ok for a dentist to make $1000 an hour. Nobody bats an eyelash at that because we have insurace that could pick that up. No one cares that a family practice doctor can bank $200 off of one 15 minute visit, and forget the fact he or she gets major kickbacks and perks from pharmaceutical companies that pretty much cover their office overhead. It's a-ok for a CEO to make MILLIONS of dollars by closing American factories, blowing American worker's pensions and shipping our jobs overseas because it's cheaper to pay some kid in a sweatshop in Burma half a cent to make a product then ship it over here. After all, we expect that from them, it's what they do. No problem, but this jerk mechanic wants to charge me how much to repair my car??

It comes down to this: I have costs too! I have thousands of dollars worth of hand tools, just hand tools, that I have to buy in order to even service vehicles nowadays. That does NOT include the $10,000 scanner I have to buy to scan and repair generic OBDII systems, and that I have to update every year. It's doesn't include the money I have to pay out of my own pocket to buy special electronic tools in order to diagnose and repair today's cars that are 6 times more complex than the space shuttle. It doesn't include the subscriptions and dues I have to pay to the parent companies so I can have access to technology, information, and special computers in order to remain competitive. It doesn't include the 6 lifts I have to service and repair if they break. Forget the schooling I have to pay for, forget the ASE's I have to get, forget the fact that every ounce of electricity that comes into my shop has a price tag on it, not to mention the water, gas, checmicals, special tools and equipment, supplies, uniforms, heat, benefits, mechanics' wages, staff, office stuff, advertising, maintenance and shop and grounds upkeep. All those things don't come for free, nor cheap. The owner has to write a check for each and every one.

Folks, that stuff has to get paid for. Someone has to pay for it. I don't like telling the customer that they're the ones who have to pay for it, but let's be real here; it's business like any other business. The consumer supports the industry. Thus the reason football is a billion dollar industry. So is music and entertainment. I don't work for free. Why should I? No one feeds my kids for free. My kids don't go to school for free. My clothes aren't free. My cars break, too. My house wasn't given to me. Heck, my entertainment isn't even free. In reality, when you consider the "cost of business" increases within the industry over the past 30 years, mechanics should charge nearly $300 an hour for the amount of tools, specializations and overhead involved. We don't. Why not? Because there's no health insurance for cars to cover that cost. That comes out of the owner's pocket, and most of us in the industry respect that such costs would break your back, and in turn break ours. 

All said, if you own a car, you are going to pay money some way or another. Be it in maintenance for your 2011 model (still gotta change the oil!) or repairs and upkeep on your '87 Celebrity. It's part of car ownership that no one likes to address, we address it because we have to at that time. Owning a car is a privledge, and sometime you gotta pay to play. After all, if it was cheap and easy then anyone could do it.

So just remember, if you get handed a bill for some serious cash to fix you car, the likelyhood is the mechanic isn't trying to rip you or trick you, he's just trying to keep the doors open and put food on the table. That's what he's paid for. If you're looking for a cheat, turn off your reality tv and look at government and big business. You should be more worried about that anyway!

Keep it real. God bless.

Jer.

 

Comments (38)
Avatar By: jbrinkcivic
9/7/2011 1:20 PM

Excellent post; well written and accurate. Well said.

 
Avatar By: M45lover
9/7/2011 1:24 PM

True. I feel dealorships service people rip you off more than some mechanic will. Then again most people know their mechanics, at least the people i know do. No one rips off their friends.

 
Avatar By: cknarf
9/7/2011 1:27 PM

It all depends on the shop. There's some crooked bastards out there. Luckily there's a couple honest shops left in this town...

 
Avatar By: MrAMC1
9/7/2011 1:56 PM

This is why I advocate for a reliable and fair local shop vs a chain repair shop. Most of the private shop owners want to do the right thing and just make the repairs necessary to keep the car safe. They know people don't need to pay for unnecessary work and will work with the customer to easy the pain of needed repairs. Cars do break and need maintenance. An honest mechanic will work with you and do needed work with a fair labor rate. Some shmo at Monroe will just throw $100 worth of Chinese parts at something that "looks bad" and give you a $1200 bill. He has no interest or investment in the chain store so he could give a crap how much it costs the customer or if the customer ever comes back. The private mechanic can't and shouldn't act like that. If 95% of car owners knew more about their cars than just where the gas goes they would save themselves tons of repair costs just by diagnosing problems before they turn into catastropies. With the advent of AAA people don't even know how to change a tire or what a jack or lug wrench are. They just call a number and stand there like a dummy while the tow truck driver changes the flat. That's what I want to do: wait an hour for a tow truck when I could slap the spare on in 10 min and be on my way.

 
Avatar By: usnrocker
9/7/2011 2:04 PM

ive had a "small business" mechanic royally screw up my GMC i had in high school, granted i bought all the parts for them to "professionally" install when i was more than capable and knowledgeable to replace my intake manifold. well they decided that this lil invention called Stop-Leak was a good idea for my motor and not even 3 weeks after i got my truck back from them (they had it for 1 week when it should have been an afternoon max, but they had "race cars" to work on) the damn motor seized up. since then ive only allowed 3 mechanics work on my car/truck. one was for a clutch install in my scion that i was incapable of performing due to lack of tools and lack of knowledge on FWD vehicles, same car 2 years later had my alternator replaced as well as the serp. belts... and when i had my Ram i had 1 free oil change after i bought my truck, so why not capitalize on it? i respect the "little guy" mechanic's because 9/10 of them are trying to do the right thing for their customers so they can take care of their families. its that small percentage where all the damn horror stories come from and i do feel bad for the good guys in tough economic times, yes i maintain my vehicles myself because im capable, knowledgeable, and WILLING. i dread the day i have to take a car into the dealership to have maintenance done on it.

 
Avatar By: TDWPgtp
9/7/2011 5:00 PM

ive replaced things (such as spark plugs and wires), and taken my car to a shop for an unrelated fix, only to be told that my plugs and wires (or other recently replaced part) need to be replaced. my plugs and wires were less then 3 months old... but the shop told me i needed new ones... i wish i knew of an honest shop around me

 
Avatar By: Blackcompany
9/7/2011 5:56 PM

All good reasons to pick up a haynes manual and do your own work.

 
Avatar By: ___nes___
9/7/2011 6:54 PM

This is a great post! I havent been to a mechaninc in years until this year because i moved and dont have my tools or the space/permission to work on my car. I asked the mechanic to show me parts not because i "know" more than him but because i want evidence to back his word, and i let him know that from the get go, now he's installing parts and fixing things he didnt have to for free. Now there are those crook mechanics but i respect and bring business to the honest ones.

 
Avatar By: Grimjoker
9/7/2011 9:35 PM

I def know how you feel having recently graduated from tech school and really beginning to work in a shop. Unfortunately I work in one of those national chain shops... But I do try my best to be fair to the customer and I never try to cheat customers. I still remember the day this girl broke down and cried in front of me cause she didn't have the money to do her alternator >< And then there are those customers who don't trust you or always think your out to get them. I was raised to be an honest man and it kinda hurts when I get that vibe from a customer. Lol it's such an under appreciated a job, I've even had customers get mad at me for taking my lunch(mind you it's mandatory where I work) when I'm not even the mechanic working on their car. Tho for every bad customer there are those who appreciate what I do for them. It's surprising how much a simple "Thank you" means to me. That and seeing a car leave your shop working when it came in on a tow truck is a marvelous feeling I couldn't trade for the world. Guess we as mechanics just gotta take the bad with the good.

 
Avatar By: Medazzone
9/7/2011 10:35 PM

I wonder how much he would of paid in hindsight if the brakes or tires failed when he's hauling a heavy load at highway speeds into a corner. I'm sure $1600 would of seemed like a bargian then. My father in law was a mechanic. He put up with abuse like that from out of town folks often. Including being woken up by a customer banging on the door of his out in the night for $5 of gas. Another notable time was the customer who screamed at him and the staff for an hour because the tire she bought at a third party non-affiliated store was not the right size for her car. He eventually traded the tire for one of his at no cost, mounted it, and she left without even thanking him.

 
Avatar By: retroman
9/7/2011 11:17 PM

Well said, but I still do my own work when I can, and when I know I'm in over my head, I choose my mechanics wisely, going as far as to get to know them on a personal level. Why? Because, we all can name that one shady mechanic who would rather put tape over an idiot light than fix it the right way, and it's a shame that it's those guys who give the rest of you a bad name. I don't like going to dealers if I don't have to. I've been ripped off by a shady mechanic at a dealer before. They seem to me to be the type who will be pushy about every little problem, and even create a few new ones in hopes you'd bring it back. The dealers that are reputable also charge alot more than a stand alone mechanic because of the massive overhead.

 
Avatar By: rockerben143
9/9/2011 12:54 AM

That is exactly the reason why I stick to my mechanic. My advise to all car owners? Find a mechanic that's really good and that you trust and stick with them until they prove you wrong.

 
Avatar By: kingdomboost
9/10/2011 10:12 AM

Right on Ben. This is why the shop I work for has a great customer base, and even in hard times we can stay in business. It's as they say: sometimes ya gotta dig through the dirt to find the diamond! Thank you everyone for you comments. It's great to be able to have intelligent convo even when there may be differing points.

 
Avatar By: GTwildfire
9/11/2011 11:06 AM

I've known quite a few pro mechanics, it can be a tough business. This was a well-written article. All I have to say to anyone who is able-bodied and has some basic mechnical knowledge is to learn, dive in and work on you car yourself if you don't want to or can't afford to pay a mechanic. The rest of you, just choose carefully and if you don't like what you hear, get a second opinion at another shop. Parts and labor cost money, and repair shops are businesses, not non-profits. If you car is too expensive to maintain, that should affect the choice of your next car.

 
Avatar By: bradpittman
9/11/2011 1:26 PM

So while complaining about being unfairly painted with the broad brush of a "cheating mechanic" you think it's OK to do the same to other professionals. Which family physicians get 200 dollars for 15 minutes of work? Where are these pharmaceutical company kickbacks? I must be missing out on those. I don't remember anyone offering to cover my overhead or malpractice insurance. What did your ASE certification cost you? My "certification" cost just shy of 200,000k (which I am still paying). You know how expensive that scan tool is. Well, that can be my supply bill in one month. Yes all small businesses have to deal with shrinking reimbursments and increasing costs. What I am asking is that when complain about your woes regarding public perception please refrain from painting my profession with the same broad brush. It makes you a hypocrit.

 
Avatar By: kingdomboost
9/12/2011 6:11 PM

Brad, I think you're fixating on one part of the article. Never did I insinuate that any of the professions I mentioned cheat. Look again. What I'm talking about is the costs involved in being in a shop compared to industries that are considerably higher end but dont typically cost as much out of your pocket because of the presence of things like insurance. I am not painting your profession in any sort of brush. I am simply stating facts and illustrating the contrast between a major bill that's picked up by insurance and one that is completely out of pocket. Some folks complain about having to pay a $700 bill to me (most which is NOT profit) but they don't realize the costs involved in other fields of work because they don't have to feel the pinch. I'm not sure how that makes me a "hypocrite", but I honestly appreciate your comments. Thank you, and God bless!

 
Avatar By: ben_cline
9/13/2011 12:12 AM

I couldn't say that about the mechanic I had on my '95 Contour. Back in 2002 I spent nearly $3000 to have my car fixed, mainly because my parents said I had to and they spent half of it. Next year, car was dead again. If I could have had friends do it, I would've spent around a grand to fix it. Ended up selling it to the mechanic for $500, who fixed it and had it running in no time. They also wanted $100 to install foglights. The business went under shortly after. I also took my Cougar to a local Ford dealer in the same area to check out my '93 Cougar that was suddenly having transmission issues. They charged $35 and said I needed a new transmission. They closed a couple years later. My dad took it to another person who looked at it, said he's seen similar issues, fixed the problem and only charged $25. If I had the money and knew as much about tipping people that deserve it back then, I would've given him an extra $100. This time, I'm having my friend rebuild the engine in my Celica. He works for a body shop, and does work on his own vehicles. I only drove 1000 miles on the engine, one month after purchasing. The oil was low, but he says the piston rings were trashed when I bought it with 96k mi, not something easily for anybody to just see when they look at it and drive it. Hopefully I'll get away with under $1000 in parts and labor. So far, looking at $400 in parts. Most people wouldn't be so nice to go the cheap route like he is. Of course, I was the guy nice enough to drive 4 hours to their wedding, helped set up for two days, then DJ and also take pictures. I'm gonna pay him well, because I'd be looking at $1600 to just buy the cheapest used engine off eBay. He can't make more money at work, but at least I can help him out. My younger brother got his associates degree in auto body. Worked at his first job for a few months in the hot Missouri summer and was fired soon after. They had him do the jobs nobody else wanted, and after that was done, got rid of him. He has a very good job at a cable company as their installation dispatch, bringing in new technology and administering new techniques to make their work easier. He's still under-appreciated from the higher-ups, but he likes the people he works with. Right now, he's gutting his house to get it ready for their first baby. I can't believe everything he's doing. I've seen it from both ends. I'm getting to the point that I don't even want to buy new cars. I'll just get cheap beaters and drive them until they need heavy work and junk them or pass them on to the next overachiever that wants a cheap project. I know you guys do hard work, I've been in a similar boat with appliance delivery under contract work, working until I'm exhausted and getting paid less than MacDonald's. I've also been on the labor end of charging people, getting paid $10/hour to do an installation, and charging $60/hour to do simple tasks. I've also done that work hoping to get a fat tip, and the people aren't happy because they thought you should do more and don't give you anything. Let me tell that to everyone. The people delivering your appliances get jack, and if you can pay your pizza guy a couple bucks to hand you a pizza, or the server 10% of your bill, what are you paying your delivery guy for being careful with your $2000 TV or fridge? They didn't even destroy your house, or even leave a scratch. The least you could do is tip them $10. Believe me, I've wanted to just do damage because people were ungrateful.

 
Avatar By: majicb
9/13/2011 5:03 AM

Like someone said earlier not every mechanic is out to rip you off but sometimes they are just lazy to do the right thing and instead of probably being able to fix problem which could be cheaper they will opt for just replacing the part for a new one costing a lot more. This is especially common in big chain stores as one time I remember my dads car was shifting really hard from park to drive and in the first two gears so we thought it was the tranny and of course the warranty had just ran out. Sso we took it o a few tranny shops and they all said to replace the transmission and it would be a $2000 job. So just before my dad made up his mind to fork out the money to get it replaced he remembered a small shop that had done some body work on his car froman earlier accident. He was a small shop but he would get a lot cars from the local GM dealerships. So we took it there and told him the problem and all he said was to open the hood. I opened it and fiddled around with the air intake sensor which he said had come loose and wasn't connected properly so he fixed it and the ran like new again and it only cost my $100. So it turned out it wasn't the tranny at all but just a loose wire.

 
Avatar By: timgray
9/13/2011 5:06 AM

$10,000 for your scanner? really? It's covert "lies" like this that make people not trust mechanics. My Snap ON Solus pro, the NEW one I just had to buy to replace the damaged old one, cost me $3,895.00 from the snap on guy. That is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than $10,000. This is the scanner that 99% of all shops use, it's the defacto standard ODB-II diagnostic tool outside of a Dealership.

 
Avatar By: OutskirtsCustoms
9/13/2011 6:10 AM

Speaking from experience as a mechanic I can say that this isn't half of it, He didn't even mention how your hands get beat up, cuts, bruises, scars, burns, bloody knuckles, or having to contort your hands to work in the 2 inches of space the car manufacture gives you to work in. a customer just hears oh it needs a starter and spark plugs, little do they know on certain motors you have to unbolt a motor mount and lift the engine to get the starter out (very common actually), Also there are many V6 FWD cars that you must unbolt the motor mounts and rotate the engine forward to even gain access to the rear 3 plugs. Not to mention about every vehicle I come across is greasier than KFC chicken, has 30 stripped off bolts because someone already tried to turn it with the wrong tool, and many customers only bring a vehicle in when it won't run anymore rather than keeping up on regular maintenance. I'm a mechanic and trust me my truck breaks down too but not nearly as often because if my engine has a squeak, creak, or leak I LOOK INTO IT. And my old 1984 VW Rabbit Diesel pickup's 590,000 miles with no more than scheduled maintenance and a few small repairs speaks volumes about why. What happened to the good old days when three guys would stand around an open hood every weekend with a 6 pack and do regular maintenance? I know I'm one of those guys.

 
Avatar By: asb2106
9/13/2011 6:33 AM

Timgray, while your Solus PRO is a good scanner... it is NOWHERE near the best for scanners. Snapon makes good machines, but they are basic compared to other machines - Sun Diagnostics, and others make machines in excess of $100,000. Easily more too. Its ok for you to voice your opinion on a topic, but its easier for everyone else if you did research before saying things like that. To be able to criticize and "insult" him you should do some research and have some backing for your argument... and not to be an asshole, but the SOLUS PRO is a garage enthusiast scanner (I've got one), shops use much better.

 
Avatar By: hotredga
9/13/2011 6:41 AM

I always liked the "cute and clueless" discounts at certain chain shops around here.. My fiance takes her Civic HX with a CVT, gets a 200k tune up with plugs, wires, filters, etc... 4 snow tires, timing belt service, trans service, and some sort of cleaning of the V-Tec selinoid.. $1500 and change out the door.. Considering how much work was done including timing belt and 4 new tires.. I was impressed. Took my Grand Am to get rear rotors and pads and replace both rear struts... $900! So I did the brakes myself and the following week had her schedule the appointment for the struts.. $235... So I ask, do 2 new rotors and a set of pad really take 8 hours to install or cost $600?? Oh and I did file a claim with the BBB and nothing ever came of it.

 
Avatar By: MychaelZ
9/13/2011 7:21 AM

Any work that my truck (or whatever vehicle I have at the time) needs, and which I am able to perform myself, I do myself, not because I don't trust mechanics, but because I enjoy doing the work, and it feels good to know that I've done it myself. When I'm lacking the knowledge, the tools, or the facilities to do something myself, I don't mind taking it to a mechanic. Knowing how people always seem to think mechanics are out to rip you off, however, is the primary reason I don't take courses to get certifications and become a professional mechanic. I'd rather continue to ENJOY doing automotive work, because nothing turns a hobby into a job faster than having to deal with stupid people.

 
Avatar By: MychaelZ
9/13/2011 7:46 AM

Oh, and I definitely agree with your views on doctors, dentists, and CEOs, and maybe you should have mentioned the ridiculous salaries politicians make - paid for by OUR TAXES, taxes that could be used to fix roads, build schools, pay teachers, etc. In the case of doctors and dentists, as you mention, nobody bats an eyelash, because 1) insurance covers most of it (for those who HAVE decent insurance nowadays), and 2) we consider the ridiculous cost of going to school to BE a doctor or dentist. Nobody considers the costs that go into being a mechanic - the training, the certifications, the licenses, the insurance YOU need, in the event something happens in your shop. Nobody considers that the parts supplier is charging you $80 for that brake rotor that you're charging the customer $82.50 for. And, of course, nobody minds going into an office that smells clean and disinfected, but many people have an aversion to the wonderful smells of an automotive shop.

 
Avatar By: jdwinterton
9/13/2011 8:12 AM

Well spoken my friend. Well spoken. - Jer

 
Avatar By: lovenpain
9/13/2011 8:38 AM

I understand how the me hanic business goes. I used to be one of the partners of a performance shop in town. Pretty popular for a few years. Things started to go down hill for one personal reasons. But mostly, taken on projects from stupid broke ass you kid. That got his Honda civic from mommy and daddy. Wants to add all this stuff to it. Then wrecks the car. Then mommy and daddy wants to sue us cause they didn't approve the upgrades. Or better yet, when a customer comes in. Has the awesome dream and way out there direction for his car. Gets us to start on it, in the middle of the project runs out of money. Doesn't understand why he or she can get the car back until they pay for the work due to a mechanic's lien is already placed on it. Our shop would collect about 5 cars per month!! Due to those situations. Which sucks, cause like this article regrets to the bills everyone has to pay. Who pays for all them for our shop? Customers. Funny thing we almost could have created a used car dealership in the end. But on most of the cars we either stripped the parts and auctioned them off on eBay. And the frames and remaining scraps where sent to a metal company. So all in all. If you plan to take your project to a shop. One, have a general idea what your going to get done. Do some personal research on the Internet. Fix simple stuff on your own if you can. Don't waste your money. But don't get mad when you have to pay for work to be done neither!

 
Avatar By: ChuckG360mag
9/13/2011 10:15 AM

I do most of my own work unless time or needing another pair of hands is needed. I love it when a mechanic shows me parts. That being said a few years ago I needed a transmission rebuilt. I got a guy in California to build it for me and had to get someone here (TN) to remove and reinstall it. I was quoted a price and told it would take 2 or 3 weeks. I'd been a customer there for 15 years. So to my surprise after 3 weeks of my car sitting the shop finally started to remove it. After getting my transmission back from California the real fun began. Starting with delaying putting it back in for another 2 weeks. Then we follow that with "Where's the linkage?". After my transmission guy told them to only send him the torque converter and the transmission itself with out linkage they had sent it anyway. Why is it missing because ("no fault of the shops") the shipping company lost my transmission on the way to California. (the transmission guy got me a new case and torque converter before he built the shit out of them and sent them back) However he didn't send linkage because he told the shop to keep it. So now they have my trans but no linkage. So the shop sends me to go find some. (I'm on my way out of the country,leaving in one week for a month at this point.) I find linkage they tell me my car will be ready Friday before I leave and they will call if there is a problem. So 5:30 that night I call to get my car. Now I'm told they can't find the trans mount and it will be ready Tuesday after I'm gone. So I tell them now you have time to do the freeze plugs. They tell me ok. I leave the country. I'm gone 38 days while I'm gone I spend alot of time talking to the shop as they further delay my car being ready. Then they call to tell me my car needs gas and the tank is locked. I say to them I left you a full 25 gallon tank of gas why do you need more? Besides I have the gas key because you said you didn't need it since the tank was full. So they broke my gas cap lock open to fill it. So finally 2 days before I get home my car is "finished". That was a total of 96 days at this shop. YES 96 days! I get home from the airport and immediately get in my car only to find it doesn't go into park and there is only a quarter tank of gas in it. Also I check the odometer and see over 450 miles on it (more than 2 tanks). The alignment I had done the day before the trans went out is shot, my new tire from the same day as alignment are worn wrong, The brakes are gouged and there is tall grass wrapped around many parts under my car. Let the fun begin! So not only did they charge $1,000 dollars over the quote, but It doesn't go into park and they did who knows what with it! Then I find out that the charged for gaskets they didn't use or buy (permatex instead) for oil pan and front and rear diffs. And the best part they didn't tighten up the bolts hold my front axle in place. So The whole front axle cracked all the way across the top of the center and started leaking gear oil and filled the gears with metal powder. I called the shop and was told by the owner "You (me) didn't tighten those up") Yes that's right I should have tightened up the bolts myself it seems according to him. I pointed out that they broke one of the hard lines for the transmission by clamping it, and they used permatex, ( 2 different kinds mixed together, black and orange) instead of gaskets. And he said that wasn't there problem and that no one drove my car at all. I was also charged for my K&N oil filter and mobil 1 and instead they used a wix filter and castrol syntec! All said and done some mechanics do rip you off and sometimes its ones you've known and trusted for years and never had a problem with before. And it's not just me he also screwed over a few other long time customers in the past few years as well. I ended up fixing everything myself at a cost of about $1200 dollars almost doubling what I had to pay him not to do the job right to begin with. Most mechanics are honest and will show you whats going on and stand by there work, but you should always beware. Just be polite about it. At least until you know they are screwing you. =D"

 
Avatar By: tybotim
9/13/2011 10:44 AM

I usually read these and laugh at all the ignorant "experts". I have been an automotive technician for 32 years, ASE certified since ASE was an infant, attend all the training I can schedule, unpaid of course, and some I have to pony up for. Own countless thousands dollars of tools and equipment (and no you can't borrow them), which become obsolete in a few years. I even still have speciality tools for the Chevrolet Vega in my collection. Bottom line, we are human and no one is perfect. Difference is if, no, when I make a mistake, I eat it! If your doctor, lawyer, geek squad, contractor, dentist, financial advisor, or any other professional your dealing with makes a mistake. The customer gets boned. Yes there are jerks in this industry just as any, do your homework, get a reference, talk to the service advisor like a human and if you're not convinced of a good outcome, talk, not yell, to a supervisor, if that gets nowhere, there are many consumer advocate groups just looking for an automotive witch hunt. Cars are a complex, expensive, necessary evil. I suggest to my customer to have a car fund that you contribute to every payday. So when the catastrophy happens, there is some cushion. Of course they don't, hey I could change my oil and get my tires rotated or spend twice that on 1 stop on a night of clubbing, or 3 coffees, or 4 packs of smokes. Hope you get the picture.

 
Avatar By: DFurno
9/13/2011 11:00 AM

Generally the only work that I do not do myself is wheel balancing and front end alignment, simply because I do not have the machines to do it. As a shadetree mechanic, I have several thousand dollars in tools and probably buy 1 or 2 more specialty tools a week. Especially that I am now getting into Motorcycle repair. As a matter of fact, i used the fathers day sales events as good reason to purchase some new Actron test equipment which included a sensor tester, fuel press tester, compression tester, Innova Timing light, automotive Multimeter, and a new set of Torx bits. All in all I spent about $450 on tools that though I will rarely use, will pay for themselves rather quickly when compared to the savings of having a shop do it. I definitely agree with Jeremy Waters assessment of the auto workshop climate, people seem to think they will only have to pay for parts and that is it, not considering all the overhead. Back in 2001, I was doing neutral drops in my mothers 97 dodge ram and I seized the forward clutches. A friend of mine who owned a place called In-Gear transmissions in Douglas, MA. totally hooked me up, he charged me about $570 to replace them and I had the truck back in 2 days. It was my first paycheck from my first job, but I was glad to pay it cause the guy gave me such a great deal.

 
Avatar By: Iceman94
9/13/2011 11:26 AM

Love the it! Well written and from a point of view so many don't see. Giving an inside look at the truth behind the technician. It's great. God Bless you too.

 
Avatar By: cheapracing
9/13/2011 11:41 AM

Great article, I have been a mechanic for 25 years and frequently run into that kind of problem. Need to add one more point. The 'brotherinlaw' syndrome. Not only did he make the problem worse, but it had nothing to do with the primary problem.

 
Avatar By: stockandstandard
9/13/2011 12:27 PM

I have had several bad experiences with mechanics; the worst one being the civic wagon that needed a clutch in 1997: 1st time it came back...the engagement point of the pedal got lower and lower which kept me from shifting on the first drive, 2nd time it came back the neutral start switch wouldn't engage so I couldn't start the car to drive it back to them. Then it lasted about a week, but on the way back from the beach that weekend it wouldn't shift (same thing as the first time). I pulled over, popped the hood and discovered the nylon lock nut stripped off of the clutch cable. I had to match revs to get home because the shop wouldn't pick up the car with a tow truck (I was one town away) and claimed that somehow I did it. Oh, and the first time, when they originally did the clutch, they had it for three days for some reason. I knew it wasn't normal, but at the time, had no idea how to do a clutch. I took it to another shop who I had a little experience with and they were great and stayed as my tough job, go-to shop for years. But even with them, I knew other people who did not get great service. Same as DFurno, I just don't do alignments and wheel balancing now because of the lack of equipment (alignments might come in the future). I, as well, have thousands in hand tools (mostly metric), air tools, and specialty stuff. If I ever get an old American car, I'll have lots of stuff to buy. Back then I just did the basics because it took a while to put all the tools together. If the specialty tool and parts (good quality) are cheaper than the shop, the job is not too hard (if you're mechanically inclined), and you have the space...do it yourself.

 
Avatar By: loserspearl
9/13/2011 1:48 PM

Am I wrong to think a majority of the people reading this work on their own cars?

 
Avatar By: sheldonm
9/13/2011 2:21 PM

Jeremy I'm afraid that every business experiences these types of issues with customers. In fact this week I had a similar situation with a customer. I am a computer engineer and do domestic PC / Laptop repairs and basically in not so many words had a customer tell me he didn’t believe my diagnosis, he wasn’t happy with it and that he had tested his laptop and it didn’t fail any tests, despite the fact that our software reported a serious hard drive failure. Like you we are reputable company and only do the necessary work to repair the machine and complete the job. In fact we would probably make less profit replacing the hard drive in the laptop, as more labour would be involved and we would also be required to warrant the part for a year (including labour). I can understand why people have heart attacks when their car needs work as usually they are a total ball ache to work on and most jobs do take a long time to do. I have done quite a lot of repairs on my rusty escort, cv boots, brakes, lower arms, track rod ends etc so know how long things can take. The problem is that unfortunately there are a lot of rouges that basically do rip people off, charge over the odds and do unnecessary work, which tarnishes the reputable companies with the same brush. At the end of the day you “can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. If you show the customer the faults which are plain to see and they ignore your warnings, then they crash and die that’s their own fault and your conscience is clear. Oh and if the guy has tires that the threads are showing and he doesn’t believe you that they need replacing then he’s a fucking idiot! (Reduced grip, increased risk of blow out, and not to mention illegal).

 
Avatar By: jchevy33
9/13/2011 5:56 PM

Very well said. Right on. I am a technician at a Chevy dealership and i couldn't agree any more with what he said. Were just doing our job. We live in an imperfect world, things break everyday all the time.

 
Avatar By: augustineyeo
9/13/2011 10:50 PM

Nothing but the truth. If he or she cannot afford to drive a car, then don't drive! It doesn't come free.

 
Avatar By: LightningPGT
9/16/2011 7:44 PM

I believe the article was well versed. As an Independent BMW Shop owner, I can attest that the average person genuinely has absolutely no concept of what is required to operate the business. This problem is exacerbated by the wide availability of "repair" manuals and information that leads folks to believe how "cheap" and "easy" automobile diagnosis and repair is. A $10,000 scan tool? We use an AutoLogic Scanner. There is no substitute for working on BMWs. You can have one for your very own for approximately $15,000... and don't forget the yearly subscription mandatory for its use. The receipt is on the wall in the office in case a customer wishes to object to the charge to use it. Profit seems to be such a "dirty" word, but here is the key: This is not a hobby; it's how we make a living doing what we enjoy. Gross profit allows us to have a net profit which allows us to continue to be here. Mind you, just as with any business or industry, it only takes one unscrupulous entity to make things difficult for the rest of us.

 
Avatar By: bolus
9/16/2011 8:28 PM

"$200 off of one 15-minute visit, and forget the fact he or she gets major kickbacks and perks from pharmaceutical companies that pretty much cover their office overhead." Ouch. Family physician here working in a low income rural clinic where half my patients dont have insurance. Kickbacks are illegal for any physician. We survive by payments for work just like you. I make about $40,000 less a year than my dentist. You think your GM tech 2 scanner costs a lot, try buying a ultrasound machine for a couple of hundred thousand while surviving on having only 20% of your bill paid by Medicaid. Im 15 years out of school and still have $60,000 on my loans to pay back I'm glad your and honest mechanic but just be careful when you insult an entire group because you feel insulted.

 

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