Ever picked your car up from the shop, wallet still smarting from that hefty repair bill, and wondered "did I just get ripped off?" Yeah, me too. I wondered a lot, in fact, so I did a bit of research to find out what are some shady things mechanics do behind the scenes. It turns out there are quite a few sneaky little tricks that can end up driving your repair bill up, either through greed, laziness, or incompetence. Some are more understandable than others, but all result in you paying through the nose when you didn't have to.
I should say upfront; this isn't every mechanic, of course. There are plenty of good eggs out there, but it can't hurt to be aware of what might be going on behind those closed garage doors after you leave your car in their care.
The most obvious thing I found mechanics get up to is telling customers they need work that they really don't, or making a problem seem far more urgent than it is. Most people are aware of this one—you take your baby in for a tune-up, and before you know it you're being told you need a new engine because the flux capacitor is shot.
This is the worst kind of mechanic because they set out with the intent to basically steal from you. What's worse is, if they're the kind of person to make up a problem so they can charge you more money, they're probably the kind of person to not do the extra work you're paying for.
Look at it from their point of view. If the customer is going to believe you when you say their brake pads are "down to the metal", even though they were changed a few months ago, then they're not going to know any better if you leave the old pads on. This goes for mechanics that don't try to pile on additional work you don't need but don't do the work you asked them to, either.
I get it—they know engines better than we do. I'm sure my car will be fine for another few thousand miles without that oil change. But at the end of the day, if I pay for the oil change, I should get it.
Mistakes happen, it's a fact of life. Unfortunately, when a mistake occurs on an expensive hi-tech machine like a modern car, it can be pretty pricey. I completely understand the dilemma your average mechanic might face. Your vehicle comes in for a bit of welding on the rear quarter, they forget to disconnect your battery, the computer that controls your engine fries and the car won't start.
Suddenly, they're faced with replacing a high-end piece of equipment that will cost thousands of dollars, and they've only quoted you a few hundred. I sympathize, really I do.
The problem is, the risk of this kind of thing happening is their gamble, not ours. So it's unacceptable when the mechanic passes the costs of their mistakes onto us with made-up stories about other problems they encountered while carrying out the requested work.
Word of mouth counts. And there's a reason many of us have a specific person that they consider "their" mechanic. Once you've found someone you feel you can trust, it's natural to want to keep going back to them rather than taking your chances with a new mechanic.
We can't all be experts in car repair, so we're going to have to trust someone to fix our cars for us at some point.
Just be careful, and do your research.
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