What are Shady Things Mechanics Do Behind the Scenes?
- Mechanics can tell customers they need work that they don't, or make a problem seem more urgent than it is.
- Some mechanics may not do the extra work they charge for or use excessive measures to fix a problem, driving up costs unnecessarily.
- Mechanics may cover their mistakes by passing the costs of their mistakes onto customers with made-up stories about other problems they encountered while carrying out the requested work.
- Some mechanics outsource work they cannot do themselves, but customers end up paying more for the job than they should have had to.
- Word of mouth is important, and finding a trustworthy mechanic is key. However, customers should still do their research and be aware of potential shady practices.
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.
Work You Don't Need
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.
Using a Bazooka to Kill an AntBear with me on the metaphor. There are times when the work done technically fixes the problem, but it's way overkill for what the problem was. Sometimes it's because the mechanic is just a bad guy or gal looking to extract more money out of you. Other times it's because they're lazy.
Cars are more complicated than ever—full of electronics and fiddly bits. Diagnosing them is becoming an art that takes time and patience. Sometimes, your mechanic just doesn't have those things. If replacing an entire component will fix the problem, great! Still, if that mechanic had been willing to spend half a day with your car and some tools, they might have been able to fix it for half the cost. And they know that.
As I say, they are technically fixing the problem, so it's not as bad as above, but you don't go to experts just to have them take the easy route. We have YouTube for that!
Covering Their Asses
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.
Outsourcing the Hard StuffCar repair has a history of being an easy trade to get into. I mean, sure, it takes skills to fix a busted engine, and a lot of skill to be a good mechanic. But the basics are pretty easy to cover, and most of the time, we only need the basics. That's why you can't go two blocks without stumbling across a small independent mechanic shop.
Unfortunately, cars keep getting more complicated. This means your average self-taught mechanic with a knack for all things oily can't always get the job done. The problem is, if you don't know how to fix something, there's a good chance you won't know how to diagnose that it needs fixing in the first place.
Now, I understand the pride issue. You say you'll fix a car and it turns out you simply don't know how or don't have the right equipment to do it. We all make mistakes, you live and learn. What is less understandable is sending that car away to another garage that can fix the car and not saying anything.
We end up paying more for the job than we should have had to because we could have taken the car to that other garage directly. And we usually have to wait longer to get our baby back because it took the mechanic a day or two to admit they couldn't fix it!
They're Not All Bad
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.