Many people know little to nothing of the internal workings of their car, yet place complete trust in their automotive repair mechanic when something goes wrong. Most mechanics are trustworthy and professional, but an auto repair rip off can still happen. For the rest of us, here are some tips for preventing repair rip off, because knowledge is a powerful thing.
Beware auto repair rip off No. 1: The spit shine
Let’s say that you believe your starter is acting up. You take your car into the shop, the mechanic looks at it, and the truth is that the starter isn’t the problem, it’s something much simpler and cheaper to fix. Unfortunately, some less than honest mechanics will polish your old starter to make it look new, then claim it was replaced with a new starter and charge you for for parts and labor beyond what was warranted. Or you’re charged the price of a new part for a replacement part that is refurbished.
What can you do to fight back against this kind of auto repair rip off? Mark the defective part in question with chalk or white out in an inconspicuous place that you’re bound to notice if the mechanic attempts to pass off the old part as something new.
Beware auto repair rip off No. 2: Too much maintenance, too often
All cars require regular care and maintenance to ensure their proper function. Your vehicle manufacturer and dealership know everything about how often the systems in your vehicle should be serviced, and this information is even available online. However, some mechanics operate by their own schedule have a much longer list of options, notes Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com.
“The dealership’s list will be two, three, four times as long,” he says. “There’s a lot of profit to be made in doing things that don’t need to be done,” he said.
If in doubt, follow the recommendation of your vehicle’s manufacturer, because nobody knows your make and model of car better than they do. Don’t assume that your auto mechanic’s 10,000-mile service package is the best solution. Remember, they’re in this to make money. Your owner’s manual is the authority.
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Beware auto repair rip off No. 3: Being charged for guesses
Some car problems can be attributed to a variety of things. Auto mechanics who are merely parts replacers without intimate knowledge of how your specific vehicle functions will be happy to keep switching out parts until it works, charging all the way to the bank.
Anthony Giorgianni, associate editor at Consumer Reports, advises that consumers take care when it appears that their auto mechanic is dragging his feet.
“He’s guessing and he’s charging you for his guesswork,” said Giorgianni.
In order to avoid this car repair rip off, insist the mechanic stand behind their initial misstep by offering you a refund or similar discount. If the mechanic can’t fix it the second time around, take your business elsewhere.
Beware auto repair rip off No. 4: Cashing in on rubes
If you don’t know why your vehicle needs motor oil, hit the books immediately. There are many reasons you should do this, one of them is that if you must take your car in for repairs, a dishonest mechanic will sense your lack of knowledge and may attempt to charge you for repairs and services that are not just unnecessary, but completely fictional. Don’t let a bad mechanic nickel and dime your budget to death. Learn about the basic workings of your vehicle, as well as how to perform basic maintenance functions like oil changes, dealing with the radiator and belts, spark plug replacement and tire maintenance.
Beware auto repair rip off No. 5: Doubling down on labor
If your mechanic finds something else that’s wrong while he’s under the hood working on the issue for which you brought your car to his shop, don’t assume that everything will be covered under one labor charge. While additional parts will always carry an additional fee, be sure to ask your mechanic how the extra work will affect the labor charge on your bill. If the mechanic says it will be one charge, double-check the bill to make sure that labor fees are properly applied.
When the price is too good to be true
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