Save money by avoiding unnecessary car repairs

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Auto mechanic

Though many mechanics are trustworthy, there is such a thing as unnecessary car repairs. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

One of the biggest overall expenses, and at that pains in the backside, is car repairs. However, a good way to cut down on the expense, is to keep a good eye out for unnecessary repairs, which can cost a bundle.

Watch mechanics like a hawk for unnecessary repairs

It’s far from the case that mechanics aren’t trustworthy. Many are. Finding a car repair technician one does explicitly trust is highly desirable, as keeping a car on the road long-term is often a team sport.

However, some shops do try to get people to get unnecessary repairs. In fact, according to SmartMoney magazine, Sears was busted in California in the 1990s for paying mechanics on commission, in essence forcing them to con people into getting car repairs they didn’t need to make a living. The company doesn’t do it anymore, of course.

However, chain shops are also occasionally hold promotional sales on oil changes or brake services, which according to CBS, are “loss-leaders.” In other words, they lose money on the promotional service. Selling people on additional services before or during the oil change could make a lot of money over a weekend.

Follow the manual and knowest thou thy car

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A person should pay close attention to their car and how it behaves. If it isn’t having a problem with a system a shady mechanic says is having a problem, it could be a scam. For instance, according to SmartMoney, some time-honored cons include dropping an Alka-Seltzer into a battery cell to get it to bubble over. Not inserting the dipstick all the way will make it look a quart low on oil. A person who hasn’t noticed electrical problems or has been checking their oil regularly will know darn well that those problems are bogus.

Also, follow the factory-recommended service intervals to the letter. If a repair is being recommended before it’s due, it may not be necessary. For instance, according to AOL Autos, an engine flush probably isn’t needed if one has been diligently changing the oil. In fact, to see if a car does need it, one needs only look at the underside of the oil filler cap. Any warranty-covered repairs should be done at a dealership. If it can get fixed for free, it should be.

Also illegal in some states

In certain states, conning people into unnecessary repairs is not only immoral, it’s also illegal. In May, police in Redwood City, Calif., according to CBS San Francisco, shut down Hudson Auto Repair, for performing unnecessary repairs and gouging consumers for them. The owner pleaded no contest to one count of making a false statement. In October 2011, a Meineke/AutoLube in Phoenix, Ariz., according to CBS5 AZ, fired two employees and agreed to pay more than $40,000 in fines and fees after a sting operation found the two men were likewise gouging customers.

In January of 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times, Maurice Glad, owner of 22 Midas shops agreed to pay $1.8 million in restitution, after being sued by the California Attorney General’s office for scamming consumers with “bait-and-switch” schemes for years, running specials on brake changes and then “finding additional problems.” Then-attorney general Jerry Brown, now governor, also succeeded in having Glad barred from running auto repair shops in California for life.

Sources

AOL Autos

CBS

SmartMoney

CBS San Francisco: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/05/11/redwood-city-auto-repair-shop-owner-heading-to-jail/

CBS5 AZ: http://www.kpho.com/story/15712990/ariz-attorney-general

Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/26/business/la-fi-midas26-2010jan26

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