Tip-offs to me­chanic rip-offs

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

UN­LESS you are a car me­chanic your­self, deal­ing with a re­pair shop may re­quire a leap of faith. But if you pay at­ten­tion to what your me­chanic says (and does), you’ll find clues that could tell you whether you’re be­ing bam­boo­zled. Here are some things me­chan­ics may say when they’re plan­ning to take you for a ride — and we don’t mean in your car.

1. “Get that en­gine flushed right away or it’s toast.” Be­ware if your me­chanic’s idea of “sched­uled main­te­nance” bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the rec­om­men­da­tions in your owner’s man­ual. Some shops “build the ticket” (trans­la­tion: pad the bill) by rec­om­mend­ing ex­tra and of­ten un­nec­es­sary pro­ce­dures, such as en­gine and trans­mis­sion flushes, or by sched­ul­ing some tasks pre­ma­turely. Some hawk high­priced “generic” main­te­nance sched­ules that may omit pro­ce­dures your car needs.

Be es­pe­cially con­cerned if the shop makes ev­ery rec­om­men­da­tion sound like an emer­gency, says Larry Hecker, pres­i­dent of the Mo­torist As­sur­ance Pro­gram, a non-profit group that ac­cred­its re­pair shops.

2. “That re­built Camry al­ter­na­tor will run you M8999.” If you hap­pen to know that your cousin paid only M3999 for sim­i­lar work, you’d bet­ter call around to check. Although good shops may charge higher prices to cover the cost of topflight tech­ni­cians and equip­ment, bills that are al­ways 20 to 30 per­cent more than the go­ing rate should put you on guard, warns John Nielsen, di­rec­tor of AAA’S Automotive Re­pair Net­work. You can poll other shops to find out how much me­chan­ics in your area are charg­ing for com­mon re­pairs and main­te­nance. For com­plex prob­lems, try com­par­ing the price of the parts alone by call­ing parts stores or dealer parts de­part­ments, ad­vises Deanna Sclar, an auto re­pair ex­pert and au­thor of “Auto Re­pair for Dum­mies.”

3. “We thought the new fuel in­jec­tors would fix it, but it looks like you need a new fuel pump.” Uh-oh. You may be deal­ing with a so-called parts re­placer, that is, a me­chanic who’s lit­er­ally re­build­ing your car be­cause he can’t di­ag­nose the prob­lem, says Chuck Roberts, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for in­dus­try re­la­tions at the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Automotive Ser­vice Ex­cel­lence, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that cer­ti­fies auto tech­ni­cians. Make the me­chanic jus­tify the ini­tial re­pair. Even if it was an hon­est mis­di­ag­no­sis, the shop should re­fund the amount of the first re­pair or dis­count the next one. If the me­chanic gets the di­ag­no­sis wrong again, stop re­plac­ing parts and re­place the shop.

4. “With some cars, it’s not un­usual to go through a starter ev­ery year.” Yeah, right. This may be a tip-off that the shop did the work in­cor­rectly or used poor- qual­ity or makeshift parts in­stead of proper ones. Call some other shops to find out what they think or check the Web to see if there’s a dis­cus­sion group de­voted to your model and its prob­lems. You might also want to take the car to another re­pair shop for a sec­ond opin­ion. If the orig­i­nal job was lack­ing, ask the shop that did the work to re­peat the re­pair ei­ther with­out charge or at a sub­stan­tial dis­count.

5. “You have to bring your car back to the deal­er­ship for ser­vice.” un­der the war­ranty, re­calls, post-war­ranty fixes you’re hop­ing the man­u­fac­turer will pay for un­der its “good will” pro­gram, or high-tech sys­tems that re­quire a deal­er­ship’s spe­cial­ists.

How to talk to your me­chanic you think is caus­ing the prob­lem. You may be on the hook for any re­pairs the shop makes at your sug­ges­tion, even if they don’t solve the prob­lem. Re­quest a test drive. If the prob­lem oc­curs only when the car is mov­ing, ask the me­chanic to ac­com­pany you on a test drive. Ask for ev­i­dence. If you’re not com­fort­able with the di­ag­no­sis, ask the shop to show you. Worn brake pads or rusted ex­haust pipes are easy to see. Don’t let the me­chanic refuse your re­quest by say­ing that his in­sur­ance com­pany doesn’t al­low cus­tomers into the work area. In­sist on ev­i­dence any­way. —

IF you pay at­ten­tion to what your me­chanic says (and does), you’ll find clues that could tell you whether you’re be­ing bam­boo­zled.

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