All you need to know to ensure you don't get ripped off
In today's fast-paced world, it's nearly impossible to find the time to make repairs yourself if your car broke down, and even if you have the time, you may not have the ability or disposition to do so. Even a new car requires maintenance, and as a result, many of us will rely on a mechanic to keep our cars running well. There are many good mechanics who are professionals that have plenty of experience resolving car trouble, but as with anything, there are some mechanics who are dishonest and simply want to take you for a ride. Most of us aren't qualified or experienced enough to know for certain when someone is pulling the wool over our eyes, so how do we protect ourselves? After all, cars always need maintenance, so it's not like you can just forgo repairs to ensure you don't get ripped off. In this article, we'll discuss some of the signs that your mechanic is pulling a fast one and also highlight what you can do to avoid making yourself an easy target.
If you have some mechanical and technical knowledge, you can usually tell when something doesn't feel right, but when things are beyond your level of expertise, that doesn't mean that you need to put all your faith in someone who is looking to make as much money as possible from you. In fact, mechanics generally have a bad name when it comes to being honest and fair, but not all of them are the same, and the majority are actually trustworthy and helpful. So how can you tell that you're being taken for a ride? The following 10 points, although not the only ways that you can have the wool pulled over your eyes, are some of the easiest ways for a bad mechanic tasked with repairing your vehicle to maximize his or her income while minimizing the value you get out of the experience.
If you've ever heard a mechanic tell you that the car isn't ready within the expected timeframe, you may have been getting the runaround. Of course, we don't live in a perfect world and sometimes spare car parts can take some time to arrive, or a number of factors can be at fault for why your motor is not running perfectly yet, but when your mechanic is taking too long to sort out simple matters, is constantly trying to fix the car over the same problem, or always has a tall story for why your car isn't ready, then it may be time to take your vehicle somewhere else or at least get someone else to evaluate the issues.
This is something that almost everyone has experienced at one point or another. You take your car in for what seems like a simple repair, only to have a mechanic tell you that the issue looks like a big job that is going to take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Sure, that can sometimes be the case, but using your common sense and doing a little bit of research on the issue that your engine is experiencing can help save you from being caught out. If a mechanic tells you that your car is messed up in such a way that the mechanic can't give you an estimated time of completion or an estimated cost, then you are almost certainly about to be bled dry.
If you drop your car off at a workshop and get told that your car must be left there for an inordinate amount of time, that can be a sign that things are not right. A definite sign that your mechanic is one of those "hood cheaters" is if you are not allowed to inspect your car while repairs are being done. Also fishy is when a mechanic requires upfront payment for all car parts used and labor performed before work commences. Avoiding establishments that refuse to take anything but cash or even provide a written quote before work starts can also safeguard you from bad mechanics. We also have found that establishments that try to pressure you into replacing an entire system when a single component is faulty, or try to steamroller you using big terms or jargon you may not know, could be looking to maximize their income by taking advantage of your concern for your car.
Often, generic aftermarket spare parts can save you a lot of money, but they don't always carry the same guarantees nor are they made to the same standard as OEM replacement parts. So when your mechanic insists on using cheap parts, you may find yourself back at the workshop very soon to repair the same fault. A good way of avoiding this can be to supply your own spares, but if someone is determined to rip you off, they may keep your supplied parts and fit cheaper ones. Thus, it's best to ascertain through your own inspection what has been done to your vehicle and with what.
You know the story - you take your car in to have your air-conditioning system regassed, a simple and cheap procedure. However, after you drop your car off, the mechanic's advice is that you have bigger problems - suddenly, the radiator is leaking, the fan isn't blowing correctly, and you also happen to need four new tires. Dishonest mechanics will often try to gauge your level of knowledge on a car and will come up with stories of how they cannot let your car leave until certain unnecessary repairs are carried out. Always remember that the car belongs to you, not the mechanic, and much like with a doctor, you are fully entitled to a second opinion before entrusting someone with nursing your vehicle back to full health.
When your car goes in for repairs, everything that is in the car still belongs to you. The fact that you are paying for new parts does not change this fact, so it is good practice to ask for your old parts following a repair. If the workshop cannot provide these, then you may have been charged for repairs that weren't even carried out. Even when performing oil services or other minor work, it's a good idea to ask for your old filters and spark plugs, et cetera.
This is another area where doing some research on your vehicle and its common problems can help you out. If your mechanic's diagnosis doesn't sound right or this person insists on using repair methods that you have never heard of before, you may be dealing with someone who is trying to confuse you so that you give up on asking questions. Although it can be very time consuming to read through your car's manual, at least skimming it can alert you to the recommended service intervals. So if your mechanic tries to get you to approve some form of maintenance that your mileage covered wouldn't normally require, then you may be about to pay for something you don't really need.
When you visit a doctor for some kind of ailment, there will likely be some sort of very specific medical term for the problem you are facing. Since you haven't been studying medical science for over a decade, you won't know what this means. But, any honest and reliable doctor will still be able to explain to you how this affects your body and what can be done to remedy the problem. Your car is exactly the same. If you are experiencing a problem with your car that you don't understand, your local mechanic must be able to expound the issue to you in a way you understand. If the mechanic continues to use oblique terminology even after you've asked for the simple explanation or otherwise tries to intimidate you with terms you don't fully comprehend, then said mechanic may well be trying to make a quick buck off you.
In the age of social media, almost every company has a page dedicated to promoting its business in the USA. Thus, it's always good to research the business to determine if there are others whose experiences you can make judgments on. If you see too many negative reviews, few to no positive reviews, or even a date of establishment that seems too recent, these may be red flags that indicate that the workshop hasn't been doing good work for a while. Word of mouth is arguably even more valuable, so ask around in community groups and on US forums to see if others have used the business before and with what success. If most people tell you to stay away, listen.
Some mechanics do excellent work but charge a lot more than others in the industry. Of course, it pays to go to a specialist if you have a niche problem, but there's no use in spending more than you have to on minor work either. If somebody is charging a few hundred or thousand dollars more than you were expecting, that person may be working off the premise that high prices are equal to good value, but this is not always the case. Get multiple quotes and use your common sense and discretion to ensure that you are not overpaying for the service you require. Otherwise, you're opening yourself up to being robbed in broad daylight.
As we've emphasized a few times already, it is very helpful to do research on your car and the specific problem it has. This will help you avoid being caught out by a mechanic selling you a lie. It's also helpful to find out if the mechanic is reliable and honest before wasting your time driving out to the workshop. We also think it is worth your while to bring someone more experienced with you when taking your car in so that the right questions are asked of the mechanic and any terms you don't understand can be explained to you by someone who would get no benefit out of seeing you spend more money. When your car breaks, you can sometimes get a mechanic that comes to you, but we wouldn't use this service unless it is someone you already know and trust. We also recommend using someone who offers some sort of warranty on work carried out, even if it only lasts for six months.
Just because a mechanic doesn't offer these documents does not necessarily mean that this person is trying to scam you or is breaking your car further. However, more likely than not, they can be omitted to safeguard the mechanic and leave you with no legal recourse if things go wrong. Thus, we recommend ensuring that all of these documents are provided when dealing with a mechanic.
Below are some of the common questions posed by the uninitiated or experienced. Having the answers to these will help you protect yourself from excessive repair bills and unnecessarily long downtime.
The article above covers many of the points that would answer how to know if your mechanic is lying to you, but in general, if something doesn't feel right, it usually isn't. Get advice from people you trust, do your own homework, and get multiple opinions before committing to a workshop.
Not all mechanics are untrustworthy, scaly opportunists, but because most people have little to no knowledge on how to take care of a car, inflating prices and lying about the extent of damage is an easy way for mechanics to pump up their revenue with minimal outlay. And because those who don't know any better won't query such things, there are usually no consequences, which means that the mechanic can continue operating with virtual impunity.
This will depend on the severity of the problem, the availability of a replacement car part, and the timing of your booking. If your car is booked in when the workshop is busy, it may take longer than at other times. In many cases, an issue cannot always be identified immediately either, so a good mechanic may still take some time to fix a fault if there could be multiple potential causes for the problem. Again, arming yourself with as much knowledge and research as possible can help you safeguard yourself from getting ripped off. In summary, the question "how long does a mechanic have to fix your car?" will depend on the work required. If the workshop is of good repute, the reason that the mechanic is taking too long with your car may not even be anything sinister.
As with any other service or product, the service provider or supplier can be held accountable for poor quality of work or otherwise substandard business practices. Contact a reputable mechanic to get a detailed evaluation of how you have been taken advantage of and then either first confront the individual who has affronted you or go directly to a lawyer. These people will be the best to advise you on what to do when a mechanic doesn't fix the problem or what to do if a mechanic overcharges you. We would also contact these other professionals if a mechanic breaks something on your car. This can be a time-consuming process, but it is better than accepting someone making the most of your ignorance.
This is a tricky one. Some mechanics will say no because they get dealer pricing on parts and then charge their clients full price. This helps make the rent every month, but others will also say no because they want to add unnecessary parts to your bill. Still others who have plenty of experience will say no because they have dealt with the consequences of fitting substandard parts supplied by the client. However, some mechanics will allow this, and it is up to the workshop to make this decision. If you're unhappy with being unable to supply your own parts, don't be a Karen. Just use another mechanic.