If you use one, chances are you have. Strangely enough, since I always have done my own work, I have never known how bad it was. It wasn’t until a friend contacted me and wanted my opinion on what he thought was an unusually high bill that I learned that the business model of these shops were specifically designed to rip people off.
Is it possible to find a trust worthy mechanic? I’m sure it is – but you should know that business model of many shops, particularly franchise chains, is to rip you off. The most common type of shop where this happens are the shops that don’t provide major services. Shops that deal in small things like batteries, tires and oil changes. These are the ones you have to look out for the most.
How do they rip you off? The classic method is that once they have you in the door for a simple service, they ‘find’ something else wrong and proceed to sell you things or do work that’s not needed. Some shops, big or small, have obviously been known to down right commit criminal acts such as charging you for things they didn’t replace/fix, or even take that a step further by taking off a part from your car, painting it, and then putting it back on saying its new.
My friends case was a little tricky and is not as scamming as some of the things I outlined above. He had bought a battery from one of these shops which gave him a warranty. Because he doesn’t drive the car much, and also because he never took my advice on getting a battery maintainer, his battery was left discharged for an extended amount of time which destroyed it. With the battery still being within the warranty period, he took it back to the shop.
The shop was not happy about this and told him his alternator needed to be replaced. Further more, they wouldn’t honor the warranty until it was. They quoted him hundreds of dollars to replace the alternator and to do the work. This is when he contacted me.
I knew that his alternator wasn’t bad since I know his car sits around and that’s what caused the problem. But I tested the alternator anyway just to be sure, and of course, it was fine.
In the end, my friend was able to talk to the shop and get the battery replaced under warranty. But he told me how vulnerable he felt because he just didn’t know. Normally, he said, that he would just have the work done. You really are at the mercy of the mechanic if you don’t know much about cars.
An interesting thing about these battery warranty’s is that they are kinda foolish from the stores point of view. Under normal circumstances, the battery’s should perform as advertised and the warranty’s rarely used. But, for the small percentage of people who have show cars, sports cars, or any other type of vehicle that doesn’t see daily use; they can really abuse these warranty’s.
I wish there was a way that I could recommend to help protect people who don’t know much about cars from these unethical mechanics, but there really isn’t anything due to the nature of the business. The worst scenario being that your car broke down, and it was towed to ‘someplace’ – its hard to get a second opinion in that situation. Or the mechanic/tech sells you a low cost item that you may not think twice about. The only advice I can give is to be knowledgeable.