What Are The Common Car Mechanic Scams?

One of our readers recently complained about a shady dealership mechanic trying to sell him on replacing his whole rear differential on his car for $3,800, when all he really needed was his fluids to get flushed for about $160.

Jon says, “There was metal in the fluid and the gear was stripped. I looked in the pumpkin (big housing that the axels and driveshaft go into) and I saw normal wear. He then ran his finger over the MAGNETS in the housing and showed me the ‘horrible buildup’ uhm that’s a VERY old transmission scam gag.”

Sounds sketchy, and that got us thinking, what are the other “class” mechanic scams out there? Tricks of the trade unscrupulous body shops use to get people to buy more repairs and/or services than they really need? Sound off in the comments with your favorite.

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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Hell, even the flush he got is a common scam. I had one place tell me I needed all new fluids – brake, trasmission, etc. They claimed it was becasue they were dirty (showed me a chart for color it’s supposed to be) so clearly needed to be flushed.

    Funny thing was, I literally had my brake fluid replaced only month before. Clearly a scam. Checked around, and sure enough, nothing was wrong with my dirty fluids, they just were a little…dirty.

    • human_shield says:

      It’s not a scam, but those places usually make up their own mileage intervals for replacing. You do need to follow your owners manual for replacing those fluids. Unfortunately sometimes I have even found the owners manual to be useless, missing critical fluid change intervals that were only listed in the Factory Service Manual (a must have, but extra $).

      • ChickenMcTest says:

        Also, you can’t tell when a fluid needs to be replaced based only on the color.

        • one swell foop says:

          Then you have companies like VW. My 2001 Jetta, and almost all other modern VW’s, have a “lifetime transmission fluid” that, according to the factory, should never have to be changed. The problem lies in the fact that VW considers the life of a vehicle to max out at around 150k miles. I’m nearing that on my vehicle now, and plan on having the trans fluid replaced, as soon as I can afford it, it’s expensive stuff.
          There are well documented accounts of transmissions that were slipping and quoted as needing to be replaced. Upon the replacement of the fluid, the owners were able to get 60-100 more miles out of the car without replacing the trans. Search vwvortex.

          What one SHOULD NOT do, is let some place like pep boys, or anywhere really, actually flush the trans. The fluid should be drained and then replaced. Flushing sends lots of those nasty metal particles flying all over, into places where they can cause more wear, more quickly. Of course, one should always use only the factory specified fluid, at least on European cars…

          • one swell foop says:

            That should read 60-100 thousand more miles. Can’t find an edit post button.

            • LadyTL says:

              There isn’t one.

            • Difdi says:

              And you won’t find one either. Consumerist, for totally inexplicable reasons, lacks one entirely.

            • ShadowFalls says:

              I have had that done already. You can actually notice the difference. Mind you this is in an old 94 car as it was the first time it was ever done. It isn’t like an oil change, it doesn’t have to be done very often.

          • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

            I have heard from several people not to change out your tans fluid when the mileage gets that high. I’d do a little more research, of course; but it might not be necessary.

    • magus_melchior says:

      (Partial comment abuse) I’d thought the Car Talk folks may have discussed this on the air or in the discussion forums, and a quick Google search turned this up:

      http://action.publicbroadcasting.net/cartalk/posts/list/61/2152068.page

      The first scam listed is the flush. Go figure.

      • JonStewartMill says:

        Did they happen to mention the guy who called their show to say that his mechanic told him he needed to periodically change the air in his tires? I think their response (after they were done laughing uproariously) was “Have him change the air, but make him show you the air he removed from the tires.”

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Not all fluids even need to be replaced. Brake fluid is often in a closed loop system and never runs out. Mechanics have ways of making it look low, but filling it just causes problems since no actual fluid is missing.

  2. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    The dirty air filter trick —

    Technician brings customer a dirty air filter, says it needs to be replaced. It’s not the customer’s air filter, it’s a dirty air filter they keep on hand to show the customer.

    • FatLynn says:

      Happened to me at Jiffy Lube. I responded with, “uh, that’s not the model of air filter for my car”.

      • Sian says:

        That would absolutely cause me to instantly walk.

        Not that I’d take a car to any quick-lube place after they 1: broke my bronco II’s air filter box because they couldn’t figure out how to open it, and didn’t tell me and 2: forgot to put oil back in after draining it. one engine rebuild later, quick lube places no longer get any business from me or anyone I can talk to about it.

      • mmartinek says:

        I would have called the police and when they arrived; explained that they were scamming me and that I would not be paying for services. This way when you raise it directly, they can’t claim you’re full of crap and just trying to the scam them for a free change.

      • outis says:

        Here here. I may not know much about cars, but if the dirty filter you bring to show me is the wrong SHAPE, I get a mite suspicious. Same chain btw.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        Look up Jiffy Lube and ‘scam’ on Youtube. Frightening exspose’

      • watch me boogie says:

        A friend took his sister’s car to a quick-lube place – I think he was trying to show her how they scam people. He wrote his initials on the oil filter, then went in and asked for a filter change in addition to an oil change, and asked them to return the dirty filter. They gave him the “changed” filter, which was quite absent of his initials. Sure enough, when he checked, there was the original filter in the engine, with his initials on it.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      At the same time, your air filter should be replaced pretty often. It’s also really easy to do yourself, and every car owner should know how to do it. Sadly, we don’t live in that world.

      • redskull says:

        Replacing the air filter is one thing EVERY car owner should be able to do. It’s about as complicated as installing a new roll of toilet paper in your bathroom.

        Plus, shouldn’t your air filter normally be a little dirty? That’s what it does, right? It filters dirt out of the air. It’s not supposed to be clean.

        • denros says:

          well, not quite that simple. On some cars you actually have to unbolt things.

          • TouchMyMonkey says:

            On early Ford Focuses, there are four screws that hold the air cleaner housing together. The problem is, the corresponding nuts on the bottom end either don’t like to stay put, or they strip out the surrounding plastic that is supposed to hold them steady so you can get the damned screw out. Ours, purchased second-hand, came with zip-ties holding the top part down.

            Sad to know that some cars made in the 21st century are still a pain in the ass when it comes to ordinary operator maintenance.

    • Buckus says:

      I change the air filter myself right before I get the oil changed, although I should probably change my own oil now, too.

      • claytons says:

        Trouble with this is you don’t need any of your filters changed nearly as often as you need your oil changed.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        Nah, filters are a piece of cake, oil is too. But the filter you can throw away, if your container leaks with the used oil you have all sorts of problems. I have also had a hard time finding anyone to take the filters (until I illegally dumped them into the proper containers at a local oil change place, after the plastic bag had leaked and ruined the interior of my trunk). I went to 5 different places, each of them suggesting another.

        • Jasen says:

          I just illegally place those filters in my trash can and forget about it.
          Oops.

          • Silverhawk says:

            It’s not necessarily illegal to throw them away. Most states follow EPA guidelines for disposal. EPA guidelines state to crush or puncture the outer shell at the dome end, and allow all free flowing oil to drain for 12 hours before tossing in the trash. Your state or locality may prohibit them from landfill dumping, however.

          • qualityleashdog says:

            That’s right. I dump whatever I want in my household trash. Just wrap it up in newspapers and no one is the wiser. Hell with ‘em, they don’t like it, someone better be breaking their neck to race to my house and pick up my used oil and half empty paint cans.

      • mechteach1 says:

        Doing the oil is really a toss-up, depending on where you live (due to disposal issues). For me, I’m happy to spend the extra $10 or so, just to save the time and effort.

        • knoxblox says:

          As much as I hate my local Walmart, I’m glad they’ll take my oil filters.

        • EcPercy says:

          Just so you know (unless its changed in the last couple years) autozone takes used fluids and oil filters for free. Far as I know they are pretty much everywhere in the us.

    • Costner says:

      I witnessed this years ago back when I still used those “quick lube” places. The mechanic came into the waiting area and told the woman next to me that her filter was pretty dirty and that she should replace it.

      She didn’t hesitate at all (which is what they love) and told them to just replace it. Unfortunately for her, the filter the guy was holding was an aftermarket K&N lifetime filter that just needed a good cleaning. That was probably a $50 filter than was being replaced with a $7 paper disposable. The tech knew it and probably fished the filter out of the trash the minute she left.

      I bet her husband wasn’t too happy when she got home! I probably should have said something, but I was young and didn’t want to get involved.

      • MercuryPDX says:

        Thanks for letting me know a washable “permanent” filter was even an option. Ordered!

        • SharkD says:

          The reusable/washable filters are garbage and will shorten the life of your engine.

          They have much larger pores than the OEM paper filters, far less filter surface area and don’t do much other than let more dirt in and make the intake noise louder.

          In certain applications, they can actually lower performance by reducing intake backpressure and increasing inlet temperature (in the case of cone filters). (How anyone can be convinced that sucking in the hot air from around the engine results in a “cold air intake” is beyond me.)

          Sure, some racing teams do use the foam filters, but they feed them from NACA ducts in the side of the car and also completely disassemble their engines after each race or so. One of the first “mods” I did to my race car, when I bought it, was to rip out the K&N cone and replace it with a factory airbox and a $7 Mann air filter. The car immediately gained 5-6hp on the dyno, from sucking in much colder air (which is substantial in a sub-200hp spec series).

          K&N and Fram have spent a lot of money advertising, but a basic vacuum bench test will show that the reusable filters provide far worse engine performance and far less protection from dirt and dust. (Google is your friend.) Bear in mind that most people who report performance gains are suffering from the placebo effect and equating increased intake noise with increased engine performance.

          • vdragonmpc says:

            Sure, sure the filter doesnt work and the increased air intake from a less restrictive box is bad for the car.

            From another point of view I have used them in my cars and trucks for years. They have helped in the applications they were designed for.

          • majortom1981 says:

            Unles syour performance filter is by the same company as your car .I have a corolla and my reusable Performance filter is by TRD and is warrantied also. This filter does not screw up the factory warranty either. So not all performance filters are abd for your car if they are from the car company itself.

          • DmZ says:

            I’m curious if you own a Dyno or if you just have extraordinary amounts of money to throw around to see if you could find out the HP difference between a K&N filter and an OEM filter. It’s one thing to say that they don’t do what they’re advertised as doing/are worse than OEM, but don’t try to make up facts to back it up; it just takes a legit piece of advice and makes it sound completely untrue.

            • SharkD says:

              When buying a $1,500, 18 year old car to race in a spec series, the first thing you do, is take it to a race shop for a pre-purchase inspection, because rebuilding the engine costs more than the car is worth. A friend, who had an ’88 E30 went with me to the race shop for the inspection; the dyno tech suggested pulling his stock airbox and putting it on the ’87 325iS that I was buying after the first run, primarily because the stock box pulls cool outside air, whereas the K&N cone was pulling air from the engine bay and he didn’t want to damage a car that I didn’t technically own yet.

              As for money — I paid $1,500 for the car. I stripped it down and sold the interior parts and non-spec suspension parts for more than $2,000. Then I put about $6,000 in safety equipment, spec suspension, brakes and tires and $300 in paint into the car. That was back when I was a bachelor and had disposable income (granted, I was working counter-terrorism policy and was spending 60-70 hours a week in the office, but still). Now I’m married, a homeowner, working in higher education and the responsible father of a toddler and the race car hasn’t seen the track in more than 2 years.

              And, if you shop around, you can get three dyno runs for less than $60, especially if you have more than one car of the same model to test, meaning that they don’t have to change the dyno setup. For the pre-purchase, I think I paid $90, altogether, back in 2005.

      • Destra says:

        How do you know her husband would’ve made any other choice, or would’ve known better than the woman? Gender does not equate car knowledge. Don’t put bigoted values on people…

        • yevarechecha says:

          I go into those places assuming that they’re going to rip me off: they see an early-20s woman in a skirt and dollar signs probably start going off in their head. Now, they’re right, I know less than nothing about cars, but that makes me extra suspicious of people trying to take advantage of it.

          This past weekend, I went to Jiffy Lube and had to fend off a $40 air filter change and $50 synthetic oil for my 1998 Corolla. Get back to me when it turns into a 2010 Lexus and I’ll think about synthetic oil, dudes. I was prepared to refuse any number of belt changes and engine flushes, too, but they didn’t try that. It was a little disappointing.

          • GinaLouise says:

            I’m in the same boat, a young woman who knows zip about cars. Luckily I have a trustworthy mechanic, but the oil filter place tries all kinds of crazy upsells on me. I refuse everything and just say “I’ll tell my dad to take care of that tonight” every time they insist I need something replaced. I lose some feminist points, but it’s a good way to fend them off.

        • Brian says:

          You honestly think it’s a stretch to say men know more about cars than women? These overly sensitive people are ridiculous.

        • goodfellow_puck says:

          Thank you. My husband would have easily fallen for that scheme which is why I’M the one who okays anything to do with the cars!

        • Wei says:

          Why is this bigoted? It’s an aftermarket part which means either the husband or the wife had it installed by choice. If she didn’t know about it, it stands to reason that he would.

      • Extractor says:

        K&N filter comes with all sorts of decals to put near the air filter under the hood in plain view. Its hard to believe that the husband failed to tell his wife to never have anyone touch that filter. All 3 of my cars have K&N. My camaro’s filter is drip drying in the dishwasher. I’ll spray it later and use my paper temporary filter for a day while the K&N dries.

    • billin says:

      I HATE this, but it’s one of the easiest things to spot and prevent, primarily by learning how to change the air filter yourself. I have a 2006 Honda Accord and was getting rather skeptical when told I needed to change my car’s cabin filter for the 3rd time in a year to the tune of $120 each time. I looked it up on the Internet and was horrified – the filter itself cost $15, and the labor involved? I was able to leisurely change the filter in less than 30 seconds with no tools, no exaggeration. Unbelievable.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        Our 1999 Accord had the cabin air filter in a really inconvenient spot. Required the removal of a few dashboard panels to get to it. At our local oil change place, a typical replacement costs around $40. For this particular breed of Honda, it was $120.

        In any case, they should only require replacement every 30,000 miles or so. YMMV.

        • abz_zeus says:

          Volvo S40 cabin air filter is buried and I mean buried – take glove box out, take iner glover box out remove hidden fuse box, remove fuse box support – remove filter!

      • nonsane says:

        often when a vehicle first comes out the dealership is the only one that makes the filter
        so the lube shop will have to mark up that price(with liability) to replace that filter.
        So 90$ for the filter+30$ is their cut to install it.

        But then an aftermarket company starts making the filter. They sell it for 15$ but the lube shop may not have gotten that message.

        • kenskreations says:

          Yea. Sure they always purchase from a dealer. Try again. All of them have catalogs from a supplier or just call down the road from a supplier. Used to work at one. I didn’t like the way they “scammed” people with this type of selling. So now I recommend that you try to find a good mechanic to do your work for you. It can be one of these places as they are not all like this. As for me, I do my own work. Change oil every 5,000 miles w/filter and use synthetic oil only. I have had cars and trucks last without any major work for well over 200,000 miles. Transmission and differential oils changed (synthetic) every 50,000 miles. No breakdowns, no problems on the road (I live on a dirt road – very dirty) and decent gas mileage (car gets around 30 mpg and 4 wheel drive truck around 19 mpg). Ask your friends and around for help in finding someone. Most people have their favorites and are willing to tell you.

          • nonsane says:

            wow. mock a statement i never made…. Cool post bro…

            • kenskreations says:

              Not mocking you. Just making a true statement. I think that you have also worked (or are working) at one. Wanted to let people know the truth about these bad places. Lots of good places out there, but the few that are bad have made it hard for the good ones. If you have purchased a newer vehicle and want to know if a filter is available, check auto supply stores (or even WalMart) to see if they have them. Most air filters are per vehicle but oil filters are by engine and are used by many different vehicles with the same engine. In my case for the truck, there are three oil filters available for the engine. But those filters are used in most other trucks and cars that use the same engine. Main thing to remember is to change fluids and filters.

    • claytons says:

      Moved across the country a couple years ago, drove the car and all, and had the oil changed as soon as I got to my destination. Sure enough, an employee came out with a cabin air filter covered in at least a year’s worth of debris (I’d actually replaced my filter myself before embarking, a week earlier) and much of the debris was from fauna that only grew on the new side of the country. It was sad.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      You know, most of the time people do need a new air filter. If you’re stupid enough to fall for this scam, you probably aren’t changing it. I have never heard of using a generic dirty filter; most of the time, they can just take yours out and show you how dirty it is. The trick is not to get it changed by a shop, where they will charge you $10 more for a filter and $10 in labor.

      • Illusio26 says:

        not always, a lube place by my house charges $70 for air filter replacement.

        • jefeloco says:

          $70 for a filter that probably cost them $15-30 at NAPA…

          • craptastico says:

            of course they charge you more than what the part costs at Napa. there is labor involved.

            • anewmachine615 says:

              On my car, and most I’ve seen, the air filter replacement is moving 4 toolless clips, pulling the old filter out, and putting the new one in. It takes less than five minutes. Hardly worth $50+.

      • packy says:

        Yeah, I never have the filter changed by the shop. I just say, “Oh, thanks. I’ll change it myself.”

    • OneBigPear says:

      I had this happen earlier this year… I was skeptical and wondered if it was a prop filter to scam me into getting it changed, but the leaves and crap in the filter were right for where my car is parked at home, so I told them to go ahead with the change.

    • human_shield says:

      Never seen that one, but have seen the one where they rub their greasy hand all over it or on the tire or something.

    • Arcaeris says:

      I had them say this to me, after I’d replaced the air filter myself the day before. I ask him to show it to me, and it’s totally white, he’s like “yeah, there’s some buildup on there” and I just thanked him for looking at my car and left to get work done somewhere else.

    • Emily says:

      I enjoy that one. I had a technician show me the air filter, in the center of which was a tiny dried leaf. I asked, “Can I see that for a minute?” Removed the leaf, handed the filter back to him. Ta da!

    • Toonzee says:

      Well this probably takes the cake regarding the air filter scam. Had my wife take our Chev back to the dealer here for a free oil change. Oil change was free because we bought it new in January. So March comes, and she brings it to Reedman/Toll. They change the oil, and then proceed to tell her she needs a new air filter. Only 3000 miles on the vehicle. I emailed and complained to the service manager, and Toll himself, no response. What a bunch of crooks. Won;t buy another car from them.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      This is the dumbest scam ever. I took my car to a local place to get washed, and since I was feeling particularly lazy and not wanting to crawl under my car and undo 16 bolts, I had them change the oil. One of the guys came up with the supposed “dirty filter” and I baited him a bit, asking how much they would charge to change it. EIGHTY DOLLARS for a $15 filter that takes less than a minute to change!

      I laughed in the guy’s face and told him it was a good thing I’d changed my filter a week by myself, but if it ever looks like his prop I’ll be sure to change it again. He got very, very red and slunk off. Afterwards, I stood in their work area to make sure the knuckleheads behaved while changing my oil, and then I never went back. What idiots.

    • nonsane says:

      The funny thing was when i was doing this job, a customer didn’t believe it was his air filter, and had to check for himself. He then told me he spent 40 minutes trying to get it out, i got it out and in – in less than a minute.

  3. nallanos says:

    we need honest mechanics and better accountability for them. The bureau of automotive repair is a joke.

    maybe then we wouldn’t have these shit scams.

    • Burger19 says:

      Agreed! There’s enough government regulation commissions out there for countless other types of businesses. This is something most people have no idea about, so they have no choice but to trust the mechanic. Or spend hours taking their car to 2 or more mechanics to have a real idea of what it going on.

  4. miltona says:

    Fuel system service aka fuel injection cleaing. Around here they charge 90ish dollars for it. All they do is use Seafoam or something like it in your gas tank and main manifold vacuum line. It really is something that can be quite helpful to dirty fuel injectors, but it takes them 15 minutes to do and $8.00 in parts. You can do it yourself in the same 15 minutes for $8.00.

    • dbaker0810 says:

      I’ve been hearing a lot about Seafoam….is it anything like Sta-Bil?

      • madmallard says:

        its use is similar to ‘upper intake cleaner’.

      • TheRealDeal says:

        Stabil is a fuel stabilizer designed to prevent the breakdown of petrol over time (for use when storing cars for example).

        Seafoam is a chemical used to clean carbon and other buildup from the engine and fuel system.

      • stinky_ghost says:

        Yes, a little difference in product to the same effect. Great stuff.

    • bananaboat says:

      That is what your dealership uses too. Seafoam through the vacuum line does clean your injectors. Of course many folks would lock their engine with fluid if not done correctly. So I guess that justifies the $90 or even $150 at a dealership. But I siphon mine slow with the help of someone who has the RPMs running around 3k. But it is overpriced.

  5. savvy9999 says:

    State Vehicle and/or Emissions Inspection (especially here in Pennsylvania) is the biggest scam of all.

    What industry wouldn’t love the government forcing costumers to it on the clock, to the tune of a minimum of $70, more often like $800… ???

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      I would agree that government inspections are almost exclusively BS. In Ontario you need to get a “drive clean” inspection every two years. It is basically a rubber stamp following the fee payment. It would be of some value if it was actually a safety/environmental inspection.

      • jessjj347 says:

        The OP’s point was that in PA you have to get inspected from a mechanic, not a government facility. Therefor, the inspection may be driven by the interests of the repairs that can be done and profited from.

    • MeOhMy says:

      I agree in principle, especially the obvious conflict of interest given the shop doing the inspecting is the path of least resistance to getting whatever is necessary done to pass inspection.

      That said, many of the lifelong PA residents that I know basically have no concept of “routine maintenance” so then they claim that the “inspection” cost them $1000. The inspection didn’t cost $1000, the fact that they have bald tires, no brake pads, pitted rotors, a big hole in the muffler and 5-year-old windshield wipers is what’s costing so much. Of course if they kept up on the maintenance they’d be able to get these things fixed over time instead of having get them fixed all at once in order to pass.

      They tacitly allow annual inspection to be the only time they consider the car’s routine maintenance but then get annoyed when suddenly they have to take care of these things all at once and in a hurry…and then they blame the inspection system when the problem is their own laziness/neglect/cheapness.

      • Wrathernaut says:

        Truer words are rarely spoken.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        There are *many* emission shops here in GA which solely perform emissions testing and unrelated (tire change) repairs. That’s expressly to avoid the appearance of a scam.

      • Cactusjack_1999 says:

        PA resident here. A friend of mine had his vehicle fail twice because of rust on the body. Estimated cost of repairs $1,300 for it to pass inspection

    • xdigitalpariahx says:

      I think this is one of the things MA does pretty well, safety inspection every year and emissions every other. It only costs $29.00 and it sounds like they’re pretty highly monitored. Last year we bought and old Crown Vic that the inspection station wouldn’t pass because there were scratch lines in the windshield from the previous owner using the wrong wipers. The inspector told us that he couldn’t pass it because they had recently had their inspection privileges suspended for passing that defect… and they didn’t do auto-glass repair/replacement.
      I have never had an up-sell at an inspection ever, and I even had one place refuse to take my money, because they could tell just by looking at my car it wouldn’t pass (rust) and it’s much easier to drive a car with an expired sticker than the red reject sticker you get if they fail you.

    • mbz32190 says:

      As a PA resident, I don’t see the big deal. Clunkers that are spraying mass amounts of exhaust everywhere, riding on bald tires, with faulty taillights should not be on the road. It costs me $45, maybe, each year, as long as I don’t require any other work to be done.

      • howie_in_az says:

        That was the one nice thing about living in Pennsylvania: car registration and emission costs were far, far lower than they are here in Arizona. Somehow the DOT gets away with charging a tax based on the estimated worth of the vehicle. They don’t even look at my odometer, they base it on the original sale price, then depreciate it by 16%ish every year. Such a rip-off that my 170,000 mile car still gets charged $180/year for registration. Emissions is a whole other rip-off: $50 (possibly more, I don’t remember) to have some state employee plug into my OBD-II computer to say everything is OK.

        • human_shield says:

          I did state inspections in desperate times. They do a lot more than plug the car in and push a button. You wouldn’t believe how many people have tail lights burned out, brakes that barely work, no parking brake, expired insurance!! After seeing cars come in with horrible safety issues I am a proponent of annual inspections.

          They are usually free of scams because there are regular audits, state mystery shoppers, the fines are huge, and the inspectors are specialized enough that the managers don’t want them to quit, so they don’t harass them about quotas.

          • Mary says:

            I agree, I would get an annual inspection done even if it wasn’t required by my state.

            Though I’m balking a bit at the prices people are throwing around…Virginia mandates that ours are a set cost no matter where you go and that’s $16. If you look around you can find coupons for it to to get it cheaper.

            Emissions inspection, if your county requires it, is more but still not very pricey.

            But really, $16 for a good safety inspection once a year? Definitely not wasted money.

            NOW, that said, you will find some disreputable mechanics that will fail your vehicle for something that isn’t actually wrong with it to try to convince you to get a pricey service in order to pass the car. Which is why you have to sometimes be specific that if the vehicle has any problems they are to fail it and not just do the repairs and charge you (which some will try to do). More than once I’ve known of places that have failed my car, and I just took it to my brother who would look at the part, declare it perfectly fine, take it to another mechanic and it would pass. Thankfully I have a good mechanic now.

        • jvanbrecht says:

          Worse in MD. When I moved to MD with my 5 year old VW, they charged me the difference in tax between VA and MD when I tried to register. Not a prorated value either. VA is 4%, MD is 5% (or was), so I had to pay the 1% value on full MSRP of a 5 year old car with 100k miles on it. That pissed me off… but what choice did I have..

    • domcolosi says:

      Well, jeez, that’s not fair. Just because people choose to make costumes for a living, they should be charged $70-800. Shame on Pennsylvania. Don’t they like Halloween there?

    • Minj says:

      I have seen some seriously scary cars come into the garage where I worked to get an inspection. Safety inspection isn’t just for their benefit, it’s for the benefit of everyone who drives around that individual and expects that the wheel won’t fall off at some random time causing the car to veer into theirs. You think you can tell when things are getting that bad? I’ve seen people come in with ball joints that had an inch of play and the customer didn’t think anything was wrong. Most parts wear and go bad gradually over time. If you’re not in tune with how the car should actually feel, you may not realize that something is horribly wrong until it catastrophically fails. Many people do know something about their cars and do keep them properly maintained but they are the minority.

      The emissions part I can’t really get behind because I don’t think it makes much of a difference. You don’t have to do much but the equipment that the state makes you buy is very expensive and has to be paid for somehow. The safety part is extensive and a good idea, IMHO.

  6. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Fluids scams… Sent a family member in to an otherwise reputable shop only to have them get scammed into an obscene fluid change orgy. I advise all my family to only buy what you go in for… do not take the up sell. I took a car in to the same shop for an oil change (didn’t have time to do it myself) and the technician told me the coolant smelled “funky” and needed to be flushed and replaced. The fluid was 6 weeks old following a radiator replacement. I suspect the tech was funky.

    The best way to prevent this is to keep your own records of what has been done and when. Then follow your cars suggested replacement schedule.

    By the way the shop in these two examples does great oil changes. You just need to ensure you tell them you don’t want any other work done. The oil change is their loss leader, the “at cost” milk in the back of the store. They make the real money off the up selling.

    • Caffinehog says:

      Do you really suggest that they AREN’T making money on a $30 oil change?

      • Dover says:

        He didn’t say he paid $30, the place around the corner from me is always running $15 oil change specials.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        When you factor in overhead, they’re probably breaking even on a $30 oil change and losing money on a $19.99 special. Either that, or they’re using incredibly low quality bulk oil and filters. Believe it or not, there are oil filters out there that make Fram look good.

        • Marlin says:

          There is plenty of profit in a $30 oil change. Also bulk oil is no differant then what comes in the 1 qt bottle, other then being in BULK.

          And Fram/Honeywell does make the worst oil filters. Many other are made by wix or purolator just with differant paint and name.

          I use to be a auto-tech and ran my own shop so i have seem just about every thing oil and filter wise out there.

          • Promethean Sky says:

            My mother justifies getting her oil changed at a quick lube place on the premise that they pay less for bulk oil, so the cost comes out the same. That’s all well and good, except for the part where they somehow wrecked her oil pan.

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            It really depends on the overhead. I was also a tech for many years we charged about $30 for oil changes. It was essentially our break even point for the service, with the assumption that we’d do other work.

            By the time we cleared out the bay, put the car on the lift, removed the drain plug, let the oil drain, replace the plug, drop the car, refill oil, put car in the lot, call customer, and then fill out an invoice, it would take around a half hour. We typically used NAPA Gold filters (same as Wix) and bulk conventional Valvoline. The billable rate for a tech was $40/hour and oil & filter typically came to around $12 to $15. It definitely wasn’t a big money maker.

            And you’re right about bulk oil but if you don’t know the shop, you have no idea where it’s sourced at. “BULK 5W30″ can mean just about anything. In terms of filters, there are a lot of gray market ones out there. I’ve pulled off more than my share of disintegrated cardboard media from many cars.

    • segfault, registered cat offender says:

      Even new coolant smells funky… Not a very good reason to change it.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      “fluid change orgy”

      There are so many jokes I could make here…

  7. Costner says:

    The “you need to rotate your tires” sham, but they never rotate the tires. I had this one pulled on me once. I needed to have them rotated so they said they would do it. They billed me for the service, but one of my tires had a mark on it, and when I got the car back that tire hadn’t moved. They had the rotation right on the bill though – and the tech signed off on it.

    I complained to the district manager and ended up getting three free oil changes. I used them, but never went back.

    Many fluid changes are also questionable. They can charge for the service, but never even do it and the customer rarely would know the difference. This is why I go to an independent shop that has windows where you can actually watch your car being worked on. They also always give me the old parts if I want them, and they show me specifically what was done and why the part failed.

    I pay about $10 an hour more per shop hour, but they are honest, the technicians are well trained and I know I’m getting a better value in the end.

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      You are absolutely right… Find a shop you can trust and watch the work happening. Keep going back as long as you can trust them. Get to know them so they know you.

    • frank64 says:

      What makes you think you actually got the oil changes? If they can scam you on the tire……

      • dangerp says:

        Whenever I get a new filter, I write the date on it with a sharpie so I can just see it with the hood open. If the date is gone after their service is done, then they must have changed the oil.

        Also lets me know when I’m due for another change…

      • Costner says:

        Well truth be told the first time they did it I knew they did the oil change because they ended up forgetting to put the oil fill cap back on. They left it on the strut tower and slammed the hood on top of it leaving a dent in the hood.

        That is a rather long story on how they resolved it so I won’t waste your time, but needless to say this is why I no longer use quick lube places to do anything on my car. Heck I don’t even like taking it to a dealership if their oil change bay isn’t visible.

        I should do it myself, but there is a shop near me that charges $8 if you bring in the oil and filter. I just can’t justify dragging out my ramps and dealing with the old oil for $8. I’ll gladly let them do it.

    • jason in boston says:

      I have big ass Jeep tires. I use the rotating tires as lifting for the day. If you live in an apt, it is kind of hard, but homeowners should be able to do these themselves.

    • Elvisisdead says:

      My granddad would mark 2 of the tires with a grease pencil and check them after. Great trick.

    • xspook says:

      I actually watched a guy remove the wheels on my Jeep – walk around a few minutes and replace them exactly where they were originally. That confused the hell out of me…if you’re gonna scam me on the rotation, why bother removing the tires? The work is 90% done.

      Once it was done, I told the manager, he inquired with the “tech”, the tech assured him he rotated the tires, but I watched the guy 100% of the time. I told them to take the charge off the bill – I didn’t trust the tech to touch my car after that.

  8. Thyme for an edit button says:

    This is why I go out of my way to go to the same mechanic I have gone to for years. No funny business.

    I had a tire place try to scam about some work. The cost they wanted was ridiculous. I asked for the quote in writing and they would only write the work and not the prices. Turns out they wanted almost twice as much as the work normally costs at other places.

  9. Sword_Chucks says:

    The tranny flush. Now im also not sure if it is a sex act, but it is something we’ve put off for years and its kept the transmission going on my 99 Dakota probably longer than it should be

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      According to most manufacturers, ATF flushes are a very bad idea. Flushes are a huge money makers for shops (and dealers) because they’re so easy to perform. Pop the cooling line, attach it to the flush machine, add in 12 quarts of fluid and then charge the customer $200. The advantage to this system is that it can replace all of the fluid but the downside is that it can potentially dislodge particulates, clog the filter, and cause various other unintended consequences. Many shops also don’t use recommended fluids and use universal-type and then add a specific additive pack. This is a good way to destroy a Honda or Chrsyler transmission.

      However, it’s a good idea to a standard pan drop every ~30,000 miles when you have an automatic. It only changes about 1/3rd to 1/2 of the fluid but it’s enough to keep the fluid fresh and a new pan and filter kit typically only runs about $20. It’s a quick, albeit messy job and much less profitable than an actual flush.

      • Destron says:

        The newer methods for flushing a transmission are not quite as bad as the power flush, but I would agree, a flush is something you either do regularly or DONT DO AT ALL. If you buy a used car with 80,000k on it, you will definitely do some damage with a tranny flush.

    • segfault, registered cat offender says:

      Some manufacturers now allow flushing the transmission fluid (Nissan), Honda doesn’t (and if the fluid is contaminated, they recommend multiple drains and fills with short drives in between).

      Nearly all of the manufacturers have their own proprietary formulations for ATF and coolant. Some are compatible, others aren’t.

    • sparc says:

      yep… avoid the flush. The whole scam there is the company trying to offset the equipment cost on the customers. It’s never about whether the customer actually needs that much work done at such high cost.

      Do the pan drop and filter change that’s recommended in the manual. It’s a whole lot cheaper and just as effective.

    • vdragonmpc says:

      Here is a neat tip I found on my Dodge Dakota:

      Did you know you have to check the fluid in NEUTRAL? Otherwise you will be low a quart all the time and it will eventually damage the truck. I have a 2000 4×4 dakota and found out from a friend who went to be certified.

  10. Scamazon says:

    The air filter scam, injector cleaning, fluid flushing and various other scams keep me away from Jiffy Lube. The tipping point was when they forgot to change the oil filter because its not easy on my vehicle and didn’t replace the oil. Watch out for them disconnecting vacuum lines and wanting to diagnose the check engine light too… (Huh, that wasn’t on when I pulled in…)

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Those aren’t really scams as much as upsells. A place that does oil changes all day can’t survive without hawking wind shield wipers, filters, pcv valves, all that junk. Sometimes it can be helpful, and you can just say “No, thanks” and drive on over to the nearest parts shop.

  11. diasdiem says:

    Blinker fluid.

  12. mikec041 says:

    Dealership telling customers that if DEALER doesn’t do the “required” service (dealer’s listed services NOT manufacturer’s) they will void the cars warranty. Happened to my daughter in a Chesapeake Virginia Hyundai dealer, they scammed her out of $400 for what amounted to an oil change and tire rotation. They even tossed out the K&M air filter and replaced it with a cheap paper one.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      This.

      I haven’t had any issues with either the dealer where I bought my Kia Soul (where I used to live) or where I now have in (just moved 2 mos ago), but I have heard of HORROR stories. I prefer to get everything done through the dealer right now because of my warranty and the car being spankin’ new, but if I though the dealers did a lousy job, I don’t know why I can’t go elsewhere. And why does it matter? Kia says it is okay as long as the place is certified to do the work. My Dad’s local repair shop could have worked on my car back home no problem. And the dealership I bought it from said it was fine.

      But I am paranoid. My parents bought a Dodge when I was a kid. It was like the 4th one we ever owned. We needed to replace the transmission TWO TIMES in 5 years. Because they were completely shitty and could never get our car in, we went elsewhere for work on the car (my Dad’s local mechanic). Well, when the first transmission went out, all the work was done at the dealer and it was no issue. When the second one died a year and a half later, we had had an OIL CHANGE done at the shop not the dealer and they were claiming we voided the warranty. WTF?!

  13. madtube says:

    As a master technician, I do know a bunch. Not because I did them, but because I watched others do it. I had a very strict code when it came to auto repair. I would only recommend things that needed to be done because they NEEDED to be done, not because they could be done or it was time for it. Over the years, I accrued many loyal customers. Yes, I needed to make money like everybody else. But I did not need it at the expense of someone else. If I said you should do something, there was a reason, a valid reason. I also pissed off my co-workers quite often. Others would ask my opinion and I would give it. Many times it was shown that other technicians were trying to make a quick buck.

    I would rather be an honest technician that made a little less money than a crook with lots of money. That right there I believe is the root cause behind our financial meltdown.

    But that is just my $0.02.

    • madtube says:

      BTW, if anybody ever wants information in an automotive related capacity, sound off. Right now, I do not work because I am having spinal surgery in a few weeks for ruptured vertebrae. I will be glad to offer my take on anything. For free. Just ask. I will post my email address if people want knowledge.

      • TheSpatulaOfLove says:

        The only thing I want to mention are the customers that accuse you of being shady and trying to scam a buck out of them when you ARE honest and only trying to help.

        I do a lot of work myself, but if I mess it up, I own up to the fact that it will likely cost me more to have a professional back out whatever redneck crap I did. I also understand my driving style will ultimately wear things out prematurely and yet again cost me more. Unfortunately, I’m not the norm as many mechanics I’ve worked with in the past have pointed out.

        Good luck with your back surgery. And thank you for being an honest mechanic!

      • mechteach1 says:

        I don’t need any advice, but I wanted to give you a big thumbs up for this. Good luck with your surgery!

      • microcars says:

        OK, I’ll bite.
        Here’s what I got the when I took my 2 year old Toyota truck in for warranty work:

        A message on my answering machine from the “Service Manager” saying I should get a new Serpentine Belt as mine is “cracking”. Oh and also the Throttle Body needs cleaning.

        2 years old and the belt is “cracking” really?
        Is there some reason I cannot “clean” the Throttle body myself? Someone once told me that I could really mess things up. But it’s just a manifold! Yeah, I would have to unplug a few wiring harnesses and make sure they got back in place properly but other than that I can’t see what the big deal is?

        OH, and 20 minutes after that message was left, the same guy called back and left a message saying my truck was done.
        Nothing else was said about the belt and throttle body.

        • madtube says:

          As far as the throttle body goes, it can get very gummy from the fuel. Even though fuel is not sprayed into the T/B, when the car is shut off the vapors can cause the T/B to get gummed up. Nowadays, the oil companies put so much additives in the gas that gumming seems to be more prevalent than in the past. An old toothbrush, spray intake cleaner, and a few minutes elbow grease will get it cleaned up nice. Dealers do sell really good cleaners, but regular stuff you buy at AutoZone or Napa does well.

          It is not that hard to believe the belt is cracking after 2 years. Some manufacturers actually determine wear by “cracks-per-inch.” I have seen cars 6 months old start to crack. Look at the ribs. If there are many deep cracks, get it replaced. If it has relatively light cracks, it can wait for a while. Location in the continent, manufacturer, etc. all matters, but these are a “baseline” to make a decision.

      • sufreak says:

        You wouldn’t happen to be in the NJ/PA area or know of a good mechanic? I’m new to this region and looking for an honest person. I trust most of these people half as far as I can throw my car.

        • madtube says:

          Ironic. I now live in southern Jersey; Atlantic County, to be more precise. My wife and I are new to the area because she is in the military and this is where she got stationed. Unfortunately, I cannot give an honest answer because I just do not know.

          Sorry I cannot provide more info.

        • nrich239 says:

          This place services our workplace and they dont upsell us (not sure about general public vs company people) but so far, I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them

          Sidd’s Auto Repair:
          http://www.iatn.net/dir/page/i/m/12378/t/b/index.aspx#contact%20info

      • Snails says:

        I could use some free mechanical advice. I’ve got a project car that won’t run. I can get it to start, but after a couple of seconds it stalls.

        The car sat for several years before I adopted it. Fuel pump was dead, battery was dead. Currently, the fuel has been replaced, fuel pressure is good, pump and filter were recently replaced. The turbo has seized, but I’d like the car to simply idle first. The engine is a Buick 3.8L Turbo.

        Best wishes with the back surgery.

      • madtube says:

        I hope I have answered some questions. Again, if people have inquiries, please ask.

        • agardina says:

          Car repairs are some of the most stressful, painful situations. I know my 05 Escape needs new spark plugs, but can’t DIY (apparently 3 are located below the manifold) – if I’m taking my car in for a tune-up and new spark plugs, how much should that run me? (I’m in Texas.)

          By the way, had a dealer the other day tell me my battery failed a road test. When I went to pick up my car, the attached technician paperwork said the battery was fine. Scam in black & white.

        • madtube says:

          For those interested, my email is: madtube@gmail.com.

          I will do the best I can to help. Understand that I may not have all the answers, but if I can help, I will try.

        • erinpac says:

          My A/C & Heat both seem to work (gets hot/cold)… but it only blows on high (not low, med). I replaced the blower resistor. It was a PITA. It worked for a week. Then it stopped again (a month later still works on high only). Shop tried to tell me the motor was dead, another said the controls were broken. A third told me take it to an electronics specialist – perhaps it had a short.

          The short seems possible… or perhaps the NAPA resistor was bad? I’m hesitant to replace it again on that assumption – it was not fun and took me a while, as well as buying another resistor… but it did work for a little while… none of the shops recommended they replace it again, so no clue there. Of course, none really inspired much confidence with their explanations.

          Any ideas?

          • madtube says:

            Usually, the resistor takes care of the problem. Barring a bad Napa part, there is a number of tings that can cause that. I would need more info (make/model, year, does it have automatic climate control, etc.) to assist.

      • foofad says:

        I’d really appreciate your email address. I’ve got some questions but not the time to lay them out at the moment.

        Big thumbs up for being an honest mechanic – definitely wish there were more.

      • jason in boston says:

        I’ll bite – 1999 Wrangler TJ 4.0

        Is there any exhaust manifold that will not crack after a few years? Or could it be something engine-wise causing the cracks? I have tried all of the manifolds from $100 ebay onces to $500 banks header and they always crack after a couple of winters. I do the work myself and am sick of taking off the manifolds. Thanks.

        • madtube says:

          From my understanding of the 4.0 inline 6 in Jeeps, the exhaust manifold design has an inherent flaw in itself causing the cracks. Every manifold I have replaced on those had the cracks in a particular spot. OEM or aftermarket does not matter.

          The head itself is not a cross-flow design. Cross-flow means the intake is on one side and exhaust on the other. The Jeep I6 has both exhaust and intake on the same side. I believe the manifold is subject to uneven heating, promoting cracking. I have seen custom headers out there for the motor, but I have never installed one and cannot comment on the longevity. It may be worth a look.

        • MercuryPDX says:

          I replaced mine with one that had flex/accordion where the previous crack was. Similar to this.

    • DigitalShawn says:

      What the world needs is more honest people like yourself.

      Kudos!!!!

    • EWU_Student says:

      Sweet! I’ll take some car advice:

      1991 Toyota Pickup
      Car shakes like a unbalanced washing machine between the speeds of 40 and 55 mph. Above this, cruising at 60-no problems. Any ideas? Tires were rotated and balanced at Costco about a year ago.

      Speedy healing!

      • Me - now with more humidity says:

        Too many wet towels on one side of the truck bed?

      • madtube says:

        Tires, hands down. Tire issues (balance, separated belts) have a tell. When things happen between 45-60 mph and smooth out at higher speeds, that usually points to tires. With that out in the open, let me point out a couple of things. Tires can be balanced and still shake. What needs t be done is something called a “road force balance.” A large weighted drum is pressed on the tire and variations are measured. If the tire has a hard spot or a separated belt, it will show up then. Ask a shop if they can “road force balance” the tires. Hunter is a good maker of tire balance machines that measure road force well.

        Hope this helps.

      • vdragonmpc says:

        Have your universal joints checked. If your Toyota has the dual piece driveshaft the center bearing may be failing… Give Champion Toyota in Texas a call for the part and have it put on if you need it they beat every local dealers price on toyota parts.

      • WhyNotTry says:

        My boyfriend had a similar problem with his car and ended up replacing the tie rods. Fixed the problem. Easy-peasy.

    • veronykah says:

      Don’t you end up making more money and having more customers by being the honest guy though?
      All the mechanics I’ve used that were honest and charged a fair price were usually SO busy it was ridiculous.
      When people find out you are a good guy they go to you, and tell their friends, and their friends….

    • veronykah says:

      Don’t you end up making more money and having more customers by being the honest guy though?
      All the mechanics I’ve used that were honest and charged a fair price were usually SO busy it was ridiculous.
      When people find out you are a good guy they go to you, and tell their friends, and their friends….

    • FrugalFreak says:

      Where do you work and what is your name?

    • your new nemesis says:

      Ok, you win ’04 Chevy Malibu brand new brake setup (new rotors and pads) about 30,000 miles ago (ish I think). Anyways, i get a grinding noise and some vibration on occasion when i press hard on the brakes. I assumed it was metal to metal contact but after removing the brake assemblies I found that i don’t have any unusual wear and tear (no grooving on the rotors) and about 50% or so pad left, inside and out. Front and rear disc.

      • madtube says:

        Well, obvious things out of the way. Depending on how hard you hit the brakes, the grinding could be the ABS system. I say this as a possibility. I used to get a few people come in with similar concern and it turned out to be normal operation. Not saying that is the case here, but the ABS pump and modulator can cause noises and vibration that resemble grinding. Aside from that, there could be other things. Out-of-round (warped) rotors can cause those symptoms as well. Usually warped rotors vibrate almost all the time you use the brake, but I have seen some that only shake under hard braking. 30,000 miles is usually about 2 years of brake wear. Depending on driving conditions, you should not need any brake work, but the rotors could need turned. Hope this helps.

    • madtube says:

      To everybody that has sought my assistance in automotive advice, I have been having some medical issues lately. If you sent me an email and I have not replied to you yet, my apologies. I have been going through my spam filter and found a couple of inquiries. Over the next couple of days I am gonna make sure that everyone that asked for my help will get an answer from me.

  14. kmiles says:

    Every time I go in I’m told I need my brakes worked on. My BIL is a mechanic – I have him take a look after and there have only been 2 times in the last few years that they’ve needed to be done. I was also quoted once to tighten 2 bolts on my car that it would be $40 for labor. When I went to pay, they charged me $80. $40 for each (not what they said on the phone, I double checked). And it took literally 5 minutes.

    • OSAM says:

      I’ve had the opposite problem. I’m young (22) but this was a few years ago: I brought the car in complaining that the steering wheel would shudder on braking. Not hard braking, just braking. I asked them to look at the brakes as I suspected warped rotors.

      When my mom went to pick it up, they said it was just because I was driving it too hard.

      A few months later the car went in for another issue (unrelated) and I asked them to look at the brakes again. They did. Lo’ and behold: “Brake rotors out of round”. They fixed it for free when I bitched.

  15. cmdr.sass says:

    There are many services they can claim to perform but then not do. Fluid changes for example. I went to a Jiffy Lube once for a wheel alignment, but on driving it off the lot, I could tell they didn’t do the work they charged me for. It wasn’t the first time they ripped me off so I haven’t been back.

    • MercuryPDX says:

      The oil place I was going to “tops off” all fluids…. supposedly. When I ran out of wiper fluid I figured “Oh, they must have forgotten it.” I picked up some replacement fluid and was a bit surprised to discover that the well took the entire gallon and still had some room. They’d never topped it off.

      • anewmachine615 says:

        I had it worse. One place “topped off” my washer fluid with a summer formula in September. By December, my washer fluid lines had frozen, then burst. I’d much rather have paid for a gallon of washer fluid – or used the gallon of winter stuff I had in the trunk…

  16. Elvisisdead says:

    Most recent for me – “The manufacturer recommends replacing your struts/shocks”.

    Are they worn out, causing wear, or otherwise bad? No? Then leave them alone. I will never come in this shop again. You have lost any and all future business from me by trying to scam me like this.

  17. HappyFunTimes says:

    I keep running low on blinker fluid. I swear I replace some every 2k miles it seems. There must be a small link in the Schrader valve. :(

    /jk

    • DigitalShawn says:

      It seems like at least a couple dozen people everyday around here must have blinker fluid loss, I mean its like 6 inches from steering wheel to that little handle that indicates to other drivers what your turning intentions are. They should have an IQ test attached to driver license tests, and sadly, this is not a joke. :/

    • Snowblind says:

      That is why Italian cars use a Presta Valve.

      Now, if I could just get it to quit eating fuel pumps…

    • stvlong92 says:

      Yes, and check the brake fluid in my air brakes.

      And, how spark plugs are in a diesel engine again?

      Can you make my car like one of those in the movie Fast and Furious?

  18. Manny says:

    Jiffy lube…shows you a piece of paper with dirty transmission fluid and clean transmission fluid. Tell me mine is the dirty one and it should look clean (the red one). Thing was that I changed the transmission fluid a month earlier.

    • nonsane says:

      If your transmission was dirty enough, or depening on how the fluid was changed it can still look bad. However the person should have mentioned the recommended intervals to save their ass in this case. haha

  19. Elvisisdead says:

    Most recent for me – “The manufacturer recommends replacing your struts/shocks”.

    Are they worn out, causing wear, or otherwise bad? No? Then leave them alone. I will never come in this shop again. You have lost any and all future business from me by trying to scam me like this.

    • human_shield says:

      That’s not a scam. Shocks are regular wear items and should be replaced on manufacturer recommendations. You don’t just replace them when your car starts clunking around!

      • Shadowfax says:

        Yes you do. A bad shock is not going to kill your car unless you’re dumb and keep driving around on it, and hit something as a result. So you wait until the shocks need to be replaced and then replace them. I have a 93 MR2 that’s still on original shocks because the things just will not die, and yes btw I do know what bad shocks feel like, and do replace them when they get bad. But there’s no point in replacing them until they do

      • ecwis says:

        If by regular, you mean every 200,000 miles. My car has 180,000 miles and I’m still on the original shocks.

  20. stottpie says:

    1. almost anything at a dealer. go to a regular shop, they’re cheaper, and laws force OEMs to honor warranty repairs at independent shops.

    2. brakes. if you aren’t down to the squealer yet (you will definitely know when you are), you probably don’t need new pads. furthermore, unless your brake pedal is very squishy, you don’t need your brake fluid bled.

    3. tranny fluid flush. this is actually bad for your transmission. it will open up seals that were previously fine, and will be expensive. in most transmissions, you should never have to change the fluid.

    4. frequent oil changes. your oil should last you 5000 miles. more, if you’re using synthetic. check it yourself: if you wipe your dipstick on a cloth and it is still a honey-brown color, you’re fine. if there are suspended particles, or it is black, it’s probably time for a change. BRING YOUR OWN MOTOR OIL.

    5. coolant flush. your coolant should last you tens of thousands of miles. if it doesn’t, you probably have a rusty radiator that should be replaced. coolant flushes are very easy to do on your own. there is a drain plug on your radiator. a bottle of coolant costs about 10 bucks. from a shop, it’ll cost you upwards of 25-30 to get your coolant flushed. make sure to take your used coolant to a recycling unit, typically located at your nearest parts store.

    • pandroid says:

      Recently, my husband took his car to a repair chain (not a lube chain) because they had a good coupon for an oil change. They told him he needed an alignment and a transmission fluid change (on a car with 45,000 miles? Really??). He told them “he’d think about it”, and got out of there as quick as possible.

      A month later we had to take his car into the dealer for some unrelated warranty work. We asked them to take a look at the fluids/alignment out of a sense of caution. They did so for free and confirmed what we already knew – no issues at all with any of the fluids or the alignment.

      So it is possible for a dealer to be honest at least some of the time, though if we could find a truly independent and honest mechanic, they would have our business for life.

      • MeOhMy says:

        Some dealers are legit. My local dealer is great. I think they have a high enough volume that they make enough money without having to try to scam their customers…I think they would rather have happy repeat customers. Worked on me…on the few occasions I’ve needed more than basic maintenance work, I know I could have gotten the work done cheaper at an independent shop, but being able to trust them is worth the added cost.

        • colorisnteverything says:

          Exactly. My dealer here is great. They get me in because I came to them with warranty work and scheduled maintenance. I was impressed because one mechanic came in to talk to a woman about her Toyota (this is a Kia dealership) with high mileage and leveled with her on what needed done and what didn’t. She said she was only going to drive it another 10 months or so and then he said to do X, Y, and Z and here’s what it will cost. Her son’s car (Kia) was also in for an oil change at the same time. So, clearly if people with other brands are coming here, they do a decent job – better than the Toyota dealer (who is not that great, BTW, according to a friend of mine who backed into a pole and they gave her a HUGE estimate – bigger than anyone else she took it to by a long shot).

          Yes, it probably costs me $5-10.00 more on an oil change, but they are trustworthy and are recommended to me by friends, so I do trust them. My Dad has a mechanic that does charge more back home, but he keeps going there because they KNOW the cars, they always get him in, and they are pretty upfront about what must be done.

    • sparc says:

      “in most transmissions, you should never have to change the fluid.”

      not in my experience. Most manuals recommend a pan drop and filter change.

      A transmission fluid flush on the other hand is usually not needed.
      _______________________________________________________________

      Regarding oil changes…

      “if you wipe your dipstick on a cloth and it is still a honey-brown color, you’re fine. if there are suspended particles, or it is black, it’s probably time for a change. “

      from what i’ve read, black oil doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for a change. Stick with the recommendations in your manual. Being slightly conservative to the manual recommendations is probably OK, but don’t go too overboard. 3000 miles on a newer car is definitely overkill and a waste of money according to most manuals.

      I would also make sure to change the oil at least once a year and not go solely by mileage if you’re not driving that much. The manual might have some guidance on that too.

    • bananaboat says:

      Tranny flush is only bad if you’re going 100k miles+ between changes. Plus I don’t do a flush since it doesn’t replace the tranny filter. For $25 I can drop the pan, replace the filter and put in new fluid

    • iaintgoingthere says:

      You make it sound so easy to flush the coolant. Yes, coolant flushing is easy, but do you know that you have to bleed the cooling system on certain cars? Because air gets trapped in the cooling system that if you are not careful, you may over heat the engine. Next thing you know, you are replacing the engine.

      $$$$

    • The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

      Around here (kansas city), most of the dealerships have a labor rate that’s within a few bucks of the independent shops (around $90/hr). In that case, it’s no skin off your back to go to the dealer, because they usually have the parts in stock, and they have a lot of experience on your model.

      This is the first place I’ve lived where the indie shops charged the same for labor as the dealers.

    • Ted3 says:

      Thank you for that. I remember at one time I could actually work on my 80’s car without having to take all of the crap off that’s on today’s vehicles.

  21. probus says:

    I had a guy at a lube shop show me a card with what was supposedly my dirty coolant on it. The coolant they showed me was green, my car actually had red coolant in it.

  22. Thebestdudeeverr says:

    It wouldn’t be a problem if people took the time to educate themselves… If you drive a car you should have a basic understanding of how they work.

    These “scams” will only work on people who are clueless about their automobile.

    • Ted3 says:

      One trick that is old as the hills is for them to spill oil on the engine and claim you need new head gaskets, etc. Sadly, people still fall for this nonsense. That’s why I’ve stuck with the same mechanic for years. At least I can trust him and he won’t do any repairs or work that isn’t needed.

      I will also say that places like Wal-Mart and Jiffy Lube are ones to stay away from.

  23. nosense22 says:

    Try the cartalk.com mechanic files. They have good reviews of mechanics.

  24. danmac says:

    My wife’s car recently blew a radiator…took it to the mechanic and they said that the head gasket was probably blown and the cylinders should be inspected for microscopic cracking and possibly replaced. It was going to cost more than $1,000 at the minimum and her ten-year-old car is barely worth that, so we seriously considered purchasing a new car.

    That is, until a friend with automotive experience listened to our description of the symptoms and said there was no reason the head gasket should have blown. We ordered a new $100.00 radiator ourselves, replaced it at home, and the car has worked fine since then.

    • TheSpatulaOfLove says:

      My experience with blown radiators, is if the engine got too hot, the head gasket would be the next thing to go. A lot of it depends on how and when the radiator blew and how long you drove it after the failure. Many people push it too far.

      I don’t think he was trying to scam you, I think he was being thorough and drawing from previous experience.

    • Nighthawke says:

      I agree. Head gaskets once worn, can bleed high pressure gases up into the coolant galleries, causing burst hoses and failed radiators. I’ve had two like that, one on a ’76 Caprice, and more recently, a Grand Marquis. On the Caprice it bled the gases into the coolant system, causing the overflow bottle to boil over. We caught it in time before anything blew, but it was expensive.

      The Grand Marq did the exactly the opposite, bleeding coolant into the engine, making steam and a funky smell of burnt coolant (smells like dead mice). We caught it just before it hydrolocked and that was not a cheap bill either.

      The current racket is silicon intake manifold gaskets prematurely failing, bleeding coolant into the engine, making expensive repairs. You can blame GM for trying to modify what works on the 350 small blocks. My 96 SIlverado bled coolant until I asked a shop to investigate why I was losing coolant.. That ran me 900 bucks to get that damned thing fixed. And I know for a fact that coolant bleed either fouled my O2 sensors or screwed up my converters, tripping the idiot light.

  25. sliverworm says:

    Cabin air filter.. they do exist and should be replaced, but getting charged $75 to open the glove box and push two clips is just ridiculous. The actual filter costs AT THE MOST $18. Normally about $12

    • igoooorrrr says:

      There are a number of cars where getting to the cabin filter is a huge pain in the ass. For example, in a Volvo S40 you have to remove the gas pedal to get access to it.

      • sparc says:

        a lot of newer cars have made changing both the air filter, cabin filter, oil filter, and various light bulbs a real pain.

        My car requires you to remove a panel near the windshield to get access to the cabin filter. And even then it’s difficult to slide the filter in and out.

        It really varies by vehicle. Most manuals will have information for the easier stuff.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Changing a cabin air filter can be a little more involved than that on some cars. There are many models where you have to pop the hood and then remove the passenger side cowling (which sometimes involves also removing the wiper fluid reservoir and radiator overflow tank) and screwing up can cause problem with water leaking onto the passenger floorboard.

      It can be a pain but not bad enough to spend $75 to have someone else do it :-)

  26. momtimestwo says:

    Is nitrogen in tires a scam? My old van had nitrogen, my new car has air and I’m wondering if I putting nitrogen in now while it’s new will extend the life of the tires. I do have an air pressure monitoring thingy installed if that makes any difference.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      Nitrogen in tires is only a scam if you’re paying extra for it. Costco puts it in as a matter of course (at least at my local Costco) but I think some shops offer it as an upcharge, which is just silly.

      After I got the tires from Costco, the service writer at my dealership pointed out that they didn’t have the nitrogen system so they “couldn’t touch my tires” (for air pressure and such.) I asked him if he realized that regular air is 3/4 nitrogen in the first place and got a vacant stare, so I told him I’d deal with the air pressure.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        Welcome to Costco. I love you.

        Seriously, it’s sad to think that so many people flunked (or should have) eighth grade science.

    • Jimmy60 says:

      Nitrogen is the biggest scam even if it’s free. It doesn’t work as advertised. You still need to check tire pressure regularly as it will vary with ambient air temperature. When I checked my bike’s tires the other day before a ride I had to let air out as it was warmer than the last time I adjusted pressures. They were almost 5psi over just because of air temps. If the next time I check it’s colder, then they will need air.

      Not only is nitrogen a scam, if people believe they don’t need to check pressures, it is actually unsafe and probably reducing the life of your tires. Just use regular air and check it weekly.

      Nitrogen is used in aircraft and race car tires because of it’s low and consistent moisture content. It won’t have freezing issues at high altitudes in planes and it behaves consistently so race teams can make small air pressure adjustments and have consistent results.

      It is absolutely not needed in a street car.

  27. Burrrr says:

    Not so much a scam, but actual damage. Quick lube places put on my skid plate using pneumatic tools and likely cross-threaded the bolts. I didn’t really find out until only 1 bolt was really holding and my skid plate was hanging.

  28. Ilovegnomes says:

    I don’t know if it is a common scam but this is something that I had to involve PD to get the shop to do right by me. They charged me in advance for a shock (all 4) replacement on my car. They said the part was “weird” (less common car but not a rare car). I took the bait. Well they didn’t just make me pay for the part but also for the labor, which in hindsight, I found out is not legal for them to do in my state. Had everything gone smoothly, none of this would have been a problem but it didn’t.

    I have a busy life so I can’t give up my car for more than a day to get it fixed. Or if I need to, tell me and I’ll go rent a car. So when the shop said that my parts were in, I scheduled an appointment for the next day, and had them assure me that it could be done the same day.

    I dropped the car off at 7am (when they opened) and at 1pm I called to check on the progress. They said that they hadn’t started work because the part was not in and that the warehouse couldn’t get the part in the next few weeks. I told them that I wanted my car back immediately, a refund and the parts order cancelled. I could go to my car’s dealership and get the parts (which they don’t consider to be so weird) and have the job done the same day (within the time frame of the same week), since this shop was unable to follow through. The shop gave me my keys back but refused to give me a refund. The repair manager basically screamed at me, told me that they would not give me a refund and told me to sue them because he knew that I would lose. I saved the courts some trouble and called my local police department. They had a talk with the shop owner and got me my money back.

    The moral of the story is don’t pay up front for labor on a job that is yet to be performed. (In CA) Repair shops aren’t allowed to ask customers to do that. I had to get screwed to learn this lesson.

  29. madmallard says:

    So when I see articles like this, of course I have the natural knee-jerk suspicion that everyone else does. but then I think, ‘why is it I only hear about these articles where its always the CHEAPER price turns out to be the correct diagnoses? And they never give out where the cheaper/more correct service was given, so we can compare credentials?” You pretty much never hear about the guy who catches something noone else did when it ends up costing more…

    Part of the problem is that the average people owning cars don’t want to pay what real work or maintenance is actually worth to begin with even before we add the scammers.

    In this specific case, unfortunately, there’s just enough truth to discourage seeking a 2nd opinion, but one generally should as a matter of course for any +$1000 repair. Just responsible car ownership to me.

    Metal in the fluid IS bad. and the magnet in the housing is supposed to collect some particulates, but it shouldn’t be covered up unless you havent inspeceted it in like +60k miles, and even then. That much metal particulates CAN mean metal damage…. especially in a closed system like a differential that isn’t exposed to anything, and has no filtration. (like auto transmission fluid)

    Its not conclusive, but its the starting sign to go looking to see if there IS a problem.

    • spmahn says:

      When you’re getting into the realm of $1000+ for repairs, for a lot of people at that point, it’s just cheaper to get a new car. I could see paying that kind of money if you still owe on your car, or if your car still has significant resale value, but for most people, spending that kind of money on your vehicle is a stupid investment.

      • madmallard says:

        True. Welcome to America, where everything is disposable.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Cars aren’t investments and $1,000 maintenance bills (not even counting repairs) are just part of being a car owner. If you have a timing belt, expect to pay $600 – $1,000 for a new belt, water pump, and tensioners when you approach 90,000 – 100,000 miles. On many cars, tires can easily run $100+ a piece and brake jobs can cost $200 per axle. Then you also get to ATF fluid & filter changes, coolant flushes, PCV valve, drive belts, fuel filters, air filters, etc. And then about that time, it’s not uncommon to need an occasional new ball joint or suspension component or a battery.

        After about 100,000 miles it’s more than likely that several thousand dollars in routine maintenance will be needed. Ideally, this will be done at set intervals and a huge bill will be avoidable. Regardless, I think it’s silly to trade in a perfectly good car with 100,000 miles because of a $1,000+ estimate. A brand new car will still need the same maintenance at the same intervals.

    • vdragonmpc says:

      I did give the full comparison of the dealer and the independent shop. I can tell you the independent shop isnt cheap but they are honest. What was left out of the article was that the dealer NEVER needed to pull my differential at ALL. The universal joint was bad directly in front of the rear pumpkin.

      The dealer also seemed to want to call the other mechanics qualifications out. Problem is the other mechanic CORRECTLY repaired my truck. Even better he did it right and even explained why he did the front and rear universals.

  30. Donathius says:

    I had Jiffy Lube tell me that they needed to run some sort of cleaner through the engine of my ’92 Honda Accord. It would cost $120 but it would clean all the gunk out of my engine. They claimed it was recommended by Honda. Not only is it not recommended by Honda, it’s advised against by just about everyone. They claim that it removes carbon build-up (which is kinda true) but you typically want those carbon chunks to just stay where they are on an older car. If you have little chunks of carbon bouncing around your engine that’s a good way to clog up various small sensitive parts of your engine or even (worst case) bind up in a cylinder wall and cause a piston to have a hard time moving (thereby sapping horses) or have it bund up completely and wreck your engine.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      That’s it. I’m doing all my own maintenance, like I used to. 90 miles one way to Fort Drum’s auto craft shop. I think I can fill my trunk with enough meat from DeCA to make it worthwhile.

  31. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I would say that there are a lot more incompetent mechanics than dishonest ones. Quick lube techs aren’t mechanics, so I don’t include them (though, they’re probably dishonest and incompetent).

  32. spmahn says:

    Just avoid going to a dealer period. I’ve had a check engine light on my car for almost a year now. I took it to two dealers, one who charged me $120 to tell me they had no idea what was wrong, but that they could flush the fuel line for $400 to see if that did anything, and another who tried telling me that I needed a new Catalytic Convertor and Turbo for my engine, despite the fact that this wasn’t what the check engine light was saying.

    Finally I took it to an independent mechanic who told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the car and that it was likely just an electrical malfunction which could possibly be repaired with a $300 part, but since it was impacting anything, it would really just be a waste of money.

    If I had listened to the dealer, I’d be out about $2000 in parts and labor….

    • Donathius says:

      I’d agree with you but it depends on what the problem is and how good the dealership is. For a check engine light there are a half dozen places I know of in my area that will grab trouble codes for free.

      I actually just had the SRS warning light come on in my ’04 Honda CR-V. I called an independent place and they said a diagnostic would run about $70 – before anything actually gets fixed. I then talked to a mechanic friend and he told me that since it’s an issue with a safety system (SRS = Supplemental Restraint System – meaning the airbags) that those often have a lifetime warranty. So I called the local Honda dealership and they told me that if the problem is with a part that’s not covered by the lifetime warranty that it would be $105 to diagnose plus whatever it costs to fix. I decided to take the chance for $35 and it turns out the problem is with a part that’s covered by the warranty so there was absolutely no charge to fix it. Apparently the only part of the airbag system on my car that’s not covered is the control computer for the entire airbag system. The part that failed in my case was a control module that determines which airbags to deploy in the front passenger seat based on occupant size (curtain+front, just front, just curtain, factoring in the weight of the person in the seat, etc.).

      • spmahn says:

        In my case, the CEL was the vague Left Bank Too Lean warning, which could be caused by a dozen different things, some serious, most non serious. I speant around $500 netween parts to troubleshoot it myself and taking it to the mechanic for a diagnosis before I just gave up and took the mechanics word for it that it was probably an unimportant electrical problem that could be ignored.

    • SecretAgentWoman says:

      I wish we could just ignore a check engine light here in Texas, but we won’t pass inspection as long as it is lit. :(

      • Shadowfax says:

        It’s not a good idea to ignore it anyway.

        Say the CEL lights because of a problem that does not need to be fixed. So you ignore it.

        But then a serious problem crops up. And you don’t know about it, because you’re ignoring the check engine light. . .

  33. Gregory says:

    Took my car for an alignment check at Sears. They recommended new struts and an alignment, which I cheerfully approved. When I picked up the car, they presented me with the bill. I presented them with the lifetime warranty on the struts and alignment they had done last year.

    Probably the biggest scam is “storage fee”, i.e. pay us for the time it was just sitting here.

  34. CaptainKidd says:

    Collision repairs, especially hard to see stuff like frame rails.

    Got into a wreck and got the car repaired at a shop in the town where the wreck happened. We lived about 2 hours away but were frequently going there to visit friends and family since it was the holiday season. Can’t remember why, but it just made more sense at the time than getting it hauled back, something to do with the other insurance company since the other party was at fault. The shop it was at was on my insurance company’s preferred mechanics list; so they could repair it and get it back to me before the insurance company ever saw an estimate much less the bill.

    Anyways, I pick up the car and it’s been detailed, the pinstripe decals had been replaced all around, and other little touches that probably shouldn’t have been needed and the staff was a bit too friendly about how great of a job they’d done and how they had made the car perfect.

    Three weeks later I get a call from the insurance company’s fraud investigator. He was really curious why I would choose a shop so far out from where I lived. After telling him it was the adjuster’s idea, he suddenly became very friendly (truly friendly, not slimy friendly like the people at the shop). Turns out this shop had been under investigation for months for fraud, but they couldn’t get any of the customers to talk about it.

    He almost begged to borrow the car, I had no trouble with it and happily let him have it for a day. So he took the car to their “forensic mechanic” and discovered that of the $4000 billed, only about $1000 of damage had actually been done. The rest was bill padding.

  35. mike1731 says:

    I’ve kept records on all maintenance for all my vehicles on a program that runs on my old Palm handheld. It also contains scheduled maintenance intervals so I know when things are due for repairs. This makes it really fun when I go to a new place for a oil change, and they tell me that I have bad transmission fluid. I promptly pull up my records, tell them when it was replaced, and to out to check it myself. It’s amazing how fast transmission fluid can clean itself in these cases, like in minutes it goes from black to a nice pink color :-)

    • sparc says:

      i have folder with all the receipts for my car. I recently took a sheet of paper and summarized the major service by mileage/date. Really helped a lot and took only a few minutes to do.

      I’m at the 100k mileage mark, so I have a pretty good idea what else needs to be done via a simple list.

      Plus i can get a better idea on when the brakes, coolant service, transmission service, battery, etc was last done.

    • farcedude2 says:

      I use something similar (Gas Cubby) for my iPod Touch – Really helps me keep track of stuff like brakes, so I know ahead of time (before I hear the squeal) that they need to be done soon.

  36. diar says:

    I’ve run into the air filter scam (Jiffy Lube always tries to charge $24 for a new air filter; parts shop charges $7 to $10.), the dirty fluids scam and one time a Toyota dealership told me that an oil leak meant that I needed to reseal my entire engine for $2,000+. I can’t imagine how many people are ripped off at places like that daily.

    But, the single biggest scam in auto “repair” has to be changing the bulbs in head and taillights. They almost got my girlfriend this summer but I stopped her from doing it. It literally takes 30 seconds and nearly zero effort to change the bulbs in almost any vehicle. But some mechanics try to charge $15 to $20 in labor for this “service” PLUS you’re charged for the bulb, so add $5. When I showed my girl how simple it was, she wanted to go back and curse the mechanic out…LOL.

  37. buzz86us says:

    This is the reason I prefer my local independent mechanic he has no shop overhead a low per hour fee and he always shows me visibly what is wrong and tests stuff when I ask for free that is why I keep on coming back.

  38. sirwired says:

    The problem with many of the common scams is that most of them are also legitimate things that can be done to a car, if not when scams-r-us says to.

    Transmission Fluid: In most cars, it does indeed wear out (even “lifetime fluid”.) This is especially the case if the car overheats at any time or is used for towing without a supplemental transmission cooler. Worn-out fluid is the #1 cause of transmission failure. About the only way to figure it out is to smell and feel the fluid; a good mechanic knows what to look for. The color is pointless, as the red dye breaks down rapidly.
    Power Steering: 60k or so usually does the trick, but no more often than that.
    Brake Fluid: Needs to be replaced every two years or so to remove moisture from the system. Failure to do so can cause corrosion of the ABS system. (In my car, it’s listed as required, but there is nothing special about my particular vehicle.)
    Intake Flush: Throttle plate buildup happens. However, the more common injector flush won’t fix that.
    Fuel Filter: If it gets clogged, it needs to be replaced, but it does not require replacement at periodic intervals in most cars.
    Air Filter: It does need replacement, but no more often than the manufacturer says to.
    Coolant Flush: Green? 30k. Any other color, 100k is fine. Any intermix of Green and “other”? Flush immediately with the proper “other”.
    Cabin Filter: Stick to what the manufacturer says.

  39. anarkie says:

    Such horror stories. I have a rare breed of honest mechanic. He will show me all problems, and doesn’t mind me sourcing all of my own parts. I’ve saved hundreds by ordering my own parts online.
    BTW…kudos have to go out real quick to my favorite online parts retailer. http://www.partstrain.com/ I’ve ordered several times from them so far and always got exactly what I ordered for the best price.
    Either way, my mechanic is the real star. His work is top notch and he always gives me a diagnosis and quote on the work only for free.

  40. OneBigPear says:

    I was moving to another province and, before leaving, had the car checked over by the trusted family mechanic and had a few repairs to make sure it would make the three day trip whilst laden with all my stuff. Once settled, I had to get a safety check before I could get a new license. The Canadian Tire I took it to said it was great, but that I badly needed new CV joints. I pulled out the receipt from less than a week before showing they had just been done. They actually said, “Oh. I guess they’re fine then.”

  41. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    Wheel Alignments!!!

    When you buy new tires, yes… you should get the vehicle re-aligned so that the new tires wear evenly.

    However, don’t fall for the 4-wheel alignment scam. My particular vehicle has a fixed rear end, meaning that the alignment is permanently set to manufacturers specs and is non-adjustable. This is the case on many front wheel drive cars. A front end alignment is enough. There is no point in paying someone to re-align the rear wheels when it is impossible for them to do so. However, the last time I bought new tires at Sears, the service tech attempted to sell me a 4 wheel alignment and insisted I needed one. He only apologized when I called him out on his “mistake” in front of a store full of customers.

    Familiarize yourself with your car. Research it on the internet and owners manual to determine whether or not it requires a particular service before you pay someone to perform it.

  42. Rachacha says:

    My favorite scam was by a national chain

    Go in for an oil change and they recommend that I do an oil flush because of an excessive amount of sludge. For the LOW price of $250 they will drain my oil and change the filter, install a new filter and refill the engine with oil, heat the oil up (by running the engine) and then drain the oil and change the filter again. First, running the engine with new oil is not going to remove excessive sludge buildup. Second, assuming that it did, why would I pay $250 for what amounts to two $20 oil changes done on the same day.

    The same national shop offerred a similar service for my brake fluid and my power steering.

    My second scam is from GM dealers. Most if not all GM vehcles come with an oil sensor that evaluates the life of the engine oil based on your driving habits and tells you when you should get your oil changed. On one of my vehicles, it sees 95% highway driving, and I can get usually 8000 miles or more between oil changes, another vehicle sees about 50% highway and 50% city driving and the car usually recommends changes about every 5000 miles. The GM dealer knows this as they have a record of most of my oil changes and can see the pattern, but yet they still always recommend changing the oil every 3000 miles.

  43. jimt says:

    I have a Honda S2000. During my first trip to the dealer for the “free” oil change, the service advisor suggested that the tires would wear mch better if I had them rotated, at a “special” price of around $20. I reminded him that this was the S2000, and he said that the “special” price applied to the S2000. (On the S2000, the rear tires are much wider than the front tires.) When the service manager walked out to the service department waiting room for his meet and greet, I asked him how they rotated the tires on an S2000. That led to a short discussion and apologies from the service manager and the dealership manager. I haven’t been back there.

  44. A.Mercer says:

    I love seeing the undercover news teams at work on these. They will get a few different cars and have them checked from bumper to bumper and make sure everything is working. They will sometimes install hidden cameras so see what happens once the car is dropped off. Later they compare the charges of what happened to what actually happened. Quite often they found that they were being charged for stuff that never happened. Another fun one is where the mark the parts and then when the place tells them that the part needs replacing (which of course it did not, they already had it checked). They say go ahead and the person will charge them for the part and labor but then later they check those parts and find their mark still on it. The part was never replaced.

    On a different version of all of this was an undercover report of a used car place. They took in a car and sold it to them for a pitiful sum. The person selling the car told the person there that the car’s brakes were gone and needed to be replaced. One reason for the pitiful sum. The guy takes the money and walks out. The camera was set up across the street and kept an eye on the car. Later they had another person come on the lot and express interest in the car. The same person who was warned about the bad brakes would tell this new person that the car was in perfect working order and had no issues whatsoever. The car had never been moved from when it first got there and no one had checked it to see if it had any other problems. There are lot of rotten cars being passed around by these guys. They do not care or take the time to make sure the stuff they were selling is safe.

  45. robnich says:

    I’ve actually found my local Honda dealer to be cheaper than Jiffy Lube. (For my Honda Pilot.) Jiffy Lube: $65. Dealer: $18.50. They also rotate my tires for $11 when it’s time (in other words, not every time I get an oil change).

    Yes, sometimes I have to turn down an offer for new wiper blades or an air filter. Even those are not overpriced, but I can do it myself. One time they even replaced a brake light…they charged $3 for the bulb and about $10 for the labor. (In other words, it was about what my time would have cost.)

  46. vystral says:

    The Ford garage tried to charge my girlfriend $150 to replace her broken door handle. I bought the part online for her ($40) and replaced it in 20 minutes — and I’d never done it before that day.

  47. Bystander says:

    Years ago, I had a Diesel Oldsmobile Wagon that would makle a strange noise when the car shifted into Overdrive. I named the car Creaky, and took him to a nationally known Automatic Transmission Chain. They drove the car and I asked for an estimate. They told me that they couldn’t tell me until they had taken the transmission apart.I asked what would happen if I didn’t like their estimate and they said they would charge me to put it back together. I almost laughed in their face..I left and $350.00 later, I had a pretty good trans in my car installed by the fellow that ran the local Junkyard.

    Half the cars that go to ——– don’t need a new transmission-but they get one anyway.

  48. krom says:

    I’ve personally seen two different cars get screwed after getting a spurious “recommended” engine flush. One needed a new fuel filter (pricey) and the other up and died.

    If it ain’t in the manual, tell ‘em to buzz off, and better yet don’t go back. Even better, suck it up and get serviced at the dealership. They have a better waiting room anyway.

  49. JollyJumjuck says:

    You have to be a Renaissance Man these days to avoid getting scammed. Automobile, computer, real estate, legal, health, finance, and other industries all have their sketchy characters just waiting to part you from your money. Fortunately there is the Internet, making it easier to do your homework before falling into their traps.

  50. oldgraygeek says:

    One of the biggest scams is one CUSTOMERS request all the time: a “tuneup.”
    Modern cars don’t need to be “tuned.” The ignition and fuel injection are computer controlled. The spark plugs are good for 100K+ miles. Most cars don’t even have ignition wires anymore.

    When you ask for a tuneup, you get a bunch of perfectly good parts removed… and some of the replacements will have shorter lifespans than the original would have had.

    Another scam, which mechanics and consumers fall for, is aftermarket parts that are marketed as “original equipment replacement.” Many are far inferior to the factory parts.
    Brake rotors, suspension parts, filters, and ignition system components are marketed as “OE Replacement,” which merely means that they FIT. While there are a few aftermarket brands that meet or exceed OEM quality, most fall far short.

    I learned this the hard way in the auto parts business:
    Our customers did a lot of work on Atlantic City “Jitneys,” which were mostly Chevrolet/GMC one-ton P-series stepvans with heavy aluminum bodies.
    A jitney driver will pound his P-30 up and down the potholed streets of AC with a dozen passengers on board, eight hours a day, until a ball joint or tie rod end gets loose enough that he takes it in to the shop. A new jitney would generally get about 90-100K miles on the original front end components.
    A repair shop would install TRW, Moog or Napa replacement parts… and the truck would be back in a month with that part “defective.” The replacement, installed at a net loss for both the repair shop and parts store (not to mention the downtime on the jitney), would again fail prematurely.
    This pattern continued until one of our customers bought four ball joints from a GMC truck dealer, and installed them on a troublesome jitney for its angry driver… and they held up fine.
    Word got around to the other shops in the area, our money-losing jitney part sales dried up (to our great relief), and we learned to refer jitney suspension parts inquiries to a GM dealer.

    Now, when any of our cars needs a load-bearing part, my mechanic knows to get an OEM part from the dealership… even if we have to wait and/or pay more, it’s worth the time & money.

  51. veronykah says:

    I’ve found this site to be very helpful when looking for a good mechanic, user submitted reviews and its part of car talk’s website.

    http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/

  52. thesalad says:

    FIlters filters filters.. Most places’ll charge you between 30-40 to replace your air filter.. that you can get for $10 at the store.. and replace with a screw-driver.
    Oil change Checkups- Anything that they recommend after an oil change should be looked at by a real mechanic not an upselling oil monkey.

    Inspections / misc failure items: Check you state law and car out before you get your car inspected and avoid fees that are just slightly lower than the part plus new inspection if you do it yourself. Things like $10 for 2 licence plate bulbs, $14 for 1 wiper, $13 for a brake light.

    Inspections / brakes
    YES you do need to replace your brakes, but often times you should look at the laws for your area, and actually look at your brakes (Before inspection). Quite a few places bank on the idea that you don’t know jack about your car, and that if they tell you your brakes need to be done. YES you do need to change your brakes.. but it’s always better for you to know how to check them yourself
    I’ve had a place that rhymes with Wirestone tell me that my front brakes were down to 10% and would fail inspection unless I coughed up the 496 for replacement.
    Problem 1.. My state only will fail your disk brakes if there is metal to metal contact..
    Problem 2.. I did my brakes 2 months prior, there was no way I could have gone through the cheapest pads made of material that was remotely hard in 2 months and 2,000 miles.The pads I bought were not made of apple.
    I took my car to another inspection place that day and passed with no issue. I even called the shop out on it and they tried to backpedal but keep the blame off of them.

  53. shadowwar says:

    Ok here are some tips from an Ex Mechanic,

    1. First and foremost. READ your owners manual. It will have all factory recommended service intervals for your vehicle. Fluids, recommended types and when to replace.

    2. Getting old parts are a good idea. If the part is remanufactured They may be able to show it to you but they have to send it back to get the core charge refunded. I wouldnt worry about this too much as most people though wouldnt know what they are showing you anyways.

    3. 3000 mile oil change is the biggest scam out there. Read the owners manual for recommend oil change intervals. Use a quality oil and Filter that meet the manufacturers recommended type in the owners manual.

    4. Stay away from shops that pay their mechanics or counterpeople on Commission or Flat rate (dealers and chain shops). Commission is too much tempation to sell things that may be unnecessary at that time. Flat rate pay can cause havoc as the mechanic can rush through the job (calls for 5 hours book time and do it in 3, get paid for 5). Mom and Pop shops are usually the most trustworthy.
    5. When i ran the counter i would explain and wouldnt hesitate to show and educate the customer. Let them make the decision. They say no then its no. If it was a safety issue i would note the problems on the bill.
    6. If you feel uncomfortable and not sure then get a second opinion. You would with your health why not with your car ?

  54. Blious says:

    It does make me shake my head at these scams as so many of my friends would easily fall for this with no clue on what to do

    Thankfully, I go to a dealership that I represent law-wise so I know most who work there and get great service

  55. FnkyTwn says:

    I’ve got a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta GLI i’ve only managed to put 30k miles on. I work from home, I fly vs drive long distances, and only really get out and ‘drive’ for fun. Anyway, I only ever took my Jetta into VW to get it serviced, and somehow my oil plug managed to get stripped. Apparently there’s an issue with it being made of brass or something equally soft, and VW didn’t put out proper tolerances to its mechanics right away, so they were being overtightened and stripped, and VW didn’t feel they had to pay for that problem.

    So I paid $150 to have the plug redrilled and another larger plug put in. Within 6 months it was dripping again, and VW told me that they’d have to replace the whole oil pan this time, because they couldn’t drill it out any more (humperdink), and this was going to cost me $600. So I called around to some older family friends for a recommendation on a good mechanic, found one, and was told he could redrill it for maybe $50 max so I went in to see him and within 5 minutes he determined it was simply the wrong sized gasket used when they reassembled it. Grand total plus oil change was $40, and i’m never going back to the stealership again.

  56. ninabi says:

    This is the advice I’ve given my kids as so to save them tuition and time at Experience School (I’m an alum)

    Don’t use those cheap oil change stores. Don’t.

    The few times my husband and I used them we ended up with not only an oil change, but extra grief.

    A missing or loose nut on the oil pan. Hey oil light, why did you come on when driving home?

    Employees accidently locking my keys in the car, panicking, then damaging the door when trying to break into the car to unlock it.

    A masterpiece performance by the clowns “topping up” the fluids and oopsie! oil instead of water in the radiator! Shhh….lets all stand around her car with frowny faces but not let the owner in on the secret….let’s let her make the discovery when her van overheats!

  57. katewrath says:

    I bought my car at a spectacularly reputable dealership that had amazing customer service, so when I moved to a new city, I took my car to the nearby dealership for an oil change — more because I hadn’t had time to research a place, and they were open on Saturdays. So I got a refresher course on two fun games:

    1. My year old battery failed some kind obscure test that suggested I needed to buy a new one. Later that afternoon, I took my car to Sears (where I bought it), and told the tech I would buy a replacement if I needed too. He could find no way of producing any results that suggested the battery was about to die.

    2. They put a $45 bottle of something called “ZMax” in my car without asking me, and then charged me for it. (A quick internet search shows that ZMax has been repeatedly fined by the FTC for false advertising and my car manufacturer explicitly recommends AGAINST additives.) I have since learned that the dealership is OWNED by ZMax and they will literally put that stuff in your car and charge you for it, no matter how many times you tell them not to. The good news is that they refunded the charge when I complained, but dear god, that’s slimy.

    Then I found a reputable independent shop and never went back. Yay!!!

  58. kittylauper says:

    My transmission was slipping, I took it in to be looked at. They told me the transmission fluid was low, they filled it, and it still wasn’t right. They said they needed to replace the whole transmission for about $3,000. I said I’d bring it back later in the week because I needed the car for work. Well, I looked at the transmission fluid to find it almost bone dry, and since I had just gotten my fluids topped off at a recent oil change, that means there must have been a leak. I didn’t need the entire transmission replaced, I just needed the leak to be fixed. I don’t know why they prey on people who don’t have the money for these kinds of repairs. I obviously have a shitty car, so I obviously don’t have a lot of money. Don’t be a dick.

  59. bananaboat says:

    3,000 mile oil changes. Why does the guy with 1 hour of training know more than your vehicles engineers? Most cars can go 5,000 miles and some with oil sensors go well beyond that WITH the approved vehicle recommendation chart.

  60. HoJu says:

    Lets not forget replacing the Finnikin Pin.

  61. cyborg5001 says:

    I used to go to a Mobile-One quick lube to get my oil changed, and it seemed that every other time that I was there I needed a new air filter. They wanted $30 to change it, but I always declined and changed it myself buying the $10 filter at the store. No big deal, it was just an up sell that I could and did ignore.

    Then on one visit (the last one I ever went there for) they showed me some dirty dark brown liquid smeared on the work order and said it was from my transmission, and I needed a flush ($140) right away or the car would be irreparably damaged. I wasn’t going to consent to such a large service without checking it out first, so I declined. When I got home I pulled out the trusty Chilton and went hunting for the transmission dipstick to check the fluid out myself, but it was MIA. The car has a fill tube, but no dipstick, and there was no way that they got anything into the fill tube to pull fluid out as there is a coolant tube at the bottom of the fill tube blocking the way to the pan.

    Eventually I had to replace the pan gasket and found that the only way to check the fluid in that transmission was to remove the pan and replace the fluid. I don’t know where they got that brown fluid, it wasn’t from my transmission, the fluid I took out and replaced was red, not brown.
    A huge scam I’m glad I didn’t fall for.

    Eventually I had to replace the pan gasget and found that the only way to check the fluid in that transmission was to remove the pan and replace the fluid. I don’t know where they got that brown fluid, but it wasn’t from my transmission, the fluid I took out and replaced was red, not brown.
    A huge scam I’m glad I didn’t fall for.

  62. anduin says:

    I know I need to get my steering fluid, brake fluid and maybe transmission fluid as well as new brake pads (+ the bi annual oil change) but I feel like the dealership which usually has the lowest cost for oil changes that include a filter change as well is trying to screw me when they presented an estimate of like $900 for the fluid changes, not including breaks. I know I need them done since I’ve never flushed any of them in the 4 1/2 years Ive had my car. I’m almost tempted to pickup car maintenance as a hobby so I can possibly change the breaks myself…

  63. lowcajones says:

    How about… ORDER YOUR COFFEE BLACK LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE.

  64. HorseplayEconomics says:

    I actually got sold on a $400 tuneup when I only went to get my oil change….but there was a noticeable difference when driving amongst other things after I bought a “used” car that ended up costing like it was new.

    Lesson: Get your car checked out prior to make a major buying decision; don’t trust dealers.

  65. HorseplayEconomics says:

    I actually got sold on a $400 tuneup when I only went to get my oil change….but there was a noticeable difference when driving amongst other things after I bought a “used” car that ended up costing like it was new.

    Lesson: Get your car checked out prior to make a major buying decision; don’t take the word of the dealer

  66. Ceric Neesh says:

    I take my car to the local Midas. Not only haven’t I had a problem with them, they let the customers into their bays to watch. I, of course, watch from the moment my car enters the bay to the moment they hand me my keys back so I can drive off.

    The people there are great, too. Manager had been working on restoring a ’68 Mustang convertible, my girlfriend at the time was doing the same, and so he offered to help us as needed for free. Another one of the mechanics helped me replace the exhaust system on my Mustang in his spare time, at no cost.

  67. Syntania says:

    I had always had my mechanic work done by a trusted friend of the family. About ten years ago, I was traveling out of state in my minivan. The brake line came loose from the front brakes. I went to a chain location which I had never had problems with before. I even explained that the line had come loose. Silly me for being a woman, obviously I didn’t know what I was talking about. I had to leave the vehicle at the location (my mistake) because I was in a traveling theater production and we had a performance soon. When I returned, I was told that they had “gone ahead and replaced the brake pads because they were badly worn”. Uh, I thought you had to get my consent to do that, but OK. When I returned home, I had my mechanic look at the van. Apparently, they had switched my relatively new brake pads (the mechanic had replaced them recently and had written down the serial number which didn’t match) with really bad ones. So, they charged me for work that wasn’t necessary, AND they stole my new brake pads and gave me old ones. At least I learned from there on out that if I get any work done in a shop, I ask questions, stay on premises, and examine the work done afterward.

  68. OMAC says:

    A mechanic at Sears tried to tell my grandmother that she needed four catalytic converters for her Ford LTD. This was back in 1990 or so. I think she still has the paperwork that has the quote somewhere.

  69. Froggmann says:

    This is why I usually work on my own junk. But, I do take the easy way out on oil changes. Unfortunately finding an oil change place that doesn’t try to scare you into the upsell is a pain in the ass.

    I once had a place that I used for about 2 years that gave me good service. Usually brought in our family’s fleet of 4 vehicles on a regular 5000 mile interval. That was until they started upselling my wife. In essence they kept trying to scare her into replacing the diff fluid and transmission fluid on her 30,000 mile Tacoma. The transmission fluid isn’t even serviceable and diff fluid really doesn’t need to be replaced for at least 80,000 miles.

    Needless to say I’m using a different service now.

  70. operator207 says:

    I am selling a car, and decided to take it up to the car wash to get it really cleaned out, waxed and have them detail the interior. I decided to take a “deal” and get the oil changed too (needed it, as it was sitting for 6 months)

    It’s an 05 Corolla “S”.

    They did a good job detailing it, and I know I got my money out of it (did a before and after at Car Max just to see what the difference was. Over a $1000 difference in buy price after the clean up)

    While I was getting the car’s oil changed, the shop called me, they wanted to know if I wanted to change the transmission fluid. I told them it was a sealed unit, and Toyota says to not change it (per the Helm manual). He begins to tell me that this is incorrect, and I would be dumb not to change it, it was thick, black, and he could see dirt in it. I told him i was selling the car, and I did not want to have it done (besides I could do it myself, the oil change was a free deal at the car wash). He then asks me if I want the fluids topped off, it would be $15 to do it. I said the fluids didn’t need topping off. He said all were low. I told him I had them at home, and could do that myself. Next he wanted to replace the air filter. I asked him why, he said it was no longer white, it was black, and needed to be replaced. I told him it was a K&N filter, and it was PURPLE, and less than 1000 miles old. I had looked at it this morning and it was fine (it was). He studdered, and thanked me.

    When I got the car back from them, the fluids had been topped off and they tried to charge me for almost everything I mentioned above. I told them I had refused everything when the shop had called, and if they want to comp all the above that was fine by me. It didn’t go too well for me until I pulled the K&N filter out of the car’s intake, and asked them if they were charging me for a filter they didn’t replace. I did this really loudly in front of the car wash entry, where there were many cars coming in, all with their windows down.

    I was given a “deal” that day. I only had to pay for what I asked for. I don’t think I will be going back anytime soon.

  71. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    A coworker of mine shocked me with his confessions as a service station attendant. One of the tricks he used was to take a squirt oil can and squirt oil under the lip of the shock absorbers. He’d then tell the owner the shocks were leaking fluid and need to be replaced. Watch for that one.

    Midas likes to rip holes in your exhaust system and threaten to call the Highway Patrol if you decide to leave for an honest place. The only time I’ve heard of this backfiring on them was when the finished, my friend pulled the lifetime Midas warranty out of the glove box.

  72. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:
  73. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Diagnostics fee when the problem is obvious. The local Chevy dealership kept charging me these fees even when I tell them I don’t want it diagnosed, I just want the transmission pan gasket changed. It’s leaking just change it. They charged me hundreds to diagnose it anyway. “Well, yes, the transmission gasket is leaking but we had to pull the tranny and the engine to check the seal around the gear-shift. Luckily we did, because we feel some of the fluid may be coming out the top seal as well.”
    “I don’t care; gravity will keep it in, just change the Vette’s tranny pan gasket.”

    They also had ZERO parts in stock; to avoid Califonia’s inventory tax all parts are kept just across the border in Nevada. There was a small plastic vacuum hose joint that got broken when they pulled the engine. It was a $3 part but there were five versions and they didn’t know which was the right one. I told them to order all the parts and return the four wrong one. They wouldn’t do it so I offered to BUY all the parts but they refused. They kept the car for weeks while ordering one part, shipping it ground, receiving it, installing it, not having it work, going to the next one in the list. Thanks Ocean Chevrolet, I’m done with you. I made a point of going to the Owner, in the middle of a sale and telling him off and explaining I would no longer be doing business with them.

    I hate that fee if there is little doubt as to what the problem is. Last trip to the dealer was for a car I just bought (Camry Hybrid) had the engine light come on. The car ran fine and was getting great mileage so I wasn’t too concerned. I came in just before closing and asked them to just read the error and tell me if it was a serious problem. The guy got flustered, he wanted me to leave the car, but I wouldn’t. Finally, he just tightens the gas cap. That fixed the problem. I am so stupid because I’ve had the same issue with every new car I’ve bought but I always forget new gas caps have to be cranked down.

  74. central_ny_dude says:

    Be especially careful around your inspection time. In NY, cars get inspected once a year, before the end of the month the sticker expires. Take your car in to be inspected first thing that month. Do not wait until the end of the month. This is a scare tactic used by a lot of places. They know you are in a hurry to get your car to pass, so they will try to add things in that “you absolutely need for it to pass” state inspection. Know what the requirements are, and check them yourself, so there are no surprises. Check tread depth on tires, check all your lights work, check your horn, your wipers, seat belts, etc the day of (or day before) you visit the shop. I work on my own cars, and some shop pulled this on my sister trying to get her car inspected. Wanted $100 to replace a horn (they unplugged), $60 to replace signal bulbs (which were just reflectors, had no bulbs in them), and her tires needed to be replaced (they all had more than legal tread depth). At least she had the smarts to call me first before agreeing to anything. Shop wanted almost $900 total to pass her car. Funny, we took it to another shop, and it passed with no problems. Don’t fall for this.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Decades ago in Utah, my uncle took an old Nash Rambler to a service station for the state mandated safety check. He made the mistake of taking it to one on the side of town the rich old ladies used. They had state-of-the-art equipment like a laser headlight alignment machine with a ‘computer’. (This was before personal computers) They said the headlights needed to be aligned and that one of the brake lights was needing replacement, among other things. They wanted a fortune. My uncle called me and we took it home to fix over their objections. I threatened to call the HP and they gave in. The car had about 24 brake lights, of which one was dim or intermittent (not a safety issue). We aligned the lights on a garage door and changed the bulb. When we came back, the mechanic wanted to know how we could possibly align the headlights. I said “garage door”. He objected and I replied, “Why, what do you have, some computerized-laser tracking system?” He stuck his chest out to brag and the other attendant jabbed him in the ribs. At that point they figured they were dealing with a couple hicks with no money and wanted us gone. The intermittent brake light wasn’t working again but they wanted to be rid of us. (They were paid the standard fee and only had the $5.25 sticker to look forward to) So the guy cupped his hands over the one failed light to see if it was just dim or not working and asked me to press on the brake. I got in and pulled the headlights on instead. “It’s working!” and we were done.

  75. technos says:

    Things I’ve had the local quicky-lube manager try to sell me:

    Automatic transmission flush (on a manual transmission)
    Air filter (On a car fitted with velocity stacks and metal mesh filters)
    Tire rotation (on a truck with 33×10.50 fronts and 33×12.50 rears)
    Power steering flush and service, because it wasn’t working right when he pulled it into the bay. (it has no power steering)

    Why do I keep going back there? I know the guy that actually does the work. He’s trustworthy, unlike his manager.

    Other things I’ve seen over the years:

    Had an old truck with a two-piece drive shaft and towing package. There were 13 grease fittings, and they were always a pain to get to, so I took it to a quick lube place. They handed me a slip of paper stating they’d greased all 7 fittings on my truck. I handed it back and said “So you’re half done. Planning on pulling it back in to finish, or am I not paying for the lube?”

    Another place decided that the entry in their computer stating my vehicle required 20w50 was a mistake, and decided to fill it with 10w30. I caught them three quarts in and made them redrain the oil. They then tried to charge me for their mistake.

    GM dealer decided they’d claim my car needed a quart and a half of automatic transmission fluid, and not only charged me for it but suggested I needed the pan gasket changed because they could see it leaking. “It’s a manual.” “The computer says it’s an automatic, and the mechanic says he added ATF.” “Nope, he didn’t.” The manager flips his computer around and says “See? 1981 Camaro Z28, 350 V8, automatic only.” “That’s nice. Mine is a 1979 Berlinetta with a 350 and a 4 speed.” He taps away at the computer for a minute and says “There is no such thing, you’re mistaken.” “Well, you can either take the charge off now and assign a different mechanic to verify every line on the rest of that invoice was performed, or you can do it when the police officer I’m about to call gets in the car and sees a clutch pedal.”

  76. admiralriker says:

    I had a local shop around here try and shaft me.

    I received a gift of a bunch of free oil changes and stuff from my grandma (It was in the form of this big post card with little coupons, it was from a fundraiser).

    So, I go in for the Oil change, get it done and get ready to leave (and have the oversized post card thing stamped and hole punched). The woman behind the counter prints off the work that was done, and says “That will be $35.50″. So, I’m sitting there telling her that I have this coupon thing that makes the oil change free. She says “No, thats for the light we replaced”.

    I’m looking on this receipt: When I walked down the street to get some McDonalds while I’m waiting, they decided to change my third brake light (in the rear view window). It was $5 for the bulb and $30 for the frickin labor! So, I complained to her and the manager. They kept wanting me to pay for it and figured that it would “Be right of me to support the shop. After all, you did get a free oil change…”. Yeah, it was free after my grandmother paid $70 for the coupon thing.

    After pitching a fit, they finally just let me leave and didn’t charge me for anything.

    Later, when I had my girlfriend use the coupons to get oil changed in her car, they tried to scare her with all these things that were “Dangerously wrong” with her car.

    CON. FREAKING. ARTISTS. All the local shops by me are nuts. I once watched a woman get charged $100 for an oil change on a Ford Five-Hundred. I asked to see her receipt; they charged $40 in oil and $60 for labor (NOT SYNTHETIC OIL EITHER!). I walked out without even getting my exaust system looked at…

  77. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    Vote for the Tea Party and it’ll be MANDATORY that you pay whatever service shop you visit to change out the air filter, no matter if it’s dirty or clean. Blame Bush and the grape-gobbling wealthy masses, they sit in their McMansions on top large hill tops, playing with themselves and rubbing their bellies full of pot roast. Damn you, damn you all to HELL.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Are you currently high on drugs or something? What do air filters have to do with grapes?

  78. mdr says:

    Regarding disposal, if you’re worried about it might be better to figure out how to do it yourself. Here in Austin the owner of 31 Jiffy Lube franchise shops was busted for dumping oil in the sewer. “Heartland Automotive Services, Inc. is very respectful of our environment and regrets any damage that may have arisen from the ill-advised actions of a few of our employees”

    http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/courts/entries/2009/04/09/jiffy_lubes_owner_admits_putti.html?cxntfid=blogs_austin_legal

  79. ouijabored says:

    Man, I think Jiffy Lube is the king of this stuff – just about every time I have gone there for an oil change, I am told I need all sorts of filters and things replaced. Especially the air filter! It’s irritating.

  80. John Agar says:

    I had a dealership try one on me. I took my truck in to have a free oil change and they said I needed my fuel filter replaced because it ‘looked dirty’. I asked them how they knew it was dirty inside? It’s metal. You have to remove it to look inside and still, you won’t see very much. So either they had already removed it and put another on, or it was a scam.
    I figured it was a scam because I had changed it out 3 weeks before while tracking down a rough idle problem. Needless to say, I don’t use them for service any more.
    In my own experience, the most reputable garage in town is the one with the oldest clientele and is usually so busy, you nearly have to make an appointment.

  81. renswic says:

    We took one car to a shop for approval before we bought it(we didn’t have the time to do it) was charged $150 for a clean bill of health.

    3 days later we are doing an oil change and noticed that the air filter was factory and looked like crap, the drive belt was cracking and the brakes were on their last legs. I went back and rose hell about it ended up getting my $150 back and 2 free air cleaners that we later discovered didn’t fit.

    Walmart got me last time for a road hazard repair. Due to an accident we can no longer do a true aliment so the tire had a bit of odd ware no were near where the screw went into it. They replaced the tire with out talking to be about it first then tried to void my road hazard warranty because of the slight aliment problem and tried to charge me $140 for a new tire. We told them to piss off and fix the old one and remount it. They refused to so we left(Wife and I had both our sets of keys on us) I went back with my dad for back up after reviewing some of the paper work. We asked for the manager and of course the tech side lined her for 15 mins and once she came to us she tried to give us a canned reply.

    At that point we asked for the store manager and to see the old tire. This time we got to the manager first and explained what was going on and the 3 of us went to talk to the tech and tire center manager. As it turns out the old tire ‘magically’ went missing. The GM ended up refunding us the road hazard on all 4 tires and dropping the price of the new tire to $50 because 1. Road hazard did apply to it as the aliment problem didn’t cause the screw to stick in the tire. 2. They swapped the tire with out talking to me first(they were only authorized to fix a flat, not replace the tire). And 3. No tire, no proof, that kinda back fired on them.

    We need to replace 3 out of 4 of the tires soon. We are doing to do all 4 at a different shop and pick up a 5th rim and use the newest tire as a full sized spare.

  82. Rhinoguy says:

    How about seventy bucks to “adjust” the serpentine belts? Yeah, beltS. I showed the young lady how to replace it herself with a tool borrowed from Autozone, where she paid seventeen dollars for the belt. No, belt installation isn’t free, just batteries, headlamps and wipers.

  83. Rhinoguy says:

    And another thing… I had a Cavalier (keep reading when you stop laughing) that suddenly started running very rough and stalling if I let the engine idle. Took it to a “Highly Recommended” shop. They told me I needed a complete engine rebuild. They only wanted $3,200 which is pretty cheap for any engine these days. I decided to jump on the Car Talk site and ask around. First reply came back “your timing chain tensioner just broke, replace the sprockets, chain and tensioner, thirty five bucks for the kit. Right! It’s a real pain to install on that car but that fixed it. In its second hundred thousand miles all I replaced were filters and fluids. Timing parts never failed.

  84. chaelyc says:

    I got my oil changed at one of those drive-thru places in my hometown late last winter & I was impressed to see there was a monitor next to the driver’s window so you could see the guy under the car (& building) doing the lower half of your oil change.

    That was awesome, except that there was a big thing… something black & emblazoned with some motor oil logo propped up in front of the camera downstairs so you could only see the feet of the person changing the oil. I flirted with the upstairs guy for a bit then demanded that he go down and move the thing. First he said it couldn’t be moved, then when pressed further he changed his story.

    As I drove away I noticed two things:

    1. My muffler, which had been a little loud prior to pulling in, was now about as quiet as an old tractor.

    2. The invoice stated clearly at the bottom that they would NOT be responsible for ANYTHING that happens to your car for ANY reason after leaving that place.

    Scammy, indeed. I haven’t been back.

  85. eagle5166 says:

    I was sitting in the waiting room at a dealer once and listened as they told every other customer ahead of me that they needed 4 new tires, and it just so happened they were running a special on tires.

    When they finally came to me I declined and they warned me my car would never pass inspection with my tires as is. I took my chances and low and behold never had a problem and passed my next inspection.

  86. 2000MAN says:

    This has happened to two of my friends, as well as myself. Hand an oil change performed at Jiffy Lube as they were advertising a buy one oil change, get one free promotion. Not one of use have been able to collect on the free oil change. After many calls to their customer service, nothing changed. Even some pretty great excuses, such as, “yeah we must have mailed that out to another guy in your town with the same name.” Don’t fall for it.

  87. ergoiam says:

    I have had some bad dealings with some shops. I went to a Canadian Tire for an oil change and when I got my car back, the hand brake lever cable had snapped in between my dropping it off and picking it up. I got a replacement through another car repair shop altogether. Another Canadian TIre I went to for emissions control said they did the test and I had to have a serious amount of work done since my emissions were twice the allowable limit. They said I had to do at least $750 worth of work to show that I had made the effort to get my car compliant. I took my 2000 Buick to another, registered shop that specializes in emissions testing and it came out clean. When I challenged the manager at the Canadian TIre store on this, he insisted that they did proper testing and followed the correct procedures all the time, but could not explain why there was a 200% difference in emissions test results that were a week apart.
    A Gary’s Automotive I went to for new tires before a long trip put them on but I noticed a little wobble, and I was too far along to get back before closing time. I finally pulled over when it had gotten very bad, and none of the nuts were tightened on one wheel, and one was actually missing! I could finger-tighten the remaining four. I had to get a replacement the next morning and continue on. We were in heavy fast traffic going through Toronto, if a wheel had come off we could have been killed. When I told them about it, there was no apology, nothing. I never went there again and I warn people against going to that chain of shops.