Local Mechanic Does For $52.27 What Belle Tire Said Cost $1000

Mechanics are like doctors – it often pays to get a second opinion. When Josh’s wife’s Jetta failed, Belle Tire said it would cost $1,000 to replace the transmission. When Josh checked it out himself, he saw that it probably just needed to have a cable reattached to the transmission. Belle refused to check it out and insisted that it would cost $1000. So Josh to it a local mechanic, Otto Khim, and they fixed everything for $52.27, a savings of $947.43. Then he drove back to Belle Tire and laughed in their face. His story, inside…

Josh writes:

I am writing to you today to inform you of an experience that I had at Belle Tire on Westnedge Ave. in Portage, MI.

My wife was on her way to work on Tuesday morning (03/10/2009) when the clutch pedal went to the floor in our 1997 VW Jetta, and it would not come back up. Thankfully, she was already in second gear when it went out, and she was able to drive into a K-Mart parking lot, right next to Belle Tire.

That afternoon, I pushed the car over to Belle Tire (since they have ASE Certified Mechanics, according to their commercials). Their mechanic, whose name is Randy, looked at it and said that the clutch needed to be replaced and that it was going to cost $1,000.00.

I went back to Belle Tire to look at the clutch myself, since a mechanic friend of mine said that it might just be a hydrolic problem. Upon inspection, I noticed that the cable that goes from the clutch pedal to the transmission was disconnected from the transmission, and just needed to be re-attached.

I went back inside the store and talked to Randy, telling him what I found, and he would not even look up at me, as he said that this would not fix the problem. I asked him to just come out to the car with me and take a look at what I was talking about, but he insisted that it needed a new clutch.

Even if this was the case, I had found a place that would replace the clutch for $750.00, so I took my key from Belle Tire, and went out the car. I found a nut and bolt in the trunk of the car and used this to re-attach the cable to the transmission temporarily, so that I could get it to the mechanic that gave me a reasonable price.

As I pulled past the big window in the front of the store, I waved at the mechanic and salesman who told me that re-attaching the cable would not get the car started. That was fun.

The mechanic that I took it to looked at the problem and agreed with me that the cable just needed to be put back on the transmission. They fixed it for me today for $52.57. The part that they needed was $30.00, and they only charged me $19.50 in labor, plus tax. It is a small automotive shop, but for anyone living in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area, it is Otto Khim in downtown Kalamazoo and the guy that helped me is Brian.

On my way home with the perfectly-running Jetta, I pulled into Belle Tire and went in to talk to Randy the mechanic and the store manager. I explained the situation to the store manager and showed Randy the paperwork from Otto Khim. They were pretty much speechless. I let them know that I would be writing a letter to their corporate office, and I left a comment on their web-site (www.belletire.com), informing them that I would also report this to The Consumerist.

Thank you Otto Khim for saving me $947.43, and thank you Consumerist for being the voice and power of the consumer.


Josh C.

It all comes down to what you put first, people or profits. Locally owned and operated places seem to have more pride in the former, while franchises, not so much.

(Photo: DCvision2006)


Edit Your Comment

  1. SarcasticDwarf says:

    A good mechanic is priceless. I had a “good” small town mechanic say that the lower ball joints needed replacing on my truck at a cost of over $600. I then took it to another mechanic who in 10 minutes had looked at it, found the loose heat shield, fixed it, and given my keys back to me at no cost.

    • Necoras says:

      @SarcasticDwarf: Had a similar experience. Went to Firestone when my Rav4 started making grinding noises. Charged me $75 and an hour to look at it and say “it’s something in the timing mechanism. It’ll be $1000 just to look and find out what’s wrong, plus more parts and labor later to actually fix it. Oh, and if you drive it it could explode which would basically mean you need a new car.” Took it down the street to a Toyota specialist. Turned over the engine once, they looked for 2 seconds said “it’s the water pump, need a new one.” Had it replaced and running perfect for $250 ($200 in parts) the next day. They have my business for life, and I’ll never go back to any Firestone again.

      • Comms says:

        @Necoras: “I’ll never go back to any Firestone again.”

        The lesson here is just avoid chain mechanics. Because the people who work at Firestone or Belle Tire are employees and not owners, they have no stake in customer service. An owner of an independent shop has a reputation at stake. If he provides bad service, he stops eating.

        That’s not to say all independents are better but there’s a sure fire way to figure out who is good and who is not: When I moved to Portland recently, I checked google maps for some independent mechanics and simply drove to their shops. Any shop that had their garage filled with cars, employees scurrying about, and need you to schedule a time to see you was probably a good bet. A independent mechanic with more business than they can manage is probably busy for a good reason: they’re good at what they do and they get recommended constantly.

        As it turns out, the mechanic I found (Hung Nguyen, Canyon Auto) is exceptionally good at what he does and has some of the lowest rates in the area. Find a mechanic before you need one using the above method.

        • heltoupee says:

          @Comms: Not all chain mechanics are bad. The mechanics at Meineke on Vernon Dr. in Bloomington-Normal, IL have never steered me wrong, have always been fair, and have never overcharged me.

          A good mechanic is a good mechanic, no matter where they work.

          • Coyote says:

            @heltoupee: I no longer trust chain or dealer mechanics. Both only want to make the quick sale and get you out of their garage. After having the garage at the dealership where I bought my car rotate my tires take a hammer to my hubcaps…there was a notch but the hammer was quicker I guess. I now have a local garage that will do most things for free and even pick up the car while I’m at work and bring it back.

  2. UX4themasses says:

    Congrats OP, persistence and confidence have won the day.

    However, I never recommend instigating a confrontation. Doing your appropriate due diligence in reporting this location through the appropriate channels will provide far more satisfying results long term.

  3. Ninja007 says:

    an honest mechanic is worth his weight in gold

    • JustThatGuy3 says:


      Really? If he’s a 180lb guy, that’s 2624 troy ounces of gold. At $926/oz, that’s $2.43MM – that’s a lot of car repairs.

      /pedantic mode

      PS Yay replay is back!

    • krylonultraflat says:

      @Ninja007: Agreed. Note though that most people here are discussing mechanics that need to maintain a reputation to maintain a client base. I have been to reputably good local mechanics who I made the mistake of mentioning I was shortly leaving town to and have been subsequently quoted for unnecessary work.

      That said – the guys at Tire Town in Tallahassee, Florida? Family owned and run business that was aces in my book.

  4. halcyondays says:

    For anyone in the Pearland Texas area (south of Houston) Morrow Transmission fixed a problem like this on a car my wife had a few years ago for FREE. Needless to say, I’ve sent them more business and go out of my way to recommend them.

  5. tc4b says:

    Car repair is a tricky thing, especially if you don’t know anything about cars. You definitely need a guy. If you don’t know which place is trustworthy, ask around work. Everyone has ‘a guy.’ Someone who does good work at fair prices.

  6. Six_El_Sid says:

    Had something like this happen…not quite as newsworthy because it was a minor mechanic shop trying to rip us off and not any sort of company.

    A scratching/grinding noise from the back of our 1991 Jeep Cherokee was becoming worrisome. We took it to the mechanic, who had serviced the family’s cars for years.

    He had bad news. What we heard was the beginning of “back end creep,” and the back axle portion of the Jeep had to be replaced. It was going to cost, similarly, about four figures.

    The folks didn’t agree to the service right away.

    The state inspection (NY) was about to run out on the Jeep anyways, so my mother took it down to another local mechanic in town, whom we used mostly just for inspections, as he was not as far of a drive to the first mechanic. She asked him to inspect the Jeep, and while he’s at it, give us a second opinion on this “back end creep.”

    This second mechanic diagnosed the problem, and when my mother went to pick up the Jeep, he gave his verdict. A clamp had busted off the muffler, and the muffler was vibrating and grinding on the bottom of the vehicle. The problem was fixed for us for less than one dollar.

  7. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Glad you came out unscathed.

    Might want to check out the local VW owners community (MIVE) in case something bigger happens to the wife’s car and you’d like to find an independent VW specialist that won’t rake you over the coals.


    Hope this helps for future repairs…

  8. RogueSophist says:

    I enjoy these stories on the Consumerist. I enjoy them even more when, as here, the identities of the businesses are revealed — then everyone wins. Thanks!

  9. Anonymous says:

    This happened to me all the time when I owned a older car. 1/2 the crap is easily fixed but shops what to gouge us. So, I’d spend a half hr on the internet googleing my issue or checked out the forums and I’d fix it my self for next to nothing.

    Check out the forums for your car(s). A LOT of common issues are documented there and many how-to articles and such.

  10. UshaRalla says:

    Similar thing happened to me a few years ago. Sunroof stuck open. Took it to a dealer and they said $1k…new motor, new brackets, etc. Took it to a local guy and he did it for $15…he said it just jumped the track because it wasn’t lubed properly…he fixed it, added grease, and it’s worked fine since.

  11. Batwaffel says:

    Good going OP!

    I listen to Car Talk on NPR enough to know that quite a few mechanics are little more than crooks themselves.

    I have my own little experience when traveling in Cheyenne, Wyoming when my truck broke down and was taken to a shady overpriced mechanic there, but there was little I could do about that. :(

    Now I stick to a local mechanic. :D

  12. ModernTenshi04 says:

    I had a similar experience. Check engine light came on, so I took it to a local Firestone to have it looked at since this was a Saturday and they were open the latest. Guy called me a few hours later and said it looked like I had a blown head gasket, and it would take $1000, maybe more, to fix. Sticker shock to say the least.

    I brought the car home intending to call other places to get a price quote, when my mom suggested I take it to a small auto repair shop up the road a bit that some friends of hers have used and swear by.

    So I took it in, and after a 10 minute inspection the guy came in with a big grin and said, “It’s not the head gasket, c’mere . . . .”

    The problem was the radiator cap was busted and wasn’t creating a proper vacuum, so radiator fluid wasn’t flowing through the engine! Simple $10 fix with a trip to AutoZone.

    Sine then I’ve been taking my car to them for every repair or maintenance job, including simple oil changes.

    • acwatts says:


      I basically had the same thing happen at Firestone. The facts were not exactly the same, but the jist of it was that they wanted to rip me off for about a grand. One thing I learned from this is to get a quote, and then check their prices for the parts against the internet. In my case and AC condencer that Firestone said cost about $400 was available online for $180 (which means that a big place like Firestone was probably getting them for even less than $180) They wanted to charge me for several hours of labor at some crazy rate – I ended up doing the work myself, in about an hour. (This was the first time I had ever done anything like this – if a mechenic had done it a few times before I bet they would be much faster than I was.) I got all of the instructions off the net. It was easy. I won’t be going back to Firestone for anything!

  13. Saboth says:

    $1,000 or $750 seems pretty hefty for a clutch to me. Now, I haven’t had one replaced in probably 15 years, but the last time I had it done, it took a guy 2 hours and cost me $150.

    • Pixel says:

      @Saboth: Jettas are front wheel drive, so the labor to remove & replace a clutch is a *lot* more than on a RWD car. I don’t have the labor rate charts for it so the price may still be too high, but it is costly.
      The best price I could get to do one on one of my cars was $800.

      • Real Cheese Flavor says:

        @Pixel: It’s been many, many years since I owned a VW (an 87 Jetta and an 82 Rabbit) but I don’t think I ever paid more than $400 to have the clutch replaced.

        I can’t imagine labor rates have doubled in the ten or so years that I had those damned cars so I think $750-800 is pretty damned steep.

        Granted it seems that anything that’s VW-related costs a ton more than any other make/model. My next car after that was a Mazda 626 and it was a lot more reliable and when it did break it cost a lot less to repair.

  14. ovalseven says:

    “As I pulled past the big window in the front of the store, I waved at the mechanic and salesman who told me that re-attaching the cable would not get the car started. That was fun.”

    Reminds me of their slogan, “Well make you happy. That’s a promise!”. At least they gave you that much.

    Seriously though, they just donated $7,000 to charity during last night’s Pistons game. It didn’t take them long to undo that good publicity.

  15. acwatts says:

    Nicely done. I had a situation like this with a blown AC condencer. A local firestone shop told me that it would cost about $800 to fix, plus $160 to recharge the system. I looked over their quote – they had me paying about $400 for the condencer. 10 minutes of research on the internet and I realized that I could buy the condencer online for $180 (so a big operation like Firestone must be getting it for even less) and that actually changing out the condencer is very easy. You have to remove the front bumper – which sounds like a big deal – but it actually is very simple and only took me about 1 hour to do all of the work (and this was the first time I did any of this – someone who has done it several times could probably get it down to 30 – 45 min!). At this point I decided to pay to have the system recharged because I read somthing online that said that once the system was open all of the air had to be removed or it would eventually ruin some part – and that the store bought recharge kits would not work for this purpose. So rather than paying Firestone $960 plus tax to get the job done it ended up costing me about $340 and a hour of my time. From mechenics to contractors, 90% of these so called “skilled” tradesmen make their living ripping people off. If the victim is lucky they atleast get the job done when they pay triple what the cost should be. The unlucky victims don’t even get that!

  16. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Well, it’s the classic story.

    Guy’s car won’t start, so he brings it into the mechanic. Mechanic looks under the hood for about 5 minutes, walks away, comes back with a rubber mallet, and whacks the side of the engine. Reaches in, turns the key, car starts right up and runs beautifully. Mechanic turns to the guy and hands him a bill for $500. Guy says “$500? What the hell, you just hit it with a mallet!” Mechanic shrugs, takes the bill back, writes something on it, and hands it back. Bill now reads “Whacking Engine With a Mallet: $5 – Knowing Where to Whack the Engine With a Mallet: $495”

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @JustThatGuy3: Except in this case the mechanic had no idea where to whack the mallet. He would have just whacked everything and charged you 500 bucks because in the end the problem was fixed.

  17. sleze69 says:

    Kudos to the OP for actually listing the crooked mechanic. It is too bad you don’t live near Philadelphia – Gene’s Foreign Cars FTW!

  18. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    @ JustThatGuy3:

    I’m all for paying the guy to know where to put the ‘X’ (Variation on your story), but this was just plain slimy of Belle Tire, or to give them the benefit of the doubt, they were clueless how to fix the problem and were throwing parts at the problem. Either way, the conclusion proves that you should shop around and get an opinion. If two mechanics give you the report that the trans is blown, well then it’s about price and trust they know what the heck they’re doing…

  19. acwatts says:

    I had the same thing happen at firestone. The facts differ a bit but the jist of it is that they were trying to rip me off for close to a grand.

  20. rixatrix says:

    Awesome! So nice to see a story from Kalamazoo. Otto Khim is two blocks down from my office building – I know where I’ll be going next time I need some work done. Cheers, Josh C., from the ‘Zoo.

  21. Daniel Maynard says:

    I have also had something similar happen. The brakes on my 97 Golf were going soft so I took them one of the national express brake place. They had me wait about two hours, althought I was the only person there, they brought me in back to see my car. My front right wheel was flopping around like a fish, the brake people said I had to repalcace the whole assembly, 2k was the price quoted. After I refused they popped my pads on and go me out in 5 minutes. I drove straight over to my VW mechanic who showed me the bolt that the brake place had loosened to try and convince me there was a problem with my car.

  22. ingenieur says:

    Had a similar close call, but at the shop where my “guy” works; he’s a friend of mine, we consume beers together. This guy was on vacation, & my Accord had an error code for emissions. Last time that happened, it was just a disconnected oxygen sensor. Went to my guy’s shop, put it in, then went on a weekend trip. A few days later, the shop is telling me that they have to replace the entire sensor assembly, $600. I deferred to another friend, who told me the cost was reasonable, so I gave the shop the go-ahead.

    A few days later, I go in to get the car, & surprise! They haven’t done shit, because they ordered the wrong part. I tell them to forget about it, since my guy’s on his way back, so I reclaim my car. A few days later, my guy’s back, & he confirms that it’s the loose oxygen sensor again, which he then reconnected at no cost. Srsly this close to giving some rube $600 for no legitimate reason.

    • gttim says:

      @ingenieur: In Georgia we have to have emission inspections every year. Well, my check engine light in my 2000 Mustang came on. I took the car to the emission inspection place and asked for an emission inspection even though I had already renewed my tag a few months previous. They hooked up the computer and it failed, but for $20 they gave me a print out that told me what part of the ignition was bad. I went and bought the part, replaced it, and the light went off.

      The kid that usually does my emission inspection had told me about this. It costs around $75 to have a mechanic hook up the computer to your car at any shop. The state emission inspection places charges $20. I usually do all my own work, but can’t diagnose ignition problems on these new cars. I saved a few hundred dollars, and maybe more if a shop had tried to gouge me.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @gttim: autozone lets me use their code-reader for free. i don’t know if all auto parts stores are like this, but it seems like a pretty good business practice.

        sure, it only gives you a code & a short description, but if you can’t fix it from there, google the error code with your year, make, model. pretty good chance you’ll find what you need.

  23. WEGGLES90 says:

    I work at a locally owned petrocan gas station with a garage. For the most part they seem to be cheaper than most other garages in the area. The mechanic charges $8 for a tire plug. The next cheapest place charged my mom $22 (The petrocan was closed for “Family Day”… new holidays for the meh…). And in the time I’ve worked there I’ve only heard one complaint about service done.

  24. TheWraithL98 says:

    it pays to know something about cars in these sort of situations. i would almost never blindly trust anyone else’s judgement alone on a big job like that, especially if it’s the opinion of someone who can profit from their estimate.

    in that case, that was blatant bs…

    the symptoms you mention – the clutch pedal dropping to the floor – would rarely mean the clutch needs replacement, unless there was some sort of parts failure inside the case – pressure plate, throwout bearing, etc, and you would definitely hear/feel that.

    99% of the time if a clutch goes, it’s because the friction material wears out, and the symptom will be excessive slippage and or lack of the ability to be able to get into gears.

    the very fact that poster’s wife was able to drive the car into the parking lot in second gear means the clutch wasn’t shot.

  25. Josh Collison says:

    To be accurate: I did not laugh in their faces… I simply took the paperwork from the local mechanic inside, showed them the price that they charged me to fix my car, and explained the situation to the manager… I felt like saying something rude, etc., but kept it professional and let them know that I was going to write a letter to their corporate office…
    Also, I spelled the name of the local mechanic wrong: it is Otto Kihm (not Otto Khim).
    Thank you Consumerist for posting my story!

  26. Bootleneck says:

    For VW’s a great website for self-help is vwvortex.com
    that site has showed me how to fix many problems, and germanautoparts.com is a great site to order parts. If you live in Holland MI Gary’s Automotive is the place to go. Belle tire here does have nice people but hence the name tire, not engines, body, electrical etc…

    • sapere_aude says:

      @Bootleneck: Seconded. Replaced my brake pads and rotors with a little help from that forum. I also found out about a recall on my Jetta’s catalytic converter that I almost paid to replace. A simple call to VW confirmed that it was covered. Definitely worth it to do a search before paying to have any work done.

  27. elplatt says:

    My father was an ASE certified mechanic with Belle Tire until just recently. After nearly 10 years of working with them, they fired him for being late, coincidentally, right after he started having work-related health problems.

    From talking to him over the years, I’ve learned that Belle Tire is a very corporate business. It’s run by managers who don’t know much about cars, so when corporate says sell more clutches, the mechanics that try to sell them to people who don’t need them are kept, while the ones who don’t get fired.

  28. DoubleEcho says:

    This reminds me of the shit that Monro Muffler pulled on my wife during a yearly state inspection. They determined that she needed a new pipe going from the catalytic converter to the muffler, so my dad and I got an exhaust set and put it on ourselves.

    She takes it back to Monro, and they now tell her that the BRAND NEW PIPE is broken and we now need a new catalytic converter because we broke it putting on the exhaust. The charge? $1100! My wife called me in tears, and after talking to my dad we took it to my parent’s regular mechanic. All it needed was a new flex pipe (catalytic converter was completely fine) and a couple of small cracks welded. The total was $150 including labor.

    When I called Monro about this, they said that they didn’t do welding because it was “dangerous” and it wasn’t a good enough repair – they only did brand new exhaust. I asked them how the car drove without any power problems with a broken catalytic converter then and they had nothing to say. Now we take both of our cars to my parent’s mechanic, fuck Monro.

  29. Jfielder says:

    I worked for Belle Tire in the past, and I can say that at least the location where I worked, and those around it, things like this never happened. I can also say that there is very little management over the mechanics though, and I can see how this would happen. Any time you are getting repairs on your car, it doesn’t matter what shop you’re at, make sure you fully understand what is wrong, what needs to be replaced, why it needs to be replaced, and how much each item is going to cost. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in Michigan any quote for repairs greater than 20 dollars requires that you are given a written estimate, and you also have a right to keep any parts taken off your car, unless the part needs to be returned for rebuilding, in which case you are still entitled to inspect the part yourself. If you’re not a car person, but you have a friend that is, it’s always good to bring them along.

  30. Cyco says:

    I wish I could find a “guy”. Houston is huge and my car needs work, but I just don’t have the time to drive it around to get quotes in hopes I can find one that’s honest.

  31. nataku8_e30 says:

    I would recommend against ever going to a chain for a repair. They’re probably ok for very basic maintenance (tires, oil, filters, etc…) or inspections, though.

  32. AdvocatesDevil says:

    Finally we get REAL NAMES with a post! I think it should be a rule that you have to list the names of the CROOKS and the GOOD GUYS when you send in this sort of email. It does us no good if you don’t list who tried to screw you and who did a good job. Nice work!

  33. nataku8_e30 says:

    @Cyco – I live on the south side, and have been here for almost 2.5 years. After looking around myself and talking to other employees here, there are no “guys” in Houston. You have to be very cautious no matter where you take it.

  34. booleyhitt says:

    I remember Belle Tire. I went to school at WMU back in the day. Just like Tires Plus down here. Not really interested in helping your problem, just out to make the most money they can.

  35. Russell Miller says:

    Major Muffler in Santa Monica is that kind of place. I took my old Mustang (since retired) to the ford dealership – one wouldn’t touch it, the other told me it’d probably cost an insane amount of money… took it to Major Muffler… they replaced the loose clamp for $40 and had it to me in three hours.

    Very happy with them.

  36. Brandon Laroussini says:

    To the satisfied customer: Put this on Yelp!

  37. oldgraygeek says:

    Our mechanic is priceless. He will fix your car without charging one cent more than necessary.

    Typical example:
    The rear brakes on my 2000 Dakota had been making a terrible grinding noise for almost a month before I took it in to him. I told the owner, “They’ve been grinding for a while, so it won’t be pretty. I figure it’ll need new brakes, probably new brake drums, and whatever else I damaged back there.” I waived estimate, so he could have charged me hundreds of dollars: I was expecting it to be expensive, so I wouldn’t have complained.

    He called that afternoon and said, “There was a bunch of mud and gravel packed inside the drums and all up in the cooling fins. I cleaned everything out, the drums are OK, and the shoes still have at least ten or fifteen thousand miles left in them so I didn’t replace them. Your bill is $87.00.”

    (That’s Plaza Exxon on Route 273 in Newark Delaware by the way… tell them Bob, the guy with the yellow Dakota and the used cop car, sent you).

  38. misshistory says:


    You have to watch out with chains even on oil changes. Jiffy Lube tried tried to tell me that when they checked my radiator fluid there was barely enough fluid in it to test it and that I needed my radiator serviced.

    Now, I may not know much about cars but I’m not stupid. They were saying my radiator must have a crack but the service they do is radiator flushing. I told them to just fill it up with fluid and I’d have my own mechanic look at it, which i proceeded to do and have the radiator pressure checked. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my car.

    But then another jiffy lube I know is really great and doesn’t try to sell you anything you don’t need (possibly because they are constanty busy wht oil changes)

  39. John Smith says:

    For those in the Hudson Valley in New York looking for car service, I would tell you to give Jim Bell a try. Here is his information:
    Bell Imported Auto Service
    30 Carpenter Place
    Monroe, NY 10950
    845 782 7314

    My friends and family have been using his shop for decades. Once you find a good mechanic, you stick with them. Jim is a good, honest mechanic.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Same thing happen to me here in Vegas a few years ago. The trany on my 1994 Chevy Corsica was slipping and it sure felt like a blown trany.

    The dealer quoted me $1200 and four days for a new trany. I rented a car and waited. After five days I had to leave town for business and wanted to know what was up with my car.

    They said they lost it, come back in a few days. I was getting a lot of flack from the manager so I called a friend at the local Highway patrol office and asked what I should do? The service manger heard everything and all of a sudden I had my car back, unfixed.

    I left frustrated and went to a Best Auto and Transmission and they called me back in an hour and said it was only a bad switch. $62.50!!!

    That car ran another two years beautifully!!

  41. Anonymous says:

    I have a friend who is the service manager for a large car dealership in Akron Ohio. He said that all across the country, car sales are so low that dealerships are turning to their service departments to make up the revenue shortfall of their sales departments.

    Now, take your car in for an oil change and you will see the mechanics drive it around the block a few times. They are looking and listening for any excuse to sell you some kind of service you probably don’t need. Probably has always been this way to some extent, but now, doubly so.

  42. Anonymous says:

    A couple years ago I went to Firestone to have some new tires put on my car. I choose Firestone because I called around with my tire size that I needed to get the best price on tires. So anyway– I went to Firestone, and the sales guy proceeded to try and rip me off. Okay, I know I’m a woman but I know a thing or two. He claimed that the tires that i was promised weren’t sufficient for my car because they would not hold up to the top speed that my car can reach. (I have a ’93 Honda Civic. It goes about 80 tops without falling apart!) This is the biggest piece of bull I’ve ever heard of. He tried to sell me high performance tires that were double the price of what they quoted me. After I said I wasn’t going to fall for that, they came out and told me they couldn’t find the tires that they promised. I then told them to put the tires on or I was going to take my business somewhere else– then they tried to sell me some other side stuff. Complete BS. I finally got the tires and went on my way. Well– it’s been a couple years and surprise– the tires have been fine and have held up just fine. It was the cheapest place– but it was a pain in the butt to deal with them. I’ll never go back.

  43. soloudinhere says:

    Reminds me of a famous story in my family:

    The year is 1983. The car to have among the new yuppie set is an Audi of some sort (model escapes me). Anyway, my father is at a party with coworkers and friends, one of whom has said aforementioned Audi. Everyone’s getting ready to leave the party, guy with Audi gets in, Audi will not start. He rages, now I have to get it towed to the dealer, they charged me a thousand bucks last time, goddamn car, etc.

    Dad looks at him, thinks in his head about his own ’82 Jetta, and says “I bet I can fix it for a dollar.”

    Guy looks at him like he is insane. Dad says “I’m serious. Give me a $1 bill. Or $5 if it makes you feel better.” Guy hands over $1 bill.

    Father pops the hood, uses the $1 bill to clean the dirty contact preventing the car from starting, hands the bill back to the driver. Car starts.

    Father lived in infamy for the 25 years after this incident took place.

    I have a “guy.” He was in the service with my grandfather, helped my dad rebuild the engine in his first car in 1974, and has never given me anything other than the best deal possible. The guy is seventy nine years old and he will get under your car with you to show you what’s wrong with it. Right now he’s doing all the repairs in the shop himself since his employee (singular, he’s got one) broke his arm. His shop’s been in the same place since 1956 and he’s been running it ever since.

  44. ionerox says:

    I’ve had similar experiences at a Tires Plus- brought my car in for a tire repair, and they tried to tell me I needed a new break system. Two other mechanics said I had over half the life left on my brake pads, and everything looked great.

    I’ve since discovered my local trustworthy mechanic, and love them (Paul Anderson Tire in Minneapolis). They’ve been honest and told me when my old car was beyond bothering to fix. They are less expensive than the chains, the local VW independent, and (of course) the dealerships. They keep my dumpy little car running, and never try to oversell on repairs or new tires.

  45. Anonymous says:

    @Cyco I know you have no reason to believe an anonymous internet person, but for what it’s worth, I always went to Hare Repair when I was living in Houston. They were a great, old-fashioned mechanic shop that always gave great service for a reasonable price. They never once tried to upsell me or trick me, and I’m a blonde girl who knows nothing about cars.

  46. nataku8_e30 says:

    @ionerox – You’re almost certainly right, and most of that basic stuff is well within most people’s ability to do if they actually gave it a shot. I wasn’t recommending chains, I was just saying that they’re less likely to screw up or seriously overcharge for basic maintenance. Of course, there have been stories of oil filters not screwed back on correctly, overfilled or underfilled engine oil or other fluids (Ford dealer overfilled my g/f’s Escape’s auto tranny, claimed it was ok because there’s a vent tube that’ll just spray the excess fluid all over the engine…) and then there’s always the chance that they’ll try to sell you on an unnecessary repair, or if they’re really shady, break something and then try to sell you on a now necessary repair. And that’s why I do 90% of my car work myself…

  47. SugarMag says:

    This situation sounds normal for a chain.
    I have yet to find honesty at large chains.

    My family found a reliable mechanic 20 years ago and we won’t let him go. I also say: It is easier to find a husband than an honest mechanic and a good hairstylist.

  48. FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

    I see this happen all the time at our shop. People come from the dealer with sticker shock for their seemingly small repair and we either find that it’s something else entirely which is a $5 part or they were grossly over-quoted for simple labor.

    Support your independent mechanics! We need your business now more than ever!

  49. littlemisslondon says:

    Wow, that is awesome!

    Now I’m thinking that maybe the problem I had with my 2000 Subie (drove over a “snowbank” that was full of hard rocks, shoved in the transmission pan and broke/crushed an important cable) could have been fixed for less than the $600 the dealership charged me. But on the other hand, the dealership fixed a loose exhaust thing for free a few weeks previously, and the car was bought from them and has been serviced by them for 9 years now, so I think they’re pretty decent guys. Plus they gave me a ride to work.

    Speaking of which… any opinion as to whether the dealership service center is usually the best place to go?

  50. vdragonmpc says:

    God the transmission story brings back a favorite memory of mine:
    I had an 85 supra in 1994. I noticed an odd smell and smoke coming from under the car. It turned out to be a slow small transmission fluid leak that was dripping directly on the catalytic converter.

    I called around trying to find someone who had experience with supra transmissions. I found “Bernie’s Transmission” in Hopewell VA. They took the car and after checking it out said since they would already be in the transmission I should let them put in new clutches etc (automatic).. I agreed and they said I would get a 6 month 6,000 mile warranty on the ‘new’ transmission.

    The first transmission died when I got home. I had no ‘reverse’ I couldnt get the car to back up at all. He came and towed the car back to the shop. I wasnt home when he did it and the truck destroyed the custom paint on the rear bumper and cracked the plastic bumper.

    The second time I lost all power on the highway going uphill. I had the car towed to his shop yet again. At this point we had a major confrontation. He was in my face talking about the car racing I was doing and that I had damaged the transmission with my habits. I told him to be careful where he goes with that since the last transmission he put in my car was not rebuilt but from a junkyard. He started throwing tools around and acting like a 3 year old. I grabbed a tray and flung them out the door and said “cool I can throw tools too, its fun for everybody. Now fix my car correctly or tow it to a shop that can”.

    He put in yet another transmission and voided the warranty stating that 3 was the limit he could afford. I took the car home, stripped it and traded it in that night. I drove by the business a short while later and wasnt surprised to see it called “Dwayne’s Car repair”.

    I will never forget that hair-plugged freak yelling at me that I was racing around town with all that stereo equipment in my car. I love that not one mechanic in his shop would stand next to him or say anything when we went at it. It really shows what a tool the person is.

  51. runswithscissors says:

    My dad used to own a shop and he had great stories. My favorite:

    One time a guy came in with squeaking brakes. Back then it wasn’t considered a big insurance problem to have customers on the floor watching the work, so the car owner was there as my dad put the car up on the hoist and took the hubcap off the first tire to find…

    … a mouse.

    OK, it was a dead mouse and of course that wasn’t the cause of the squeak, but my dad couldn’t resist saying “Well of course there’s your squeaking problem!” and he and the customer laughed themselves into tears.

  52. ben gardners boat says:

    I had some routine maintenence done at an NTB once. While I’m waiting, they come out and tell me that my serpentine belt is old and cracked and urgently needs to be replaced… $100. At the time I was broke, and skeptical, so I put it off and looked into it for myself. First of all, my car’s belt isn’t “serpentine”, meaning that it wraps around several wheels/drives. It was a very simple job, cost about $10, and I did it in my parent’s driveway in less than an hour. A professional could have done it in maybe 15 minutes.

    Now I only go to MY mechanic, who is a friend of my brother-in-law.

    On a side note, and in retrospect, owning a shitbox allowed me to learn a lot about auto repair. I was broke and did a lot of the work myself or with friends who knew how.

  53. idx says:

    I think we should start a database of reliable mechanics. Only consumerist posters should be able to edit content. I’ve got a really good mechanic in New Orleans if anyone is interested.

  54. Bahnburner says:

    If Belle has integrity and commitment to the customer, they’ll fire the guy on the spot and issue a statement. That’s the only way they come out ahead.

  55. stre says:

    ok, ben, great story. now for the follow up: what are the resources that can be used to find a good local mechanic. i’ll need some work done soon, but am relatively new to chicagoland and work with many people who are also new to chicagoland, so word of mouth is a bit of a no-go for me. recommendations on how to find a good mechanic?

  56. nataku8_e30 says:

    @littlemisslondon: usually depends on the dealership, but my experience has been they are not the best place to go. I’ve had dealerships mis-diagnose and screw up work at least as often as 3rd party shops, and they generally charge higher labor rates. Odds are good that a small shop where the owner actually works on cars is your best bet, but there’s a huge amount of variability between shops, and you definitely need to find a guy who knows your car. Also, even good shops can hire lousy techs, and even good techs can have bad days…

  57. b612markt says:

    This is a great story! :)

  58. ExtraCelestial says:

    Consumerist are you reading these? RE:Firestone. Juicy story in the making?

  59. shadowkahn says:

    This is a very good example of why knowing something about cars can save you a lot of money. Crooked mechanics rely on their victims lack of understanding of how the car works to pull their scam. Unless you’re OK with hoping the mechanic won’t rip you off, it’s always a good idea to learn something about car repair. Could save you thousands many times over.

  60. veronykah says:

    re: Saboth, Real Cheese Flavor
    [reply is broken again…]
    I replaced a clutch in my 1991 Toyota last winter, in Los Angeles the cheapest I found to do it was $385. Most places I checked were in the $600-800 range to replace it, and these were my TRUSTED mechanic and his recommendation.
    No WAY you are getting a clutch done for $200…no way.

  61. sicknick says:

    This is on page 3 pg ofcomments, so nobody will see it, but here we go.

    So, I bought my car in 2005. Early in 2006, my water pump goes and my car overheats. I take it to a Belle Tire because it’s the closest service station and I only had a certain amount of miles for free on the tow. Belle Tire tells me when the car overheated I also blew out my head gasket.

    I call my Dad, who pays to tow my car across town to get an estimate at his golfing buddy’s service station. This guy looks at it, nods, says it’s the water pump and nothing more. Then goes on to tell me how Belle Tire and other ‘specialty shops’ that have recently expanded services do it is they hire freelance (or maybe just one guy for 5-10 stores) for the major work. So, the Belle Tire engine guy comes in, and since part of his pay is commission, he always says ‘head gasket’.

    I’ve never been back to a Belle Tire. CostCo has cheaper tires, and the rest of what they offer is crap.

  62. RStui says:

    I had a bad situation at Sears once. I religiously took my car there to balance/whatever my tires, in order to keep them in warranty.

    I brought it in with a thumping noise, asked them to do the tires. They sent me home with balanced tires, but the thumping was still there.

    I asked my dad to look at it, he says, “Yeah, the struts are broken.” (Like, srsly, BROKEN. In Half.)

    He fixed it, and I took the car and the broken struts to Sears, requesting how they could have sent me out of there with this obvious problem. They told me “He only changes tires, he doesn’t look at the rest of it.”

    I told them I was never coming back. I never have, either.

  63. couldberunning says:

    Ha. Watch out, those franchises dont always lie. I took my car into midas to have my breaks checked because it felt as if something wasnt right. Said it was going to cost 750.00 to fix because i needed new calipers.. i laughed. i could fix way cheaper myself. as i was walking he warned me my breaks were about to fail… i smurked thinking he was only trying to get me to pay that super high price.. well on the way home my breaks failed. that sucked.

  64. ezmobee says:

    My trusted mechanic is actually my local Chevy dealer. Thornton Chevy in Manchester, PA. Their hourly rate is high but they won’t charge you a full hour for a simple repair. Plus my problem with some other local mechanics hasn’t been overcharging or misdiagnoses but shoddy work. At least at Thornton my experience has been whatever I took my car there for was fixed and fixed right. It’s a small dealership though. My experience with the large Chevy dealer in the area was horrible.

  65. Erica Fogg says:

    Hey, ma’am? I found the problem. Your blinker fluid reservoir is cracked. We can take good care of that for you…

  66. kittenfoo says:

    Grrr. Reminds me of having to stop by the Firestone store in Huntsville after having my Saturn serviced at the Saturn dealer. I had the Saturn people replace my windshield wiper blades, and then the Firestone guy gives me an estimate to fix a tire and said I desperately needed new wiper blades.

    I stood there in front of him and called the Saturn place and said, “You DID just replace my wiper blades about 30 minutes ago, didn’t you?” My mechanic affirmed this. I shot death rays out my eyes at the Firestone guy, who slunk away with no further “recommendations.”

  67. econobiker says:

    idx, stre, and others asking about on line databases for good mechanics:

    I have used a CarTalk.com recommended mechanic. These are all supposed to be customer recommended and the NPR crowd is both cheap and intelligent enough to figure out about getting hosed- plus a great many of those folks probably are not mechanically as able than audiences of other shows.

    The recommended one in my area of TN did me right for my POS Dodge Neon. Solved the problem, told me the issues, and didn’t do one thing more or less than that nor try to upsell me.

  68. econobiker says:

    TinkishDelight 2:45 PM
    “Consumerist are you reading these? RE:Firestone. Juicy story in the making?”

    Tinkesh- You are so inhuman as that is like shooting fish in a barrel- a dry barrel.

    Even the local tv news Trouble Shooter guys/gals know that Firestone is a “go-to” for bad car repair stories…

    Darn reply button…

  69. dako81 says:

    Don’t write a letter. Call. And don’t talk to the district manager, Pete Weatherhead, he won’t do anything for you. He’ll meet you at the store and “give his people a talking to” about writing up quotes that are unnecessary. Look around and find the number for their corporate, and get into the system and type in Barnes and it will send you to the CEO’s office line.

    I am currently dealing with a situation with the Oshtemo (Other side of Kalamazoo from Portage) Belle Tire location that also involves this Portage location.

  70. Amy Watters says:

    I don’t have the same story – but I DO have a Belle Tire story from Michigan! I was a poor college student, and was driving what is often referred to as a ‘heap’. One of my tires slowly went flat, and, since I had AAA, and the shop was just down the road from my work, I arranged to have a tow there when I got off work. We went in, and they gave me the TOTAL girl treatment. THey called me ‘sweetie’ once or twice, and explained things to me like I was more than a little slow. He told me I had not one but TWO bad tires, and they needed to be replaced and rotated. He also told me that I had the option of getting a used tire.

    I was short on cash, and since there were two tires involved, I asked if the used tires were guaranteed. He assured me that they were, and so I agreed. I drove home, and then to work the next day. A few hours into my shift, an incoming coworker informed me that I had a flat. Sure enough it was one of the guaranteed tires! I put my ‘donut’ on and drove back down the road, and had them look at it. The man came out with a sad face painted on and told me that my tire was worthless, completely shot – it had a ton of little holes all through it from rubber fatigue or something.

    I let him finish ringing the death toll on ‘my’ tire, and then I politely informed him that that particular tire was the ‘guaranteed’ one from the day before. The look on his face was priceless, and he went back to change it. I drove out of the parking lot a bit later, and hadn’t even made it out onto the main road when I heard a specific thumping coming from the tire. A few weeks before, my boyfriend had gotten a screw puncture and we had temp fixed it with “fix-a-flat” – and this was a very similar noise made to when we drove that. I turned STRAIGHT around and went back in.

    They showed me a picture of a tire with uneven tread, said that is what I had, and that what I was hearing was ‘road noise’. It was fine. I expressed my disbelief and they assured me that it was fine, and sent me on my way. The next morning, my tire was flat :( They never did fix my tire.

  71. Chris Miller says:

    Nicely done! Trust is crucial when it comes to auto mechanics, and there is no better way to establish it than forgoing a quick profit and focusing on establishing a relationship with your customer. I, too, had an independent mechanic do a 5 minute repair for free (even though my car had out-of-state plates!), and earn my devotion. The next time I had car trouble while in that town I didn’t hesitate to take my car there again.

  72. cupcakepaws says:

    I went to have an inspection and was told I needed $500.00 in repairs before the car would pass. I said no, drove, literally, down the street to a small service station and got my inspection sticker with no problem. Passed every inspection after that as well. Jerks.

  73. Tedicles says:

    Luckily I was doing engine swaps and brake repairs before I even got my driver’s license. But what I would suggest to anyone going to a mechanic that they do not trust, is to ask for all the replaced parts back. I don’t know how many times I have seen friends’ cars where they paid for a part replacement, and it was never even touched.

    It will help keep them honest. It is also a good idea to show/give these parts to someone you trust to make sure that they actually needed repairing. If they didn’t, you can go back and ask for a refund or go the ‘ol chargeback route now that you have evidence.

    ALWAYS ask for the old parts back, even if you’re just going to chuck them in the trash when you get home!

  74. toyotadiesel says:

    One more reason why I do all my car repairs myself!

  75. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Not only did I just go to that exact same Belle Tire to get two of my tires replaced, but one of their mechanics lives two doors down from me. Weird. I figure they’re all right for tires, at least.

    For other stuff I go to Harmen’s Friendly Service in Kalamazoo — they do good work and don’t pay their guys on commission. The owner also runs a place that sells strictly Ford Escorts and Focuses, and I’ve bought my last two cars from him. Not sure if he knows much about VWs, though.

  76. chuck0008 says:

    So, just curious, but what cable is boted in on the transmission in your car? What year is your car? I would expect it to have a master/slave cylinder setup. In that case, sounds like the master failed. All the name dropping and stuff, I’m kinda suspicious on this one, although I admit to being better versed on domestic vehicles than foreign ones.

  77. Anonymous says:

    I had a similar experience with scaamco ( I can truly say aamco earned the scam in the name) I was having trouble with my transmission slipping.. I am no dummy when it comes to car repair, but I stay away from repairing automatic transmissions..I took it in for a free diagnostic test, few hrs later they hit me with the sticker shock 3500 for a new tranny, guy even had the nerve to play me as an idiot showing me tranny parts he claimed were from my car..I wasn’t born yesterday,a tiny honda housing is a lot smaller then a v8 tbird.. needless to say, I took to a local guy, he did a few adjustments and changed the filter for less then $100.. stay far away from scaamco

  78. Anonymous says:

    My mother told me this story today:
    My folks have worked in auto repair for the last 30 years. My dad is good with the wrench and my mom runs the finances and marketing. They are honest, to a fault, they are honest. Together they raised my siblings and I through 3 recessions in the east bay of San Francisco. Today my mom relayed to me one of the worst experiences they have had.

    A man in his 70s drove up. My’s folks shop is at the top of a steep hill and it is hard for some cars to make it to the top sometimes. This man’s as one of those cars. After pushing the car up the hill with the shop truck, Dad asked the man what brought him there, obviously the car was cooked, but what about it exacctly? Well, the man had taken the car to AAMCO (yes, AAMCO, no changing the names here). He said that they had the car in their shop for the last 2 days and he had gotten suspicious. So he got it out and drove it to the folks shop.

    He had a check engine light on and decided to play it safe (incidentally, most of those are just loose gas caps). My dad goes out and reads the codes from the dash. The man stood there astonished,”Thats all there is to it?! They had it for 2 days to do that!”. Anyways, there is something wrong in the transmission, I didn’t get the exact details from my mom. They get the car in the air, lo and behold, there is a brand new pan on the transmission, new gasket, new magnet.

    This means that they had already taken out the tranny and ‘fixed’ whatever was in there. I say ‘fixed’ because the odds of them breaking something in the tranny and screwing that poor old man were as bad as betting the salmon versus a bear. They were trying to jerk his chain, charge him for a brand new tranny They were extorting him, plain and simple.

    This guy was a real mess at this point, my mom says that he then told them his story. He owned 2 Hallmark stores, and that they were bankrupt. He was so frazzed at this point, his keys were jingling in his hand as he tried to climb into the car. My folks stopped him there, he couldn’t drive. He called his wife to come get him, a woman he said he was glad was still with him at this point.

    Just another causality in this depression I guess. But one thing I am grateful for is that my folks didn’t let him drive. He surely would have gotten into an accident, and then been truly screwed, with insurance and medical bills, he would have lost everything.

    Thanks for the blog, and remember that not all mechanichs are heartless bastards, there are a few good ones out there still.

  79. Anonymous says:

    The oddest thing I have seen was several years ago. Going on holidays with some friends, theit Jeep was packed so full that when he closed the back door, the window glass just popped right-out. Fortunately, it did not break as the defrost wires held it up.

    We managed to secure it somehow and drove to the nearest big generic automotive chain, who could not fix it. But they pointed us to a big customzing chain nearby, where, after waiting 2 minutes, a short man, who never uttered a single word, arrived with a string and managed to pop back the window in it’s frame. He charged us nothing at all and would not take the $20 tip we offered him.

    Total time lost: 30 minutes.

  80. Anonymous says:

    I know how this guy feels… I went to a Midas Service center for a tie rod and wheel bearings and they gave me a bill for 1700 bucks. I took the car to the Technical Center at a local high school (Whitmer High School, Toledo, OH) and got it done for a fraction of the price. If you can spare a day or two with out your car, its worth it. when you go to the corporate places they get it done for you within the day, thats one reason their prices are so high. I rather take it to the school, get a rental and still come out ahead!!!

  81. 89macrunner says:

    it pays to know about even 2 cents about how a clutch works. Even if the clutch has gone to total and complete shit, the pedal will still work. Depending on the arrangement of the car, it needs fluid or a cable.

    Take $100 and 15 minutes of your time and purchase a service manual for your vehicle. Even if you don’t fix your vehicle on your own, it will give you a GREAT idea on what is broken, and how long it will take to fix it!

  82. Anonymous says:

    This *exact* same thing happened to my ’85 Jetta a few years ago, and a mechanic also told me the whole transmission needed to be replaced, and that it would cost about a grand. My dad fixed it for free. Thanks, dad!

  83. ninjatoddler says:

    Sigh. Wish there was an Ottom Khim around where I live.

  84. majortom1029 says:

    NOt every dealer is bad. My local toyota dealer has people all over long island coming to it for maintanance .Example two days ago i had one of my fender covers come off. Also i had a squeaking that too me sounded like my brake pads needed to be replaced. I went in they charged me 60 (tax included) to check the brakes and replaces the fender cover (the covers that are by the wheels underneath the car) . They even brought me over and showed me how much was left on the brake pads.

    The only problem with this dealers maintanance is that they are so good if you dont have an appointment you will be waiting a while since they are so busy

  85. Josh Collison says:

    I’m sure I’m using some terms wrong–My knowledge of cars is VERY basic–I can change the brakes, alternator, oil… that’s about it. There is a 1/4 circle on an arm that is coming out of what I think is the transmission. The cable from the clutch goes from the pedal to that arm, and when the pedal is pressed, it turns the 1/4 circle thing downward, and disengages the transmission. I guess technically, this may not be considered part of the transmission… I just called it that because I am not a saavy mechanic… My car is a ’97 VW Jetta, 2.0 Litre. When I saw the cable flopping around under the hood when I pumped the clutch pedal up and down, I looked for where it was supposed to be attached to, and figured that it could just be put back on the arm-circle-thing… I’m sure my technical language is very difficult to follow. :)

  86. Anonymous says:

    First of all. ASE certifications are worthless today. Modern cars are very different and its impossible to have one certification to be able to service and repair all of them correctly. Chain stores are the worst offenders of this and take on jobs they could not possibly complete and often give customers huge bills and give them back cars that are still broken. I took a Volvo Wagon to a Goodyear service center and they were unable to solve a simple issue with a battery cable. After $543 worth of “repair” they gave me my car back with an alternator light on the dash and some rigged cabling. I brought my Volvo to my regular mechanic and had to spend over $1000 to have the damage they did to the car reversed and have my original problem resolved. My mechanic called me frantically after he popped the hood and told me about the live wire Goodyear had left behind the alternator and indicated if it had touched anything it could have started a fire in the car since it went directly to the battery. When I contacted Goodyear I was faced by an extremely rude customer service person who refused to help us at all. I filed a complaint to the BBB and Goodyear was rude to them as well and earned themselves a negative rating with the local BBB office.

    Moral of the story? ASE certifications are worthless and Chain stores will screw you for cash. Go to a local independent mechanic. My local mechanic keeps my Volvo going CHEAP and does not try to screw me.

  87. broncobiker says:

    Haha yeah I had a similar problem, except in ym case I really needed the work to be done.

    One place quoted me at $1000.00 and told me I wouldn’t find a better price. (Replacing the clutch and hydraulic cyl on a sunfire)

    Second guy said $800.00

    Third guy said $600.00

    I gave the third guy $650.00 just cuz we know him and he’s a decent guy, hates seeing people get ripped off.

  88. Tom_Servo says:

    I have had lost of cars, LOTS. I have always found that red flags for mechanics are #1: A dealership- if a mechanic is working at a dealership he probably can’t find his a$$ with both hands and an assistant. #2: A chain shop- any mechanic that works in a place that has a corporate office always has someone riding him to increase profits and lower costs to help the share price. Finally #3: An ASE Certification displayed somewhere prominently, I don’t know what ASE certifies, but boy howdy, it ain’t fixin cars!

  89. senor_tron says:

    I’m close to Kzoo and wonder if $1,000 was the equivalent to “we don’t want to touch clutch work, please go away?” I also would say that going to a tire place for clutch work is akin to asking your paperboy to do your taxes. This type of thing (overcharging) goes on all the time and you need to educate yourself about what’s involved in a specific repair to avoid being overcharged. I typically will find an online forum related to the make or vehicle that needs repair and snoop around.

    On a side note, I’ve never been to Belle Tire. I take all my business to Discount Tire which in my estimation is doing an excellent job in customer service (refreshing these days) and deals honestly with its customers (the location near me). Every time i go into Discount, I leave with a smile on my face and that is truly rare these days. They have repaired countless tires for me (even tires i did not purchase at discount) at no charge simply to keep me a happy Discount Tire customer. In a era where customer service has gone completely down the toilet, Discount continues to amaze me with knowledgeable, friendly service. Don’t mean to highjack the comment thread here, but with constant negative scrutiny of retailers, service providers, etc., we need to be positive once in a while!

  90. Josh Collison says:

    Discount Tire is actually where I plan to go for tires in the future. There is one here in Kzoo on Stadium Drive and I’ve heard good things about them.

    As far as why I took my car to Belle Tire for a clutch: It died in the parking lot right next door to it (actually they share the same parking lot), so I just had to push the car 50 yards or so and it was there. Their commercials always advertise their ASE Certified Mechanics, etc. Even though I would not have taken the car there if I had a choice (for a clutch problem), I really didn’t want to pay a towing charge when there was an automotive store practically right next to my car.

    Btw: My paperboy got me back $6,300.00 on my taxes this year! J/K :)

  91. robinkranch says:

    The toughest thing about being a woman is taking your vehicle to a mechanic. Woman, if you don’t have a male figure to go with you to a shop, ask your friends who they would suggest. I have some knowledge about the older cars, but the newer ones now-a-days just blow my mine. It was so much easier back in the 70’s or 80’s to get to all engine parts, R&R in no time (I owned a 1968 Nova,6 cyl power glide) All repairs were completed by me…….You remember when 20/20 used to go under cover and purposely take off a coil wire or something and go into an auto shop and have them detect the issue. I have seen them charge anywhere from $10.00 to $500.00. Consumers need to continue to rat out the ones that are rip-offs and praise the ones that do the job right the first time…..

  92. whuffo says:

    I never thought I’d find myself playing Devil’s Advocate on this site. I worked for quite a few years as a mechanic and I’ve got a fine appreciation for the ins and outs of the job.

    The trick is to have a happy customer drive away and not lose money making that happen. What you run into far too many times is that the problem that the customer brought the car in for is just one of many problems the car has. Fix that problem, and the car will be back because one of those other problems is now an issue. Rinse, repeat – this happens every day.

    Combine that with the simple fact that on some problems you won’t be able to determine what will need to be done to fix it until after disassembly. At that point, the customer says no, too expensive and now you get to reassemble it again with the bad parts still in place. After you’ve killed a few days this way you learn to avoid these situations by estimating repairs as the worst case scenario.

    Does this mean that sometimes you’ll bid on a clutch replacement when it’s just a disconnected clutch cable? Yes, that can happen. But it’ll also prevent several situations where you found the cable to be disconnected, bid the job accordingly and then found out that the reason the cable came off was because the throwout bearing went through the pressure plate.

    Since mechanics aren’t psychic, they try to bid jobs in a way that protects the customer as well as themselves. Perhaps if this fellow had said “OK” to that estimate he would have found a pleasant surprise at the end when he was only billed to reattach the cable?

    My philosophy was always to bid a job in such a way that if the customer had to be notified that the job was going to be a different price than estimated, it would be a pleasant surprise as the price was reduced. That’s far, far better than getting into a job that you estimated low and having to tell the customer that it’s going to cost a lot more.

    Are there some crooked mechanics out there? You bet there are – far too many. But try to keep in mind that the honest ones are working at a disadvantage. You bring them a car and describe a problem then expect them to know just exactly what’s wrong and exactly how much it will cost to repair it? Give them a break; you know more about the car and its problems than they do. That’s why the quote they give you before starting is called an estimate.

    Now, to make this post worthwhile, I’m going to offer some tips that may save you a bundle of money on repairs. You know those chain stores that sell tires, shocks, and car repairs? Stay well away from them – their so-called mechanics are untrained minimun wage workers. When your tire store tells you your car needs repair, have them put the suggested repairs in writing and then take your car somewhere else to have those repairs completed.

    Find a good idependent repair shop in your area and form a good working relationship with them. Have them do your repairs and save a lot. If you can’t find a good independent then go to the dealer.

    There’s another thing that I need to say here – you can always get another car but you only have one life. I’ve seen what you drive and some of it frightens me. Do you think you’re invincible? You’re not. Be aware of the condition of your vehicle and get the problems fixed. If you can’t afford to fix the problems then park the car. Yes, I know life is hard – but if you can’t afford to keep your vehicle in safe condition then you can’t afford to drive. When you hit the road with your bad ball joints you’re not only placing yourself at risk, you’re also putting everyone around you at risk.

    I’ve heard the complaints before – and it usually ended up with someone taking a dangerous vehicle and putting it back into daily driver service. I’m out of the business now but the rules are still the same. There’s still more crooked customers than therre are crooked mechanics.

    I feel bad for the people who paid too much for their repairs – but I feel much worse knowing that those cars sharing the road with me are in – well, some of them are in pretty sketchy condition and are best described as a rolling future accident.

    Anyway, that nice fellow who had his clutch cable come off – it’s nice that you got it reattched, but did you ever discover why it came off in the first place?

    I’ll call it good here. I’m an ex-professional mechanic with many, many years of experience. I belive my personal car is in excellent condition but I still carry a cell phone and a AAA card. The rest of the folks out there – whew.

    So when you back out of a driveway and crank the wheel do you hear a clunk or crunchy noise from the front end? Your car’s front end is in bad shape and needs immediate repair. Please get it fixed before you join me on the highway, OK?

  93. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post “whuffo”.
    I to am a Auto-mechanic, and Truly there are cars on the road that shouldn’t be. I wish every state would adopt the annual inspection criteria that New York enjoys (Michigan, Detroit area specifically) and have the State inspect them. Then lets see how many stay on the road.
    Again, kudos on the post.