Watch Out For These Ways Mechanics Try To Carjack You

As Hal from Malcolm in the Middle used to say, “just because someone’s smarter than you, that doesn’t make them a genius.” Thus, I can’t tell you whether car shop owners are geniuses, but I do know they have managed to pad their profits by blinding car-ignorant saps like me with science that’s way over our heads, getting us to spring for unnecessary repairs.

The Modesto Bee spells out some warning signs to watch out for when wrestling with grease persons.

Here’s one of the story’s more poignant observations, which stings all the more because I’ve fallen victim to such ruses:

When you do select a shop, don’t let anyone there tell you that your vehicle can’t be released unless the recommended work is done. Bolten said shops cannot threaten to hold on to your vehicle for any reason — even safety concerns.

The piece of advice I’d like to add is to avoid agreeing to sketchy-sounding repairs on the spot, get the shop to spell out the recommended work in a written estimate, then run that by someone who is smarter than you.

By no means should you actually try to learn something about cars, because such knowledge is way too complicated for our simple minds.

Don’t get taken for unneeded auto fixes [The Modesto Bee]
(Photo: mightyb)


Edit Your Comment

  1. CompyPaq says:

    Find a trusted mechanic. ‘Nuff said.

    • pz says:

      @computerwiz3491: Easier said than done! Even a “trusted” mechanic may have unscrupulous people working for them.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @pz: I’ve had good luck with Car Talk’s Mechanic Files when in new city:


        • ChuckECheese says:

          @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): I liked Mechanic Files until they sent me an email stating that they do not accept any negative reviews on their site. I wrote a negative review of a dealer garage that disconnected a vacuum hose (under the hood) when they were supposed to repair a child-seat latch (back seat). That was a bit over a year ago. If they have changed this policy, I might change my mind.

          • DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:

            @ChuckECheese: Was the garage one you had found via their site? If not, this makes sense as the whole point of the Mechanic Files is to just be a list of the good mechanics.

            If it was a garage you had found via their site, then that is indeed troubling.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              @DreamTheEndless: It was not a garage that I found on the Car Talk Mechanics Files site. But that’s not the issue.

              The issue is that the MF will not publish a negative review. So, if a garage with a good review starts to go bad, you won’t know it, because bad reviews aren’t published, but the good reviews are retained.

              There were also obvious shill reviews on the site. Highly detailed reviews with excessive effusive praise for every minute aspect of the repair experience. Again, if you have a bad experience at a garage on MF with shill reviews, and you try to correct it with an honest but negative review, MF will not publish your review.

              In short, Mechanics Files is not the best place to get reviews, unless you’re a careful reader with a good BS detector.

              The real problem with mechanics reviews is that mechanics are pretty cut-throat with each other, and would probably start (fake) review wars online if they had the chance. For instance, Craigslist requires you to verify any ads/posts in their Automotive repairs section with a phone number.

    • Pixel says:

      @computerwiz3491: And because a mechanic was trusted doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way.

      We had a mechanic that my family had been having all our work done at for over a decade. We didn’t even bother going anywhere else because they were better and cheaper than any other estimate we got.
      Then they charged me an extra $100 over the estimate because it turned out my car had speed-sensitive power steering and the rack was that much more. Except I discovered later that they had cut the wiring for the speed-sensitive part and hacked in the cheaper rack and pocketed the $100. About the same time I recommended them to a friend for an engine replacement. They said they were putting in an engine from the same year/model as her car had. We discovered later that the engine they installed was 5 years older than her car, and a different displacement.

      All told they, at most, made $200-300 from those two scams. But it meant that my entire family (who has spent thousands there in the past) never went back and badmouthed them whenever someone asked for a mechanic recommendation.

    • backbroken says:

      @computerwiz3491: Why didn’t I think of that?

      Next time my brakes squeal I’ll just pull a trustworthy mechanic out of my magic “I need a trustworthy mechanic” hat.

    • HiPwr says:

      @computerwiz3491: Excellent advice. My mechanic actually charged me less than what he estimated when he replaced my Oppenheimer ring valve seal that was leaking in the car’s piston flange outlet.

      What a great guy.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @computerwiz3491: Yeah, not ’nuff said, because a) it isn’t so simple, and b) just becuase a mechanic was trusted doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way, or be trusted in every specialty and every car.

      My trusted family mechanics of 20 years recently went shady on us. And then my other trusted mechanic that I’ve used for a decade for tire repairs turned out to be scammy as hell about exhaust-systems.

      So no. Not so easy.

  2. JeanStork says:

    That pic is priceless lmao… Good choice Phil!

  3. belyle says:

    I know that your last line is tongue in cheek, but really, the BEST way to avoid any of these problems is to be familiar with your car. At least basic stuff. Obviously, most people do not need to know about how fuel injection works, or all the computerized stuff, but knowing the basics of how an engine is supposed to work and how to do maintenance is invaluable.

    • 2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @belyle: Really? My permanent air filter needs to be replaced? Yeah, you probably didn’t notice the sticker on the air filter housing saying a permanent air filter is installed. Now get back under my hood Cooter, and finish filling up my turn signal fluid that I paid for.

    • DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:


      Just curious, and this really isn’t an attempt to be snarky, would you give that advice to your 87 year old grandmother?
      (I used to have very similar conversations with people about computers before coming to the conclusion that my mother will NEVER troubleshoot a software problem. She’ll call me to fix it instead even if I’m 3000 miles away.)

      That’s why I love you… Funniest comment I’ve seen in a long long time. Thanks.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @DreamTheEndless: Yes, I WOULD actually give that advice to an 87-year-old grandmother, or anyone else. If you’re going to own and operate a car, you need to either know some basics about how it works, know someone you trust who has a clue about it, or you roll the cheat-me dice every time you have the car serviced.

        Knowing a bit about your car can also help you need service less often. What’s important and what’s not once the warranty expires, what funny noise or behavior can wait until the next oil change and what needs to be addressed immediately, etc. I realize that my perspective is a little different, I’m the son of a mechanic and have been a car nut for as long as I can remember, but how it works out is I’m the guy friends and relatives call when they have car questions, so that’s my contribution.

        Oh, and I find it’s much easier to troubleshoot my mom’s computer from 300 miles away than it is to fix her car at the same distance, but since she has a Camry appliance there’s not that much fixing to do anyway.

        • DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:

          @GearheadGeek: “…I find it’s much easier to troubleshoot my mom’s computer from 300 miles away than it is to fix her car at the same distance, but since she has a Camry appliance there’s not that much fixing to do anyway.
          – Along similar lines, I bought my mom her first Mac about 2 years ago… The calls dried up within a couple of months.
          off topic – can someone tell me the syntax for doing a quote? Thanks.

    • ajlei says:

      @belyle and everyone else: I took a “Fix your own car” class at a community college this spring. It was $180 for 44 hours of doing dirty work on my car. It was the best $180 I ever spent. I fixed several outstanding issues with my car, changed out my spark plugs, brakes, oil, other fluids, replaced struts, etc. Of course, the parts costed money, but I spent no more than $120 on parts throughout the class. So, for $300, not only did I get a ton of work done on my car, but I learned a bunch as well.

      I know not everyone has the time or resources for this kind of thing, but I would completely recommend it. It’s invaluable.

      • trujunglist says:


        That’s excellent advice and I shall look into it. A friend of mine likes to work on cars but doesn’t always know exactly what he’s doing, so it’d be nice to be able to back him up if he needs it, plus my car needs a ton of work! Did you learn how to do the timing belt by any chance?

    • mrearly2 says:

      True. Most folks are quite ignorant about the mechanics of their autos. Unlike me, of course :)

  4. comic0guy says:

    An easy thing to do, is look at your maintenance schedule, helps you tell your mechanic what you want done….also if you pick up a Chilton or Haynes manual, you can at least read about how to work on different parts of the car, even if you don’t do the work yourself

    • f86sabre says:

      @comic0guy: Also be aware that the maintenance schedule a shop or dealership may want to do may be different that what is recommended by the manufacturer in the owners manual. Dealerships frequently add on “recommended” extras that don’t add much value. My car has a very particular maintenance program that is recommended by the manufacturer and is different than the rest of the cars they make. After taking it in and asking for the XX,000 mile service one time I came back to pick it up and found that several of the key maintenance items hadn’t been done because they were not on the dealerships generic maintenance schedule. I’m pretty mild mannered, but I’m protective of my car. I lit into the service manager to such an extent that he was under my car changing the differential fluids himself to make me happy.

      So, in short, look at the manual to know what your car needs and make sure that is what they are providing. If they offer you something more then educate yourself before you buy.

  5. MaelstromRider says:

    Heh. I once had a Goodyear shop try to convince me my 1981 Mazda 323 (that I paid $700 for) needed over $900 worth of brake work, including new calipers. When I balked, saying that it was more than I’d paid for the car, they tried to tell me that it was dangerous to drive the car that way, that I’d risk getting into an accident, and that they couldn’t let me leave with the car in that condition. They were very aggressive and condescending, and it was obvious they were trying to bully me because I was a 22 year old female. I told them I would be picking up the car at lunchtime, in the exact same condition it was in when I brought it, and if it wasn’t ready, my next trip back would be with the police.

    My car was ready for me. They still tried to convince me it needed all that work, but I ignored it and left. I took it to another shop down the street, and they did the basic brake work it needed for less than $100 and I was on my way.

    Now that dealer service prices, at least in my area, are comparable to Midas, Goodyear, JiffyLube, etc., for basic maintenance, I see no reason to take it anywhere else, especially since the other places don’t know what’s still under warranty on my car.

    • henrygates says:

      @MaelstromRider: I think women still get the short end of the stick when it comes to mechanics. They do the same thing to my wife.

      My mother in fact went to a mechanic (the dealer) with her car and a popping door. There’s a little pin (among other things) in the door catch that had worn down and kept popping out, making a big popping sound whenever it opened/closed. A 5 cent pin ($2 at dealer prices) and 30 seconds of labor would have fixed it, but they claimed she needed a whole new door plus paintjob for over $3,000, and instead convinced her to buy a new car.

      • katstermonster says:

        @henrygates: My mother taught me well. She taught me to change a flat tire, say NO to air filters, and most of all…date a mechanic. Or at least a guy who knows a little about engines.

        • Kogenta says:

          @katstermonster: It always helps to be good friends with technical service people, be it plumber, electrician, mechanic, etc.

          Lets face it, ripping people off isn’t just limited to your car. A lot of people where I live have gotten ripped off by house builders because they got shitty installation. Having someone who can come over and even look over something for any defects that are obvious to a professional in the trade can save huge headaches later.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @katstermonster: Say no to air filters? Hmmm… now if you mean tell JiffyLube no when THEY want to change your air filter because you changed your own last week, that’s fine. Clean air filters are a good idea, though… just don’t let someone else be the first to look at yours.

          • katstermonster says:

            @GearheadGeek: Agreed….referring to JiffyLube only. I go to my dealership and they’re pretty fantastic.

          • WraithSama says:

            We call it IffyLube for a reason. I once went in there and they came in with a dirty air filter for my model car and tried telling me it was mine, and tried to show me how badly it needed to be replaced. Too bad the idiot didn’t actually look in my filter box, where I had a 2-week old K&N filter installed. =

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        @henrygates: once upon a time i had a good mechanic who never treated me like i didn’t know what was going on with cars just because i’m female. of course the first time i took him my car, i pulled out the haynes manual for it and asked him to show me where the car itself looked different from the picture of what it was supposed to look like. when i eventually junked that car he helped me strip it for parts [because my next car was nearly identical]

        i moved further north [to the deep south] and have had a few occasions involving car repair and condescending sexism, but not as many as i’d expect.

    • kexline says:

      @MaelstromRider: I went through that as well. There’s a female mechanic near where I live, and I tried working with her for a while. That was a lesson in auto mechanic economics: She never bullshitted me, but I never seemed to get out of there for less than $400. Basically, she’d overcharge you to your face. I never could quite deal with that.

  6. balthisar says:

    Find a trusted, local mechanic, and forge a relationship with him before you need him. Have your oil changed there, and other basic maintenance (the ones you don’t do yourself). Forge a relationship. At the same time, get to know how your car works. You don’t need to know the details, but it’s good to know what a “dynamic rotational balancer” is or isn’t, and whether it’s something that’s one your car or not!

  7. Hank Scorpio says:

    I’ve been taking my car to an honest local mechanic (besides doing occasional, minor repairs – like brakes and stuff – with a buddy of mine who’s a bit of a gear head), but I had to take my car into the dealer for a safety recall repair.

    Gah. Nothing like a trip to the dealer’s service department to remind you to never take you car to the dealer.

    Besides taking two and half hours to do fifteen minutes worth of work, they come out and tell you that you need all this other work done, half of which is B.S. The least of which was telling me I needed to replace the fuel filter (which was just done in the fall, so I knew it didn’t need it), and that that would cost $90. I laughed at the guy, and asked “You charge $90 for a fuel filter?!” He said it was $45 for the part and $45 for a half hour of labor.

    If you didn’t know, a fuel filter is a $10 part and takes about five minutes to replace. My mechanic charged me $20 to replace it.

    I left there pissed, not just because he tried that shit with me, but also thinking of all the people who fall for that shit.

    The worst part of all this were all of the ads in the waiting room warning against taking your car to a local mechanic instead of the dealer!

    • chrisexv6 says:

      @Hank Scorpio:

      While not necessarily true (if you have to drain pressure out of the fuel system to change the filter, its not a 10 minute job)@CyGuy:

      used to take my wifes car for oil changes to the dealer. We have free lifetime oil changes from them, and ive stopped going. That should say plenty about how I feel about their “service”.

      Once I declined the $400.00 schedule maintenance they started telling me about how if something breaks it wont be covered under warranty. I reminded them that the car was no longer under warranty so I can save $400.00 towards any repair that might need to be made.

      Ive had both a Honda and an Acura and both dealers have given me grief about declining schedule maintenance. Id love to be a fly on the wall as they get paid $400.00 to change my oil, air filter and stare at the car (oh sorry, I meant 101 point inspection). And, the one time I *did* pay for a scheduled maintenance the dealer started giving me BS about why they didnt have to replace the brake fluid as listed in my Honda scheduled maintenance booklet (“oh its optional”, but it was right there on the printed manual…….that was the last time the dealer saw any of my vehicles for anything other than warranty work).

    • katstermonster says:

      @Hank Scorpio: I guess I’ve been lucky. My dealership,, is incredible. They had a line out the door one day for oil changes, so I figured I’d drop my car and come back in a few hours…they were done before my ride was able to drop me back at my place, and they’ve never tried to scam me. They follow my maintenance plan to the letter.

      • Hank Scorpio says:

        @katstermonster: Well, obviously I can’t speak for everyone else’s experience at their car dealers. I’m sure there are good ones out there, but my experience getting service at dealers has usually been negative.

  8. 2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

    You know what I miss? The old days of 20/20 & Dateline when they would outfit a RV or car with old people decorations, or girlee it up, add some hidden cameras, and have a Master Mechanic mark and examine every part. Nothing funnier than watching a dishonest mechanic pouring sawdust or filings into a oil pan trying to scam people, then the “Run of Shame” with their shirt over their face when Stosel would confront them.

  9. maruawe42 says:

    get a second or third opinion. In most cases a check with a auto zone can help I use them all the time to check on mechanical problems….. learn to use the computer plug in on your car ,get the readout ,write it down ,ASK QUESTIONS…..IF mechanics or desk people can’t answer questions fully then leave

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @maruawe42: I want to emphasize if you have a check engine light condition on your car, that AutoZone will do a computer diagnostic for free. That will save you some money right there.

      • Allison Granados says:

        @ChuckECheese: unless your car’s too old. i have a 1994 prizm with a check engine light, and they couldn’t diagnose it. had to spend $30 at the mechanic to find out what was up.

        • 2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

          @Allison Granados: Even the interwebs couldn’t help with the code? I thought they were supposed to be universal. Unless your car didn’t have a plug and flashed a light a la morse code to tell you the trouble.

          • Anonymous says:


            Vehicles built before 1996 had OBD I engine diagnostics where you had to read a flashing “Morse Code” from the check engine light, and then compare that to a list of warning codes.

            >1996 Vehicles have OBD II which requires a computer reader to get the codes. The readers run for around $130 at autozone

  10. starrion says:

    Here’s the critical part of the article:

    Michael Bolten, enforcement supervisor for the Fresno office of the repair bureau, recommends boning up on your owner’s manual and the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. That should give you a good overview of your vehicle, some knowledge of the terms likely to be thrown around at a shop and a better comfort level when it comes to getting repairs.

    Even if you’re not interested in improving your auto knowledge, Bolten said you still can protect yourself by always getting a written estimate of the work you want done.

  11. temporaryerror says:

    I’ve learned to be wary of the places that run the $15 oil change specials. I had one call me while my car was there for the oil change special and try to get me to authorize $900 of repairs that day. I declined, and took it to my local indi mechanic, who discovered I needed about $100 of work.

  12. rekoil says:

    My personal favorite is when the oil-change places will pull out your air filter and bring it into the waiting room…no matter how new it is (an air filter will start to look dirty literally days after it’s installed). I had this one pulled on me less than two months after I’d replaced mine. And I made sure I told everyone else in the waiting room after the mechanic went back into the garage bay.

    • schernoff says:

      @rekoil: This is why I will never use Jiffy Lube. They tried to pull “you need to replace your power steering fluid” on me – about 2 months after I had replaced it. The whole “this is what yours looks like … this is what it should look like” thing.
      On the other hand, I’ve also had a dealer tell me I needed new shocks when I brought the car in with a CV joint problem … 2 days after someone else had replacd the shocks (another dealer I trusted but who couldn’t get the car in for another week).

    • madanthony says:


      I’ve got a K&N, so they don’t bother with the air filter scam.

    • korybing says:

      @rekoil: Ah, Jiffy Lube. They always do this to me. They’re better than Firestone, though. I went to Firestone a few times for oil changes, and the first time they told me that my tires were so worn they were showing wires (they were fine and I’m still using them), and the second time they didn’t screw in my oil filter all the way, causing oil to leak out of the car like a sieve. Unfortunately for me, I just thought that my 200,000+ mile zombie car was FINALLY showing it’s age, and not that Firestone had screwed me. It took me a long time and a lot of quarts of oil to figure out that the car wasn’t dying like I thought. I learned that lesson.

    • econobiker says:

      @rekoil: Often you can write the date and mileage of the air filter change on either the filter material with a magic marker (Sharpee) or on the gasket if it is not black. Stops them in their tracks. I do the same thing on my oil filters so in case I have to get oil changed at a place for some reason…

  13. henrygates says:

    Get a friend who knows about cars and have some beer ready. Just take them to the mechanic with you so you have a BS filter.

  14. CyGuy says:

    I’ve been taking my Honda CR-V to the dealer for service, even for routine oil changes, but after this last visit I have gotten fed up and will go there when I think I need Honda specific service. The last straw was the Repairs Manager telling me that installation of the platinum spark plugs which newer CR-V’s use is an additional $50 (on top of the additional cost of the platinum parts) because “they have to adjust the timing after installing them.” It made me wonder about the quality of their regular spark plug changes.

    • tinmanx says:

      @CyGuy: I also bring my car to the dealer, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that as much after my warranty ends. They pushed the 15k mile service on me when the car manual says no scheduled service for 100k miles other than whatever the Honda maintenance minder system suggests. I had to do the service or they would void my warranty, it cost around $500. But the car actually drove a little better after the service, so it wasn’t a complete lost.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @tinmanx: …er.. if the car manual says that no scheduled maintenance other than what the car’s computer recommends is required for 100k miles, the dealership can’t just void your warranty because you don’t feel like a sucker today.

    • Kimberly Gist-Collins says:

      @CyGuy: I have a 10 year-old CRV that has never had the spark plugs or anything else changed for that matter. Just oil, tires, and brake pads. My BIL went 240,000 miles before any kind of service at all.

      The one car I had that we had the regular maintenance done on ended up breaking down constantly. I swear that the more regular maintenance you have done, the more the cart breaks down.

    • christoj879 says:

      @CyGuy: There might be a little bit of truth to that. I don’t think it has anything to do with the plugs being platinum, but I remember the service interval saying when the plugs are changed (at 110-120k miles IIRC) to have the valves adjusted.

      That’s a fun job too, if that’s what they were referring to which I bet they weren’t, $50 is a steal for a valve adjustment.

  15. 310Drew says:

    if your mechanic says you need a new johnson rod, your being screwed.

  16. Blueskylaw says:

    When my car died last year and I was away from home, I had it towed to a local shop (only one within a many mile area). I knew it was a broken water pump but the guy not only tried to tell me my brakes were locked up
    (Huh? I was just driving the car) but that the battery had died (it was a new battery, they must have drained it) and that a new one cost $250 and $50 to change it.

    I laughed at him and said if I was the shop owner and it took him longer than 5 minutes to change the battery
    I would fire him.

    I eventually had the car towed almost 100 miles back to my trusted (if not ornery) independent foreign car specialist who did the job right.

    P.S. They also wanted to charge me a $20 storage fee for the one day it sat there.

  17. donovanr says:

    After my parents brought their car into the dealership it began leaking transmission fluid. They brought it back to the dealership so that they could fix whatever they broke. The transmission was shot and needed to be replaced. (~$2000) I said bullpucky and said I was getting another opinion from a place I trusted. The dealership said that they couldn’t let the car go for safety reasons. I lied and told them I was a lawyer and quoted a law I made up in my head.(two wrongs made it right) The place I trusted said that too much fluid had been put in and was leaking out when it got hot. The second place didn’t charge me for this diagnosis. That was years ago and their transmission is still fine.

    The initials of the good place are TM in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you know the place you are now nodding your head.

  18. Skin Art Squared says:

    Get a new vehicle with bumper to bumper warranty. Anything goes wrong, the dealer can fix it, free.

    • pattiesmart says:

      @BZMedia: Yes, because EVERYONE can just up and get a new car! And new cars are always worth the money, yep.

    • JGKojak says:

      @BZMedia: Yeah, thanks for the advice, moneybags.

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @JGKojak: LOL, “moneybags”? What, you think only rich people buy new cars or something? I’m definitely not rich, but I believe it’s cheaper in the long run to pay for a new car, not have the hassles of mechanical failure & breakdown, and get full warranty service at no cost, if & when it needs it. If anything, that’s frugal, compared to buying some used piece of crap that constantly needs repair.

        • DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:

          @BZMedia: I bought a 12 year old toyota corrola 2 years ago with 88,000 miles for $1800. I have put about $250 into it. Since then, I’m up to something like 110,000 miles and I’ve driven from Oregon to Ohio twice.

          I get about 31 MPG.

          Click and Clack (Tom and Ray) are strong strong proponents of buying used.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @BZMedia: Well, no. Studies show you’re quite wrong about this. If you want to spend the extra money for peace of mind and keeping a shiny new car, that’s fine but don’t trick yourself into believing that’s the way to save money.

          I’m OK with justifying the purchase of a new or CPO-used car to get off to a clean start, so you have reason to believe you’re not buying someone else’s problems. In general the least-expensive way to do it is to keep a car until it requires service that’s costing you more than you’d be losing in interest and/or depreciation on a new car. In my family we probably average around 8 years on a car, and typically it’s still in good-running condition when we sell it. Modern cars tend to be decent, affordable transportation for WAY longer than their bumper-to-bumper warranties last.

        • Megan Squier says:

          @BZMedia: I STRONGLY disagree!!! A good used car will last as long as you take care of it. In 2003 I paid $2300 for a 1992 Pontiac Bonneville with 64K miles. In the past 6 years, I’ve only put about $700 in repairs into it. The thing is I’m familiar with cars and am married to a former auto mechanic. For a rather elderly car, $700 isn’t much money to spend in 6 years on a car.

          The problem is way too many people abuse the heck out of their cars and used car salesmen pass them on to unsuspecting buyers who don’t know a spark plug from a catalytic converter.

          • Skin Art Squared says:

            @Megan Squier: “The problem is way too many people abuse the heck out of their cars and used car salesmen pass them on to unsuspecting buyers who don’t know a spark plug from a catalytic converter.”

            Exactly. Sometimes they even succeed at passing them on to suspecting buyers. They’ve got a million tricks to cover and hide all the problems in a vehicle. And when you get stuck with these problems a month later, it’s usually too late. You bought it “as is”. Or as we used to say in the military motor pool….. “Sure, I’ll give you a warranty. 30 seconds or 30 feet. Whichever comes first.”

            Not saying all used cars are crap, but if you don’t know the history of it, it’s a scary proposition. An “old” vehicle isn’t necessarily the same thing. (like if you or a family member has owned it since day 1). If you know where it’s been and what it’s been through, older vehicles can be perfectly fine.

            Of all the used vehicles I’ve bought, pretty much all of them, except one BMW when I lived in Germany, have had hidden problems. Things that were there at the time I bought it, but were covered up in ways so that you’d never notice them. And sure, even if you don’t have any knowledge of vehicles, you could have a friend or mechanic check it out for you…. but can you ever be 100% sure? With a new vehicle, the answer is yes. Because if it’s not 100%, it soon will be.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @BZMedia: Maybe they’ll fix it, or maybe it will be like my brother’s under-warranty Hyundai, that has a problem with strange electrical arcs in random areas of the engine. Take it into the dealership, have them say they can’t find the problem, have them say they did find a problem with the water pump (not under warranty) that they replaced without permission, and charge you $120.

      If you ever take an in-warranty car in for repairs, and the garage can’t or won’t fix it, be sure to get a receipt stating why you took it in. Later, perhaps when the car isn’t under warranty anymore, you might need this as evidence you tried to get the problem taken care of when the car was still warrantied.

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @ChuckECheese: “If you ever take an in-warranty car in for repairs, and the garage can’t or won’t fix it, be sure to get a receipt stating why you took it in.”

        That’s a good idea. Sometimes weird problems don’t show themselves when you need them too. (like when you’re trying to get it fixed).

    • 2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @BZMedia: Extended Warrantyt, how can I lose!

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave: “Extended Warrantyt, how can I lose!”

        By not having one when you need it.

        Mine covers quite literally, everything. Including roadside assistance, shuttle service, loaners if need be, regular services, the works. And it’s completely worth it to me, because my time is more valuable than spending it doing home auto repair in my driveway on the weekends. Same reason I don’t wash my own vehicles, maintain my own lawn, or clean my own house. I have better things to do than spend my life on mundane activity, and there are perfectly good services available to take care of these things. I also don’t have the stress of driving a used car wondering if it will be able to complete its journey to wherever, or what’s going to happen if it doesn’t, hunting down a “trustworthy” mechanic, and magically producing however much it’s going to set me back out of thin air.

        @DreamTheEndless: And do you trust this now 14 year old Corrola to safely transport you farther than the grocery store? I wouldn’t. I bought used cars my whole life up until about ten years ago. Now on my third brand new vehicle and I’ve had zero problems with the new ones. The used ones gave me nothing but headaches, breakdowns and extra costs.

        • drrictus says:

          @BZMedia: I drive a 12-year old truck, and I’d trust to go, because I know what’s been done to the car, because I did it or watched it happen.

          Now, if I didn’t work on my own vehicle, and paid someone else to work on it behind closed doors, then no I wouldn’t trust that vehicle.

        • DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:

          @BZMedia: :) I’m going to drive back to Oregon from Ohio again in August. Even if it dies on the trip home, my “extra costs” have been far less than your car payments…

          It’s certainly easier to buy a new car that will last than a used car that will last, but if you do the work to find a used car that will last and get good millage, the used car is going to be the far better value. (Admittedly, there are lots of bad used cars out there, and lots of dishonest people selling them, but there are also some good ones.)

          Just curious – how long do you keep your new cars?

          • Skin Art Squared says:

            @DreamTheEndless: No payments for me. I hate car payments. They were all paid in full.

            “Just curious – how long do you keep your new cars?”

            1st new one (Harley Davidson) I kept for a year & a half. This one I had to get rid of because of drastic circumstances that changed life for a while.

            2nd new vehicle, (Dodge Durango) kept for two years. Getting rid of this one was a total mistake and waste of money. I really can’t even explain it or justify it.

            3rd new vehicle (Jetski) kept for 4 years. Also a mistake getting rid of, yet I don’t really miss it.

            4th & 5th new vehicles, (BMW and Dodge Ram) both at 4 years. The Ram I’m planning to keep permanently. The BMW, we’ll see. No reason to get rid of it and it drives fantastic, but if something else catches my girlfriend’s eye later on down the road, we may.

            (Note: I said 3 new vehicles before, because I didn’t factor in the motorcycle or jetski. Those seem more like toys to me, but I suppose they do count.)

            • pattiesmart says:

              @BZMedia: So, yes, moneybags. Because everyone totally has enough money to pay for a car in full whenever they need a new car!

              Are you aware of reality?

        • Megan Squier says:

          @BZMedia: I trust my 1992 Pontiac Bonneville to get me from Huntsville, AL to Dover, DE and then back to Huntsville, an 800 mile trip one way. I also trust it get me to work, a 50 mile round trip, 5 days a week. I’d drive that car around the equator if it was possible!

    • Black-Cat says:

      @BZMedia: Wow! What a novel concept! I mean, during a recession and everyone being loaded down with money to burn. Do you live in a cave, or are you just a mental giant?

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @Black-Cat: “Wow! What a novel concept! I mean, during a recession and everyone being loaded down with money to burn. Do you live in a cave, or are you just a mental giant?”

        You know, the entire population isn’t destitute and living in the streets. Besides, it’s just a point of view man. Having owned numerous used vehicles and new ones alike, it’s just my opinion that comparing the two ends of the spectrum, for peace of mind, mechanical reliability, maintenance support and the experience as a whole over (normally) many years ownership, is better with a new vehicle than used & unknown. It’s just a point of view, not a freaking manifesto. No, I don’t live in a cave.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      God, I WISH. Maybe some day I’ll have a car that was made in this century. :P

  19. ncpeters says:

    When I took my car to Jiffy Lube once they told me my light over my rear license plate was out and they legally couldn’t give me back my car without replacing the light. I didn’t care because it was only a couple dollars but I’m curious now what would have happened if I had refused.

    • Skin Art Squared says:

      @ncpeters: “When I took my car to Jiffy Lube once they told me my light over my rear license plate was out and they legally couldn’t give me back my car without replacing the light. I didn’t care because it was only a couple dollars but I’m curious now what would have happened if I had refused.”

      I most definitely would have challenged that, and demanded my car back.

      • ncpeters says:

        @BZMedia: Like I said it was only a couple dollars and I didn’t want to be driving around with a reason for a cop to pull me over so I went ahead and had them replace it. If they had tried charging me a large amount I would have said no and argued if they refused to give me my car back.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @ncpeters: Unless you took it in for a state inspection, their response is total bullshit. Even *IF* you took it in for a state inspection and it was daytime when you were ready to leave, it’s also bullshit.

    • traezer says:

      @ncpeters: I was told the same thing. They wanted to charge $25, so I told them no. They had no problem giving me my car. I replaced the light myself for under $5.

  20. Skin Art Squared says:

    “Sorry sir, your primary congripulator module is burned out, you’re low on alternator fluid, your brake cylinders have de-ionized and we can’t even get started today because Jimmy left with the keys to the shop pit.”

  21. MaytagRepairman says:

    I started off doing well with the local Honda dealer in the new area I just moved into — when I came in the first time for routine maintenance they told me I really didn’t need a few things and recommended saving me a few bucks and skipping them so I thought that was nice of them to not nickel me for everything in the service manual.

    After that very first visit it has been just the opposite. The last time I was in there they tried to tell me that my tires were in desperate need of rotating. I had just bought brand new tires two weeks ago so I knew they were completely bs’ing me.

  22. Froggmann says:

    This doesn’t happen much with me any more since I do almost all my own work (I hate transmissions). But you guys’ stories are reminding me of an incident that happened to my mother years ago.

    Back in the days of full-service stations (You guys remember those right?) My mom went into this 76 station to get gas in her car. During the service the guy checked her oil and said, “You need to get an oil change, see how dark it is?”. She declined and when she saw me that night she told me what happened and asked me when I changed it last, I had just changed it 2 days before. She never went back to the station again.

  23. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    A coworker has a 07 Mazda 3, an HID headlight is out, and they want to charge her over $250 to change the whole thing. I did a quick google search adn for message boards on how to take off the bumper and replace it yourself.

    Now I’m not gonna risk being liable for how well her bumper is re-attached, so I’m not touching her car, but I sent her the link. Chances are her boyfriend won’t do all that labor, and she’ll have to shell out that money, but it seems like with most anything (cars, computers, etc) you can find out how to fix it yourself on the internet.

    • Black-Cat says:

      @AlteredBeast: While it’s true that some people can fix some things on their own cars, some repairs are best left to real mechanics. I have been a mechanic for 20+ years, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have fixed something some know it all husband/boyfriend tried to fix first. It usually ends up costing more because of the mess that wanna be shadetree mechanics make. Of course the woman is twice as pissed off by that time, which should make the rest of the day a joyous event for the DIY idiot.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        @Black-Cat: I’ve seen this happen with friends of mine back when I was in a F-Body car club. Horrible DIY jobs, where it’s either held together with cardboard and duct tape…or they do something like install a car stereo and their dome light stops working.

        It’s that reason I wouldn’t touch her car, but if I were in her possition I’d try it myself. Then just kick myself if I screw it up.

  24. weave says:

    I stopped in Needles, CA (on border of AZ) on way to California for gas once, and while I was out pumping my gas some guy from the shop walks over and starts to look under my car, then says he noticed something wasn’t right when sitting in the garage and on close inspection, saw the inside of one of my tires was showing stress and it would never make it across the desert. I questioned him, so he said if I pull it into the garage he’d put it on a lift and show me.

    I knew once that car was on the lift it’d be held hostage, so I declined, got to hear how I was risking my life if I drove like that over the desert.

    I drove off and pulled over a block away out of his site and started to carefully look over the tire. While doing that, some guy from another station ran across the street and offered to put it on a lift to look at it with me. Gessh…

    Tire looked fine to me and not only did it survive the trip across the California desert, but a few months later it was driven back from California to the east coast just fine.

  25. jayphat says:

    One thing worth noting. When a shop tells you they broke something, and they can’t release it until the repairs are complete, and they’re paying for it, takke them on that. I used to work in the tire business and on rare occasions a stud would break. Not a big deal, but it is a safety concern and we always paid to have it replaced right then and there, but people always managed to demand to have their car let go because they had better things to do. It usually took saying “you could die” for people to back down.

    • econobiker says:

      @jayphat: I had an NTB break a stud (probably by cross threading it), not tell me, and then try to upcharge my spouse the $10 cost of the stud. She told them that they had quoted $X so why would they have to charge $X +$10? They skulked away and she paid for it. I later find the different nut and stud on that wheel and figured out what probably happened.

  26. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    This sort of fraud is exactly why I have dragged my kids out to help with the maintenance of our vehicles since they were barely able to reach the brake pedal.

    As they grew older they asked why I was such a hardass and I told them it was simple. I don’t care if you ever change your own oil or swap out your own summer tires for snows. What I do care about is that you have an understanding of how your vehicle works and what is involved in ensuring that it runs properly and safely.

    As an added benefit they have a strong understanding of the systems on the vehicles. Later in life if a mechanic tells them they need to spend $1000 to have the carburetor adjusted they can assess this in light of whether or not the vehicle is fuel injected or not. (Yes, we have a number of older engines we care for that have carbs.)

    This is just like researching an illness before going for treatment, or researching refrigerators before buying one. Have enough knowledge that your bullshit alarm goes off before you pull out your wallet.

    • god_forbids says:

      @GreatWhiteNorth: That’s awesome. My grandfather did this with all of his kids, and my mom really took to it. After he passed away she ended up doing all the maintenance on her siblings’ cars and my grandmothers’, with me and my siblings in tow of course.

      This is why we had a small fleet of mid 60’s and early 70’s cars in our yard, all running great, until we started to move away from home in the early naughts. I might not know how to deal with modern engines but the car knowledge I have because of my mom is invaluable.

      And of course, she is great when buying cars and dealing with mechanics. When you run 30+ year old cars you get to know all of the local shop guys that have been in the business long enough to know more than you do about them.

  27. vastrightwing says:

    My car has a nasty computer that begs me to bring it in to the dear every 3,000 miles for an oil change or maintenance. This is nothing but a way to guarantee a revenue stream after the sale to the dealer. I do my best to tape over the display so my wife won’t actually bring the car in until I feel it’s ready. Then I only get the oil changed. After 30,000 miles, I’ll have one major service done and that is all. I object to paying up to $300 to have the dealer check of a bunch of boxes and then charge me extra to fill fluids or replace worn parts.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @vastrightwing: Uh, if you want to ignore the computer’s recommendations, you’re better off learning the sequence to reset the service messages or buying the aftermarket tool to do so than you are taping over the warning indicator(s).

  28. BeerFox says:

    Friend of mine had the “Legally, we can’t let you leave with your car” line pulled on him. I’m stealing his response if it’s ever tried on me:
    “So, is this a kidnapping? Or are you just stealing my car?”

  29. Adhominem says:

    “Michael Bolten, enforcement supervisor for the Fresno office of the repair bureau, recommends BONING up on your owner’s manual and the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule.”

    Am I reading this right?

  30. Eilonwynn says:

    The best advice my mechanic grandfather ever gave me was that any shop should be willing to walk around me with the car, and show me everything they took out of it – My current shop is just phenomenal and that’s the first thing that tipped me off about how good they are.

  31. kexline says:

    Y’all, please don’t say, “It’s easy! Find a trusted mechanic,” unless you already have a website with a failsafe flowchart. I stopped doing my own maintenance almost 10 years ago, and have never found an independent mechanic I can deal with. After deciding that the local Toyota dealership shops are run by creeps, I’ve started taking my car in for maintenance when I visit friends in another city 200 miles from here. What will I do if the car breaks down? I have no idea.

  32. veronykah says:

    A few websites that I’ve found pretty helpful as far as finding a mechanic and estimating the cost of repairs and explaining what they are..



    Yelp has been very helpful as well.

    For repairs:


    I’ve been fortunate to have had enough old cars with things break to have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong at this point but those sites have been very helpful when looking for someone honest or CHEAP to work on my car.

  33. topgun says:

    I had a Midas shop tell me that I needed new rotors for a vehicle with 30,000 miles on it because they had been turned down (resurfaced) so many times. This of course was a NO BRAINER since it never been in for new brake pads.He couldn’t guarantee the brake job if I didn’t replace them. I told him to take it off the rack and I would go somewhere else. Funny he then offered to do the job with a FULL GUARANTEE, no new rotors needed.
    Also I bought a $500 pickup truck when my new house was being built. I just needed it for hauling landscaping, lumber and the likes. I planed on disposing of it in 5 months when the house was done. The muffler rusted out and rather than chancing a ticket or annoy my new neighbors I thought I’d go to one of those places with the $35 one size fits all mufflers. After going on the rack, the mechanic told me it would cost $800. I told him I only paid $500 for the truck, so please take it down & I’ll be on my way. He then thought he could get by for $400. My response was the same. He then decide to do it for $35.

  34. MRT says:

    I’ve been looking for a class like that at my local community college, but all I’ve found are a number of specialized classes geared towards people who want to pursue this as a career. Still, I just might do it.

  35. maztec says:

    Good thing Bolten is an attorney and knows that if they let you drive out with a car that will imminently crash (aka seriously bad breaks or something) and you have an accident, they will be sued and most likely settle. Unless, in the rare event, they manage to get a signed release waiver, and even then you can sue for “You let me drive away anyway!”

    Wait, he’s not an attorney? Oooph.

  36. NoPornstar says:

    I just saved $2,000.00 by getting a THIRD opinion about my car. It all started when I went to Jiffy Lube for a routine oil change. Less than 5 miles later, my engine is making a racket and my oil light is on. Jiffy Lube manager comes out to take a look at my car and says I need a new oil pump. Husband takes car to dealer, dealer says we need a new ENGINE, $2,500.00. Or we can just trade her in for a new car (our is a 1999 with less than 100,000 miles and been paid off for years). We take it to a THIRD mechanic, recommended by a friend of ours, and he cleans some sludge out of the engine. $500 and now it runs better than it has in years.

  37. james says:

    Even if you know nothing about cars, blow $11 to $15 on a Haynes or Chilton’s manual, and make the mechanic SHOW you what he is talking about. You open up the book to the proper page, and cross-check to make sure that you are on the correct part. When done, you get all worn parts, and you take them to an auto supply store to verify that they are worn out or otherwise in need of replacement, down to the last brake pad.

    Nothing beats understanding the car, but pictures help.