Common Car Repair Rip-offs

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​A lot of people aren’t knowledgeable about how cars work and it, unfortunately, leaves them vulnerable to common car repair rip-offs.  As with most things in life, the more you understand, the better off you are.

Just as with your barber and your dentist, taking your car to a mechanic means fully trusting someone else’s knowledge and ethics. This, however, opens the door for unscrupulous mechanics to take advantage of car owners who just don’t know any better.  

While we can’t all become car experts overnight, we can be aware of common car repair rip-offs for those occasional times we find ourselves in business with someone a little less than trustworthy.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #1: Use of Car Jargon

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Every industry has its own language. Jargon is language that only the people working in the business understand, and the car industry is no different.  

Mechanics might try to confuse a customer with technical language hoping to get them to pay for things they don’t need. If a mechanic starts using language that belittles your car knowledge, there may be something more behind the statement. Ask them to help you understand in terms you’re more familiar with.

It may be an innocent mistake, but in some cases, they could be using jargon to squelch you with add-ons. Unfortunately, some of the add-ons you’ll be offered are beneficial only to the seller.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #2: Free Services

You see it everywhere. Just the mere mention of something free perks up the ears of anyone who hears it. When it comes to automotive maintenance, something like every third oil change being free or the inclusion of tire inspection at no extra cost sounds too good to be true. 

Customers should know that these are all just means to get underneath the hood. Don’t ignore free services when offered, after all they are free, but do ensure beforehand you’re under no obligation to stay for repairs if they find something is wrong. 

Once a mechanic gets that chance to peek inside, he has the opportunity to offer his services in fixing all the “problems” that he’s found.

It’s good to remember, there may actually be a problem with your vehicle. If you’re uncertain about a diagnosis, take the car to a trusted mechanic to be sure.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #3: Charging Customers for Non-Existent Labor

Not all mechanics are remorseful of the things detailed on this list. There are mostly honest, hard-working mechanics out there who just want to make a living doing what they love, repairing cars and helping people. 

Though for those few that don’t mind being in a gray area, a common strategy is to charge for work that was never done in the first place. They may say they fixed a part or changed a fluid when they didn’t go near it. Sadly, the customer pays the price down the road when he or she realizes there’s still an issue.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #4: Upselling Car Maintenance

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If you’re told that more work is needed than what you came in for, don’t be afraid to go get a second opinion, if you can drive away without it being a safety problem, that is.

 An easy way to spot if you are being unnecessarily upsold is to cross reference the vehicle mileage with the service schedule in the back of the owner’s manual. You’ll easily see if your mechanic is recommending fluid changes well before the schedule requires it.

This is more common in shops that make a point to sell you fluids that have a much higher price than the run-of-the-mill brands. For most cars, the more basic fluids are just fine. The expensive fluids tend to benefit the shop’s bottom line more than your vehicle.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #5: Unauthorized Repair

A repair appointment usually starts with a quotation that both the customer and the mechanic agree upon. It’s important that the mechanic and the customer both understand what work will be done and paid for before it starts. 

Usually, mechanics will separate the diagnostic check and the actual repair work to give the customer the decision what work to go forward with. Be wary of shops that do not agree to ask the customer’s go-ahead.

You as a customer should have the option to tell your mechanic no before the work is actually done. If you allow your mechanic to go forward with repairs without your consent, you may find yourself with a larger-than-expected bill when picking up your car.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #6: Charging Repairs Separately Instead of Together

If the quote on a repair bill doesn’t exactly line up or you’re unsure where each labor charge is coming from, that should be a red flag. 

If the affected part is harder to reach, such as a water pump, it may require that they take out other parts to access it, which means removing other parts to get to the one in question. If some of those other parts are old or showing obvious signs of wear, changing them out at the same time makes sense. 

What doesn’t make sense, though, is charging you again for the labor on that other part when it was already part of the procedure in the first place.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #7: Making Problems Look Worse Than They Are

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Most mechanics are righteous, upstanding people who do a good job. There are some, however, who go to great lengths in order to get a sale. 

A good rule in life is if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The same goes for your car. Some shady mechanics will tell you about other vehicles they repaired that had certain issues and while your vehicle may not have that problem, it’s only a matter of time before it does. 

According to the mechanic, it couldn’t hurt to do it now. This mechanic should be avoided since it’s not likely that your best interests are being put first.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #8: Car Air Filter Replacement

Always make sure the filter you’re seeing is from your car and that you know when your filters need a substitute. Air filters rarely need to be replaced, and when they do, it is a part that people can quickly and easily replace themselves at a fraction of the cost that mechanics charge at a garage. 

Yet, air filters are one of the parts mechanics love to tell people need to be replaced. Some of the worst mechanics may even put debris into your filter to make it seem true. The mark-up on the air filters is also ridiculous. 

In order not to fall for this trick, check the air filter yourself periodically. And, if you feel it needs to be replaced, look up some instructions and try it yourself. It’s not so hard.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #9:  Offers That are “Too Good to Reject”

Mechanics wear several hats in their profession. They play the role not only of the one who mends the vehicle but also of a salesperson. This is similar to what we’ve said before. Some mechanics will try to sell you services that are unnecessary.

Be wary of add-ons that your car doesn’t need yet. Replacing parts before it’s necessary is cheating you out of the lifespan of that part. Just because a service is offered cheaper than usual doesn’t mean you’ll save in the long run.

Common Car Repair Rip-off #10: Cheap Parts

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There’s a right way and a wrong way to do a project. If something goes crooked on your car, you expect your mechanic to use a part that’s as good or better than the one that it’s replacing. 

But some shady mechanics will go for the cheapest available part in order to pocket a few extra bucks. Make sure your mechanic uses the right parts, all the time, every time. Otherwise, you might have a recurring problem on your hands.  As an example, check out our article on using the cheapest brake pads

Trust the Experts and ASR (American Auto Care)

Though it’s painful to admit, some mechanics are simply not very good, or just plain dishonest.  But by watching out for these common car repair rip-offs, you can be confident you’re getting your money’s worth. 

And remember, not all mechanics are looking to make dirty money. 

The honest and experienced professionals at ASR of Murrieta (American Auto Care) are transparent in their process and will never charge you for unnecessary work. You can feel comfortable knowing your vehicle is in good hands.  Take a look at our online reviews if you are still wondering.

For more information about common car repair rip-offs or about our automotive services, call us at (951) 461-2507.

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