When our cars break, the first place we turn to is a mechanic. They're car experts and know exactly what should be done to fix the error. Although, that doesn't seem they'll always recommend the best option. Just as these people.
People on Quora share the time when they caught an auto mechanic trying to scam them. Content has been edited for clarity.
Using Family Connections
“Many years ago I owned a VW Rabbit. In any case, it was four or five years old and I’d driven from coast-to-coast in it. Later, I found a job in Toronto. That was about an hour away from my folks. Once I got settled into a new apartment, I figured it was about time to take it in for full service. No problem – there was a VW dealer about two blocks up the road from me. Made an appointment, dropped it in first thing in the morning, and came by to pick it up after work. Good news – the service was finished but the bad news – the car had a number of major mechanical issues that needed repairing ‘right away.’ And those ‘necessary’ repairs were going to cost slightly over $1,300. That was money that I didn’t have – after all, I had just started a new job. And they were pushing me to make an appointment for that.
Instead, I asked them for the list of repairs, collected the car, and went back to my apartment. Called my kid brother – he’s a licensed mechanic and at the time was working in a VW dealership. His advice – drive home on the weekend, leave the car with him and he’d take it into his shop to see what they could do (told you that being close to my folks was relevant). So I did – the weekend after that I came back and my brother had the car waiting for me. I knew that his shop would give me the best deal possible but I was still worried – after all, $1,300 was a lot of money to me. He was really apologetic – seems they’d gone down the list of items and done what had to be done but they just couldn’t figure out how to give me a break on $13.00 – that’s right – thirteen dollars.
Needless to say, I never went near the original dealership again.”
“Nothing But Crickets”
“About 40 years ago, I had gone in to get four new tires for a Ford Galaxy 500 station wagon at Sears Automotive. I wanted the front end aligned since it would be prudent to have it done while the new tires are put on. I get back to pick up the wagon and am told they couldn’t do the alignment because the front end was about to fall apart. The estimate was about $800, which was a typical month’s take-home pay back in those days.
Something didn’t smell right as I would have felt problems with steering and vibration had that been real. I had the car as a new vehicle and it had been well maintained before that, and it had about 60K miles on it. I said no, I’ll just take it as is. The mechanic insisted on me signing a waiver that I was taking it in an unsafe condition. Forget them, I’m out of there.
I get to my regular mechanic and he was pretty dubious about the ‘damage.’ He puts it on a lift and raised it a bit off the ground, places a long pry bay under the wheel, and checks for play. Says it has some play, but normal for a Ford. He can’t find anything wrong with the front end and sends me off to the place that does his front end alignments. That facility does the alignment and tells me there is some wear on the bushings but they have another 10–15K miles left on them.
I call Sears and ask for the store manager. They try to slough me off to some low-level manager, and I’m adamant about speaking to the store manager and no one in automotive. I tell the guy the story, outlining everything simply and to the point. I finish, and he asks me what do I want him to do. I couldn’t freaking believe he’s asking me what to do. I informed him his mechanics were committing fraud and theft by deception, and the state attorney general could have an interest in the situation. I heard nothing but crickets after that.
The following weekend there was a full-page ad in the Sunday paper jobs section for mechanics.”
He Showed Them Up
“I returned home from deployment in Iraq in 2008. My 1986 Immaculate Ford Bronco, which I bought brand new in June of ‘86 , had been sitting in my Sea Can shipping container for over 11 years. I rolled it out my second day home and took the covers off, put a new battery in it, and fired it up.
The next day I took it for a rip and noticed it to be a little jittery and pulling a bit to the right. I pulled over at the Ford dealer, and being a mechanic pulled round to the back garage. We all talked shop and we all agreed it needed a new left outer tie rod as the grease was now dry. So I went into parts, grabbed the new tie rod and paid. I also had in the back a brand-new dual exhaust system that I always wanted to put on it. So I took it to them and asked them to install the custom dual exhaust in the back of the Bronco, install the Tie Rod, and button it up. I signed the work order and walked away.
Now the 38-inch tires are by no means easy to handle by one’s self. As I went for a two-hour walk and came back I noticed a guy walking around my Bronco – all tires still on it, with a white lab coat, not a mark on the lab coat and white gloves, a clipboard and pen and safety glasses with not even a spec of dirt on them. I was of course appalled … Being a mechanic, I knew that this was not a good sign.
As I stepped into the garage I was sternly told I could not come in. And to go to the office.
This kid could not have been older than 20 with his shiny glasses, white lab coat, and clean white gloves come into the office and hands the clipboard to the “Service Manager.’ He starts typing away on the computer as I’m standing there – by now I’m getting upset because through the tiny little window I can still see my custom exhaust hanging out the back of my convertible Bronco. So he begins to speak; He tells me I need Kingpins, I need new hub assemblies, bearings in front and back. I need new U-joints, I had just checked them the day before.
He says to me, ‘Here is your quote sir.’
I was floored: $2973.45. I almost choked. Very calmly and coolly, I reached into my wallet and pulled out my Mechanic’s License.
I’ve never seen a situation change so fast in my life. There were a lot of ‘Yes sir’ and let’s get going, tires slinging, impacts going and wrenches turning.”
“Worked Perfectly After That”
“I had an older pickup that ran well but the A/C had stopped working. We had a local place that specialized in A/C and radiator repair. I took my truck in and left it while they did an estimate. I stopped back and he told me that the compressor was bad and that the hoses had been cut and it would be $1,600 to fix it. That was more than I wanted to put into an older truck so I just left. I really had a hard time understanding why the hoses had been cut.
A week or two later, I was at a junkyard to pick up some parts. As I was waiting for them to finish with the customer ahead of me, I saw a sign that said ‘A/C repair.’ I thought perhaps they would have a used compressor and I could get it done at a price I felt I could afford. I described to them what the other place said was wrong and they quoted me $600.00 using a used compressor. I made an appointment and dropped it off the next day. I went back to pick it up and asked how much I owed them and they said $75.00. They said that it just needed to be charged, and it worked perfectly after that for the next few years until I upgraded trucks.”
There Was An Example Right There
“I was getting an oil change for my 96 Ranger at a mechanics I knew about, but thought to give a try. While waiting, I get called over to be shown my serpentine belt had cracks on the v-groves. Just a little were cracking, not pieces of missing or deep enough to see the reinforcement. Whereupon I said that I can change it myself when it needs to be done. The mechanic then tries to explain to me how hard it is to change because I have to make sure it snakes around all the pullies in the correct order.
He does this while I’m looking at a diagram pasted under the hood showing exactly how to replace the belt. He then goes on about needing a special tool. Noting the diagram says that I only need a 3/8 socket driver to pull the tensioner bearing back. Told him I had the tool and knew was to get one if I did not. Then spent several minutes trying to convince me that I was wrong and could not do it myself.
I did not tell him I saw the instruction under the hood or that I change the belt myself only about 30K miles earlier. Plus I always keep the old one stored in the vehicle in case the newer one breaks unexpectedly.
Anyway never went back or recommended that mechanic to anyone.”
“She Walked Away In A Huff”
“Years ago, I was able to buy a 1994 Chevy Cavalier.
It came with a standard 3 year or 36,000-mile warranty, whatever came first. Well, I put a bunch of miles on this thing and I was getting close to that 36,000-mile mark at somewhere around 30 months. Well, one day I was sitting at a traffic light waiting for the light to turn, and then suddenly all the gauges on my dash, speedometer, tachometer, thermometer, etc, slowly went from the position where they normally would sit to the far right side of the gauge. Then all of a sudden they reset back to where they were. The light changed and I went to work and parked the car. I was a bit freaked out as I’ve never seen a car do that, but I had a suspicion what was wrong. That night when my shift ended I went to my car and it wouldn’t start. I had to get the security guard to come over and give me a jump. The car started right up and I drove home.
The next day which was a Saturday, I decided to take it to the shop where I bought it as it was still under warranty. I was at something like 35,910 miles of the 36K. When I got to the shop, I told the supervisor what was going on and he confirmed my suspicion. More than likely it needed a new alternator. This seemed to be a problem with that particular model. He then told me that the shop was booked but if I had gotten there just 20 minutes prior he could have gotten me in that same day. He told me to drive it just to and from work, and I should be just fine. If it didn’t start just jump it off. I told him that my warranty was less than 100 miles from expiring and I would likely be over the 36K if I waited until Monday. He then told me not to worry and he would document the ticket and all would be just fine. Okay, I took him at his word and went home, and then to work making sure I had a good set of cables in my car at all times.
Monday morning rolled around and I made sure I was at the dealership early. When I drove up, there was a different guy working as the shop supervisor so I told him what was going on with the car and what the other guy said to me on Saturday about the warranty. Now I was somewhere around 36,020 miles and technically over the warranty. He said he saw the notes on the ticket and not to worry about it.
So I gave him the keys and went into the lounge and waited. After 4 hours of waiting, I was really ready to go when they finally called my name and told me my car was ready. All I needed to do was to see the cashier to get the key. This is when things went off the rails. I was told by the cashier that I needed to pay something close to $400 for a new alternator, and the labor to put it in. I told her no I didn’t, as this was covered under warranty. She then told me that the warranty had expired at 36,000 and I was over so I had to pay the repair cost. I explained to her, I had brought the car in on Saturday when it was under the 36,000 and the supervisor was unable to get me in, but he noted on the ticket that if it went over I would still be covered. She then told me that he was not authorized to do that and should not have told me it would be covered by the warranty if I went over the mileage.
I then asked to see her supervisor to get this resolved. She told me he was on vacation and was not available and I should just pay the bill so I could get on my way. I stopped for a few seconds to collect my thoughts so I wouldn’t end up doing something really stupid.
I asked her in the politest way I could, ‘Ma’am if by some weird chance you were to get fired right now, could you please introduce me to the 1st person at this dealership that has the authority to do that?’
She got up and walked away in a huff… I waited for about 5 minutes before a guy in a nice shirt and tie looking all business-like, walked up to me. Then I noticed his name tag. I was the same name as the name of the dealership and the decal that was on the back of my car.
He just said, ‘Mr. Harris thank you for your business, your car is right outside.’
He handed me my key, shook my hand and that was that. I went home. I would really have liked to hear what he said to that cashier, but that wasn’t really my problem.”
She Knows What She’s Talking About
“I’m a woman who looks much younger than I am, and I have a resting nice face. Most mechanics have assumed I have no idea about cars, but I grew up fixing cars with my dad. I know enough to not get ripped off.
My car needed an oil change. I dropped it off and went across the street to grab lunch. When I got back, the guy at the desk started explaining to me that my carburetor was busted and needed to be rebuilt immediately. I told him if he could show me a carburetor on my fuel-injection vehicle, then we’d talk. He looked a bit sheepish and then went silent. I paid my bill and left, never to return.
Another time at another shop, my car was having some issues and the dealership refused to let me drive my car home, saying I had a crack in my engine block that was lethally dangerous. They wouldn’t show me my engine, despite my requests. The car had some problems, but none that were that significant (it was still running just making a weird sound). It was closing time so they gave me a loaner vehicle. I went home and researched and talked to my dad. The next day, I got a super hard sell on buying a new vehicle from the dealership. I declined and demanded my car back. It took over an hour to convince them that I would call the cops and charge them with grand theft auto if they didn’t return my keys and my car immediately. They finally did, with dire warnings about my imminent fiery death. I actually had to sign a paper stating that I wasn’t going to sue them. I took it to another repair shop, they fixed the problem for a reasonable amount, and I drove that car another 2 years. That would have been absolutely impossible with a cracked engine block without repair.”
“It Was An Eye Opener”
“About 5 years ago I owned a 1985 Mercedes 300D. I lived up a long, steep, winding hill that the old car struggled up in second gear. One day I set out down the hill and on the steepest part of the hill, I felt the brakes get really spongy. I wasn’t quite able to stop at the stop sign, and I rolled past the sign and put the car in first gear as the brakes disappeared.
Now anyone who knows these old diesel knows they drive more like a big truck than a peppy gas car. They are slow to start and get moving. So I decided I could make it down the hill by keeping my car in first gear, which slowed it a lot, and using the hand brake if needed. Dangerous, I know, but I felt I could handle it.
As I came to the bottom of the hill, I eased the car through an intersection and straight into a Midas shop. It was very convenient that the shop was right there, at the bottom of the hill.
I checked the car in and they said it would be a while, so I left and went about my day. The shop called me later and said they would need to keep the car overnight as they were not done examining it. I said that would be fine and took a bus home.
The next day, the Midas shop called saying there was a lot wrong with the car and to come in to sign the estimate. When I came in, the total was estimated at $2,300. They said the brake pads were bad, the brake lines needed replacing, and the rotors were bad.
I told them I would need to think about it. The car was so old it was not even worth $2,300. So I called my ex, who also ran his old Mercedes cars on veggie oil, and told him I was thinking of getting it towed to the junkyard, as it was not worth fixing. He suggested I bring it up to his place and let a friend look at it. I decided that was the best alternative and was about ready to call a tow truck to tow it to my ex when I decided that since I made it down the hill, it would be even easier going back up.
I told the shop I would be taking the car back and I drove it in first gear back up the hill. My ex lived nearby and the hardest thing was to maneuver the car into the parking spot using only a hand brake. But it worked.
Eventually, I got the friend to come look at it and boy was it an eye-opener. He showed me the brake pads were worn only about 1/4 down, they were fine. The rotors he showed me were shiny and perfectly fine and didn’t need any work. The brake lines were also fine. There was just one part that needing replacing, I think it’s called the master cylinder. Total cost for the fix with parts was less than $200.
I have heard of mechanics taking advantage but I had no idea it was that bad.”
Good Thing He Got A Second Opinion
“I owned a Nissan short bed 4×4 at one time. I noticed one day as I was driving it that the carburetor was cutting out and then back in again. As if it was not receiving a steady stream of gasoline.
When I got home, I located the fuel filter and had a friend drive me to an auto parts store to obtain a new one. I installed the fuel filter but it proceeded to do the same thing as before.
I was at work one day and in a certain neighborhood and stopped into a shop that happened to be located there.
I explained I had changed the fuel filter and the problem did not cease.
The mechanic opens the hood while it is running and immediately said ‘It needs a new carburetor’ and quotes about a grand for it.
I asked why he did not just rebuild it for far less. He said he would not do that and it would cost a grand to fix it. He did not look at anything really, just that the carburetor was missing at intervals. He was fired up to do the job too, he really tried to hard sell me. I told him I would think about it. I did NOT trust this guy at all.
It was the quickest I had ever seen anyone determine what the problem was from a glance.
I had a day off a few days later and I took it into a Nissan dealership to see what they had to say. A mechanic came out and looked at it and I told him I had changed out the fuel filter but it was ineffectual. He informed me the truck had two fuel filters. One was located at the gas tank.
Needless to say, they changed out the 2nd filter and the truck ran fine. They only charged me 15 dollars for the fix also.
Never trust a mechanic that will not examine a vehicle to attempt to locate real problems. Within a two-month period that garage was closed.”
“Couldn’t Help But Feel Warm And Fuzzy”
“Many years ago my mother had a Honda Accord she loved dearly. She kept up regular maintenance and always kept thorough records of everything done to her car which would later prove quite handy. One day she needed an oil change and since I had the day off, I decided to take her car to a new local shop while she was at work.
So there I was: 20 with a perpetual baby face, looking ‘easy to scam,’ I’m sure. I pulled in, requested the oil change, and went to wait for the work to be done. About an hour later I’m called to the bay…
‘Well Miss, the oil change is done but I’m afraid your air filter is dangerously contaminated and your belts are shot,’ the mechanic said while shaking his head.
‘Oh no! All of the belts?! How could that be? Is it safe to drive until I can get a second opinion?’ I responded with Bambi eyes.
‘I really don’t think you should wait on this repair. Your belts are about to snap and I’m afraid this could lead to a terrible accident!’ the mechanic warned me. But not to worry, he could have them all replaced nice and easy for $1,500. I still remember the fake concern in his eyes.
‘Hmm… Well I suppose you ARE the expert. I just find it interesting…’ I trailed off as I opened the glove box and pulled out the most recent paperwork, ‘how my mother just replaced all of the belts not even 6 months ago.’
I held up the receipt for him to see the belt replacement and couldn’t help but feel warm and fuzzy as he turned red and muttered something about being mistaken. While I personally did not report him (though looking back I absolutely should have), many other customers were none too thrilled with the scams his shop attempted and he went out of business less than a year later.”