Watch who you trust with your car. These drivers share how a car mechanic did them dirty. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
“Perfect Place To Stop, Right?
“My very first car was a 1996 Honda Civic. It was the normal first car. One day, driving down to work, the engine began to overheat. I managed to pull into one of the gas station/garage combos that were all along my route. Perfect place to stop, right?
Well, the mechanic diagnosed it as a cracked radiator.
He said, ‘I can replace it today!’
I thought, Great!
I said ‘Can you also take a look and make sure no other parts needed repair?’
He replied, ‘Absolutely!’
Well, all he replaced was the radiator. He didn’t bleed all the air from the system when he replaced the radiator. Within a week the upper hose blew. Then the lower hose. Next month the thermostat went.
Thankfully, I didn’t go back to him. My father and I went through and replaced these parts ourselves. We bled the system after each replacement, but the damage was basically done after the car began to overheat as each part failed. There were pinhole leaks we could never find and I needed to add coolant each time I drove the car. It finally died about six months after that ‘repair’ was done.
I have a mechanic I trust now to do the repairs that can’t be done without a lift or specialized tools. Otherwise, I do the repair. Or I bring it to my father, who shows me how to repair it properly so I can do it myself in the future if need be.”
Yeah, Let’s Blame The Teenager
“There was a tire store called, Mark C. Bloom, and it was a big chain. I took my car in for some brake work. The manager called me and told me it needed a new master cylinder. I didn’t really believe him, but he told me he couldn’t release the car until it was fixed. I smelled a rat but I was recovering from major surgery and didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything else. So I OK’d the work.
Months later, I read in the paper the State Attorney General opened a case against the firm because, well, you guessed it, rampant fraud involving telling customers they had to replace master cylinders.
The incompetent one was the mechanic at the dealership where I bought a used Camaro. The car was only a couple of years old. They had one mechanic who did the warranty work on their used cars. I had a problem that popped up right after I bought the car.
After a few days of driving, the car would start to misfire badly. Inspecting the spark plugs, I found them to be crusted with white crud, a sign the engine was running too lean. I took this to the dealer at least three times, and this mechanic did nothing except play with the idle adjustment bolts. It never fixed the problem.
I got pretty frustrated, and said something to someone in the dealership that was really uncharacteristic of me; I said he was ‘a clown’. I usually don’t get angry and make statements like that, but, well, I didn’t think he took my problem seriously and he sure didn’t fix it. I was really frustrated.
Soon it got back to him. He called my house, talked to my father, and said I was just a kid driving the car too hard and burning up the plugs. Great.
So I ended up taking the car to Penny’s Auto Center, where for about 30 bucks they would do an inspection on the car. This mechanic found two of the four carburetor bolts were loose; the two in the back where the secondary barrels are. So whenever the secondaries opened, it sucked in way too much air, made a very lean condition, and the plugs fouled. When he tightened the bolts, the problem never recurred.
So yeah, that older mechanic was no good. I should have remained civil, but he was lousy.”
That One Friend Who Thinks He’s A Mechanic
“I had a friend of mine who said he could do some repairs on my wife’s car. I planned on doing it myself but couldn’t seem to find the time. He showed up almost two hours late and the second he got a wrench in his hand, his girlfriend called him. They immediately got into an argument. The longer they argued, the louder he got, and the more he took it out on my wife’s car.
His girlfriend must have insulted his mother because he just leaned on that wrench trying to break a nut loose but all he managed to do was break a pulley that was working just fine a few seconds before. This got him even madder.
About that time my wife came out the door, wanting to know how much longer until we had her car fixed. Well, not only was the car not fixed yet, but we were down a pulley. It was in worse shape than we started. So Ooff to the part store he went.
An hour later, he came back with the right pulley but the wrong water pump that I had given him $100 to pick up for me. Also, he had somehow managed to lose the receipt in the time that it took him to drive the six blocks from AutoZone to my house. Still arguing with his girlfriend, he started to put back on this pulley and beat on it until he got it in place finally. He didn’t even break it this time, but what he did do was put it on backward. When he figured this out, he was really upset. So he went to pull the pulley off to reverse it, and surprise surprise, he broke the second pulley of the day.
To say I was questioning my decision on hiring him for this project was an understatement at this point. So he went back to the AutoZone for another pulley and to see about exchanging the water pump with no receipt. I gave him the money for a new pulley and new water pump with the thought of the receipt not being permanently gone, just temporarily misplaced. So I would take it back myself later, but I didn’t see him the rest of the day.
I was now down two pulleys, two water pumps, and a buddy who thought he was a mechanic. I didn’t see him for three or four days but when I did, guess what he brought me?
Nope, it wasn’t the pulley. Nope, it wasn’t the water pumps. It was an invoice for three hours. That was a year ago now and I never saw the replacement pulley, either of the two water pumps, the receipt, my wrench that he was using, or any kind of apology. I wonder if he thinks his payment for his labor got lost in the mail.”
Don’t Mess With A Man’s ’67 Cougar
“In 1979, I had a ground cable replaced along with a battery at a Sears Automotive Center. It was an easy job.
If you were an off-duty fireman earning extra Christmas cash for that new outboard Evinrude you’ve put on Sears layaway for yourself at the employee discount price, you made it even easier on yourself. My ’67 Cougar got exactly that guy working on her.
‘Sir, your car is ready,’ smiled the pleasant service manager.
I smiled back and went out to take a look before I paid.
‘Mind popping the hood for me?’ I asked the off-duty fireman/part-time Sears mechanic (ODF/PTSM).
Apparently, something about me and my tone of voice infuriated the ODF/PTSM.
‘What’s the matter? Afraid it won’t run or something?’ snarled my vexed ODF/PTSM.
Informed by his hostility but ignoring it, I opened the hood myself, looked in, shut the hood, and returned to the service manager.
‘Mind if I take a look at the bill?’ I asked.
He presented it to me.
I handed it back and said, ‘Nope.’
He asked, ‘Is there a problem, sir?’
I replied, ‘Yep.’
He said, ‘What is the problem, sir?’
I said, ‘Well, for one thing, that’s a Volkswagen 6 volt battery in my ’67 Cougar that requires a completely different size 12-volt battery.’
He said, ‘Oh, my goodness. The guy must have made a mistake.’
I said, ‘Yep. That and the other two.’
He asked, ‘There’s another problem? Wait, let’s go out and look at your car, shall we?’
So I followed the service manager out to my car and he groped around feeling for the hood latch on her. I stepped in and with practiced aptitude, popped the hood for him while the ODF/PTSM stood by glaring daggers.
The service manager looked in and said, ‘Sir, I’m sorry. We’ll redo this.’
He turned to the ODF/PTSM and told him, ‘Let’s check the battery number and get a shorter cable, okay?’
I stopped the proceedings right there and said, ‘No. What I want you to do is take this battery out and give me back my old one. I want you to remove this six feet RV cable that costs $22 and replace the original cable he just cut— instead of removing the bolt from the block— with the correct length of the $3 cable. I want that correct replacement cable reattached to the block properly instead of to the air conditioning compressor with the extra cable wadded up under the air filter housing.’
The caught-red-handed-doing-shoddy-work ODF/PTSM turned purple with rage.
‘And,’ I continued (fairly calmly, considering the circumstances), ‘I don’t want this man to be the one to do it. Get a competent mechanic over here while I stay here and make sure this guy does nothing more to my car.’ I smiled faux-pleasantly at the ODF/PTSM.
The service manager called another mechanic away from a job he was doing and told him to get the correct cable. He and I both remained in my car, while the ODF/PTSM stood by in impotent fury while the mess was corrected. My old battery was so bad that they had to jump-start my car to get it going, and as I went back out, the ODF/PTSM moved and stood by the electric switch of the overhead door.
I stopped, got out of my car, faced him, and said, ‘Get away from that switch. I know what you’re going to pull, and it’s not happening. Now move.’
ODF/PTSM glanced at the service manager who was still present, sneered at me, and stalked off. As I backed out, he whirled partly around and gave me a double finger, hidden from the service manager by his body. I gave him a cheerful short double honk of my horn. I’ve not been in a Sears Automotive Centre, A Trusted Name In Automotive Parts and Service in over 40 years.”
Free Brake Inspection
“At one place, I had a coupon for a cheap oil change. They also offered a free brake inspection.
I figured, What the heck!
So, they looked at my brakes and said they were so worn they weren’t safe. However, when I checked them out, they had plenty of pad.
It didn’t seem urgent, so I told them, ‘Put the tires back on. Thanks for the heads up, I will call around!’
They flipped out and insisted my car wasn’t safe to drive on. But I didn’t buckle down. I still made them put my tires back on. Or so I thought.
A week or two later, I heard thumpy noises coming from my car while driving at 70 MPH. Turns out, they put ON the wheels, but didn’t tighten the lug nuts, or not enough, so the wheels/tires almost fell off my car.”
Why Did It Take Over Two Weeks To Fix It?
“I had a 2004 Honda Civic that I used as a second car. It was a no-frills vehicle but was very reliable and excellent on gas mileage. It got very little power (1.7-liter engine) and even had wind-up windows, but it got great gas mileage (about 45 mpg) and had never let me down.
About a year ago, the timing belt broke just as I was pulling into the driveway. I called around and after factoring in the price of a tow to a shop as well as the parts and labor, I figured it would be around $700 to fix at a reputable shop. I ended up going on social media and found a local ‘mobile’ mechanic. He came out, diagnosed the issue, and bought the part. He ended up charging $150, so I figured this would turn out well and save me a lot of money.
It happened on a Sunday and he got the part the next day. The next couple of days it rained, so he couldn’t come out to fix it. On the third day, he came out, took a bunch of things out of the engine (bolts, belts, etc.), and told me he had to come back another day to finish up.
A couple of days later, he came back with a younger guy. He then realized he needed a special tool to get to the timing belt. He told me I would need to get it. I was still not sure why he couldn’t get it other than he probably owed that store money.
I went down to the parts store and put a deposit down, which I got back when I returned the tool. He put it on but couldn’t get the leverage to twist the bolt off. He came back a couple of days later and managed to finally get the bolt off. At this point, he realized I now needed a timing belt cover (it broke) as well as an engine crank sensor which also broke when the original timing belt broke. I ordered the parts and they came a couple of days later. He couldn’t return to finish the job for a few days as he was working nights.
At this point, frustration had set in as it had been close to two weeks without the car. Luckily I have another vehicle. He finally came out a couple of days later and put everything back together. I test drove it right after and it started to overheat. I then called him and he told me the thermostat needed to be replaced. I ended up replacing it myself.
At this point, the Honda started and ran, but I did get a vibration at around 60, then it cleared. I thought of calling him back to take a look at it but figured it took so long for him to fix it initially, I would just deal with it. I then noticed how my gas mileage had decreased from around 45 mpg before the repair to barely 30 mpg after.
I ended up taking it to a shop and they told me he put on the timing belt wrong. They fixed the issue along with replacing the engine crank sensor and charged me $500.
I should have left it at that, but I ended up texting the original mechanic and telling him I was told that he put on the timing belt wrong. He got very angry, started swearing over texts, and told me there was only one way to put on a timing belt. He ultimately apologized the next day and offered me $50 back, which I have yet to collect (a year later) as he was never available.
I think the moral of the story is that if you care about your vehicle, don’t let just anyone work on it. I’m sure there are some good mobile mechanics out there, but my experience was not positive.”
Over 3K In Maintenance And Repairs
“I went in for a simple oil change on my RAM 2500 diesel 4×4. I personally think they saw an expensive truck that indicated a good income being driven by a woman who, obviously, knew nothing about autos, much less a diesel workhorse truck. What started as $100 of simple maintenance ended up with recommendations of over 3K in ‘routine maintenance and necessary repairs.’
After looking over the list of recommendations, they were claiming I needed almost $1,500 in overdue maintenance that had been completed in the preceding six months or so. They claimed a nonexistent transmission leak. And they wanted to replace $500 of tire pressure sensors that had been working fine when I drove into the dealership but suddenly all were malfunctioning.
My first thought was, ‘How the heck am I going to afford this?!’
My second thought was, ‘Wait a darn minute!’
And then I started asking questions. Suddenly, they were changing from, ‘Your truck’s computer says this maintenance is dangerously past due’ to ‘Oh, we didn’t check the computer. We just looked at the factory maintenance schedule and it says these things need to be done at this mileage level.’
And the invitation to come into the work area to see the transmission leak changed to ‘for liability and insurance reasons, we can’t allow you into work areas. So we can’t show you the leak after all.’
Oh, and the pressure sensors had had their batteries discharged apparently. A bit of Google search told me this was the most common problem when a sensor fails at that milage. A drive of about 50 miles on the interstate where I could reach and sustain traveling speeds fixed the four failed sensors. The batteries remain charged through centripetal force if you’re wondering.
I reported the dealership to Chrysler corporation. I made sure I put out word of mouth about what they had done. I also left poor reviews on Google and other sites. I doubt that ultimately did much good but hopefully it saved someone else from being cheated. If I had been less knowledgeable I would have spent at least 3K I couldn’t afford and didn’t actually need to spend.”
Missing Lug Nuts
“My aunt had this great idea of getting an oil change and tire rotation done at Sears. She thought we could shop in the mall while her car was being worked on. Totally bad idea.
When we went to pick up her car, it had a big scratch on the rear bumper and a dent just behind the right rear door. Then all of the center caps on the wheels were missing and had missing lug nuts. One wheel only had one lug nut on it and the rest had two. She ended up talking to the manager who was pretty much useless. We went out to the car and showed him what was wrong with it.
First, the center caps and lug nuts. They ran around the shop and only found one center cap and two more lug nuts. They didn’t know what happened to the rest.
Second, the big scratch and dent. The guy fixing my aunt’s car backed into something in the garage. The manager and other people knew but decided not to say anything about it. It’s very hard to miss a two-foot scratch and a 1/2 inch deep dent above the fender of the car.
Then a passerby heard my aunt complaining and he came over to help because she was getting frustrated. The guy mentioned the tires were directional tires. They were supposed to be put on so that they spin in a certain direction. Whoever rotated the tires crisscrossed them. The manager had no clue what a directional tire was, so he called two other mechanics over but they didn’t know either. The passerby googled it on his phone and showed it to them.
They took the car back to the garage to fix the tires, but couldn’t get two of the tires off because the lug nuts were cross-threaded and were stuck. We ended up leaving the car and taking an Uber home.
It took three days for them to get the lug nuts fixed and replace the center caps. Then my aunt had to drop off the car at a body shop to get the scratch and dent fixed. Sears paid for all of it.
When my aunt had her next oil change (this time at the dealership), they had to replace the oil pan and drain plug. The oil pan had a big dent on it and the drain plug was cross-threaded when the Sears mechanic put it back on.
After that experience, we tell everyone to avoid Sears. Their mechanics missed the portion of the mechanic school where they were taught how to handle bolts and lug nuts the right way. They don’t know anything about tires even though they sold them.”
“I Never Bought Another Cadillac”
“The worst was with a Cadillac dealer in Toronto. I went in for a service, not sure what mileage it was, but it was one of the major mileage times. I was getting 15 mpg (miles per gallon) in the city and 19 on the highway.
I should mention I kept a record of every gas fill-up so I could prove my point. I told the service manager that after the service, they provided it 8 mpg in the city and 11 on the highway. What happened to my good gas mileage?
He called me a liar. I even showed him my meticulous mileage keeping, but he didn’t even care to see those facts. I told him I wanted him to check the work done to see why the big change.
He said, ‘We can check into it but it will cost you the same charges you received the first time it was done.’
We debated this for a few minutes.
Finally, he told me, ‘You should probably start dealing with another dealership and not come back to us.’
I took my vehicle to another mechanic in Niagara on the lake for his opinion. Whiting minutes, he discovered the error made by the Cadillac dealer and from then on, I got my usual good mileage. I never bought another car from that dealership again. I even wrote to the GM showing him the new mechanic’s comments on the error made by his mechanics. The result was a very rude reply from the service manager and a comment that I was not to return.
I then copied all information to General Motors. To this, I got a form letter and not one reply after that. Needless to say, I never bought another Cadillac. The best remedy is to do business elsewhere.”
“You Need New Brakes, New Shocks, And A New Muffler”
“When the clutch pedal didn’t have much resistance, I knew there was a slow leak, but didn’t know where. I took it to the garage that was closest to where I lived. It was only a two-mile drive between my home and the garage. I topped off the reservoir before I left the house. Then opened the hood and checked the fluid, once I arrived at the garage.
I had an appointment and sat waiting for over two hours. Finally, the desk rep called me from the waiting room and proceeded to go over an already filled-out invoice of all of the work that my car required on top of the clutch and the master cylinder.
The rep said, ‘You need new brakes, new shocks, and a new muffler.’
It was an old car and I’ve kept tabs on work that had been performed. I knew from my own visual and driving checks that the shocks, brakes, and muffler were all in good shape. I realize I was being conned into paying for work that wasn’t needed.
I knew it and instead of being confrontational, I told the rep, ‘There’s no way I can afford the work. I’ll just take the car home. Maybe I can save up the money.’
I went to the parking lot to wait for the mechanic assistant to take my car off of the lift and bring it outdoors.
Once he parked the car, I asked him about the clutch leak. As I normally did, I popped up the hood to check the reservoir and was shocked to see it was empty. The slow leak was likely drops leaking when the clutch was used. There was no reason for the reservoir to be empty.
The assistant went white, as I told him I filled it before I left my home two miles away and then checked it once I got to the garage. I imagine they kept the car up in the lift and started draining the fluid thinking I’d agree to the work invoice they produced.
He said he didn’t know what had been done and advised me I should not drive the car home.
I told him I was going to take my chances, as it was only two miles. Other than low pressure in the system causing the pedal to easily be pushed down, it got me home. Almost immediately, I contacted a reputable mechanic who had worked on my car in the past.
I was able to drive it the six miles to his garage. I went through the list the other garage had told me on what needed to be replaced. From there, he pushed onto the car and examined it.
He exclaimed, ‘The shocks are fine.’
Then looked underneath and said, ‘Your muffler is fine.’
He checked the brakes while he repaired the clutch and also said, ‘They are in good shape and have well over 11,000 miles left on them.’
Since that time, I warned a person on how they were untrustworthy when she posted her car needed over 3K in work at this same garage. I imagine she is the type of customer they easily prey on, as anything mechanical boggles her mind. She’d rather pay the 3K+ than spend the time getting a second assessment.”