How to avoid being ripped off by a mechanic

Unfortunately there are those in the industry who give mechanics a bad name by intentionally seeking to rip off customers. And like any profession there are also those mechanics who just don’t know what they’re doing so misdiagnose problems.

The only real way to combat this is to empower yourself with a little knowledge, understand your cars needs, service it on schedule and be willing to ask questions and seek second opinions.

So to avoid the rip-offs and scams here’s my top 10 tips on how to avoid being ripped off by a mechanic:

#1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Review the reviews and ask for recommendations to find a good mechanic. If you start with a recommended mechanic you’re less likely to get ripped off in the first place.

#2. STICK TO YOUR MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE

If your car is well maintained according to its logbook, in theory it should run well, drive smoothly and rarely, if ever, experience any problems until it starts to get old.

So know your logbook and stick to the recommended service schedule. As confusing as some of them may be, invest a little bit of time to understand what’s due when. If your logbook doesn’t say replace your air filter, ask your mechanic why he’s recommending it.

If you have been maintaining your car according to its logbook and you experience shuttering, misfiring or your car just doesn’t feel right – something probably isn’t right with the work you think you’ve had done. This is when it’s time to switch mechanics or seek a second opinion.

#3. AVOID THE CHEAP SERVICES

Ask yourself this…if you’ve ever gone to a workshop because their service was ‘cheaper’ or you went because you received a voucher or Cudo coupon…did you pay more than you expected? I’m guessing the answer was probably yes.

A cheap service is usually the calling card for an up-sell. A mechanic can’t make their wage on a $120 service so their strategy is to get you in the door with a cheap headline rate and then up-sell you things you may not need. The same is true for discount vouchers from large repairers. They are more likely using this as a tactic to get you in the door and up-sell you, then be rewarding you for your loyal custom.

#4. DON’T BE OVERSOLD

Most mechanics will tell you if you need additional work done on your car – it’s their job. However the good ones will provide you with options and spread out the repairs if possible, rather than pressuring you to do all the repairs there and then. Also beware of receiving a long list of repairs when you came in for one thing.

#5. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING

If you’re unsure of anything, including your mechanic you can ask for a written estimate. You should also provide clear instructions that your approval is required before any additional repairs are carried out.

Once the job is completed always seek itemised invoices. This should explain what work was done and what parts were used. This will help you keep track of work performed on your car and give you something you can show another mechanic in need.

All work should also come with a written guarantee. This is often stated on the invoice. The industry standard is 12 months parts and labour warranty. If your mechanic won’t provide a warranty you should really question why they’re not backing up their work.

#6. KEEP RECORDS

Use your logbook as a starting point and make sure it’s kept up to date. Ideally you would also keep a separate maintenance journal that holds all of your itemised invoices and keeps track of work performed when. This way when a mechanic is recommending work you have some way of referencing whether it’s already been done, or due again. With this you should also keep track in your calendar of what’s due next. So when your mechanic says you’re due for a service two months before it’s due you can question why.

Keeping good records and receipts is also helpful when selling your car to demonstrate a good service history. It can also come in handy if you’re ever in a dispute with your service provider about work performed (or not performed).

#7. KNOW YOUR CAR

If you have at least some understanding of your cars logbook and know when different services are due on your car you will be better placed to avoid the up-sells.

Further if you pay attention to any signs your car is giving you, you will be better placed to know if something may really be wrong or you’re being duped.

For example if your car is not pulling to the left or right when you drive you don’t need a wheel alignment. If you service your car regularly and use the right fuel, you don’t need additives. And if you’ve not seen any oil drops on your garage floor you definitely don’t have an oil leak.

#8. CHECK YOUR BRAKE LIGHTS

I’ve previously mentioned many electronic problems are a result of a simple blown brake light. Ideally you should be checking your brake lights regularly anyway as part of your at home maintenance schedule. However if you do experience any issues with your car do a simple brake light check first. If the problem is an electrical fault you may find you have a blown globe. Simply asking someone handy to change it, or asking your mechanic to change it will potentially avoid a misdiagnosis and expensive repair bill.

To check your brake lights you can either have someone check your lights while you hold down the brake pedal. Or if you’re alone simply park in front of your garage door or the service station glass windows when it’s starting to get dark, press your brakes and take a look at their reflection in your rear view mirror.

#9. ASK QUESTIONS AND ASK FOR YOUR OLD PARTS BACK

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This of course can be difficult to do if you don’t know what questions to ask in the first place because you don’t know your car. If you’ve at least spent some time understanding your logbook and your cars maintenance schedule and history you should be able to question why certain parts and repairs are being recommended if you don’t believe they’re due.

If a mechanic truly is dodgy (or just not very good) the more questions you ask, the more they will start to become agitated or unravel themselves. If they’re annoyed by your questions, don’t or can’t answer, or give you vague or nonsensical responses then it’s probably time to go elsewhere and seek a 2nd opinion.

Also remember to ask your mechanic to see the old parts if they’ve stated they’ve replaced anything. If they’ve told you your brakes are worn and need replacing, ask them what your old brakes looked like. They should be happy and easily be able to show you if in fact they’ve actually replaced them. But if your mechanic cannot produce them or becomes annoyed at your request, then be suspicious. They’re probably telling you porkies.

#10. GET A 2ND OPINION

It’s no surprise that if you seek advice from 10 different mechanics you may get 10 (at least many) different opinions. So if you at all feel uncomfortable or suspicious with your mechanic get a 2nd opinion. This is also the case where you’ve received an unexpected large repair bill. Don’t be afraid to take your car back and seek a 2nd opinion elsewhere.

I hope this information helps you save some money along the way. Of course if you want to know more about how to avoid being ripped off by a mechanic, you can give us a call at Blue Toro Mobile Mechanics.

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