20 Secrets Your Auto Mechanic Won’t Tell You
Before you spend more money on car repairs, get the inside scoop from real auto mechanics on which expensive, unnecessary procedures to avoid.
1. Beware of a Mechanic’s Scare Tactics
Admonitions like “I wouldn’t drive this another mile” should be viewed with suspicion.
Check out these 5 Tips on How *Not* to Get Ripped Off By an Auto Mechanic!
2. Ask, Ask, Ask…
Ask a mechanic for his or her recommendations and referrals, years in business, warranties offered, licenses, and the type of equipment used.
Want to point your mechanic in the right direction? Here are 9 Strange Car Sounds—And What They Could Mean!
3. Look for a Clean Garage
A shop floor cluttered with empty oil cans, worn tires, and dirty rags is a red flag.
4. Never Sign a Blank Authorization Form
Always get a signed work order with a specific estimate for each job and warranties that apply.
Check out the 7 Ways You’re Wasting Money on Your Car!
5. Specialized Equipment Exists for a Reason
It’s nuts to take a car with engine problems to a shop without a good engine analyzer and scan tool.
6. Mum’s the Word
When you go for a second opinion don’t tell the mechanic what the first diagnosis and price were.
7. Learn a Little about Your Car
Coolant flushes and power steering flushes are very common gimmicks at quick lubes. Check your car’s owner’s manual; many cars have fluid that is designed to go 160,000 kilometres.
And cleaning fuel injectors is a waste of time and money. There are engine additives on the market that do a great job.
8. Some Things You Shouldn’t Skimp On
Always ask for OE (original equipment) brake pads or at least equivalent material.
9. Ask About your New Tire’s “Build Date”
If you’re getting an unusually good deal on tires, you might be receiving three-year-old treads, especially risky for snow tires.
10. Lifetime Mufflers?
What would ever make you think a muffler will last a lifetime?
Sure, they’ll give you free replacements, but they’ll also hit you over the head for expensive pipe repairs.
Think that’s silly? Check out these 5 Common Misconceptions About Cars!
11. Check with Your Car Dealer First
…Especially before you have work done on a catalytic converter or emissions parts.
Some of these items carry a very long warranty and will be replaced for free.
12. Stop Assuming It’s Nothing
13. Don’t be Duped by Double Labour
If an auto mechanic offers to change your timing belt and water pump, question how long the job will take. Some will charge you double labour even though the second task is essentially done once the belt is removed.
14. Always Ask for your Old Parts Back
This way you’ll know they’ve been changed, and you or a friend can tell if they’re worn.
16. Not All Brakes Are Equal
Ask for estimates on brake jobs. Many auto mechanics will use very cheap parts and mark them up. Good mechanics who understand cars will never skimp in this area.
17. Have Your Car Test-Driven
A good test-drive is just as important as a regular service—it might mean the difference between simply needing brake pads and having a complete rotor replacement.
18. Take Your Car to the Auto Mechanic Early in the Work Week
Don’t bring your car in on Friday afternoon because the mechanics might rush the job to get out for the weekend.
Check out our Essential Car Maintenance Checklist!
19. Avoid This Rookie Mistake…
Beware of an auto mechanic who shows you a transmission pan with metal particles in it and recommends a major job. The shavings are usually a sign of normal wear.
20. Weed Out Auto Mechanic Scams
Transmission flushes are one of the biggest scams going. Manufacturers don’t recommend them, and your car almost never needs one.
Sources: Gary Montesi, owner, Montesi Volkswagen, North Haven, Connecticut; Domenic DiSiena, manager, Bedford (New York) Shell; Bob Sikorsky, automotive writer, Tucson, Arizona; anonymous mechanics in Minnesota and New York.
Check out more car maintenance tips!