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Auto Repair Scams
Old 05-14-2017, 06:11 PM   #1
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Auto Repair Scams

Just came across this article about how repair garages can over charge.

Just had a bad experience where I was not only charged flat rate for three separate ignition related repairs, all requiring the same wiring work, but was charged labor on top, as well a $75 shop fees. Total charge was $1543.

Since I can't do this type of repair stuff any longer, I'm at the mercy of the shop or the dealership, and they can see old folks coming.

Checked the RockAuto price for the parts, and came up with $96.

Brought the car in at 8AM, and got the call "your car is ready" at 3:30PM.
.........................................
Here's the article:

Quote:
Charging labor for multiple jobs that use the labor only once, eg changing the spark plugs and coils takes exactly the same length of time as just changing the spark plugs, because you have to remove the coils to get the spark plugs out. If they bill you 2 hours for plugs, and then another 2 hours for coils, they are ripping you off.
Up-selling unnecessary services, like topping up your AC when it is working correctly, or washer fluid when you can do that yourself for $2.
Not replacing the parts they are charging for. (Mark items like the oil filter with paint so you know if it has been swapped out). Ask for the old parts back and make sure that they are the correct ones from your car.
Charging for new OEM parts and using aftermarket or used parts. Check the part they installed is what you paid for. (Ask for the parts invoice that they got so you can see the correct part was installed.)
Ask for photos of the work in progress. I provide this to people without them even asking for it.
Misdiagnosing the problem so they can charge a lot more to fix it. Eg your car has a misfire caused by a bad $20 coil pack. They charge you $3k for a ‘valve job’, then just replace the coil pack. Get second opinions for expensive repair estimates. Many workshops charge for this service, but better than paying $3k for that $20 part. Ask for photos of large work in progress, or ask to inspect the car during the repair.
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Old 05-14-2017, 06:40 PM   #2
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Well at least they didn't try to charge you to top off your blinker fluid or swap out your muffler bearings.

However, point well taken. There are a lot of questionable work and billing practices at many automotive repair shops. Dealer shops are some of the worse, IMO.
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Old 05-14-2017, 06:46 PM   #3
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Alas, nothing has really changed (except for the worse?) in at least 48 years - i.e., as long as I've been a driver. As cars have become more complex, it likely has gotten worse and we are at the mercy of the mechanic.
About the best I can do is talk with the service manager, and assess his body language and voice inflections. Beyond that, it's a total crap shoot whether I'm being told the thruth.
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Old 05-14-2017, 06:58 PM   #4
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I understand why auto dealers get such a bad rap. My three biggest auto repair problems came from dealers. Oil drain plug not tightened after oil change, scratched front bumper, and all engine bay plastic shrouding not re-attached after engine work, floating around the engine bay after work completed.
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Old 05-14-2017, 07:08 PM   #5
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Yikes. If they are corrupt it is all to easy to fake a picture of the work being done. The only thing I know to do is build a relationship with one or two shops that have a long term view of the service business. It takes time and effort. I know a lot about cars and usually know what's wrong before I go in but still feel fortunate that no one ever tried to sell me a "valve job".
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Old 05-14-2017, 07:18 PM   #6
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Find a trustworthy independent shop if you can. Stay out of dealerships. The service departments in them are the high margin revenue generator and they are encouraged to upsell people who know very little about their vehicles.

Finding an independent auto service shop is kind of like finding a doctor you can trust, given what auto repair charges have evolved to.
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Old 05-14-2017, 07:25 PM   #7
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If you brought up the double charging with the service mgr, and they did nothing about it, then you know never go back there. Also that $75 shop fee is BS. A few dollars for some shop materials, but certainly not $75. I bet they also charge "environmental fee" for the supposed costs of the recycling, which might be baked into the shop fee. Finding a good independent shop that is honest and does good work seems to be a difficult thing. I guess the best is word of mouth, both for the good shop and also negative for the bad shop.
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Old 05-14-2017, 07:30 PM   #8
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I use to joke about attorney fees in the same way. How can you bill 16 hours in a single day without leaving your office? My estate documentation isn't complex and didn't require travel or court time.

I just got an estimate to replace the transmission oil pan as it was scratched and layer of rust (2014 car). Several of the lug nuts are damaged with rust too. The oil pan is $50 from dealership, but $24 from online search, both OEM. They recommend replacing the transmission bolts and not re-use, so 22 bolts for $105, not sure why majority of the non-rusty bolts can not be reused. I smell "bacon". 8 - 10 more bolts, gasket, filter, and Dextrol III fluid totaling just under $500 for parts and another $500 for labor. My preliminary internet search for parts is under $250 including shipping and tax. I guess I'll be looking for an independent shop for an estimate.
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Old 05-14-2017, 07:37 PM   #9
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In my experience the good independent shop I use is more expensive than the dealership specifically because the dealership gets you in the door for cheap and expects to make it up on volume by upselling you on every tiny thing they can find wrong with your car that might need to be fixed at some point.

Whereas the independent guy will be honest with you and say it might need to be fixed in 300 miles, or 3,000 or 30,000 and they'll check on it next time you come in for an oil change assuming no check engine lights come on in the interim.

So I end up going to the dealer to get cheaper service and declining pretty much every additional bit of work they suggest (then go home and research it).
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Old 05-14-2017, 07:53 PM   #10
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Let me start by saying that DW is 99.9999% the most serene, calm and rational person you'd ever meet. She never gets riled, loud or disrespectful....until she met this one service manager who greeted us with a bad attitude and a creepy pencil-thin mustache. Here's what happened.

DW's Jeep had a window problem that failed two weeks before the warranty expired. Not knowing our time limit, the dealer couldn't give us an appointment for 3 weeks.

When we got there the service manager smirked and said "well, you should've brought it in last week, now it's gonna cost ya...a lot!", to which, in 4 nanoseconds DW went absolutely, totally, irrevocably, insanely ballistic on the guy. In fact in 30 years, I've never seen her flip out so completely! It was truly impressive and I stood there in awe of this crazy Irishwoman! I then tried to play good cop but got equally beaten down (laughing on the inside); nope, she just kept going for a good 5 or 8 minute rant! The whole place stopped and watched. I imagined one of the staff with their finger on the 911 speed dial.

In the end, the service manager apologized and fixed the window on warranty, perhaps thankful to be alive and wondering what kind of saint I must be.
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Old 05-14-2017, 09:16 PM   #11
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Not all independent shops are honest either....


I will blame myself a bit on this... took the car in for service since we were about to go on a 5,000 mile trip for 3+ weeks... guy said it has reached 60K miles and needed a tune up... not having time to check (or thinking about checking since I needed to do other stuff) I said "OK"....


Well, when I got home and checked it out... it was 90K miles before I needed one... never went back to them as they ripped me off...


I do have a nice shop now... it is very upscale and looks really nice... always clean and expensive... however, except them trying to up sale you when you get your oil changed I have never seen them do anything that was not needed...
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:10 AM   #12
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Not all independent shops are honest either..............
True, but I'd say your odds are better than at a stealership, from the get go. Do research at the Car Talk Mechanics Files site, Yelp and Angie's List, plus any word of mouth recommendations you can scrounge up and you stand a much better chance of not getting ripped. For anything over a grand, get a second opinion. Also, these days, nearly every vehicle has a dedicated forum where you can post to find common problems for that model, typical costs, and actual prices for parts.
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:33 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Aiming_4_55 View Post
I use to joke about attorney fees in the same way. How can you bill 16 hours in a single day without leaving your office? My estate documentation isn't complex and didn't require travel or court time.

I just got an estimate to replace the transmission oil pan as it was scratched and layer of rust (2014 car). Several of the lug nuts are damaged with rust too. The oil pan is $50 from dealership, but $24 from online search, both OEM. They recommend replacing the transmission bolts and not re-use, so 22 bolts for $105, not sure why majority of the non-rusty bolts can not be reused. I smell "bacon". 8 - 10 more bolts, gasket, filter, and Dextrol III fluid totaling just under $500 for parts and another $500 for labor. My preliminary internet search for parts is under $250 including shipping and tax. I guess I'll be looking for an independent shop for an estimate.
Unless you have a hole in the transmission pan, nobody ever changes one. If rusted, you just clean, sand and paint it--while on the vehicle. And a mechanic is not needed for that job.

And very few people even ever get around to changing or flushing the transmission fluid. But it'd be good to do it @ 100K miles or so on most vehicles. Tranny pans are easily dropped, and all bolts reused.

I have a big diesel crew cab pickup truck and I pulled the tranny pan recently for a filter and fluid change (20 quarts). The gasket's designed to be used over even. It cost me about $80 for the job.

Fortunately, I have a great independent mechanic's shop charging $40 an hour if I ever need anything mechanical done.
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:33 AM   #14
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True, but I'd say your odds are better than at a stealership, from the get go. Do research at the Car Talk Mechanics Files site, Yelp and Angie's List, plus any word of mouth recommendations you can scrounge up and you stand a much better chance of not gettign ripped. For anything over a grand, get a second opinion. Also, these days, nearly every vehicle has a dedicated forum where you can post to find common problems for that model, typical costs, and actual prices for parts.
Our 2 cars remain under warranty, so currently we are still going to the dealer for covered problems. One time I was in office of the (Lexus) service manager and on his wall was a whiteboard with names of each "service adviser," along with their monthly service sales and target goals. I forget how much, but I do remember being shocked by how HUGE those monthly service-sales goals were. Clearly, they had a very strong incentive to upsell services.
Along the same lines, my Audi service adviser recommended I buy the post-warranty maintenance package. He told me what a great deal it was compared to the "list price" of the same services. When I drilled down to what they actually do, it was nothing more than oil change and the usual "inspect and lube where needed." A definite rip-off.
I'll go to a local shop once the warranty is up.
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:38 AM   #15
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My relatives own a luxury car dealership with 17 mechanics. They also have about 5 Service Advisors that are highly paid commissioned salesmen--without a conscience. Their job is selling $1000 brake jobs that are really worth about $300.

And in a city of 1 million people, this shop is #1 in service sales out of all dealerships.

I don't know what it is about owning luxury cars. It's almost like their customers expect to get stuck with a $125 oil change when they can get it done at oil change businesses for $38.

Everyone needs to find an ethical independent auto repair shop that charges more reasonable rates. Or, just about every job is documented carefully on UTube for every brand and model of vehicle.

I worked with car dealerships for 24 years, and know the parts and service departments in detail. Unless a vehicle is under warranty and the factory is paying for repairs, I never let them touch my cars or truck.

I combat high auto repairs by purchasing vehicles that are amongst the most reliable on the retail market--and they happen to be models that have relatively low depreciation.
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:48 AM   #16
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Yikes. If they are corrupt it is all to easy to fake a picture of the work being done. The only thing I know to do is build a relationship with one or two shops that have a long term view of the service business. It takes time and effort. I know a lot about cars and usually know what's wrong before I go in but still feel fortunate that no one ever tried to sell me a "valve job".
I agree, but I have been trying to do that all my life - I'm STILL building....

I'm quite sure that there ARE honest shops out there - it's just very hard to find them. As far as dealerships, I think many ARE actually honest about what/how repairs are needed, but they simply charge an insane overhead on parts as well as labor and fees. In addition, their labor allocations for many repairs are ridiculously excessive.
Here is an actual example I just experienced. My seatbelt light came on intermittently. Apparently, the regular diagnostic tool (free at AutoZone) can't pull the "safety system" codes, so I trekked to the dealer to diagnose. As it happens, this seatbelt light came on right after a recent recall repair of an airbag problem at that same dealer, so because this might have been related to that work, they did agree to diagnose free of charge.
Well, diagnosed a faulty electronic board (apparently a well known issue for this car) and offered to fix it right away for $485. I declined and did some google searching. I was able to buy the replacement board for $102. I looked up u-tube repair video (as I said, it's a common problem, so several videos to choose from!). Turns out that the board is located in the dome light console, was very accessible, and required a grand total of 4 screws to be unscrewed and a wire harness to be unplugged from the old board and plugged into the new one. It took me less than 10 minutes to do this. I'm guessing it would take the factory trained mechanics at the dealership less than 5 minutes. Yet, they allocated a full hour for labor at a pretty horrendous hourly rate and probably slammed a 100% markup on the part! Now, I know that they have to make a living too, but I really felt like I dodged a huge rip-off. I was lucky that this was something easy to fix, so I was able to do it myself - in most cases people who are not very mechanically inclined (such as myself) are at the complete mercy of these shops. Very frustrating.
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Old 05-15-2017, 08:00 AM   #17
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In the end, the service manager apologized and fixed the window on warranty, perhaps thankful to be alive and wondering what kind of saint I must be.
LOL!!! Let me know if your DW is available next time I have to bring a vehicle to a dealer.

I just wanted to add that it's not just dealers. Watch out for the oil-change places, too. I was in one once, waiting along with one other customer, a woman.

I watched in awe as the technician put on a white lab coat, picked up a clipboard and pen, and came out with a serious look on his face. He started trying to scare the woman with all kinds of horrible scenarios about what might happen if she didn't have them perform a long list of work.

I remember they were all inexpensive things like wiper blades and cabin air filter, but outrageously over-priced.

Now, on those rare occasions when I use one of those quick lube places, I have no compunction about declining these attempts to up-sell. When told I need a new XXXX, I smile and say "thanks, I'll pick one up next time I'm in Wal Mart."
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Old 05-15-2017, 08:41 AM   #18
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Did you know most services representatives at dealers get base + COMMISSION? So so wrong IMHA. Went to Honda dealer for oil change with coupon and told needed transmission fluid changed as dirty and old along with a bunch of other stuff. I had just had private mechanic change as I pull behind RV and needs chaged more often.
Wrote bad reviews on Angies, Yelp, and Google. That day had dealer wanting to basicly buy back bad reviews with service credits. Politely declined and said you were dishonest and deceiving, and the reviews are staying
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Old 05-15-2017, 08:42 AM   #19
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Luckily, we have a small town family owned shop that has been around for close to 80 years, each generation as honest, hard working, and fair as the last. I trust them and they do good work. Rated number 1 in town for many years.
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Old 05-15-2017, 09:24 AM   #20
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Find a trustworthy independent shop if you can. Stay out of dealerships. The service departments in them are the high margin revenue generator and they are encouraged to upsell people who know very little about their vehicles.

Finding an independent auto service shop is kind of like finding a doctor you can trust, given what auto repair charges have evolved to.
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I've found a family run place about 1/2 mile from home. When truck needs tires I'll just take it to them and ask to replace, balance and align and know they'll charge a fair price. Won't even bother looking around; I trust these people. Dealerships are the worst. Pleasant and cordial, but always looking for the uncharge.
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