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Trusting Your Auto Mechanic
Old 09-28-2010, 07:07 PM   #1
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Trusting Your Auto Mechanic

Today the mechanic told me that the shocks and struts are rusted (and "look crappy") on our 1999 Toyota Tacoma (140K miles), and it would be $700 to replace them.

I gave him the go ahead after a little Internet research, but I'm wondering what the best way to handle these decisions is. I trust that he's honest, but there's no way to know whether he's being overcautious.

I think I'll ask to see the removed parts to get a feeling for next time.

How do you handle it?
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Old 09-28-2010, 07:18 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Today the mechanic told me that the shocks and struts are rusted (and "look crappy") on our 1999 Toyota Tacoma (140K miles), and it would be $700 to replace them.

I gave him the go ahead after a little Internet research, but I'm wondering what the best way to handle these decisions is. I trust that he's honest, but there's no way to know whether he's being overcautious.

I think I'll ask to see the removed parts to get a feeling for next time.

How do you handle it?
I don't think I'd trust a mechanic who wants to replace the shocks and struts because they "look crappy." If he didn't test drive it or at least do a "bounce test" and if he didn't see a bent rod or leaking fluid, then I don't see how he could recommend replacements.

If they are still providing good handling and damping, I don't think I'd replace them. Has this mechanic been a straight-shooter in your previous dealings?
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Old 09-28-2010, 07:18 PM   #3
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The classic do-it-yourself test for shocks and struts is the bounce test.

to do the bounce test on your car parked on relatively level ground...

lean and push down on a fender, then let go. as the car bounces back if it goes up and down more than 1 or 2 times (or so) you probably need shocks or struts. You can test each wheel independently.

The other test is, does it ever "bottom-out" the shocks when you go over a bump ? Unless the bump is the Grand Canyon that's a pretty good sign that the shocks/struts are worn.

Other symptoms are leaking oil from the oil-filled shock/strut. Tire "cupping" is also a classic symptom of worn shocks/struts.

Lastly, sometimes a mechanic just needs to make his boat payment. In that case the broken discombobulator story comes out
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Old 09-28-2010, 08:06 PM   #4
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Here's I just handled it when the mechanic said my shocks were leaking: "No."

Here's I handled it last year when they said I needed new brakes: "Will they pass inspection?" "Yes" "OK then, no."

(Brake job was done this year in case you are wondering.)
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Old 09-28-2010, 08:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Today the mechanic told me that the shocks and struts are rusted (and "look crappy") on our 1999 Toyota Tacoma (140K miles), and it would be $700 to replace them.
One thing is that 140K is a pretty good service life for shocks, especially with some rough road duty.

Also, bad shocks can significantly degrade handling- not a safety issue as much as brakes, but still not benign if they are indeed worn.

If you haven't committed, but still think you may need the work, try Midas.

Ha
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:34 PM   #6
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I used to know a little bit about cars, but not anymore.

I'd be up shizz creek without a paddle if I had to deal with a mechanic on my own. Most of the stuff under a hood looks like a doohickey to me now.
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:42 PM   #7
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The best advice I can give is to find a mechanic that you really trust. We had a super honest mechanic in Dallas, but then moved to a new city and state.

First thing I did once we got to Nevada was to go to citydata.com and ask the Las Vegas forum who they would recommend for a mechanic. Multiple responders pointed to the same guy which is how we found a very good independent mechanic who really knows his stuff.

I've used the same method (citydata.com) to find our pool guy, doctor, dentist and vet and they're all superb.
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:44 PM   #8
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I keep a log of all work done on my car. At least that way, I can tell what's "reasonable". For example, if the struts only had 10,000 miles on it before the mechanic said it needed changing, I'd be me suspicious than if the car had gone 100,000 miles.

I got my car's struts changed earlier in the year. My car was doing the shake-rattle-and-roll when I went over 60mph. After they changed the struts my car drove fine so I believe they didn't steer (no pun intended) me wrong. After the repair I did look at my log and yes, it's been awhile since the struts were replaced.
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:21 PM   #9
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I've used the same method (citydata.com) to find our pool guy, doctor, dentist and vet and they're all superb.
This is a great suggestion. I went to one dentist and he recommended over $10,000 of work. I did none of it, it is ten years later, and I still have no problems. This has happened to me before, so I am a little wary of upselling by dentists. My current guy I chose because I had a cracked tooth and he got me in pronto. He is great, a real craftsman. When I need a crown, I like to go with gold, and he likes to do these also. He is quite a drive away now, but I don't plan on changing.

MDs have never done any upselling with me, nor have vets. Got a good mechanic, he talks me out of stuff I think should be done.

Ha
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Old 09-29-2010, 02:57 AM   #10
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We switched the place where we had our older cars worked on and repair expenses suddenly dropped by 75%. So it pays to shop around for major repairs and get multiple opinions. I wish I hadn't stuck with the last repair place for as long as I did.

I seriously think the rip off repair place started charging more when I started to use their shuttle service. They saw my house and neighborhood in a decent area and figured they could jack the prices up a even more than they had been. In hindsight I should have had them drop me off and pick me up at a homeless shelter.
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Old 09-29-2010, 02:59 AM   #11
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I would say "no".

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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
How do you handle it?
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Old 09-29-2010, 07:53 AM   #12
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The Car Talk website has a feature called the Mechanics Files, which is a collection of references by Car Talk listeners. I have found it to be accurate for our local places.

+1 on the bounce test and looking for leaking fluid.
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:03 AM   #13
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The Car Talk website has a feature called the Mechanics Files, which is a collection of references by Car Talk listeners. I have found it to be accurate for our local places.
Here's a link: Car Talk. Car tips, advice, and troubleshooting. | Mechanics Files
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:06 AM   #14
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I used to know a little bit about cars, but not anymore.

I'd be up shizz creek without a paddle if I had to deal with a mechanic on my own. Most of the stuff under a hood looks like a doohickey to me now.
Everything under my car's hood is a doohickey...that's why I trust my mechanic.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:02 AM   #15
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Don't be embarrassed about asking for the parts back that a mechanic takes off when doing repairs. I take my own oil into the Toyota dealerships I've used, because I want Castroil 5w30 in my car and not the generic stuff they put in. I ask for the empty and partially filled big jugs back after they are done now. Haven't had one place act strange about it at all. This may be a more common practice than I thought originally.

(I sold alot of auto places in the past, and all the owners told me to use only Castroil in my car as it's the best to keep my engine going a long time. I can say my '02 Camry runs like silk now.)
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:21 AM   #16
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I used to know a little bit about cars, but not anymore.

I'd be up shizz creek without a paddle if I had to deal with a mechanic on my own. Most of the stuff under a hood looks like a doohickey to me now.
I could have sworn that it was a thingamajig, maybe a whatchamacallit...
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:51 AM   #17
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I take my own oil into the Toyota dealerships I've used, because I want Castroil 5w30 in my car and not the generic stuff they put in.
Or, maybe your mechanic's car is getting the Castrol. When he urges you to start bringing in synthetic oil, get suspicious.

Speaking of 5W30, I'm a little suspicious of the very light oils being recommended for year-round use by auto makers today. The car companies are spending millions to lighten up the cars, adjust gear ratios, engineer advanced fuel injection and valve timing strategies, etc to get a few extra MPG. Changing to lighter weight oil is one way to reduce engine friction and pumping losses, and it no doubt increases MPG at no cost to the auto manufacturer. Still, I wonder if these light oils really do an adequate job of preventing friction, especially in hot weather, so that the engine gets maximum longevity. It's probably not a factor to most buyers, but I want/expect the car to last over 250K miles, and I don't mind sacrificing 1 MPG to get that result. The auto manufacturers have a different set of incentives--A very high monetary incentive to get even one additional MPG, and no particular interest in making the engine last longer than the warranty coverage. This makes me suspect their recommendations in this regard.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:52 AM   #18
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I could have sworn that it was a thingamajig, maybe a whatchamacallit...
Mmmm...hmmm...there ya go braggin' about all of your know how.

Thingamajigs and whatchamacallits are way over my head. I'm only able to recognize doohickeys....
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Old 09-29-2010, 10:01 AM   #19
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It will be interesting to see the old parts.

I trust this guy because he's done a lot of routine maintenance and inspections on our car and rarely recommended any repairs. He seems honest, but that doesn't tell me anything.

We're 30 miles from the shop, but I think I should have driven down there and had him show me the problem before I gave the OK. He wasn't saying that the shocks weren't working, just that they were rusty and could fail, so I'm not sure the bounce test would have helped.

Rust is a major issue for everything in our garage/shed since we are a stone's throw from the ocean. I've driven this truck on the beach a few times. I'll post pictures of the old parts, hopefully they'll be in bad shape.

There's no data on my mechanic on Cartalk.com or the other sites I checked. However, the last shop that I fired is rated highly. I fired them in part because they recommended I replaced a cracked manifold, and when I saw the old part, it just looked scratched.
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Old 09-29-2010, 10:17 AM   #20
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It will be interesting to see the old parts.
On first read I though a typo had omitted the "h" from the last word and you were looking forward to attending a gathering of E-R.org members...
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