Avoid common auto repair shop scams

Before you read this topic make sure to read the introduction here. If you have lived in the US , I can guarantee that you would been an "upsell" victim. Basically you ended up purchasing a service or product you really really didn't need. The same strategy applies in repair shops too , in a "forced" manner. Here are some common tactics to steal from you :


1.) Upselling : Keep in mind that Oil change specials, FREE Alignment checks etc are only offered to get you in the "door" Once you are "inside" you may be notified that there are several things wrong with your car , estimating to several Hundreds of dollars worth of work. Basically they will come and tell you something like - "your transmission oil is black "  or your "fuel systems needs clean up"...Here are some upsells :-

   a.) Fuel System clean :- This also goes by Carb clean , Intake clean or Injector cleaning and such other names.  Your response should be : "NO Thanks".  Reason :- Most modern fuel systems are automatically kept clean by your fuel itself. Once you come out the shop unscathed you have the leisure to go online and research your make and model for correct intervals of Injector replacements etc

   b.) Air Filter Change :- Your response should be : "NO Thanks".   Reason :- In most cars it is a pretty easy DIY.  Air Filters are usually changed every 5 to 6 Oil changes. Ideally you should keep an excel sheet for maintenance and one glance at it will tell you when you need an air filter.

   c.) Broken rubber parts like - axle boots : Your response should be : "NO Thanks".  Some shops can intentionally cut rubber parts  and offer you replacement. If any of my car has been to a shop I do not leave it our of sight. NEVER do the mistake of leaving a car in a shop and picking it up later , unless it is covered by factory warranty service and such. Basically in these smaller franchise shops do not,leave the car out of sight.   So if the guys comes out says you need new axle boots , ask him to show you the damage.  If it is damaged , just whip out your smart phone and find the cost of the boot from the discount parts stores , when the technician comes out with an estimate , you already know what are the expense involved.

   d.) Lifetime fluids , brake pads :- There is no such thing as a lifetime part. Your response should be : "NO Thanks".  If really something needs to be changed you can get out this repair shop. Refer your user/service manual on the recommended intervals.  And in your comfort of your home ,  call other shop or take it other shops and get an estimate

   e.) Shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, and axles :- This upsell comes from a "FREE" Alignment checks  Your response should be : "NO Thanks".  Again never leave the car out of sight and ask them to show specific damage. The biggest clue is when they say "if I don't fix it the car wont make it on the road." Obviously you were driving for weeks and all was good. Politely say no and take the car to another shop or show to a trusted mechanic.

   f.) Check ENGINE Lights :-This is a big one- Just don't even bother to ask these small franchise shops to diagnose a check engine light.  "Check ENGINE Light" are warnings and advises and not CRITICAL like  "YOUR car will self destruct in 10 seconds".    Basically go home, relax have a chai, pull out your faithful OBD reader , plug it in and read codes , write it down and search it online as to its  specific meaning and interpretations. Does it mean a "MISFIRE", and just needed $4 spark plugs. Where by the "shops" would have billed  you for thousands to fix "this" check engine light issue. Your done in under $25 , see where I am getting with this ?? Here is more information on Check Engine Lights

Always get an estimate before any job is performed. Always get it in writing. Tell them that if any more "work" needs to be done, the part and labor cost must be approved by you. That important piece of paper is called the "Work ORDER" and it needs your signature to get started with the work. The fun starts a few hours later , they call you " Your car need this and that...and so on..." Basically if you follow my advice , and hover around your car like a dog to its bone , this thing wont happen in the first place.

2.) Oil Change specials :- These are basically , Low grade oil and even cheaper filter , why even bother. Make sure they are using quality brand oil and well known oil filter like - FRAM , BOSCH , MANN , Mobil etc.

3.) Outright Stealing acts :

   a.) Stealing your new tires and putting on used ones - Put some kind of mark or take a picture if you plan to leave the car at the shop and  go out of sight.

   b.) Installing a used part in a your car instead of new one :- For example a starter motor , used cost a fourth of new one and hence the motivation to do that. Always request to see the new part and make sure it is a quality Brand. Whip out your Android and  research the brand.  Most new parts have a Warranty with it ,so make sure you are aware what you are entitled to.    


Here is advises from the BBB themselves ( I cant stress it any more than this) :-

Check your warranty. If you have a problem with your vehicle while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer's instructions, which may require that repairs be made at an authorized dealership. Ask around. If you are looking for a qualified, independent shop, ask friends for recommendations, or request a list of BBB Accredited Businesses that do the type of auto repair you need. Be sure to check with BBB about the shop's reliability at bbb.org/search.  Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you will need to find a shop employing a specialist.

Ask all the questions that you need. Don't be embarrassed to request explanations. Don't rush the technician into making an on-the-spot  diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and appraised of the problem, course of action, and cost of work before any work begins.

Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached and, before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.

Get everything in writing. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you. Your repair bill should be itemized so, if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.

Even after doing all this , if you feel you have been ripped off , please share it in the forums , so that others can learn and gain.