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How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off By Your Local Mechanic

Updated on May 31, 2010

The world is filled with very smart people who happily and productively go through life without knowing the first thing about brake pads or fuel injectors. This naivety is not only limited to women, as many men also believe that there are hamsters running around on wheels inside their engine compartments making their cars go.

Mechanics are keenly aware of this. Many mechanics, in fact, count on your lack of expertise to fool you into thinking that your car needs more work than it really does. The only way to fight back is to learn a little bit about the most common auto ailments and what they require in terms of repair. We've isolated eight of them in this section to help you separate the necessary repairs from the frivolous ones. Armed with this information you should be better able to identify the scams you're most likely to encounter.

Brakes

Did that ad for a $39.95 brake job catch your eye? Watch out. If the person at one of those places lets you out of the shop for $39, they won't be at work the next day. Their job is to get you to spend more.

An recent investigation by the New York attorney general's office, for instance, found that nine out of every 10 consumers paid more than three and a half times the advertised brake job price at brake shops. Once you're in the door, many mechanics will inflate the bill by convincing you that you need to rebuild or replace your brake calipers. Some paid considerably more than that. One New York State resident got stuck with a tab of $308.80 for a front-brake job. Brakes were advertised at the location for $69. Remember however that it's difficult, until you do a thorough inspection of the vehicle, to tell what a repair is going to cost.

Still, once you're in the door, many mechanics will inflate the bill by convincing you that you need to rebuild or replace your brake calipers which are the mechanical devices that squeeze the brake pads against the disc. But shelling out the extra $100 to $300 for a set of new calipers is often a waste of money. Calipers can typically last 100,000 miles or so. Protect yourself by demanding to see what's wrong with your calipers. If they aren't working properly, the mechanic should be able to show you how each of the four brake pads on either axle is wearing unevenly.

As for disc-brake rotors, another favorite target of car repairmen, they rarely need to be replaced early in a car's life span. First, second and even third brake jobs done, say, every 30,000 miles, often include a resurfacing of all discs, in which the shop smoothes them on a lathe. Generally, they need be replaced only if they have become warped, cracked or resurfaced so often that their thickness has been shaved below the manufacturer's specifications. If you're dubious, ask to see the damage or how far below the manufacturer's specs the disc has worn.

Continued In How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off By Your Local Mechanic Part 2

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    • profile image

      Harold 5 years ago

      I can tell you that this is very true as I am a mechanic. I work with guys like this and watch them do it on a daily basis. Management turns a blind eye because its money in the pocket. I don't think most shops/garages consider the lifetime value of a customer.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      wha?? No hamsters?

      Maybe gerbils? A Nutruia?

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