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1990 Honda Civic

I am a student and I have a 1990 Honda Civic with about 172,000 on it. I really need this car to last me through grad school, 4 years. Overall my car still runs pretty good but needs a tune up. I recently moved to Roslyn, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. After my experience with Sears here I’m hesitant to have anyone touch my car again. I went in for an oil change and they overfilled it by over a quart. I brought the car back and they tried to tell me that was good for my car. While they were hesitantly draining some of the oil out of my car they took some hoses lose from the top of my engine and told me they would fix it for an hour of labor. I had just taken a picture of my cars dipstick while in front of the open hood with my cell phone. I wanted them to see how overfilled the oil was before I started the car up. Of course they wouldn’t even look at the picture and that’s also how I knew they took those hoses off bc it wasn’t like that in the picture! I don’t know what it is about being a woman and getting a mechanic that doesn’t try to screw you over but honestly its ridiculous. I’m so frustrated with car repairs/service right now. I would just like to know how to find a reliable place to have my car worked on. I searched your website but most of the reviews were several years old. Is there anyplace current you would recommend?

I had a similar problem as a graduate student 41 years ago. I was new to to community and my car, a 1965 Rambler, needed an alignment. The car drove worse after they were done than when I brought it in. The service manager had also written “Student” across the invoice. I suppose he saw my parking sticker on the windshield. Needless to say, Sears wouldn’t do anything about the job.

I bought my gasoline at a service station near campus. I told the proprietor my problem with the steering. He didn’t do alignment, but told me that the only place he knew that would do a good job was the International Truck dealer. He said that the alignment man was always booked up, but he would see what he could do. He got my car to the man a week later at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. The alignment specialist said that Sears had the wheels set with the toe out instead of in. The charge was less than what Sears had originally charged to put things right. The service station had my business from that point on. My recommendation is to ask around and find a good independent shop.

I once worked at Sears. The worse part of the store was the Automotive area. One friend, who worked in the automotive area, quit because of all the problems there. Based on what I have observed, it has not changed.

Look for a local INDEPENDENT mechanic. Avoid all quick oil change place as they are in the same class as Sears.

Ask friends, relatives, neighbors,other students, etc for recommendations. You want to find an INDEPENDENT mechanic. You might also check The Mechanics Files on the CarTalk home page. You can search by zip code and car make.

NEVER take your car to Sears or any other national chain store for service or repair. This includes oil change franchises.

There ARE quality independent auto repair shops at which you will not be taken advantage of. It’s your job to find one. You can do it.

It’s funny how often a letter to Sears describing your problem, and CC’d to the state’s Attorney General will make them refund the bogus charges. . .

Beyond that, follow the others’ advice - find an independent mechanic. There are mechanic recommendations on this site, and there are plenty of online review sites that will help you weed out the crooks.

Well I finally decided to bring my car to Fitzgerald’s today: it’s off of Easton Road here in Glenside. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they do a good job and don’t try to rip me off. They seemed pretty strait forward when I went in and I read good reviews online about them. I need to go home for the holidays and I really don’t want to have a breakdown on the Turnpike. My car is old but my hope is that if I take care of it I can continue driving it home and back. I do have AAA just in case. I will keep you all posted on how this turns out.

First, no Sears Auto Centers; I used to get tires and batteries from Sears but no longer - just stay away from Sears. Quickie oil change places, stay away. Chain tire stores, some are OK but stick to basic items; tires, brakes, oil changes.

Best is look for a local independant shop that is decent size so it handles a few cars a day and has 4 or 5 mechanics on staff. A small one man shop is limited to that guys skill. A larger shop might have someone better on Hondas who can trouble shoot a problem better or aid another mechanic who has a problem. The shop should be clean and organized, but also needs to look “lived in” meaning a few parts are scattered about due to the work in process. The person you deal with at the check-in counter should be knowledgeable and willing to show you old parts, and explain what needs to be done. A good shop gives you options, this way is best, but this way saves a few bucks, etc.

Finding a good shop takes some trial and error. Ask the people living in the area for recommendations and any ideas on what shops to avoid. You should have some positive experiences with a shop before you let them get deep into your motor say for a timing belt replacement job. Once you find a good shop, stick with it. They get to know you and your car. A good shop knows good work will bring you back again. Bad shops just want to make as much as they can off you and don’t care if they ever see you again.

If you’re near NE Philadelphia, try Rose Auto on Bleigh Ave off of Castor Ave. My Dad and I took our cars there when I still lived in Philly. Not the least expensive, but the job was done right the first time with quality parts. It was a Father and Son operation at the time, I believe the son is running the shop now.

It’s in the Mechanic’s Files

Ed B.