Cheating car mechanic?

I took my car in because the A/C wasn’t blowing cold air. I was told there was a leak in the high pressure hose and it needed to be replaced. $250 later I had cool air again…for a few weeks. I took the car in again and was told there was a leak in the compressor, requiring over $1200 to repair. I took my car for a second opinion, where the mechanic said there was a leaky valve, which he replaced for $80. He also told me it didn’t appear that the high pressure hose had been replaced. I’m upset that the first shop wanted to charge me for such an expensive repair that was apparently totally unnecessary (2nd mechanic said the compressor was absolutely fine, and even if it had a leak, the leak could have been repaired without replacing the entire part) and because I was charged $250 for work that may not have been done (although I have no proof, other than the 2nd mechanic’s opinion). What is the best course of action to try to get my money back from the first shop (or to file a complaint against them so others can be more aware).

Almost IMPOSSIBLE at this point. You can try in small claims court…

You didn’t loose that much. I’d take my losses and walk away.

The first shop did a number on you alright. If you can prove that they charged you for a new high pressure line and didn’t do the work you should get your money back for part and labor charged for that at least. You might have a difficult time getting anything else. They did refill the system and made it work for a while but there isn’t much you can do about a repair job that didn’t work out unless they warranty their work.

I suggest you talk with the shop manager and tell him what happened and then ask what he can do to make you more happy about the work they did. If they offer you nothing and you can prove the work wasn’t done on the line then you could take it to small claims court and you should get a return on that part of the repair at least.

Thanks for the advice. I figure there’s little to no chance of getting any money back, but I’d just like to do what I can to make sure the same doesn’t happen to other people. Is the best route just to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the state attorney general’s office? I think it’s awful that they tried to say it was necessary to have a $1200 when it could have been done for $80 (independent of charging for a repair that was apparently not done). The second mechanic did suggest asking for the old part any time I need something replaced in the future, which I will do.

You can ask the AG Consumer Affairs division in your state to try and arbitrate, but you may not meet with much success, as far as not replacing the high pressure hose. Many of us have doubts about BBB, but you can file a complaint there.

Suggesting that the first mechanic’s estimate of $1200 was wrong because the problem got fixed for $80 indicates incompetence, not fraud or cheating.

I would move on and give my business to the second mechanic; after all, he provided a quality diagnosis and a reasonable repair. For most folks, it is best to find a good,honest mechanic, and give him your business. He gets to know you, your car, and most of these relationships work out well, even in college towns.

Clarify something.
A/C hoses can get pretty expensive and 250 bucks may not be a large sum of money for a hose, refrigerant, system evacuation, recharge, and leak check.

Are you sure the hose was actually replaced or was this hose repaired or resealed?

Does your receipt show a hose charged out and if so, how much was it?
What kind of car and how many miles on it?

I was told on the phone that the hose would be replaced…on the receipt it’s itemized as ‘Air Conditioning high pressure hose fitting ($19)’, ‘Remove and replace high side pressure fitting ($48)’, and ‘R134A per pound ($30)’, which sounds more like attachments to the hose were replaced, but not necessarily the hose itself? I’m not familiar with much in the way of auto mechanics, much less the A/C systems, so it is possible I misunderstood. The rest of the charge was for the evacuation and recharge.

My car is a 2000 Chevy Prizm with just over 145,000 miles on it.

If you are 100% sure this guy reamed you then you may not get your money back but you can still get some satisfaction.

Do you realize that a satisfied customer tells an average of 3 people?

And do you realize that a dissatisfied customer tells an average of 7-10 people?

This info was gathered before the net connected people together. Take advantage of the net and tell everyone, only if you are sure this guy ripped you.

BTY, just for giggles was this a dealer shop or independent shop?

By your receipt, the hose was not replaced. A hose END was changed and this is not the same thing.

Here is what could have happened. (and often does)
A leak existed at the hose end and this was repaired, the system charged, and off she goes.
Given a bit of time (weeks, months, etc.) the high pressure in the system could have caused the next weakest spot in the system to start leaking.
It’s very common for a 10 year old car, even without 145k miles, to have refrigerant leakage around the air compressor seals anyway.

It’s also possible that the system could have had a slight leak around the compressor seal to begin with and either this was overlooked by carelessness or a check for leakage simply did not show it at the time.

Mechanic 2 appears to be saying that the compressor seal kit can be changed without changing the compressor.
Yes, this is possible. It’s also common for many shops to not want to do this for the following reason.
An aged car with a refrigerant leak also means loss of refrigerant oil. Over time this is damaging to the air compressor.
If a shop replaces the seal only, charges the system, and a problem develops (either quickly or shortly down the road) the customer will be irate at the shop for doing this repair instead of a compressor replacement.

Hope that helps to understand some of this.

It sounds like the fittings and not the hose were replaced. If the total cost of the R134A refrigerant was $30, that’s probably not too bad, but if they’re charging $30/lb for it (and your system probably needed a couple of pounds at least), that’s pretty high I think! I can get a can (12 or 16oz, not sure off the top of my head) from a local store for $4.99, no permit or special red tape required to purchase this yet. So $30 is a pretty big markup on their part.

Perhaps if you decide to pursue legal action, it would be good to take some high-resolution photos of the parts they supposedly replaced, and print them out. It’s unlikely that your old hoses and fittings are going to look like the “brand new” part they put on, so this may be good evidence in court. Also, a couple of price quotes for R134A refrigerant may add substance to the case. It may just be a matter of taking your photos with you and stating your intentions to the service adviser or manager of the shop to get them to settle with you and give you some money back. It’s entirely up to you as to whether it’s worth your time and energy to pursue this or just shun that shop like the plague and give them as much bad PR as you can.