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Finding an honest auto service shop. Confronting a dishonest one

Bottom Line: 1. Is there a way to find an excellent, honest mechanic, and/or service shop? Please consider that I am a 68 year old woman, who looks her age. 2. Do I have a conversation with a service shop that I believe was going to charge me for an expensive and unnecessary job?

Here’s the story!

I firmly believe that a service shop that I recently used wanted to install new rear struts, tops and side bars on my 2005 Forester to the tune of $980.00, because I complained of a rattle that was coming from the rear right side of the car. I had recently transferred my business to them and this was my second 3k mile oil and lube. Actually the first service they did on my car was the big 60-65k mile service. I did discover that the rattle was coming from the latch for the back seat. And it was that shop that gave me the clue about the rattle! When I picked up my car I noticed that the back seat was in the down position and wondered why. I soon discovered that the rattle disappeared with the seat down and came back with the seat up!!

I took my car for a second opinion, and an excellent mechanic with my help discovered that a dab of grease on the offending seat latch got rid of the rattle so I didn’t have to drive with the back seat down. I’d go to these guys and really liked their user friendly shop but while that ‘excellent mechanic’ was trying to establish the source of the rattle, the owner was trying to convince me that I did need a strut job and that they were leaking!

I really do not think that they are leaking. I have been checking and am not seeing anything.

I could go to the expensive Subaru dealer. I did for the first 18 months of services. But then the manager retired and the service department became user-unfriendly. I really like to establish a relationship with the person that services my car and I like to keep my car until forever!

Glad you found the rattle. I’m not sure your new shop is dishonest. They simply looked for the problem you described to them. In inspecting the car they noted leaking from the struts. You won’t see strut fluid leaking under the car onto the ground, like you would an oil leak from the motor. Leaking struts leave an oily residue on the body of the strut, this is hydralic fluid which seals should keep in the strut.

A leaking strut isn’t good, but the strut might not be completely shot either. You can ask the shop, now that the rattle is resolved are the struts so bad as to be a safety issue? Your car will not leave you stranded beside the road with leaking struts. The struts keep the car from bouncing and help maintain tire contact on bumpy roads. Bad struts make for a bad ride and an unstable car when you go over bumps especially on corners.

If you wish another shop can give you their opinion on the struts. A 2005 car with 30 to 40,000 miles usually dosen’t need struts, but sometimes they do go bad.

I can only give fragmented advice. Learn to do as much as you can by yourself. What you say I am 68 years old,what I mean is in circumstances like the rattle you described make a effort to locate it on your own,this is not out of your league to do.

Should you be able to take your vehicle to a mechanic and ask him to find your noise and not get “abused” when the noise turns out to be something simple like the latch? of course you should.

If you were given a 2hr bill (lets say $200.00) for your car to be put in the shops intake process and dispatched to a mechanic for a look would you be upset? How much would have been fair?

You need to find a shop owner who sees the value in not always making a killing everytime a car comes in. This is not a easy task.

I would say let it be known that you expect to pay some kind of bill everytime you put you car in someones elses hands to be looked at. Make sure the shop owner knows that you know he must make something when he spends time with your car.

I would like to see a truce in car owner/shop owner battle it has been going on far to long. Each needs to give in in some way.

I am not going to comment on the fact that the service provider/customer battle takes place everytime you hire someone to do something for you as we are talking about car repairs specificly.