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Has a repair shop ever outright lied to you?

In Tom and Ray’s newspaper column this week, one reader writes that their VW sprang a leak, and in doing the repair to the cooling system, the repair shop broke the air conditioner, and then they broke something in the steering, and when the steering stopped working unexpectedly, it came close to causing a serious car wreck. Tom and Ray think the shop was good to eventually correct the problems they caused for free, but Tom and Ray thinks the shop isn’t being 100% forthright with the VW owner about exactly what happened. You can read the column from this website’s front page.

Something like that happened to me one time. I had a – coincidentally – a VW, and I was almost certain there was a problem with the fuel pump relay. The car would stop running for no reason. Stall while I was driving it. I’d have to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to get it to go again.

I had been there to the shop one time before for this problem. The first time the shop manager denied there was any problem with the fuel pump relay, and sent me away with a fuel cleaning treatment bill. But the car of course stalled the following week, stranding me on the side of the freeway. So I made an appointment with the shop the next day. Before I took the car to the shop, I marked the fuel pump relay with a deep scratch. When I picked the car up, the manager said the car ran fine, and continued to insist the relay was ok. When I got in the car, I pulled ther relay, and NO SCRATCH! The relay had been replaced with a new one! No wonder the car ran fine! I took the relay in and showed it to the manager, and he said it was the same one that was there when I brought the car into the shop! He had no explanation about what happened to the scratch.

Anyway, has a repair shop ever outright lied to you?

Not that I know of, but I work with a guy that used to work at a garage on weekends so that he could use the equipment. He said the two owners routinely lied to all their customers. He asked them about it, and they said they didn’t care if the customers returned. The woods were full of uninformed motorists and they’d never have a problem finding new rubes to cheat.

Likely yes, but I can’t prove it.

Not so much as an outright lie but deceptive pratice. On my initial visit to this shop he repaired the issue and also replaced several small items for free. Cool I thought. On my second visit to the shop he fixed a different issue but also replaced/repaired several items I did not authorize and reamed my checkbook for these items.

I also worked with a guy who had no problem squirting oil onto a shock and telling the customer the shock was leaking.

Both were independant shops, a real pair of buttholes.

Yeah, Rollie the transman. Needed a transmission in my Riviera. Instead of a GM went with Rollie who promised 1 week, 2 year garantee. After nearly daily visits with mucho excuses, finally got it back after 7 weeks. 4th gear didn’t work. Said he’d put in a new solenoid wire harness. Took it to another shop that had to special order the harness from GM and the old one was old not new. Trans lasted less than a year so paid another shop for another overhaul. Plus the guy wrote up the invoice to pump up the sales tax collected but I’m sure not paid. Found out he owed Minnesota over $500K in sales taxes. Yeah, he was a real treat but I paid for it. $1500 for the first overhaul, $400 to the second shop to fix the problems, and another $1600 for the second overhaul a year later.

One place in particular I bought a used truck from had a slight shimmy in it. The insisted it was a tire balance issue and/or bad tire…which they did not sell. I foolishly went ahead with the purchase. After being given the run around for months, I finally discovered it was a drive shaft issue. They knew it, according to a worker there who heard the owner talking, from the beginning. I don’t know what they were thinking as they finally had to make good on the cost regardless and never got a good word from me on anyone who asked.

To be blunt, when it comes to making money off someone else misfortune, which what repair work is often about, I find I approach every repair shop with a good dose of skepticism.

I agree deceptive practice falls into “outright lying”.
If a customer is sold an unnecessary service or repair, purely for the motivation of profit, isn’t that lying?

Yes, I was once told I needed new brake rotors, even though the ones on the car were just 6 months old. A Sears Auto shop told me I needed new front ball joints, which after a later inspection were OK, and went another 4 years before replacement.

Some shops have “shock absorber month” or “brake rotor month”. during which time the sales staff is told to push these items on all customers.


A local tranny shop tried to get me for a complete overhaul. Second opinion shop said it was a wiring issue and fixed it for $75. I take all of my transmission issues to shop # 2 now.

That’s just one example. Of course knowing something about cars makes my visits to shops few and far between. I seldom lie to myself, but I have misdiagnosed a few things when I don’t check here first.

I worked for reputable high line vehicle dealers for over 30 years, and there were times when technicians were not above board, but those instances were few and were not tolerated at many levels. Diagnostic mistakes were made ( the word “intermittent” still makes me bristle) and management did make the effort to satisfy the client rather than have a complaint lodged against them . Yes, as in all of life there are con artists, and believe me, customers are not above stretching the truth either. During my years of service experience, as a general rule, the less reputable techs and flat rate artists generally went to independents or mass merchandiser national chains where their tracks were much more easily covered. I am not condemning all independents nor praising all dealerships, but you will generally find that a dealership is held to a higher standard because of the reputation of the major manufacturer that they represent. You don’t mess with home office! And I also know of many fine independent repair facilities where I would take my business.

I’m in agreement with old 544 who is also dead on in the comment about customers stretching the truth. Most mechanics are honest and often tainted by the slim minority who are crooks. Anyone who has been in a shop for very long knows that a crooked mechanic (especially at a new car dealership) will probably not be around very long and may be ostracized by other mechanics until they are gone.

That being said, I personally have lied a few times to customers but it’s been for a legitimate reason.
Case in point. Air Force captain (instructor pilot) drops his Subaru off for a 15k miles service on an Early Bird ticket, which for those that don’t know is an envelope used for vehicles left when the dealership is closed. The blanks are filled in, keys put in the envelope, and through the door slot it goes.

The service was done and when he showed up a few days later to pick the car up wanted to know what papers he had to sign for warranty purposes. He then went livid when told warranty does not pay for normal maintenance and over the next few weeks dropped in every few days to complain that the car was hard to start, ran poorly, backfired, etc, etc. There was zero wrong with this car and on the last visit he left it with us for a full week.

This car was left in the lot the entire week, was never pulled into the shop, and the hood was never even raised. When he came in the service manager called me up front and I laid a load of utter BS on this guy about an emissions fault which was very difficult to find and told him the car should be fine. He was happy, went on his way, and turned out to be a good customer ever afterwards with never a complaint about the car again.

Unethical? Not in this case in my humble opinion because as a mechanic on flat rate he cost me a lot of time (a.k.a. money) looking for a non-existent problem.

I forgot about the state inspection on a Cavalier I owned in the 80s. I took it to a local chain shop for the state safety inspection, required for the new owner to register the car. I got a long list of problems, including new brake pads on the rear - just replace a few weeks earlier. I immediately asked them to show me the brake wear, and they acted surprised that the pads were almost new. There were a number of other things, like burned out bulbs that were fine. They seemed nervous when I started asking questions. I learned later that the State Police used to check out state inspection shops with Cavaliers. I guess they figured I was a Trooper by my Khaki pants and short haircut. I ended up with just two items that needed to be fixed.

I had a shop tell me my CV joints were going bad. “Oh really?”, I said. “You guys just replaced those about 6 months ago on my car.” I didn’t get another word from the sales manager and never went back again. (A Michel’s Tire shop)

This experience wasn’t at a repair shop, but a chain farm store which is now out of business. I purchased a new battery and installed it in the car. It would barely crank the engine, so I put it on a trickle charger overnight, thinkiing it had been on the shelf too long. The car then cranked over, but if it sat over 3 hours, it would again barely turn over. I disconnected the battery cables and recharged the battery. After a recharge, my voltmeter indicated 12.6 volts. I let the car sit for 3 hours and the voltage dropped below 11 volts. I returned to the store with the battery and the auto parts manager insisted that it had to be my car. I then grabbed his load tester and proved to him that it was the battery. When he checked his stock, he didn’t have another battery like the one I had purchased, but wanted to sell me a more expensive battery. I said that I would just like my money refunded. He said that he couldn’t do that as they had already recycled my trade-in battery. I finally got the general manager and was given my money back and an old trade-in battery. I then went to another store and bought a battery with my core trade-in.

Oblivion, same thing happened here, only it was ball joints on a 98 Contour. Tire-chain repair shop said I needed them to pass inspection. Six months later, I brought it in again for alignment, to be told “you need new ball joints.”

I think suspension/steering stuff makes for rip-offs because of the combo of being safety-related and being hard to contradict without a lift.

So meanjoe75, how did that alignment turn out with worn-out ball joints? Did you ever see the alignment printout? Sounds like you got ripped off on the alignment too

I went into a shop with a bad CV joint (and the clunk,clunk noise to go with it) After driving home and the noise still there I went back to the shop. They said the OTHER cv joint was bad too and changed it. I had just had that joint changed at another shop 6 months previous. When I told them that they said “Well, it was bad!” I asked for the supposed bad part and took it back to the other shop. He dissasembled the joint he had installed. It was like brand new. Still fresh grease, bearings had no wear on them at all, boot not split or cracked. The shop had changed the wrong joint! When I caught them in their lie I demanded a full refund parts and labor. After some argument I received it.

Check this out, from this very BBS a while back. It’s my favorite example of shop scamming.

Yes. My wife’s car broke down about 50 miles from home years ago. I was on a TDY at another base several hundred miles away so I could not go fix the car myself. The repair shop replaced the timing chain and distributor and still could not get the car to start.

My wife called me from the motel where she was staying while the shop fixed her car and I picked up a hint from our conversation. She said the car smelled badly like “rotten eggs” just before the engine quit on her. I called a muffler shop and had them tow the car from the “repair” shop.

My wife was on her way home about an hour later with a new catalytic converter (the old one was completely plugged up) and a new timing chain and distributor that she really did not need. I called the repair shop when I got home a few weeks later. The repair shop was gone and the place was converted to a pizza joint.

Yup. And I didn;t even know it until I received a call asking me to come back in…at my convenience… to have th work rechecked. Turns out, my car was part of an investigation by the Attorney General’s office of a particular dealer’s shop charging for work not performed.

I received a full refund. Never di find out what triggered the investifation. The dealership is no longer in business. The whole thing happened many years ago.