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Is my mechanic blowing me off?

i have a 2005 subaru outback, bought last fall. a few weeks ago, i smelled a burning rubber odor from the engine, took the car to an independent shop. the shop doesn’t employ subaru specialists, and that concerns me.

they said the cv boot was ripped, and grease was spraying around, causing the smell. they recommended getting a 3rd party axle (over a subaru one, for cost reasons), and said they’d look into a cost. two weeks pass and they call, saying they have some costs for me.

during that time, i’ve started looking around for a subaru specialist (not successful) in my city. i told the shop that i had called around, that i trusted them, but was concerned that my car needed specialist care. however, i said i’d come in.

a few days later, i bring the car in, w/ an additional problem (weird noise), leave it, thinking they’d replace the cv stuff and look for the sound problem. at the end of the day, they said they couldn’t hear the sound, and they hadn’t ordered the cv parts, but they have a “call in to the parts guy.”

ok… i wait a few days, call him, he’s still waiting. that was a week or so ago.

i was a bit steamed they initially too two full weeks to get back to me, now i feel like the are blowing me off. are they? they’ve worked on my two fords for years and i’v been a good customer for them. i’ve not wanted to get into heated discussion w/ them, like “what happened to the FIRST cost you said you had, and why did it take two weeks to call me back?”

Marc, I Don’t Think It Matters If They’re Blowing You Off Or Not.

What matters is getting service in a timely and courteous manner. I’d hate to think how long a repair might take once the car gets to the shop. Don’t go there any more. It’s just too frustrating and they don’t deserve your business.

Talk to other Subaru owners and get some recommendations for a new shop.


csa, i have three recommendations now (i left notes on outbacks i’ve seen in town, asking who they use). non of them are subaru-trained, however. i hate to do it, but this is plain ridiculous. they are w/in walking distance to my work, and i feel like they are honest and competent. but you never know how fair costs are, not being an expert.

anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

Marc, Another Idea Is To Inquire At The Local Auto Parts Stores.

The guys there often know who buys the Subaru parts, who works on them routinely, and they often can tell who has their act together.


wow. great idea. thanks!

This is likely where the whole thing went sour IMO-

i told the shop that i had called around, that i trusted them, but was concerned that my car needed specialist care. however, i said i’d come in.

What possible benefit is there in showing your hand and then taking it to them anyway? If your presentation was in any way reflected in what you typed here, it shouldn’t be a big surprise if you step back and put yourself in their shoes. Paraphrasing- well, I don’t trust your expertise on this issue but I’ll bring it in anyway.

This would be a red flag to me regardless of the prior relationship. I once had a guy come to quote some tree work. Offhand, I inquired about the weight of his crane rig because I was concerned about the driveway. Although he was gung-ho prior to that interaction, I never once heard back from him after repeated attempts to schedule the actual work. It wasn’t until he wouldn’t respond that I realized my inquiry had set off red flags to him. I’m sure he figured I might be looking for ways to get a free driveway or just would be a pain in the neck and it wasn’t worth it to him.

As a third party observer, I see the same kind of thing happening with your interaction with them.

TT: “This is likely where the whole thing went sour IMO- …”

agreed, but i had already felt blown off by them taking two weeks to call me w/ a price. my weak rationale for showing my hand was to let him know i was miffed and he was in danger of losing a long time customer.

i know this, but don’t always follow it: best course of action in life is to be direct and honest. i should have found another shop and told him i didn’t think he wanted my business, due to the 2 week delay.

IMHO - your Subey doesn’t need “specialists care”. No more than my Ford needs specialists care. Or any other car on the road in mass production needs specialists care. If you found a good independent mechanic, they will be able to fix your car at least as good as a subaru dealer, for about half the cost. I’m not sure where the urban legend got started that certain cars can only be repaired at speciality shops or at dealers. Now here is some truth: If the indenpendant mechanic doesn’t have some specialized tooling, like model- specific scan tools for older vehicles, then obviously they will not be able to diagnose certain vehicles. But that’s why I used the term “good” independent mechanic. Yes, the investment is substantial, but if the shop is going to repair all makes/models, they need to make the investment.

benny, i developed this opinion after lurking in the subaru outback forums for a while, and one conversation w/ a subey trained mechanic, who now works for an ind. shop. while some replacement parts or fluids work according to the database they use to look that stuff up, there are some parts/fluids that need to be specific (the brand of spark plug or the trans. fluid). and it seems you only know that info through training or hard experience. i love this car and tend to drive cars a long time, i want it to last. i’m not saying you’re wrong, my car knowledge is very weak, i’m just trying to do the best for my car for the long haul.

Is this a busy shop? It sounds to me a little bit like you could be more proactive. E.g. in the initial 2 weeks did you call them to ask about it? A lot of busy shops work more like fast food places than table service restaurants. You have to go stand at the window, and return if you’re missing something. I also have to wonder whether they knew you were coming that “few days later.” Not all parts can be delivered JIT.

It sounds like your case might be a bit extreme, but I do know that a shop I’ve been using for a long time has been very very busy over the past year or so. (And they agreed with my guess that with economics as they are people are fixing much more often than buying these days). When I leave there with anything still hanging (e.g. job or parts pricing) I assume that they will forget about me pretty quickly - not b/c they don’t care but b/c they are very busy. So I call if I really want to know.

Sometimes this is actually just an office staff problem (if there is such a thing there) where people aren’t so good at keeping track of things.