Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

It feels like I'm cheating on my mechanic

So… some may recall that recently I was looking for a (newer or better than what I have now) used car to buy. In the end… it came down to a 20 year old Honda with more miles than my car… and couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My regular mechanic… who I love and gets 5 star ratings on the mechanics files… says that my Suzuki needs all the fluids replaced… brake ($100), transmission ($225), power steering ($140), coolant ($150). I’m looking at about $615.

So, I decided to google “transmission specials” and eventually came up with the name of a national chain that does these services… for less than $300. They don’t have ANY reviews on the mechanic’s files here, but one local shop near me gets consistently 5 star reviews (on yelp I believe). Many 5 star reviews of this one place.

I’m on a limited budget. I’m at that place where I need to commit to maintaining the Suzuki or roll the dice and go with something else. But I don’t really have money for both.

I’m taking a long trip in a couple weeks… should I go with the national chain that does it for less (and gets good reviews) or spend twice that much at my “tried and true” regular mechanic.

The title of this post says it all… feeling like I’m cheating on my girlfriend. LOL.

Thoughts? Opinions?

1 Like

Ever hear the saying - “You get what you pay for!.”

In general you should stay away from any and all national chains. Their business model is - Move them in and out fast to maximize profit. Google the name of the national chain and count the number of complaints. There’s a reason your local mechanic get’s good reviews.


That bargain fluid replacement won’t feel like such a bargain when the national chain forgets to tighten your drain plug and you dump your oil all over while you’re on your trip. This happens regularly enough that places like that should always be avoided.


On the “national chain”, NO. Often these specials are to get you in then tell you that you need a new or rebuilt transmission.
Just spread your maintenance items over several months. Ask you regular mechanic the order he thinks. The brake fluid, if the pedal is firm and not ‘mushy’ could probably be put off until you need a complete brake job which could run $500 to over a $1000.


Tell us more about what you drive - make/model/year/miles/time and miles since each of these fluids was changed. Then we can help you schedule them to fit your needs and budget, using the guy you trust.


It’s a 2007 Suzuki SX4 with 206,000 miles on it.

I bought the car in April 2015 with 144,000 miles on it and have pretty much kept up with all the really necessary repairs (stuff like them wanting to restore the headlights to “like new” for $100… I’ve skipped a few things like that. I also replace my own air filters and windshield wipers… easy enough to do on your own).

They say it’s been 60,000 since the coolant and transmission fluids were flushed.

I can’t remember if the Power Steering and the Brake fluids were ever flushed since I owned it. Possibly yes on the Power Steering fluid. I just don’t remember.

The other thing is the oil. I’m 3,000 miles into my last oil change. Of that 3k, about 1,700 are highway miles. The upcoming trip is about 3,600 miles. Get the oil changed now or when I come back? My mechanic wants it changed every 3k… but if I remember correctly, think Tom & Ray have said 5k to 7.5k is okay… but my memory could be faulty on that.

you should read the owner’s manual on oil change interval and for the other fluids intervals.

I can only find the 2008 one online. It says oil change at 7.5k,
Brake fluid at 80k intervals
Transfer case oil at 50k
coolant at 30k
spark plugs at 60k

severe driving conditions changes all that.

I actually have the owner’s manual! I’ll double check.

I always assumed that my regular mechanic had access to all the recommended service intervals on their computer… that’s why I’ve never questioned it. I know that “traditionally” 3k was considered “normal” for oil changes, but in more recent years I’ve been hearing 7,500… but just not sure if 7,500 is a good idea or not. Having said that, it’s $50 to get the oil changed at my mechanic… jes’ sayin’…

Not sure if the transfer case oil has been changed, but it seems to me if it needed it, my mechanic would’ve said something about it. They’re pretty good with stuff like that.

I did have a tune up and also did the engine service (they clean out all the gunk and stuff) so I know the spark plugs have been changed.

1 Like

I’d split the difference and do 5,000 mile oil changes.
Of all the other fluid changes I’d prioritize the transmission: it’s protecting the second most expensive part of the vehicle.
Look at the coolant (engine cold!). Is it clear or cloudy? If clear it can wait awhile.
Look at the brake and power steering fluids. Clear or dark?
Those chain shops can do more than physically botch a job.
They can use some “universal” fluids that are not fully compatible, causing grief down the road.


I usually get a brake fluid change when having a brake job done, check your records it may not be needed.

1 Like

@Stegy_Frany Just forget the National Chain. You don’t have to do everything the mechanic recommends because he is trying to cover all bases.


I would have the coolant checked to make sure it’s at the right (typically 50% antifreeze) strength, you need it that way both winter and summer.

1 Like

As others have said…those chain shops use fluids that may not be compatible with what your car needs.
They will tell you that they add a modifier so that their fluid matches what your cars manufacture calls for, but this modifier does not always match and you could have problems down the road or the entire time your transmission slowly wears out prematurely.
Before your trip;
I would have the oil changed and the transmission fluid changed. I would also do the brake fluid change, because this is a critical safety issue.

Unless the coolant is filthy, I think you could wait with that along with the power steering until you are back from your trip and have saved the money up.



I agree avoid the national chains and stick with your mechanic or try another independent shop. Sorry but you bought a Suzi and you are likely going to need your mechanic.


[quote=“Stegy_Frany, post:8, topic:121106”]
it’s $50 to get the oil changed at my mechanic… jes’ sayin’…

A lot of shops charge 0.3 or 0.4 hours labor for an oil change . . . I’m talking about “real” shops, not Jiffy Lube with their coupon specials or what have you

So 0.3 hours x a labor rate of $100/hr or so, plus materials and tax . . . $50 seems reasonable for an oil and filter change


$100 an hour? It’s days like this that make me think I might’ve gone into the wrong line of work :laughing::laughing::laughing:

The shop labor rate might be $100 per billed hour of labor

But the mechanic only gets a fraction of that

Ever heard of paying the timekeeper, janitor, porter, plus the other employees, plus all the other overhead

I don’t know what line of work you’re in

But I’ve been a professional mechanic for quite awhile now, and my colleagues and I work hard for our money, and we’re literally breaking our bodies in the process. Cumulatively, but it does happen. My brother, who is white-collar, doesn’t have half the problems I do, and his retirement will literally be a lot less painful than mine.


Well I pay it not earn it but you have to remember that that $100 an hour goes to pay for a lot of other things including overhead. Things like the building, taxes, utilities, insurance, tools, down time, equipment, advertising, and finally the poor he, she, or it, doing the work itself. It may sound like a lot but you have to have a lot of billable hours to make any money out of the deal. Not something I’d like to try. Now a guy working out of his truck with no insurance can afford to charge a little less.

Wow, that’s a new one :smiley:

I didn’t realize there were any non-humans working as mechanics

I’ve heard of robots on the assembly line, but not doing the actual repairs

Decades ago a mechanic usually got 40% of the labor. That is long gone.I just got an estimate to replace a kitchen sinck and faucet I supply the sink, (Hard to get color) and the faucet, plus new strainers and supply lines. No need to fight an old corroded faucet, leave the old one on the old sink.
The plumber had a beautiful new truck. His quotation was $931. No, I do not live in NYC. His boss called 3 days later and said the price was too high. He wanted to send another guy out to re estimate. No wonder their prices are high; 2 free estimates to replace a sink. New estimate $650. No sale.
I have a service contract for my AC. Every six months they check the system, clean the drain line, and replace the filters. One is 12 feet up. Tech tests capacitor on outside untit and says its up against the upper limit and asks if I can change it myself. His price from the computer is $169. Part is $19 when I buy only one, and 10 minutes of my labor.
I don’t mind paying $100 per hour for a skilled tech and a truck.