Mechanics files on this site

Thanks for getting back to us, Doug (he wrote abashedly).

There is a fatal flaw in allowing only positive reviews of mechanics: those also need to be verified. There is nothing preventing a mechanic or his/her friend writing a glowing review that has little or no basis in reality. Also, the reviews aren’t purged periodically so the information may be very out-of-date and inaccurate.

Not that there is any simple solution to providing this potentially valuable service, I’m afraid…

That’s right. That is a concern for us. But, the history so far is really good on this issue. We have something like 50,000 reviews in the database, and only get a few comments a year about shops that were promoted in the Mechanics Files and didn’t deliver good service. In general (and this is just my personal guess, mind you, nothing more), I think it’s pretty clear when someone is telling their own story about an actual repair, or whether it’s just a generic promotion by the occasional sneaky shop owner. I will say that if we get a specific, detailed complaint about a shop in the mechanics file, we will look into it, and over the years we’ve removed a few shops. But, overall, the mechanics files seems to be working well for all concerned.

We don’t purge old reviews, but you will find folks adding more recent info, and we update key info when we get it from our site visitors.


I also thank you for responding totally agree with NYBo.

Doug, you state – but, what’s really needed, is a good resource to find a great mechanic to get your car repaired. But this isn’t happening!!

The quote provided at the top of the mechanics file says nothing about it being a forum to only praise mechanics, not bash them. I was really mislead by this website. Sometimes the phrase “my mechanic screwed me over” is true. If you can’t check the positive comments, you shouldn’t screen out the negatives either. Put a disclaimer saying that you’re not screening anything, and therefore not liable and let the mechanic’s file run like this discussion board.

Re: Mechanics Files, when we started it about 10 years ago, Tom and Ray really wanted it to be something positive-- a place to find a great mechanic, not a place to bash lousy mechanics. The thinking was, and remains, that there’s no shortage of folks out there willing to say, “my mechanic screwed me over!”-- but, what’s really needed, is a good resource to find a great mechanic to get your car repaired.

This was, and still is, a poor decision. Many web sites have customer review areas and allow both negative and positive reviews. In fact I learn a lot from reading a few negatives in among mostly positive comments. It means the shop/service/product may have some weak points in a generally positive reputation, and it’s pretty easy to spot the chronic complainers. I am very disappointed to learn that you delete negative comments. That’s just doing your web site readers a disservice. There clearly is no big legal issue. Many other web sites have fully uncensored comments (and I don’t blame you for censoring bad language) without any problems, some like Amazon have pretty deep pockets so would seem a much better lawsuit target than Car Talk will ever make.

I am sorry, I have to agree with the others eliminating negatives is not helpful, and is in fact counterproductive to your stated purpose.

Stop wasting time deleting negative comments on the Mechanics Files section and maybe you’ll have more time to fix the discussion group interface. :wink:

I totally agree with Ranck. Eliminating negatives is not helpful, and is in fact counterproductive to your stated purpose.

It’s doing your web site readers a disservice.

The simple solution is,like anywhere else in life, take all advice with a grain of salt and do your own verification work.

A customer/mechanic relationship takes trust from both sides. Spend some time looking and you’ll be rewarded.

A customer trusts the mechanic not to do needless, excessive or unnecessary work. A customer also needs a firm time line about how long the job will take. A customers bill should be clear, concise and accurate.
A good shop doesn’t use the flat rate book as a bible. They will however give you a very accurate estimate and ask before doing any extra work.

A mechanic needs the customer to pay the bill when they pick up the car. Mechanics are not banks and accounts receivable is a business killer. A customer needs to know part of what keeps the shop doors open is the markup on parts. Don’t bring your own parts in with you. A mechanic needs timeliness from the customers as well. If you say your car will be there at 8:00am don’t show up at noon. A busy mechanic will of made a slot in the schedule for you, and you’ve now screwed up the whole day. And lastly be honest with your mechanic. If you started the job and got in over your head, just tell them. If you aren’t going to be able to pay in full at the end of the job make arrangements before work is started.

If you truly trust your mechanic, and they really trust you, vehicle ownership is so much easier. Put some time into the search. Beware though,there are crooks on both sides of the field. When you find a good one, treat them right.


I too am very surprised to have learned this. I’d also feel very upset like the OP if I trusted the replies I read in the database, only to have learned later how the data was filtered.

This is a sincere request to the cartalk maintainers to please address this issue. Your credibility is at stake.

Thank you.
Joe Mario


I agree - I feel that the credibility of Car Talk is at stake by having them filter the data like this. It doesn’t make sense.

It’s a legal thing. Think of it this way; Bad reviews could result in litigation. I’m not here to look up bad mechanics; I’m looking for a good one.

I just had the same experience. I Looked at the mechanics files believing them to be unbiased reviews I could rely on. I had a very expensive bad experience with a top rated repair shop.

If there has been a disclaimer that only positives reviews were included I would have been read them nut taken that into consideration. As far as I am concerned there is no credibility to this system and I am very disappointed.

Car talk needs to be frank about this and post a disclaimer that negative comments will not be posted. They should also give some advice about what can be done about obviously fraudulent mechanics to help balance this out. If I mentioned one on this blog would my entry be removed? Otherwise I have found the positives to be useful as I have not had any problems with the ones that have several ratings ( all positive of coarse :slight_smile:

According to Columbia Ecyclopedia:
“Permanent forms of defamation, such as the written or pictorial, are usually called libel, while the spoken or gestured forms are called slander.
The term libel is also often used if a wide audience for the defamation is possible. Courts have split over which category radio and television are in; today’s statutes generally categorize defamation occurring in those media as slander. The offenses are alike in several respects. The defamation-essentially exposure to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or pecuniary loss-must directly affect the reputation of a living person. It must be published, i.e., revealed to someone besides the subject of the attack. It is no defense that the defendant merely repeated but did not originate the defamation”.

The article goes on to state that libel is much easier to bring to suit than slander. Notice the last line in the quote, that the defendant need not originate but only repeat the comment. As a provider of permanent written commentary, Cartalk and sites like it are potentially exposed to liability on the basis of libel rather than slander, which if no easier to get a jury to agree with the plantiff that malicious intent was involved, would be crippling just in terms of legal services to even try to get summary judgements against a potential onslaught of libel complaints. In many cases the site may have to decide to settle rather than defend a comment that it did not even originate.

One last point: the inventor of the rotary telephone dial (some of you might remember your grandather’s sturdy old plastic AT&T phone that hung on the wall or sat on little table by the EZ-Boy) was one of two morticians in a small town. The other mortician in town had a girlfriend, who was the town’s switch operator. Before the rotary phone, you didn’t dial a number, you tapped the call switch a few times and were connected to the switch operator. In a small town, one was usually sufficient. In this case, whenever there was a death and the services of a mortician was needed, guess which mortician got the call? So the other mortician, in desperation, invented the means to eliminate the jobs of switch operators everywhere, just to save his own failing mortuary.
Now imagine you are a mechanic in a small town and the other guy/gal is getting all sorts of glowing reviews on Cartalk. How hard would it be to pose as a very dissatisfied customer on the site to tarnish that reputation?
I guess a disclaimer is in order. But this site offers free information and I seriously doubt it is any way biased. I think it was trying to provide good information without hurting the site or the larger entity, NPR.

Read more:

It’s like a Carfax report. Sometimes it tells you something and sometimes it gives you useless information. I stopped recommending the Mechanics Files long ago because of this issue. If a shop makes one person happy and takes advantage of 100 other people, it can still be a recommended shop in Car Talk’s Mechanics Files. What a joke!

it doesn’t always come out bad. Several years ago, my son called me from Danville, VA. His wife’s old Ford had a locked up motor, starter wouldn’t move. They towed it to a mechanic who offered to put in another motor for $1500.

I looked up the Files, and found one mechanic there who had several positive reports. He had the car towed again, and the recommended shop essentially cut the a/c belt. The a/c clutch had frozen tight. They drove it several more years, all over the US.

The key was the mechanic who saved them had a number of positive reports, plus I suppose some luck involved, maybe.

Hi All,

A quick note from Car Talk Plaza.

First, nice timing on the resurrection of this thread. As it turns out, we’re in the midst of a major overhaul to the Mechanics Files.

In the past month, in fact, with the help of some data experts at the University of Southern California, we’ve overhauled much of the address data in the Mechanics Files. That’s now vastly improved, with over 10,000 shops getting significantly improved address data, in preparation for allow for mapping of garages, as part of the application.

We have already started to implement some of the changes we will include in the new and improved version of MF. For instance, as of very recently we’re now allowing negative reviews of garages, so the MF will move towards being a fuller database of all reviews for shops. The text on a number of changes is being revised now, and will change slightly. That should be uploaded in
the next few days-- probably after the long weekend.

However, we still do not allow any review that is illegal, obscene, libelous, etc., or otherwise fails to meet standards appropriate for posting. Those standards may change from time to time and are, of course, applied in accordance with Car Talk’s interpretations of those standards, in our infinite wisdom. Revised statements of standards will also be posted as we fix on these details in the new version of MF.

We’ll have a revised Mechanics Files launching later this year. In fact, 10% of the visitors who come to the MF will get the lucky chance to complete a survey on their experience with MF. That survey is now online and will be active for the coming month or two. If you want to email us your thoughts directly, we’ll compile them and share with the group on our end that’s working on this project. Please email them to us via Box 3500 at

All Best,

Doug Mayer
Senior Web Lackey
Car Talk

I’m confused. I keep pressing link for Mechanic Files and all I get is a blank page.

I just tried it, and it worked for me. Perhaps this is a computer setting? Maybe try right clicking on the link, and open in a new page?

Clicking on “Mechanics Files” from the main Car Talk web page works for me as well. @FrustratingDriver69 … you may have clicked at a time that particular page wasn’t working. Server down or something being fixed. I noticed earlier some pages here today (Thu, 12/8/2016) weren’t working.

IMO the best way to find a mechanic is to ask friends, co-workers, relatives who they use. You need a reference from someone who you know & consider a trusted source. Internet references from people you’ve never met or even heard of might be good ones, or might not. They might be the shop’s owners even. No way to tell. Suggest to stick to people you know, trusted sources to find a good mechanic.