Mechanics performing work before telling me

I just had this happen for a second time so I need to know if I’m doing something wrong or if all mechanics in my area are shady. I bring my car to a mechanic because, say, the check brake light comes on or the a/c stops working. They tell me they will take a look at the car and see what’s going on. Now, in my mind, the mechanic would next call me after they’ve looked at the car to tell me the issues and what the cost would be for repair. However, both times, I hear from the mechanic (or I’ve had to call them) to find out that they’ve already completed the work on he car. Is this what normally happens? Is this happening because I am a woman going in by myself? I don’t see how they can just It without me OK’ing the price or work???

I can only speak for myself.

I always contact the owner of the vehicle to inform them what was determined to be the cause of their complaint, and what the cost of repairs will be.

And the gender of the owner is not a determinating factor.

it’s just fair and good business.



I would say that normal is to call you and let you know what they found and get approval before work starts. Usually, dropping off a car for diagnostic gives approval only for the diagnostic work to be completed, not for any repairs.

but, some of this depends on your conversation with the mechanic/service writer when you drop the car off. Are you authorizing them to do any work?
Is this the same mechanic twice? or two different mechanics and shops?

this may also depend on what the repair actually is. If someone comes to me and says “Check brake light is on.” and I find the fluid to be a little low but no other issues, I will take top off the fluid and give them the car back. I also wouldn’t charge them for more than the diagnostic fees, either, though.

My mechanic always calls me with a diagnosis and price first.

I’ve been going to this mechanic for a while, and that’s the standard practice (which is one of many reasons I continue to use them). However, if I were going to another shop… I’d clearly say “call me first” when dropping off the car. That way there’s no misunderstanding on the expectations.

Different States have differing rules about this, some require disclosures and some are silent. You would need to research your State’s consumer affairs website or maybe the motor vehicle department website.

However, the best way to handle this is to be upfront and clear when you drop off the car. Simply tell the person that you are not authorizing any work be done other than the diagnosis. You can even tape a note on the steering wheel that you want to be called or texted before they do any work except the diagnosis. Include your number, of course.

The OP needs to make it very clear that she is asking for diagnosis, followed by a phone call from the service advisor so that she can decide which procedures to authorize, and which to refuse.

So what I found strange about this is that they did call to tell me how much everything would cost (oil change, fix a/c, and run diagnostics to see why the “perform service” light was on.) I initially OK’d the work, but then called back 3 minutes later (maybe less) to tell them to actually hold off on everything except the oil change because the car is old and I wasn’t sure if it was worth putting $1000 into repairs. He then told me he had already fixed the a/c system. He obviously couldn’t have done it in the three minutes between the first and second calls, so he must have already done it earlier, right? I wish he hadn’t because I wouldn’t have had it done.

While I’m here, I may as well ask about the rest of the estimate.

Ball joint replacement (2): $450
Wheel hub assembly- remove and replace; front wheel alignment: $440
Spark plug and ignition coil replacement: $375

Do these prices seem fair? If so, the car is only worth a couple thousand and I’ve already put around $1,000 into it so I’m not sure what is even worth doing anymore.

spark plug & coil: do you have any driveability issues and/or “check engine” light illuminated (or much worse - flashing)?

if yes, you likely need it

ball joints and hub assemblies: if car is old, these may be indeed worn to the point of becoming a safety hazard, but it is not possible to perform the actual assessment over the internet

Jeep is not the most reliable make, so a lot of costly repairs are on the menu as it ages out

What did he replace? If he recharged the system and inspected for leaks, you must have approved for that amount of work when you took the vehicle in, that is the basic starting point for an A/C complaint.

There’s no drivability issues and no lights are on. The car has 190,000 miles on it and probably does need the ball joints replaced, but I’m not sure I want to put anymore money into the car. I know Jeeps aren’t the best (I have had Hondas also and they are awesome), I just have a sentimental attachment to them. My first car was a Jeep and I drove it into the ground.

P.S. Know anyone who wants to buy a 2005 Jeep with 190,000 miles and great air conditioning? :smile:

How much was the repair. If under $250 each time be happy they fixed it. You have to pay for estimate and diagnosis anyway and sometimes repair is done at same time Easily.


In many states it’s actually illegal to NOT call the customer.

I’ve seen some places that will ask you to sign a waver to go ahead and do the repair if it’s below a certain amount.

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I’m a firm believer in nothing being done without the customer being informed of everything; from the actual repair to costs to any potential problems that may surface. All done before any work is performed.

Not defending the guy but it’s possible there was a communication problem or misunderstanding.

I will say this. If you are going to keep the car for a while and drive it I would strongly suggest you get the ball joints replaced. If one of those decides to give up its life it will happen in a nano-second and the result could possibly be lethal if the car crosses the centerline, goes into the ditch, or goes rolling in any direction. Ball joints are the most critical keep you alive component in the suspension.


Thanks for the advice!

I didn’t know this. Thanks. :red_car:

Give you a story about snapped ball joints. I live out in the sticks and some years back a Dodge pickup approached me from behind. I was doing the posted 55 and this guy about 65 to 70. Something appeared funny on the front of his truck and at first I chalked this up to shadows as it was sunup.

When he got right behind me I could see the right front wheel cambered out badly. This generally means a ball joint is about to let go. As he passed me I rolled my window down and I started frantically pointing at the RF wheel. He had a death grip on the steering wheel and nodded yes while giving me a thumbs up. Apparently he knew there was a problem. I hit the brakes to get clean away from him and hung around a few blocks back waiting for the show to start; with phone in hand to call 911…

A few miles later the entire right front suspension snapped off with the wheel attached. It went flying into the barbed wire fence while he skidded a 150 feet or so into the ditch. The wheel/suspension did a ricochet clean across the highway and into the barbed wire fence on the other side of the road.

Anyone else I would have stopped to help but not this guy as he knew there was a bad problem and not only continued to endanger himself but everyone else on the road. He was lucky the truck did not overturn and it sat there in the ditch for 5 full days before either he or the cops hauled it off.
I’m thankful that truck did not come apart when he was right beside me or we both would have been done.