New York State inspections..I failed!

I have a great car, its a 1994 Saturn with 145K miles and it is perfect for what I need it for which is back and forth to the train every day…

I just took it to a mechanic in New York city and he has failed me for my inspection…stating that I needed over 1900 USD worth of repairs…which is more than what the car is worth!

Does anyone know what the bare minimum requirements are for NYS inspections, he is telling me I need new struts, and a brand new exhaust system…this car has passed inspection for the last 14 years, with only minimal repairs required…I cant help but wonder if I am getting ripped off!

Parts do wear out. These are both maintenance items, and if you have never replaced them before, they are most likely worn out by now. Struts wear out over time and the exhaust system eventually rusts out too.

And this mechanic would also be glad to schedule your car repairs - is that a credit or debit card?

I don’t know why states allow this kind of self-serving inspection (actually, it’s probably lobbying).

Is the exhaust leaking? (exhaust smell or noise?)

If you push down hard on the corner/bumper of the car, does the car come back up and then do some up-down bouncing?

If neither of these is true, I’d talk to another mechanic/inspection station.

While the prices seem awfully high, these items are normal wear and should be expected on a 14 year old car with 145K miles. You’ve done well to get this far with minimal repairs.

Price-shop the work. I think his prices are high, but I admit to not being familiar with shop rates in your area.

NYC has very high labor rates. Can you give us an itemized list?

We have a similar arrangement here in MA. I have always disliked the conflict of interest issue with a repair garage doing state inspections. How convenient that you can get a repair estimate immediately for the non-compliant problems!

I had a guy once tell me that my tires looked like they were ready to be replaced when the car was in for its second inspection (@ 1yr old) and had less than 10k miles on it. The nubs were still visible!!

I would be very interested to hear what the test criteria for struts is and how they determined yours failed.

Is it possible to have the car inspected by a different mechanic, telling him that any repairs will be done at a different shop? That way, the inspector will not recommend unneeded repairs, as he will not get paid to do those repairs.

Yes NYC does have high labor rates $80/hr, but the parts are also expensive…
new exhaustr system – 595
4 struts – 200 ea

  • labor

I understand that there is some liability here with the mechanic if he does pass me without making sure that my car is safe, he claimed he will get fined 10K…but I can’t imagine there are not some work arounds…I gueess I am just venting and sad that I may lose my very realiable car…I will shop around and see if I can get away with less that these repairs just to pass the inspection and make it though the summer!

If anyone knows of a good mechanic in the new york/LI area – please let me know.

Take it somewhere else for another inspection.

I think you have the right to have the work done at another shop, and I would do so. In fact, when I lived in states requiring inspections, any major flaws would never get done by the inspecting mechanic - I would go somewhere else, for a second opinion and to insure that the flaws were not self-serving. I also used the same mechanic for the annual inspections, when I could.

Check Sears for struts on sale or free labor. Get lifetime guarantees so that you pay labor only for any future replacements. Keep your receipt.

Any muffler shop can generally beat a mechanics’s estimate on muffler and exhaust.

If you have never had either of this work done, I would think the mechanic is being honest.

Those part quotes are way too high. I went to my favorite online store, just to get an idea, and the struts for this car should run under $300 for all four of them. Seriously. Look around.

The muffler should be under $50; the catastrophic converter should be under $200 for a direct-fit.

Seriously, I think this is a big-time gouge.

Shop around. That’s my advice.

The minimum requirements should be available on the DMV web site. I think that the inspection stations are required to post them, and hand them out upon request. I always thought that the NYS safety inspection was a good thing. What I remember is checking headlight aim, suspension and steering for excessive play and wear, pull a front wheel and check the brake wear, exhaust leaks, lights work, horn works, you have the correct mirrors, and tires have useful tread. I am sure there are other things.

I am sympathetic that you only drive this a few miles a week. Even if the inspector finds something that might make a wheel fall off in 5000 miles is two years off if you only drive 2500 miles a year, but they want to make sure innocent people are not killed by flying wheels. I am glad they do it. I almost got hit by a lose tire/wheel once.

You are getting burned on the parts even for NYC. The budget approach would be to check chain shops nearby for prices. Struts are fairly cheap should be about 60-90 each depending on the springs. The guy was going to gouge you. Also get another opinion because you could file a charge against the guy that would hit his inspection license if supported by another shop. Soliciting buisness like this is a low blow unless your car really is falling apart in which case he seems to charge too much and is a jerk.

just how are you being ripped off?
a 15 year old car with 146k miles is more than likely to need all of those items; and if i was a gambling man i would safely bet a number of other problems could also be found.

you were given a price quote on some items you quite likely need and you were given this quote up front. you chose to pass for now.
a high price repair one does not like does not automatically mean ripoff.

the analogy i use is having someone mow your lawn. the kid Bobby from next door charges 20 bucks and Bobby’s Lawn Care Co. charges 200. is the latter a ripoff? not imho.
all i can suggest is price the job around for a better deal.

If the struts are leaking, they fail inspection for sure. At 145K and 14 years of age, they probably are shot, especially considering what passes for roads in NYC. The exhaust system will likewise fail if it leaks.

Tht being said, ask the mechanic if he can do any better on the price. The parts sound a little on the high side. Perhaps the quotes are for premium parts and you can get by with lower cost ones with shorter warranties.

You can always check the parts stores for strut prices and exhaust sytems. Calling three different parts stores under different ‘flags’ like NAPA, CarQuest and Krager, just as a for instance, will give you a decent idea on parts prices. Expect any repair shop to mark up the parts costs as they do have to spend time chasing down the parts, usually through their preferred parts place. I would second the suggestion of taking your vehicle in to an exhaust systems shop, but be wary of the large chains. Local independent shops are generally just as good, sometimes better, as they tend to keep their help longer than the large chains and tend to be more concientious about keeping customers happy. They also like to keep their reputations as quality work at fair prices. Return business is always an issue with repair shops–especially the independents. I would not do anything until you have taken it in for at least one other inspection. Maybe two inspections at different places? Then hook up with good independent shops to do the work. Before you authorize any work, get a written, signed estimate. That way you can also check prices for the totals. But rarely contract based just on the lowest price. Be vigilant and you’ll most likely get quality work at a reasonable price.

That’s a good price for NYC. Public transportation is probably cheaper than owning a car there. The other option is to find a car that passes. Next day…Now I see that you have found a car that passes, and it’s your own.

Shocks/struts usually don’t fail inspection unless they are leaking. If they aren’t leaking then they’ll pass inspection. Exhaust…well that’s very possible on a car this old.

But if you’ve NEVER replaced the struts before or exhaust then they are more then likely worn and need replacing. But I find his prices to be very very high. Find another mechanic to do the work.

Thank you all for your advice I can not believe the responses I have gotten. I just picked up my car from the mechanic and also received the “fail” inspection report…how convenient that he somehow managed to get the emissions test to pass last night, and told me that the exhaust system was ‘not as bad as he thought’…So in the end he failed me for a 1/2 crack in my windshield, and suspension problems…and then tried to double talk his way out of it…he looked suprised when I asked for the inspection report…guess he thought that b/c I was a woman who did not know much about cars he could get me to agree to the work over the phone and stick me with a huge bill…what he does not know is that I was armed with a cell phone and a Dad on the other line!
I will look to see if I can get the struts replaced at a reasonble cost and hope that the car can last through the summer!

New struts are nice to have; but, do you really need them? If you aren’t having vehicle control problems, and the struts aren’t leaking, I don’t see a big deal with the old struts. New struts will give you a firmer ride, and a bit more handling control, if those things are that important to you.