Questionable diagnostic practice for rack and pinion repair

I recently took my 98 Buick LeSabre to a garauge for an oil change and for an examination of the brakes.

I could have sworn the mechanic/manager told me that one brake was at 20 % and the other was at 10% but he said they didn’t need to be changed. I suppose he might have meant that that was 10 and 20 percent wear but I’m pretty sure that earlier reports were lower.

Then he told me that the oil pan gasket needed to be replaced for $225.

He also said that the Rack and Pinion needs to be replaced or worked on. The price of that was to be 677 dollars with 282 for the labor to remove the steering gear for the inspection that led to this diagnosis.

I said no to both repairs as I didn’t have that kind of cash at the time but I could if need be. Naturally, they did not charge me for the diagnosis of the rack and pinion since I did not give them the go ahead to repair it.

Here’s what seems fishy to me. They did a 282 dollar inspection without me asking them to. I don’t know why they’d suspect my rack and pinion were going bad. I asked them to look into the breaks and change the oil but I’m wondering if in the process of doing that, they’d have a reason to investigate the rack and pinion.

This was at a name brand garauge. I don’t know if this company is in the habit of giving a free inspection (free until the repair is authorized, naturally) into this issue.

Should my car have symptoms if there is something wrong with the rack and pinion? Could an investigation into the brakes and/or oil change lead a mechanic to investigate a potential problem with the rack and pinion?

The car currently drives fine though I intend to watch my oil level more frequently to see if this oil pan leak is a real concern.

Run! Don’t walk, away from this place before they tell you you have to replace the old air in your tires.

Find another shop, preferably an independent tech/shop for another opinion.

If the oil pan is leaking, you should see fresh oil dripping on to the ground after you park someplace for a short period of time. (engine hot)

You can lose a 1/2 cup of oil from a gasket leak and not notice the loss on the dipstick.

Get into the habit of looking under the engine/tranny as you walk up to the vehicle.

Don’t be fooled by another’s oil leak in a parking space either. Look at the ground before you park.

They should only perform the repairs you authorized and if they go over and above this then you should ask for, and demand, your money back.

There is no reason to remove a steering rack for an inspection. Any problems with a rack can be determined while it’s in the car. If someone is going to go to all of the trouble to remove a steering rack then logic dictates that the rack should be replaced.

The oil pan leak could also be a misguided diagnosis. Oil pan leaks are not as common as the old days when cork and 4 piece gaskets were used. Inspection of the PCV valve (easy and dirt cheap) should be the first thing to consider because a clogged PCV will pressure up the crankcase and cause oil leaks to develop. If the PCV is fine then other leak possibilities could be a rear main seal (depending on the location of the leak), front crank seal, or possibly a simple oil pressure sending unit that has aged and is leaking. Hope that helps.

I bought a car with an oil leak and the shop had told the previous owner that it would cost $2,000 to do the job right by changing the seals and the oil pan gasket. The oil pan bolts were loose. Fixed it in ten minutes.

“This was at a name brand garauge.”

When you say that this was a “brand name garage”, I am assuming that you are referring to a chain operation of some sort. If you spend some time on this site, you will see that the veterans of this forum recommend that you avoid chain operations (such as Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Goodyear, Firestone, Lee Myles, Aamco, Cottman, etc.) for maintenance and repairs.

These places pay both their service writers and their mechanics on a commission basis, so the more problems that they can find with your car, the higher their salary. And, it should go without saying that many of the problems that they “discover” are bogus. Additionally, prices tend to be higher in the long run at these places, no matter what type of “service specials” they may advertise, and the mechanics are usually of a lower caliber.

Going to a chain operation and expecting honesty and good quality repairs is sort of like going to McDonalds’s and expecting a gourmet meal. Trust me–both expectations are very unrealistic.

Thanks for all the advice and comments. Are there any good chains? I went to a Firestone garage and next door is a belltire garage which would be convenient for me to use since it’s at a bus stop for public transport. Is triple A reliable?

Don’t go to Firestone. I’ve had numerous bad experiences - at different locations in PA. When I was there last to purchase tires, they tried to sell me a “fuel injection service” for $260 - even though the car runs perfectly. That’s when I decided never to use them again.

If there are any good chains, I am not aware of them. Anyone else want to chime in with a recommendation regarding a chain operation that is competent/honest?

An independent mechanic who is affiliated/certified by AAA is likely to be your best bet, given the choices that you listed.

I used to sell auto parts back in the day. I got paid on commission, and I loved Midas. They never did a $79 brake job for $79. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, they never did a brake job that didn’t involve replacing the calipers and rotors as well. I used to get those caliper cores back. They usually looked fine. No leaks, I could push in the piston with my two thumbs easily. This was 15-20 years ago, when you always turned rotors until they couldn’t be turned anymore.

this the perfect case of why we do not tell the customer anything anymore,we do as the RO says and nothing more,it ashame everyone is so we just wait till it gets towed in.checking brakes,and the rack leaking on my head may be a clue,hmmm!should I tell them about the RACK,now,before they go on a trip nahhhhh!,they’ll think I’m ripping them the moral to that story is ,FIND SOMEONE YOU TRUST.