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Random stranger says he fixed something?

I drive a 2006 Hyundai Elantra. A few hours ago, I had pulled into the parking lot of my apartment building and had been there for a minute or two when I got out and some random guy walking down the sidewalk is yelling at me to get my attention. By his appearance from a distance and the kind of “mushmouth” way that he talked, my first thought that he was homeless and was going to ask for money (this happens a lot where I live). Nope.

He said that he was a mechanic and had seen sparks coming out from under my car while I was driving. He introduces himself, has me turn the wheels all the way to the right and shows me some loose thing on one of the (I wanna say diagonal) bars connecting the front-driver’s side wheel to the tire. He had me turn the wheels the other way and showed me how it wasn’t that way on the passenger’s side. Said it had something to do with the ball bearings or something, and maybe that it could be dangerous. Definitely said more than once that it had come loose from running over bumps like potholes and railroad tracks.

He had me lay my floor mats on the ground next to the front-left wheel so he didn’t get his clothes dirty (so maybe not homeless), had me cut the wheels to the right again, laid down on the mats and reached up past the wheel and hand-tightened the loose thing. He then had me drive it around the parking lot and see if anything felt different when I steered.
It definitely felt different. Steering felt “tighter,” to use the racing term. He wanted $40 and a ride to a barber shop about a mile away and I gave them to him.

What was wrong, exactly? Do I need to follow up with a mechanic? Was $40 a good price for what he did?
Weirdness bonus: He said that he worked for a Toyota dealership in another town nearby. When I got back to work I went to Google and there is no Toyota dealership there. On the other hand, he was sort of hard to understand and might have said something else.

Definitely need a followup with a mechanic, If you can spare the $40 consider it a goodwill gesture, and he may have saved you greater expenses and possibly your life by pointing this out to you.

Anything that was only “hand-tightened” needs to be secured with the proper tools–assuming that there was actually anything loose to begin with.

So, despite my innate feeling that you were scammed by this “random guy”, I STRONGLY urge you to take your car to a legitimate mechanic’s shop (that means not going to a chain-run operation like Pep Boys, Sears, Midas, Meineke, Monro, or–God forbid–AAMCO), having your car put up on a lift, and having its front end carefully inspected.


[quote=“CaptainADD, post:1, topic:106600”]
reached up past the wheel and hand-tightened the loose thing.

There are not many things under a vehicle that can be called secure just by hand tightening. Find a shop and have it looked at on a lift. Personally I think you were fooled out of $40.00


As hard as it is to believe, there truly are good people left in the world. But they don’t ask for $40 when they help people. I enjoy helping people when I can, and I have a refrigerator full of thank you cards, thank you notes, and have received numerous unsolicited $20 bills. I have a gift certificate in my wallet that I keep forgetting to use.

Get it checked over. And never, ever give a total stranger a ride at their request. It’s extremely dangerous. Decline politely but firmly, and leave quickly.


My guess, this was a scam. The homeless people I run into are often pretty clever at deception. Probably no serious harm done though. As posted above, pay a shop to put your car on their lift for a visual evaluation of the front suspension and steering. Shouldn’t cost much just for an evaluation.

We are of a much different generation. We help others not expecting a reward and refuse if offered. I have not had the opportunity very often but have always been glad to change a flat tire or other simple tasks.

Yes and if I was desperate and saw somebody with troubles, and helped them out I would not be shy about hey buddy can you spare a fin? (old time slang for a 5 dollar bill, inflation must be $40 I guess)

I guess another variation of the windshield cleaning scam. But yeah have someone look at it. Sparks, hand tightening?

I’ve heard of this type of scam some years back so I think you were taken for 40 bucks.

If I had to guess, an accomplice stuck a piece of metal under the car while you were sitting there and he was distracting you. Or he did it himself when you weren’t looking. Some of those guys could be stage magicians if they weren’t busy ripping people off.

I suspect the steering felt tighter because you were expecting it to feel tighter. It’s amazing what the power of suggestion can do to influence your perception of reality.

I’d have it looked over by a mechanic just to be sure the steering didn’t feel tighter because he got under there and bent something that shouldn’t be bent, but I would bet he just jiggled his hand around in there to make you think he was doing something.

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Sparks…hand tighten… $40…ride to barber shop…no Toyota dealer in next town…

Sure, you could go to the next mechanic and pay another $100 for something that does not require attention.

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To make sparks, that “loose thing” had to be touching the pavement. Was it touching, or close to, the ground? If so, I’d say he did you a favor.

How is it a “favor” if he asked for payment of $40 and a ride to a barber shop . . . ?

To me, sounds like it was most likely a scam, minor possibility it was legitimate

I think if you gave him a ride, check your seat and a little Lysol treatment. I when I was young kid I gave a neighbor girl a ride in my new red wagon. I had to decontaminate it after that and kept my distance from her from then on. No more details coming.

That sounds much like a typical scam in Mexico, but what do I know?

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OOH I wash your windsheild with greasy rag, want to see $1 extra, ho ho


You were scammed.

“He said that he was a mechanic and had seen sparks coming out from under my car while I was driving”. That pretty much confirms it.

Hey, Cap’n! I don’t know if you’re still in port here, but I’m requesting permission to come aboard the ADD, sir!

Wow, 40 bucks AND a ride to the liquor store, (next to the barber shop)! Whoa!

Since this guy needed a ride he could possible be residing nearby, you could turn this encounter into a community service opportunity.

I’d call the local police department and ask to speak to an officer. I’d explain the situation and give the best description and details I could recall.

This guy could prey on other folks and you could help prevent that. Perhaps the police would like to check this guy’s mechanic’s license and make sure he’s not breaking any laws. :wink:

I sometimes think that the most honest people are most easily scammed. Since they are honest and trusting they more readily assume others are too.

Call Grandma and tell her…