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Repair Shop Ethics?

I have a Special Rewards account at a well known national auto tire and repair company. I have been with the same local shop for about 13 years and have had some major repair work done on several family autos, including my daughter and grandaughter’s cars. They frequently check other things on my car, unsolicited, when I have it in for oil change and give me a print-out of recommended services, without any diagnostic charge. I am rather knowledgeable of the mechanical workings of cars (not the computers) and often find they have greatly exaggerated the needs and don’t have them do most of those things. The last time I asked them to be sure the oil drain plug was tight or had a gasket on it because oil had been leaking under it in my garage. Afterward they told me it had three oil leaks; two in the A/C compressor hose and one in the power steering hose, with over $500 worth of repair to correct. I have had no loss of refrigerant or power steering fluid in years! Another time they told me it needed a right outer tie rod end ($315) when both outer tie rod ends had been replaced within the last 15,000 miles. I have been very pleased with their service for most of the time but these recent incidents seem to be challenging my trust. Am I missing something, or is this an example of ethics on the part of the service provider?

The is very common with chain shops, dealers, and quite a few independent shops. I quit using my dealer when the tried to force me to change the transmission fluid every 15k. Imagine how many folks say ‘yes’ because they don’t know as much as you do about cars!

You might want to click on ‘mechanics files’ above and see above finding a good independent shop in your area. If you can’t trust the chain to diagnose your car, I wouldn’t trust them, period.

Essentially, I agree with texases.
While generalizations are not always accurate, I have never found any “national auto tire & repair” chains to have competent mechanics or honest policies. These places tend to get the less-skilled mechanics, and then they pay them largely on commission for the extra “up-sells” that they can push on unsuspecting customers. Personally, I will not patronize any of those national chains.

As to dealerships, they do have a poor reputation in general, but I finally found a small family-owned dealership that is both competent and honest, and as a result, I have been buying my cars from them (and having them service them) for the past 17 years. However, you may not be lucky enough to find such a place where you live.

After what sounds like a scam diagnosis, I would suggest that you avoid that “national auto tire & repair” place in the future. Try texases’ suggestion about utilizing the Mechanics Files on this site in order to locate a better shop.

@texases You’re right. A car owner has to become “car smart”. All establishments try this stuff to gullible clients. My dentist has a bright young intern who looked at my very strong but not perfect teeth and proposed a movie star program to get me perfect teeth. He also proposed an “appliance” I should have in my mouth while sleeping, since I was “grinding” my teeth. All this after having witnessed that I gag on anything in my mouth; I can’t even snorkel.

The owner of the practice is an easygoing conservative guy and soon parted company with the aggressve young intern.

Usually if your gut says something is amiss, it probably is.
lots of shops, especially chain shops, are doing things today that they would not have done during times of prosperity in order to bring their revenues up. But you do have a defense…say “show me”. If they can’t show you, it’s time to find another shop… If they do, but it just doesn;t feel right, a second opinion is in order.

In my midwestern community of 60,000 the Firestone auto service center and the Goodyear auto service center are gone. We do have some chains–National Tire and Battery (NTB), Discount Tire and Tire Barn. There is also an Aamco and another transmission chain as well as Midas muffler. One chain, Pep Boys, abandoned ship. I patronize a local independent shop for my engine and general work, and independent tire shop for tires, alignment and brake work and an independent muffler shop for exhaust work and I have been very satisfied. I go to the dealer service department until the warranty runs out and then I use these other shops. I did find out that one dealer farms out the transmission work to a local independent transmission shop. When I had to have transmission work done, I went to this independent shop.

I think the larger chains breed dishonesty. You go over there, they act like they know their stuff and work hard at scaring you that your car will blow up/leave you stranded/can cause serious accidents unless you take care of it immediately. If your car didn’t have a problem before, some will make sure you leave with one - I’m totally convinced some are just purely dishonest. This includes most dealers.
They prey on people that know little or nothing about their vehicle, certainly not enough to challenge what they are being told. It is like putting a fox in charge of the chickencoop.

Just go to your non-chain by going to a local business. It is good for the local economy and good for you. Establish a relationship with the guy so he knows you. It is a symbiotic relationship. He needs you to pay his bills and get solid referrals, you need him to keep your car on the road.
He’ll take care of you and not rip you off.

It sort of sounds fishy, I agree. But it depends on exactly what you asked them. If you told them something was leaking, and asked what it was, well, apparently they did what you asked, looked and found some things that appeared to be leaking. They simply reported what they found. Sometimes a power steering hose will spring a small leak, but it only leaks when you turn the steering wheel all the way to the stop and hold it there. The hose will actually leak a bit, and the leak will show up visually at a connection as some oil accumulating, but unless you get under the car with a flashlight, you might not notice it as the driver since it is only leaking a small amount and only once in a while.

Since you don’t need to add power steering fluid and the power steering is working ok, and since ou don’t need to add refridgerant and the AC is working ok, just tell the shop “thanks, but I don’t think these leaks need to be fixed yet; they aren’t serious enough at this time.” Say goodbye, and drive away. If one of the leaks get worse, they’ll be happy to help you.

The most infamous tire/service chains continue to earn the disdain of the public here in Mayberry II. Their outrageous estimates of needed repairs are often the laugh of the day at shops and parts stores. And for some real hilarious entertainment catch a curious customer with an outrageous estimate asking a parts store counterman for advice on whether to have the work done. Talk about a rock and a hard place. I recently was asked to give a second opinion on a $1,500 estimate that included complete rear brakes, drums, shoes, wheel cylinders and hardware and I found that the drums were rusted onto the hubs. The shop thought they had a sucker I guess. No repairs were needed. Just 2 tires needed replacing totaling out at about $160.

@georgesanjose All aging cars leak a little bit, and even the tyniest leak can look bad. I’ve had 4 cars that had small oil or transmission fluid leaks and the remedy was always a cookie tin with some cat litter on it. If and when the leak gets worse, you need to actually fix it.

Our 1994 Nissan had a small power steering leak; I would add a couple of spoonfuls per years. The shop would draw my attention to it but would not try to scare me into fixing it.

@Docnick when the leaks get to the point that there’s spots on the driveway, that’s the point when you should seriously consider fixing the leak. IMO

@asecular and docnick teeth grinding is no joke. I’ve done it for years. I grind my teeth so loudly that I wake myself up. Sometimes the noise will even enter my dream! I kid you not. On top of that, I cracked several teeth because of my tooth grinding. And my corner teeth are very dull now. Several years ago I got one of those “nighguards.” Within several months, I had broken it clean in half. A few months ago, I decided to get fitted for another one. So far, I seem to be sleeping better.

One of my mom’s colleagues lost all of her teeth, due to years of tooth grinding that wasn’t attended to at all. What happened is that the gums became weak over the years. The teeth just fell out.

I’m not trying to sell the damn nightguards. And I’m not defending your dentist.
I’m just saying that every once in awhile, an upsell is legit.

There’s nothing wrong with upselling as long as it’s a legitimate need. The majority of cars that go onto a service rack usually need something or a lot of somethings; claims by the owner that the car is well maintained to the contrary. It’s amazing how many cars are running around with low tire pressure.

Chain stores have a wage methodogy that can lead to padding also as many pay a salary which they expect the mechanic to reimburse them for and then some or by slashing the labor times and playing hour games to the point of being ridiculous. I have heard for instance that Firestone pays .8 hours for a full brake job which includes machining rotors. Ludicrous is the word for that.

@ok4450, you got that right. I have a guy working with me who spent some time at Firestone. Pad replacement and rotor turn pays .8 per axle. They guarantee 30 hours but you have to be clocked in for 40 to get it. From the time the service writer dispatches a car to you you have 6 minutes to complete the 27 point inspection, so they can begin the upsell process. After that you can address the concerns on the RO that the car originally came in for.

@asecular if I’ve been hornswoggled and bamboozled, I’m pretty happy about it!

By the way, several dentists in different countries have recognized that I grind my teeth.

So it must be a global conspiracy!

“I have a Special Rewards account at a well known national auto tire and repair company”.
To me, this is a red flag. My guess is that you may be indirectly paying for these “Special Rewards”. Most of the time, these “Special Rewards” are little more than an advertising gimmick. I have done business with an independent shop for about 17 years. Their work is top notch and I have sent other people to this business. Every so often, this shop does a service for me for which they do not charge. I don’t ask for this freebe, but that is the shop’s way of thanking me for sending them business.

There’s teeth grinding and there’s teeth ginding! My case is very mild and combined with the fact that I gag on anything in my mouth, it’s out of the question to buy this “appliance”. I recognize there are severe cases of teeth grinding and combined with soft teeth, it can be disastrous.

My teeth and roots are extremely strong, and I have 3 small fillings which were installed in the mid 50s. I do get periodontal service every 9 month to get them scaled properly.

@asecular if your mind keeps wobbling, you’re going to get queasy.

Or at the very least, you’re going to bruise it against the inside of your skull.

My battery died during the first cold snap last year.No problemo. Jump start successful. Go to well known store that sells everything from tires to appliances to tools. Pull up to front door of automotive department. Decide on which battery to install. Give salesman the keys. Went to check out tools while waiting.
Return to automotive, pay bill. “Why this charge?”, I ask. "that is for the Jump start we had to give it so we could get it into the shop ($40)."
Needless to say I don’t go there no more.