Shop Etiquette

Hi all. I have a situation that only you can help me with. I live across the street from a shop that was once highly praised in your mechanic’s files.

I have a feeling I know why they aren’t in your mechanic’s files but I’ll get to that later in this email.

I had a good rapport with the owner of the shop and they did some basic repairs on my previous car (a 97 Ford Focus). My dog loves going over to the shop. They give her treats galore and spoil her rotten.

About 2 weeks ago I needed to replace my Ford Focus. I was in an accident and the car was totaled.

I took 2 cars over for an inspection and they never put the car on the rack for a full inspection. They did a basic inspection on both cars and I do believe that I purchased a great new to me 98 Honda Accord.

Here’s where things get weird. During the inspection on the Accord I was told it needed a timing belt replacement (expected on a 98 car), a tune up, some wire replacements, and an front end alignment.

All of this work sounded reasonable and I was lead to believe that this work would be under a $1000.00.

The next day after the inspection I told them that I was going to buy the car and all of the sudden I need a water pump and bunch of other work that would cost me between $900-1000.

During the inspection there was never a mention of a problem with the water pump and all I could think of was hearing your voices repeating the phrase “Boat payment” over and over again.

My sister used to use this shop when she lived here and warned me about the problems she had with them that are now sounding eerily familiar.

I am looking for another shop to do the work on my Accord but I still see these people everyday. The dog is still trying to drag me over to the shop every time we go outside and I don’t know what to say (or not say) to these women.


I think that you are over-reacting. While water pump replacement may not be absolutely necessary at this point, water pumps do have a habit of failing when a car gets to a high reading on the odometer. When a water pump fails (usually with not much warning), an engine like your Honda’s can become “fried” in short order, with resulting damage including warping of the cylinder head.

If and when the water pump needs to be replaced, I want you to guess how the shop will access it. Give up? They will remove your timing belt!

So, most people who are interested in being proactive and interested in saving money will have the water pump replaced at the same time as the timing belt is replaced. In other words, you will essentially be getting free labor for the water pump replacement, and will only pay for the part–if it is replaced at the same time as the timing belt.

The timing belt tensioner should also be replaced when the timing belt is replaced. So, if the belt tensioner and water pump were recommended for replacement along with the timing belt, the shop is actually being both reasonable and proactive, and they will probably save you money over the long term by doing as they suggest.

For most cars the timing belt and water pump are done at the same time since so much of the work is the same for both. You don’t want to pay twice to do them only 6 months apart.

Hi. I took the car to another shop for a second opinion and I do understand that the water pump should be replaced at the same time as the timing belt. I expected a $600-700 estimate for the work, not a $900+ estimate that included some other things that (according to the mechanic recommended in the mechanic’s files) don’t really need to be done.

So I’m going to go the other mechanic and I’m wondering how to handle the awkwardness of this situation especially since they love the dog and the dog loves them (or more succinctly their treats)?

Shop around. I got a new timing belt, timing belt tensioner, and water pump for less than $600 on my 98 Civic. This included replacement of the other belts too. Sometimes national chains have specials and coupons in the paper and on their websites. You should also ask whether a national chain garage is a company store or a franchise. Sometimes franchise stores issue specials and coupons that company stores don’t. I have been able to save money by going to a franchise that was willing to outbid a company-owned shop. If the shop across the street wants to keep your business, make them bid for it.

it’s very obvious you no not what lives behind the elusive cover.

the estimates are based on experience.(so as not to have you come back and complain)usually on the tow truck.

so in SHORT,try to trust someone,.we do not want to fix the car for free on trip #2 because you got really bad advice.

and we wont ,we will charge you again,because you DECLINED what was offered day one.(then complain that we ripped you off(NOT SO)

hope that helps.

My question is why he said it needs a belt and plugs and wires,how do you know belt has not been replaced in last couple years?
By you saying it is a great deal I do not believe it is missing or running rough so why new plugs and wires?

"how do you know belt has not been replaced in last couple years? "

On the other hand, how do you know that it was replaced?

One of the biggest problems with used cars is that they rarely come with maintenance records. Since a visual inspection is not likely to reveal the age of a timing belt, actual maintenance records are necessary to confirm the age of that belt. Lacking “proof” of the belt’s timely replacement, as is the case with most used cars, it is definitely prudent to just go ahead and replace the belt.

One of the other problems with used cars is that owners who are planning on getting rid of a car are not likely to perform necessary maintenance before selling that car. If you combine this factor with the usual lack of documentation of the car’s maintenance record, you wind up with a situation of having to perform some expensive maintenance tasks after buying that used car.

Hi all. The young woman that I wound up buying the car from had limited maintenance records for the car. She is an international student who finished her studies at OSU and is moving back to her home country.

I am an experienced when it comes to buying a used car from individual owners. I reviewed the records she did have and there was no record that showed that the timing belt had been replaced by her or the previous owner.

I expected a timing belt change and I now understand why the water pump needs to be replaced at the same time.

My previous car, the Ford Escort had the same type of repairs on it after the mechanic inspected it. That car was purchased in another state and inspected by a different mechanic.

The timing belt and water pump were less than a year old when I took the car to the mechanics across the street for other repairs. The mechanics across the street kept questioning me and the timing belt/water pump on the escort.

Did I know for certain this was a new timing belt and water pump? I would hope so as I was there for the inspection of the car and heard the mechanic tell me they needed to be replaced. I also paid the man for the work and showed them the receipt which had been dated.

There was also the pushing of the “winter tune-ups” and “summer tune-ups” even though the car showed no ill effects from the changes in the seasons.

Also my sister had worked with the same mechanics and she mentioned some of the same situations I had encountered with this shop. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt (after all mechanics are human and can make mistakes from time to time) until this last situation when the estimate doubled in 24 hours.

I took the car to shop number 2 which is a little farther away from my home for a second opinion. The mechanic there went over the engine, we talked about the timing belt/water pump situation. He showed me the spark plugs and we both agreed that they looked normal and didn’t need to be replaced.

I left the car there overnight and got it was fixed by 2 the next day (something that would have never happened with the place across the street), and it was a few cents shy of $500.00 the estimate he quoted me the day I went over there.

Needless to say he has my business and my dog and I are going to have to get over my awkward feelings about the people that work at the shop across the street. She still rushes out the door looking for treats from the women that run the shop.