Should I demand my car be fixed or take it somewhere else?

Recently my check engine light came on my 1998 ford escort se. It stalls when i come to a stop and it idles really bad. So I took it to a reputable place here in town and they said it would be $100. for a diagnostic test and then parts and labor for what is wrong with it. I told that I had only $250 at the time he said that it was fine because he ran the codes and it read that it was a code P1409 and wrote next to it 70.9156 EGR solenoid Valve and said that it looked like it was stuck open. He said it would be $130 to fix the valve. Altogether $250 with tax for the diagnosis and valve replacement. I said okay that’s all the money I had!

Then when I came to pick the car up he said that it was something else he thought too. That it was also mass air flow sensor (he wrote down 64.1806 Mass air flow sensor) that I had to replace as well and that it would cost $184.00 for the MAF sensor and the that he would have to fix both the EGR solenoid valve and the MAF sensor or couldn’t do anything if he didn’t fix both of those at the same time. He said it would be 520.00 for both, and he could not do just one. I told him i didnt have that kind of money. He said he would take another look then. He came back to the lobby and said he thought that the more expensive maf sensor was more important right now and would fix the problem of the stalling and idling problems by putting in a new maf sensor, the part he said would be $184.00 and the labor would be 96.00 and would total $382.00, he then said that i could fix the EGR valve at a later date when i had more money. He said tbe car should run fine now without the EGR valve because he disengaged it. He said that the only thing that will happen is that the engine light will still be on, but the car will run fine until we have the money to fix it. So I called two family members and asked if i could borrow the money and put $382 on three credit cards.
I left and as soon as I left the shut down the garage. I noticed as soon as I got to a stop he car stalled and the idling was rough, i kept stalling do I drove back to garage but they were closed.
So I basically paid nearly $400.00 and I still have the original problem I took the car in for. It didn’t fix anything! So what should I do? The mechanic confuses me as to why he originally said the code called for a EGR valve and said it was stuck open and that it would be $250 total. Then he said it needed the Maf sensor, yet the codes did not mention that.
How do I know he didn’t just upsell me the Maf sensor for an additional 282.00 adding to $382 with the diagnostic and not fix the EGR knowing I’d have to come back for that later? Did he rip me off?
Should I demand he show me my original MAF sensor he said needed replacing? Should I bring the car back and demand he fix it? Help!! Im not sure if I should trust him to work on it anymore of if I should demand he fix what he said I needed to buy to fix the problem?
I’m afraid when I bring it back to him to fix he will say it needs the EGR valve for additional $130 and it will still not work. Is there anyway to get a mechanic to be straightforward and help you. I’m a poor college student and usually when I pay $400 the problem is fixed.
This a new situation for me. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks

Sorry to hear about your troubles.
The guy sounds unscrupulous. Hate to say it but it is difficult to deal with people like that without some leverage.

Personally I think he was on the right track with the EGR valve in the first place. Its a common failure on those fords… With that said, I doubt you can get your money back from him. ALTHOUGH if you put a stop pay on all of the Credit cards used that will get his attention… I would talk with him first though and see what he is willing to do.

As a side note you may be able to clean out the EGR valve with a $5 can of carb cleaner from you local auto parts store. It is usually held on by two bolts, very easy to remove. Spray the inside repeatedly and see if it comes back to life.

Weird. I keep losing my post here.

I hear you on the EGR valve being likely an issue and him cleaning it out. In reality, he spent 10 minutes on that car and clearly didn’t test drive it. That sounds slightly douchebaggerish to me. If he did, he’d know that it wasn’t the issue.
He billed you for an hour of work that didn’t fix the problem so owes you. Maybe try to remind him of that nicely and see what he’ll do. I hate to say it but after mechanics have your money, more than a few think that the job is done.

The EGR system was the first thing that came to my mind, but, on the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if the '98 Escort’s MAF sensor had a problem as well. Both can cause operating problems, and on a tired engine, the MAF sensor can be tired and felt more at idle.

It sounds to me like the car may have needed both, but the OP was unable to afford to get both fixed right now and subsequently still needs a MAF sensor. While the MAF sensor can often be cleaned successfully of the grime that makes its way past the air filter, it’s also a heated device, and anything heated will deteriorate over time.

In honesty, I think the shop may have done what he could to get the car running for a customer who simply couldn’t afford all the work that needed doing. I commend the OP for her honesty, but I’m sensing more of a misunderstanding here than an actual ripoff. Although I do wish the shop had tried cleaning both the carbon off of the EGR valve and the grime off of the MAF sensore and then test driven the car.

Generally I agree with Remco, but in this case I’m not sure.

If P1409 was the only error code stored in there then this character didn’t belong anywhere near the MAF unless he was just offering to clean it as a free and friendly service.

Were there any other error codes?

P1409 is a circuit problem with the EVR Solenoid. This is part of the EGR system. It is the part of the EGR system that delivers engine vacuum to the EGR valve to open it up. If the solenoid is operating when it shouldn’t - such as at idle - it will make the car run poorly. This is very straightforward and plain as day. Figuring out exactly what the issue is with the solenoid could e a little trickier - e.g. is it the solenoid or its wiring or what. But nothing - and I mean nothing about has anything to do with the MAF sensor…unless there was/were some other code.

For right now if you want the car to idle smoothly, find your EGR valve. It is a silverish flying saucer looking thing up behind where your big black intake tube connects to the engine. (It was silverish - now its probably rusty & dirty). There’s a small black tube that connects to the top of that. Pull the black tube off and plug it with a golf tee (or something about the same size). Put some kind of a tight fitting cap over the port on the valve. (Auto parts stores will sell cheap vacuum in the right size though you can rig anything). I’m betting that this will make it idle smoothly.

The problem: this does disable the EGR system. It will leave your check engine light on and it can make the car ping. (Sound sort of like marbles or BBs vibrating in a can when the car is under load). This is bad for the engine. If you leave it this way for a while listen for the pinging. If you hear it try a tank of 93 octane (“super”) and see if the pinging goes away.

I’m not suggesting you do this permanently. Just to keep the car running ok until you can fix it. A new EVR solenoid - if it is the actual solenoid that is the problem - is only somewhere in the $30-50 range if you buy it yourself and can be easily replaced by someone of average mechanical skill.

I would also mention, though, that it is possible that the code and rough idle could be a coincidence. If you disconnect the EGR and it solves nothing then there’s a whole new hunt to do so you can report back about that. Many of the basic things can also be done by anyone of average mechanical ability for not very much money.

First of all thanks for all the advice guys.

UPDATE: So I took the car back in today, and explained to the mechanic that the car seemed worse than when I brougt it in. The mechanic said he’d take a look.

He has just informed me that he put in the wrong MAF sensor by accident, that after checking he VIN number it needed a different type than he had he put in and that he’ll get the new Maf sensor and see what happens.
I wonder if there was much of a price difference between the two maf sensors? I paid $184 for the first sensor(without labor, just the part) I think they should be similar in price. I doubt he would give back the difference in the cost of the parts.
But if my car works after the right sensor is put in, then I’d just be happy with that outcome.

We will see what happens next.

Did you happen to ask him what it is that got him to the MAF sensor, and what kinds of diagnostics he did to figure out that the sensor itself needed to be replaced?

New sensor he put in works great. Happy to have it resolved. Unfortunately he did fill up my front tire so much that he popped it. Now I got get a new tire too. Sucks.

Cig roller:
He did not say what kind of diagnostic test he used. He responded that the reason he knew I needed both the maf sensor and the EGR valve was because he put both parts on and drove the car and it ran nicely with both new parts in.
But that’s impossible, because he had put in the wrong MAF sensor with the EGR valve to test it that day so how could of run nicely as it wasn’t he right sensor for the car and it was stalling all the way home.
How he figured out he put the wrong Maf sensor in was because he said he ran the codes again and the code came up this time for the sensor too and it had not beforehand so that means there wasnt a code for the maf sensor the first time I came in.
I asked if he could show me the old Maf sensor he took out, he seemed annoyed, and said he had already thrown that part out. I’ll never know why he didnt show me the one that was bad and i stilll need to get my egr valve replaced but i dont want to back there again. And now he pops my tire.
I’m just in awe with this guy!

If he poped the tire, then he owes you a tire. You have to way, way over fill a tire to damage one.

Also, one would imagine that the pope too busy to concern hisself with someone’s tires…

Seriously, glad it was resolved.

By the way thanks remcow, Cigroller, samemountain bike, garagtop for all your support and help.

Gsragtop: I was thinking the only reason/ excuse he has for even messing with my tire in the first place is that new law in place. ? Where the mehanic must check the tire pressure when working on your car. Not sure if this a just a CA law. Because I did not ask him to do anything to my tires
He said that that tire should of been replaced.
I would replace them eventually but jeez let me fill my own tires if you can’t do it without destroying them.

Thanks Remco, darn auto correct on my iPod… yeah that’s the ticket, auto correct :slight_smile:

Naomi- I have not heard of that law, so I guess its a CA thing. At the end of the day if the tire was ok when you arrived and bad when you left due to the mechanic doing something to it, he owes you a tire. Even if its a used tire in good shape, he owes you a tire.

Apparently the state of CA did pass a law requiring tire pressure checks on all vehicles under 10,000 Lbs. GVW whenever they enter a service facility.
Some details about how and why this tire popped may reveal that is not the fault of the mechanic.
If the tire popped because of previously running underinflated then that’s not his fault. Underinflated tires are an epidemic. While stopping for gas yesterday I noted a guy a few pumps down with both tires on the passenger side of his very late model Chevy pickup being seriously underinflated and already scrubbing the sidewalls off. There’s no reason to assume the driver’s side was not the same way.

The car is aged and with aged, high miles cars they often suffer from more than one problem. One problem can even lead to multiple other problems over time.

What I find suspect here is that he claims he installed the wrong MAF and then claims he threw the old one out.
While there’s no law stating a shop should hang onto every part (this could become a mountain of junk very quickly) I feel that a reputable shop should always maintain an old part at least until the customer picks the car up and preferably for a week or so afterwards; unless it’s a core return part to the auto parts store of course.

I think it is more likely the tire was damaged when he drove it into the lift. I’ve seen a number of nearsighted techs blow out tires from hitting the lift.

I’m glad the operating problem was resolved. Frankly, this guy doesn;t sound like the sharpest tack in the drawer. And neither do the California legislators.

I agree with those who say he owes you a tire, regardless of whether it was time to replace it or not. Unless, of course, he can show you that it popped due to preexisting damage to the sidewall that caused a bubble. .

Besides it maybe being CA law, it may very well be policy to check the other tires:
My wife had a low tire a couple of weeks ago so brought it to Firestone, the only place open after 6 pm.
They fixed it and checked the other tires, making note of doing so.

Of course, they had pumped the other three tires up to 75 pounds and told her she’ll “be needing new tires soon”, those Nostredamfools… Yes, at 75 pounds you may need an entirely new car soon too, after the blowout.
When I brought the car back the next day to yell at them, they said they only check the tires and only fill it where it needs air. They basically accused me of doing something boneheaded like that because how else can a tire go from 30-ish to 75 overnight?

I think that the CA legislators may have been health care professionals. If I go to my doctor for anything, the first thing that happens is that the nurse takes my blood pressure. Then the doctor takes my blood pressure. When I go to the dentist, he takes my blood pressure. The vision center at WalMart takes my blood pressure when I go for an eye exam. There is even a blood pressure machine at the pharmacy counter so I can take my blood pressure when I wait for a prescription. I am thinking about having a gauge surgically hooked to an artery in my arm so I can get an instantaneous blood pressure reading. Actually, blood pressure is related to my health and frequent checks are important.
For the same reason, tire pressure is important to good handling of a vehicle. Many self service stations now charge to use the air compressor. I don’t think tire pressure gets checked on many vehicles as often as it should be checked. I can see the need for low tire pressure warning lights in cars.

First, it is impossible to inflate a tire until it pops UNLESS there is something else wrong. No, I don’t think he owes the OP a tire.

And it is unlikely to be covered by the tire warranty because if inflating the tire from a reasonable, but low, pressure causes a problem, then the problem is very likely because the tire was operated with low pressure.

A better description of what happened would be very helpful.