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Was I robbed? How to tell if my fuel filter was really changed

My wife recently took our 99 Chevy Astro van in to get the fuel filter replaced in addition to replacing a leaky water pump. Eight days later and I decide to check the work done under the van(fuel filter replacement). The fuel filter looks old and is dirty, the same as the fuel lines, and there appears to be rust on the nuts that secures the filter to the fuel lines. The weather has been hot and dry and we live in the city. I have some doubts that maybe I paid for a fuel filter replacement I did not receive. How could I tell for sure? The water pump replacement job seems to have gone well. The work was done by a local reputable independent mechanic. The cost for the fuel filter replacement was <$75.

I would take the car back to the mechanic, explain my reservations calmly and ask him to inspect the filter. It is possible you were changed and the filter was not changed. After 8 days, unless you live on muddy roads, the filter ought to be pretty clean.

Sounds more like the work was done by a disreputable independent mechanic who wants a new boat. Does the water pump look new?

These problems can be avoided by simply requesting your old parts back…

Can any conclusion be made by the appearance of the body of the filter? Why would rust on the nut(s) that secures the filter be an indication of the filter not being changed?

Have you tried to see if there are any identifying part numbers, etc. on the filter and then match that against the receipt or the source of parts the garage uses?

At this point I would handle it diplomatically. If the filter was not changed it may or may not be fraud at all.
Mechanic work is mind-numbing at times. If the mechanic got focused on the water pump job too much it would be easy to overlook the fuel filter installation and flat not think of it while doing the paperwork later.
If the shop uses a desk person to handle all of that it makes the possibility of an oversight that much more likely as that person is also in their own little world.

I’m in agreement with Caddyman; always request old parts back. A reputable shop should not be willing to do this, they should have it as a policy whether anyone ever wants a part back or not.

It’s too late now, but in the future you could mark parts with a Sharpie if you think they’re going to be changed out.

It may have been an innocent mistake. I’d ask about it though.

If you are going to that much trouble, you might as well just change out the part yourself.

Per the first suggestion from jayhawkroy: went back to the mechanic today and they admitted oversight on their part. The filter had not been replaced. They were deeply apologetic and appeared sincere, wanting to make things right. Replaced the filter and all is well. A possible contibuting factor was that the fuel filter replacement was added to the invoice after the van was already in the bay for the mechanic to do the water pump replacement.

It’s good that you checked the filter and that they were honest enough to be “deeply apologetic”…but you had to make another trip;they should have given you a coupon for $30 or so discount. You would be happy and you’d be coming back to redeem the coupon.

Rust on those nuts indicates little more than the age of the lines. The nuts are not replaced with the new filter unless there’s a problem with the old ones, as it would require re flaring the line, which is kinda a pain to do on the car, and really of no benefit to you, the owner, or the mechanic, unless he’s been reading too many boat magazines. The best thing to do would be simply get under there, wipe the dirt off the filter, and look for rust on the body of it, don’t worry about the surrounding area being rusty, that’s all supposed to be old.

Not really. How many old fuel filters you figure might be laying around a shop and how many people would know if handed one not specified for their vehicle? It would only help in cases where someone forgot - it wouldn’t help on dishonesty at all.