By Lauren Fix, Car Coach Reports
Editor’s Note: Car Coach Lauren Fix joins the NMA Blog lineup with a video post every Sunday. Check out her website at CarCoachReports.com.
Car repairs and maintenance are critical to keeping your ride running. Some car repairs are necessary, while others are often not. How do you spot possible up-sells or scams at car repair shops?
You may occasionally get ripped off by a mechanic or auto repair shop. While there are some honest and decent mechanics and repair shops, some take advantage of car owners with high prices, problems not fixed properly, or repairs that don’t hold up. There are some auto repair shop scams that you need to know about—knowledge is power. Some may be innocent and may just be a salesperson trying to make sure your car is extra safe, while others may be simple fraud.
Check out my video here, where I discuss some of the more rip-off scams and what to watch out for when you visit a mechanic.
Here are some of the more common rip-off scams and what to watch out for and what you should do:
Types of Engine Oil
Which type of oil does my vehicle take, and how do I know that I am being sold the correct type of oil? There are three different types of engine oil.
- Conventional oil—a standard oil
- Synthetic Blend Oil—a mixture of conventional and synthetic oil
- Full Synthetic Oil—a lubricant that consists of chemical compounds that are artificially made.
Each vehicle manufacture recommends a particular type and weight of oil for optimal engine performance. Check your owner’s manual for the oil recommendations and oil change intervals. Knowing your oil type and weight will prevent you from spending more than needed, and possibly voiding your engine warranty.
Frequency of Oil Changes
Most oil change shops recommend 3,000 miles for an oil change.
However today’s vehicles have sensors that are designed to measure the viscosity of the engine oil. Engine oil viscosity will change due to driving conditions: long trips versus short trips, for example. The mileage recommendations that you see on your oil change sticker is used as a tool to remind you that your oil needs to be changed.
Change the oil based on mileage and NOT on time.
Most people see this as a way for an automotive repair facility to make extra money.
In fact, each vehicle manufacture recommends routine maintenance intervals. How can you be sure that the shop is not taking advantage of you?
Check your maintenance intervals in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that these are recommendations from the manufacture—different conditions may affect vehicles differently.
Keep records of your car’s maintenance schedule so that no mechanic will take advantage of you.
You’re sitting in the waiting room, and a service advisor approaches you. He or she shows you a dirty air filter and says this came out of your car. The next step is to sell you an air filter. But how do you know if it really came out of your car?
Ask to check your vehicle, so that you can see that the air filter you are seeing is definitely yours.
Buying a Tire versus Flat Repair
Not all flat tires need to be replaced. As long as the puncture is not on the sidewall, the tire should be able to be repaired. There are different ways to repair a tire, too.
Some automotive repair facilities will use a plug where you do not even have to remove the tire. Others will use a patch on the inside of the tire or a plug and patch combination if the tire can safely be repaired.
Ask your service advisor to show you the damage to your tire, and have them explain thoroughly why a new tire is recommended instead of a repair.
Used Parts Passed Off As New
If you are paying for new parts, you should be receiving new parts.
Do not be scared to ask to see the new and/or old parts being installed. Make sure that the parts installed are Original Manufacture Parts or OEM parts.
Engine flushes are designed to break down oil sludge in your engine and also prevent oil sludge from forming.
Utilizing engine oil cleaner & conditioner is a proactive approach to avoid engine oil sludge from forming. If an automotive repair facility recommends an engine oil flush due to oil sludge, make them prove it to you. Have them show you the sludge that is causing them to recommend it to you. Typically, it can be found on the bottom of your oil cap on the engine. This is a common upsell that is NOT needed.
Fuel Injector Cleaning
Cleaning fuel injectors is a service frequently recommended by dealers and repair shops. But unless there are noticeable signs of clogged fuel injectors (such as a rough idle, stalling, poor acceleration, or high emissions levels), it might not be necessary.
One tipoff is that fuel injector cleaning is not typically listed on automakers’ routine maintenance schedules.
Whatever work you get done on your car, get a written estimate, and be sure that no work is done before you approve that it proceed.
In the meantime, look for a good mechanic who you can trust. It will be a relationship you’ll never regret.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news, and safety issues.
Lauren is the CEO of Automotive Aspects and the Editor-in-Chief of Car Coach Reports, a global automotive news outlet. She is an automotive contributor to national and local television news shows, including Fox News, Fox Business, CNN International, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition, Local Now News, Community Digital News, and more. Lauren also co-hosts a regular show on ABC.com with Paul Brian called “His Turn – Her Turn” and hosts regular radio segments on USA Radio – DayBreak.
Lauren is honored to be inducted into the Women’s Transportation Hall of Fame and a Board Member of the Buffalo Motorcar Museum and Juror / President for the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards.
Check her out on Twitter and Instagram @LaurenFix.