How Can You Tell if Your Auto Mechanic is Pulling a Fast One on You?

your auto mechanic

Mike Spearman took his Honda Accord to the local dealer for a safety recall for faulty battery sensor. However, the dealer after the fix went ahead and carried out a free inspection of the vehicle. And to his surprise, Mike was presented with a long list of repairs his car would need.

The mechanic told spearman that his brake pads were worn and needed replacing. Unfortunately for the shop, Spearman had changed the brake pads himself about three weeks ago.

That was not all; they also claimed they detected a faulty thermostat for the coolant system which could cause the car engine to overheat and get damaged. The evidence for the fault being some traces of leaked coolant near the thermostat. The shop put the repair bill at $476. But Spearman had been puttering around with cars since he was a teenager and knew his car inside out. The offending thermostat was easily accessible and could be removed in less time it took to write the fraudulent repair lists. Spearman took his car home. There was a small leakage which he resolved by replacing the hose clamp at the cost of $5 and in just 5 minutes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported widespread exploitation of safety recall by dealerships. They use the recalls and regularly scheduled maintenance as an opportunity to upsell additional and often unnecessary repair works.

You May Wonder: Why Do Auto Mechanics Cheat? Modern cars, like Spearman’s 2013 Honda Accord, run for much longer. According to IHS Automotive, the average American car is 11.5 years old. Furthermore, older used cars are maintaining reliability over a longer time, according to Consumer Reports. Because of the durability of the vehicles and their parts, attention has now shifted from repairs to maintenance at the scheduled time.

More than 70 percent of the work done in auto repair shops are maintenance jobs.

Accordingly, the improved longevity and reliability of today’s vehicles in addition to longer maintenance interval are reducing profits for dealerships and independent car mechanics. Therefore, those with questionable morals find clever ways to fleece clients.

That is not to say that those “free” inspections do not sometimes detect issues that might ground your car later on. But your mechanic should be trustworthy enough to keep your vehicle in good health without taking advantage of you.

More dishonest mechanics will take a shop visit, usually for a safety call or routine maintenance, as an opportunity to force car owners to carry out unnecessary repairs or service works.

your auto mechanic

Can You Trust Your Auto Mechanic?

Not everyone can be as car savvy as Spearman, but with some little research, you should be able to have an idea of the maintenance schedule and what needs replacing and when. Some of the more common scam in the trade include:

  • Recommending a total overhaul of your brakes, including changing the rotors and calipers when merely replacing the brake pads and resurfacing the rotor will do.
  • Dropping coolants on parts of the engine to make it look like the radiator has sprung a leak.
  • Asking for a transmission flush which in some circumstances can damage the transmission.
  • Recommending you replace a part which is known to be a common issue with a particular model without running a check. For instance, “most Honda Accord transmissions tend to fail after 100,000 miles, so you better replace yours before it cripples you on the road.”

Also, there are some things to look out for to know if your auto mechanic can be trusted. It’s high time you start shopping for a new repair shop when you see the following red flags:

  • A routine repair turns to an overhaul: if you take your car to the repair shop for a regular oil change, and the repair bill starts to approach the value of the car, it may be time to walk. However, it’s possible too that a closer inspection of your car might reveal faults unknown to you, but you should always have the option of checking it out with another mechanic for a second opinion. If you agree with the recommended repairs, make sure that your auto mechanic clearly explains the issue and how they intend to rectify it.
  • You didn’t get an estimate: a reliable mechanic will always give a detailed estimate of how much a repair job will cost you. This should include rates and methods of payment which should be posted conspicuously in the auto shop. A mechanic that want to go ahead with repairs without giving you a quote is up to no good.
  • Your auto mechanic is not competently trained: Use a mechanic that is certified. One of the bodies which accredit mechanics is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Look out for mechanics with their Blue Seal of Excellence which they award to qualified mechanics.
  • Poor customer service: While you do not expect your mechanic’s workshop to have the ambiance of a wall street banking hall, you wouldn’t want to wait around in a messy place. The workers should also be courteous and should be able to take the time to answer inquiries.
  • They avoid responsibility: Things could go wrong while working on your car, or just as you drive off. A reasonable mechanic should be able to admit when they have made a mistake and put it right. A trustworthy mechanic should also be transparent: show you the work done on your car along with any replaced part.

So how do you go about getting a trustworthy mechanic? Although auto repair scams are becoming more common by the day, honest mechanics and repair shops still exist. Ask your family and friends to recommend you to their trusted and capable mechanics.

The Better Business Bureau is an excellent resource for finding good repair shops close to you. You can also research on the internet for recommendations as well as warnings.

Even when you see a highly recommended mechanic or repair shop, always get a second opinion before carrying out major repairs.


Auto repair issues make up the bulk of consumer complaints. Because it’s easy for a crooked mechanic to convince car owner to carry out repairs they don’t need or short-change them when doing repairs. After all, the average person knows very little about cars. Therefore, to save yourself unnecessary stress and financial pressure, it’s necessary you get an honest repair shop and an auto mechanic you can trust with your car.

BA in Accountancy, he entered the entrepreneurial world by starting his first online marketing business in 2004. He is passionate about personal finance, self-development, the stock market, and a digital marketing addict. He strongly believes that financial knowledge combined with self-discipline is the key to achieving financial freedom.  He is also an avid golfer and a 15 handicapper.

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