First, let me say that 99 percent of all mechanics and repair shops are honest, but there still are a few bad seeds. And when the 'check engine' light comes on or the car doesn't start, you cringe because you fear that you'll get scam taking it to the shop.
Here are my top 10 auto repair scams collected from industry experts and how you can avoid them.
Number 10: The padding of the bill
You took the vehicle in for one thing, and the service writer says you need more work. Mechanics say this is a common ploy to pad the bill so they can negotiate it down to the actual price and make it seem like a deal.
To protect yourself against unnecessary repairs, ask to see what needs to be repaired. Find out if you can prioritize the work. Get another estimate.
Number nine: You need fuel injection service every 15,000 miles.
If you are using a good quality fuel, your fuel injection system will last the lifetime of a vehicle. The most common cause of a poor performing fuel injection system is a dirty fuel filter which is a lot to cheaper to replace.
To protect yourself - spend a few extra pennies on quality gasoline that already includes a detergent to keep your fuel injectors clean.
Number eight: The 'oil change' special
Very often the reason for a cheap oil change special is to get you in and sell you more expensive unnecessary work. Also you should know that these oil changes use the lowest quality oil and filter. To protect yourself, follow the manufacturers' recommendation.
Number seven: The parts replacement scam
You are sold new parts, but they installed used parts. If possible check the part before it is installed. If it looks worn and dirty, refuse it.
To protect yourself demand OEM parts or parts that meet OEM standards. That is Original Equipment Manufacturer...plus by saying OEM it may sound like you know what you're talking about.
Number six: The tire switch
The shop replaces your new tires with used tires without your knowledge. Usually this happens at repair shops that sell used tires. To protect yourself, always check your tires before and after.
Number five: Broken axle boots
A common tactic is to cut the rubber boots that cover your axle and charge you an expensive repair. The good thing is you can tell a fresh cut from a worn out boot, a legitimate tear will be jagged and dirty with grease.
To protect yourself, always asked to see the damage before agreeing to the work being performed.
Number four: Your air filter should be replaced at every oil change.
The truth is your air filter should be replaced once a year or every 12-15,000 miles. Yes, it is important to the efficiency of your vehicle, but replacing it too soon is simply a waste of money.
To protect yourself, learn how to check the air filter yourself.
Number three: The free alignment check
This can open the door for all kinds of recommendations to sell you shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, and axles.
To protect yourself, always ask to see proof of a worn-out part. Barring a major pothole incident or an accident, an alignment should be good for 50-100,000 miles.
Number two: Your vehicle has 'lifetime' transmission fluid.
Truth is, it doesn't. After 80,000 miles, on this so-called "lifetime fluid" your transmission fails and you have to buy a new one for thousand of dollars.
To protect yourself, check the owners manual and replace the transmission filter and fluid about every 30,000 miles.
Number one: Lifetime brake pads for only $89
Here's the pitch: You only have to pay for the brakes one time; the scam is you are buying a low quality set of brake pads, and in order for your lifetime warranty to apply you may have to buy new calipers with your new cheap pads.
Your brakes are important so find a mechanic you trust to protect yourself.
Under Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act, if the work is more than $100 should get a written estimate and the shop must get your approval if the work exceeds the estimate by $10 or 10 percent.