13+ Things Your Car Mechanic Won’t Tell You

Real mechanics give you the inside scoop on the tricks of the trade.

Interviews by Fran Lostys from Reader's Digest
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    1. Watch out for scare tactics.

    Admonitions like 'I wouldn't drive this another mile' should be viewed with suspicion.

    2. Check for...

    ASE 9National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence0 or AAA (America Automobile Association) certification, as well as a state license. Reputable shops are proud to display them.

    3. Ask, ask, ask

    ...for recommendations, years in business, warranties offered, licenses, and the type of equipment used. Look for a clean garage. A floor cluttered with empty oil cans, worn tires, and dirty rags is a red flag.

    4. Never sign a blank authorization form.

    Always get a signed work order with a specific estimate for each job and warranties that apply.

    5. It's nuts to take a car with engine problems to a shop without a good engine analyzer and scan tool.

     Any mechanic who says 'I don't need fancy equipment' should be avoided.

    6. Synthetic motor oils may cost more...

    ...but you'll get a lot more miles between changes.

    7. When you go for a second opinion...

    ...don't tell the mechanic what the first diagnosis and price were.

    8. Coolant flushes and power steering flushes...

    ...are very common gimmicks at quick lubes. Check your owner's manual; many cars have fluid that is designed to go 100,000 miles. And cleaning fuel injectors is a waste of time and money. There are additives on the market that do a great job.

    9. Always ask for OE (original equipment) brake pads or at least equivalent material.

     A $49.95 brake job will usually get you the worst friction material you can buy-it's the difference between stopping short and causing a pileup on the way to work.

    10. Ask about your new tire's 'build date.'

     If you're getting an unusually good deal, you might be receiving three-year-old treads, especially risky for snow tires.

    11. Lifetime mufflers?

     What would ever make you think a muffler will last a lifetime? Yes, they'll give you free replacements, but they'll hit you over the head for expensive pipe repairs.

    12. Consult your dealer...

     ...before you have work done on a catalytic converter or emissions parts. Some of these items carry a very long warranty, and free replacement is often required by law.

    13. It's not okay for your 'check engine' light to stay on all the time.

     It's probably not 'a loose gas cap.'

    14. Don't be duped by double labor.

    “If a mechanic offers to change your timing belt and water pump, question how long the job will take. Some will charge you double labor even though the second task is essentially done once the belt is removed.”

    15. Always ask for your old parts back.

    "This way you’ll know they’ve been changed, and you or a friend can tell if they’re worn.”

    16. Be careful with “road hazard” warranties on tires.

    “The shops may give you a free tire here and there, but eventually they will soak you with unnecessary alignments or suspension replacements.”

    17. All brakes are not equal.

    “Ask for estimates on brake jobs. Many mechanics will use very cheap parts and mark them up. Good mechanics who understand cars will never skimp in this area.”

    18. Have your car test-driven.

    “A good test-drive is just as important as a regular service — it might mean the difference between simply needing brake pads and having a complete rotor replacement.”

    19. Find expert mechanics.

    “Good mechanics, like good customers, are hard to find— communication is key. A good mechanic will explain repair phases and give you choices.”

    20. Be wary of certified pre-owned cars.

    “Usually in this business the only thing that’s certified is that someone owned the car before you. Very little ever gets done on these types of cars.”

    21. Go early in the work week.

    “Don’t bring your car in on Friday afternoon because the mechanics might rush the job to get out for the weekend.”

    22. Don't make a rookie mistake.

    “Beware of a mechanic who shows you a transmission pan with metal particles in it and recommends a major job. The shavings are usually a sign of normal wear."

    23. Familiarize yourself with tire tread.

    “Before buying new tires, know what your state’s tread specifications are. Then have the mechanic measure the old tread with a gauge.”

    24. Beware of false promises.

    “Watch out for ads promising $100 brake jobs. No mechanic can make money on that.”

    25. Weed out scams.

    "Transmission flushes are one of the biggest scams going. Manufacturers don’t recommend them, and your car almost never needs one.”

    26. The market is being flooded...

    ...with cheap parts from China. Request a name-brand replacement and ask to see its box. SOURCES: Gary Montesi, owner, Montesi Volkswagen, North Haven, Connecticut; Domenic DiSiena, manager, Bedford (New York) Shell; Bob Sikorsky, automotive writer, Tucson, Arizona; anonymous mechanics in Minnesota and New York

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    Your Comments

    • Rog

      no one one will tell the cars condition either like it been a wreck

    • Rog

      that is very true

    • Brianna Lin

      This is exactly why you need good insurance.. so at least if the mechanics steal your money, it comes out of the insurer’s pocketbook and not your’s! Preferably full coverage… if u can afford it, think again! I found mine for $36/month thru 4autoinsurancequote… just make sure NOT to use a big company like State Farm, GEICO, etc.. their full coverage rates are wayyy too expensive. Cheaper rates are from a smaller company (cuz ur not paying for all their TV commercials!)

    • Jake

      I’ve been a Mechanic/ Service writer for about 6 years now I have 6 ASE Certifications from Service consultant to Advanced Engine Performance. I know that most people have a mindset that the Automotive repair industry is full of deception and Lies… and it is completely understandable. But I can say that there are shops who choose to provide their customers with Honesty and a customer oriented service. My main priority from the start is to make sure my customers vehicles are successfully diagnosed and repaired. From personal experience and from my perspective there are people in my industry who strive to be honest in every situation presented. There are descent mechanics out there, you just have to find them and give them a chance.

    • http://www.mechanicwaverley.co

      The most challenging aspect of car repair is often the mechanic’s
      favorite part: diagnosing the problem. Speed and accuracy in diagnosis
      and quoting prices to the customer are crucial if the mechanic intends
      to keep long-term clients.

    • KLOWNY1969

      I teach people how to look for scams and how to work on their own cars!! Just go to youtube and search for: KLOWNY1969 and you can also subscribe to my channel for free to be updated whenever i post a new video!!
      I have something for everybody from the average do it yourselfer to the racer..Come check it out!
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    • Paul Lorenzini

      I have a real problem with how you attempt to inform people by making them distrust auto technicians and repair shops. Maybe you should turn your distrust of hard working people around and point the finger at all the white collar rip off artists, like those in Washington DC. If you don’t know what your car needs then you are uninformed and irresponsible and if you get ripped off then it is your fault. You bought the car! YOU are the one responsible for understanding it. Most auto technicians and shops are very honest and work long hard hours. What are you going to say to the person that reads your first tip and drives off in an unsafe vehicle and dies because they didn’t trust the mechanic? YOU told them not to trust, therefore it will be YOUR FAULT!!!!!!! Great article for breeding mistrust!!!!!!
      White collar people in DC rip everyone off every day, for billions, and you don’t trust mechanics. I’m sure doctors never rip you off or sell treatment you don’t need.

      • Rapzid

        You shouldn’t trust anyone you don’t know.

    • Griff

      Many OEM parts are made in china and their quality is very good it’s Taiwanese parts that are usually poor quality. As far as saying your rarely need to flush the coolent or transmission fluid on your car is ridiculous! On most new vehicles the transmission fluid is burnt by 50,000 miles and your coolant becomes acidic after 2 to 3 years and starts eating the aluminum and plastic used to build modern engines. Some Fuel injection cleaners sold on the shelf are very good I like chevron techron personally. Having a shop clean your injection is not a waste of money the chemicals they burn in the top end of your engine are very strong and designed to thoroughly clean your injectors and and burn carbon of combustion chambers valves and pistons to restore proformance and fuel economy and extend engine life. Just my two cents

    • smalls

      #25 is the worst of all cant believe hardly any of this. You can tell that this was wrote up by a woman who knows nothing about cars. Incredible where do they come up with this crap!!!! flushes in my opinion are some of the most important things you can do along with fuel injection cleaning and other maintenance, do watch out for cheap oil changes and break jobs the cheap oil change is mostly done when shops get slow and are looking for work, that doesn’t always mean they are trying to screw you so if they tell you something isn’t right have them show you if they are honest they will most likely not have a prob with that. cheap breaks are trash. old tires are your choice just be careful just cause they are a lil old doesn’t always mean they are no good take time to look and inspect them. Like its been said many times do the research on the shop b4 u go to it. not all shops that are dirty are bad a lot of times in my experience I try very hard to keep my bays clean and all tools back in they place to prevent loosing tools they are not cheap but when you are busy a lot of times you don’t have a chance to clean up between each car so it waits until the end of the day. there is a fine line between messy and dirty. OEM parts are the way to go spend the money its worth it. busy shops are generally a good sign I would rather wait a day or two than get bad service from an unknown crap shack down the street with a bunch of shad tree mechanics that can sweep and clean good. ASE is always better but there are some of us out there that do good work and are not ase certified I am a mechanic not an ASE tech there is a big difference. An ASE tech went to school to get education on certain areas of auto there are many ASE certifications you can get on many areas of the automobile not to mention on the job education that an ase tech has. I tip my hats to those of you that are ASE certified techs I know the diff between the two unlike a lot of people you have worked hard to get the title of ASE CERTIFIED TECH and I have not but you must admit there are good and bad techs as well as mechanics and just because you don’t have a patch saying that you are ASE certified don’t mean you are incapable of doing the job. I have a good friend who is ASE certified master tech with about 20 years experience he is also GM certified and I am 26 years old with about 4 years experience with nothing more than some advanced auto classes and a few I-car classes, my friend would still rather work along side me than most of the cert techs in our area of course he taught me most of what I know. anyways I hope this may help some of you who are willing to listen to good advice given by most of the people who have commented on this horrible list of dos and donts.

    • DUSTIN

      Coolant and Transmission flushes are recommended by almost every auto make (all have different mileage recommendations however). The longer you keep coolant in your engine, the more acidic it becomes and the more damage it does to your motor. Same with trans fluid, but trans fluid will also break down like any other oil. These are NOT gimmicks…

      Fuel system cleanings are not gimmicks either.. Throttle bodies with enough carbon build up will throw a CEL and run HORRIBLE. If done right, a fuel cleaning will clean the valves and combustion chambers and increase power and fuel efficiency.