Can I Really Trust My Car Repair Shop?
No, you cannot really trust your car repair shop. Trust implies that you can drive away from the shop knowing that the services you received were actually necessary and performed correctly. Like all other businesses car shops are in business to make money – sometimes unscrupulous employees will take advantage of trust. But there are a few ways to keep the relationship with your car shop strong while maintaining a sense of oversight that will keep you from being had.
1. Is this service necessary?
The most important question that any customer can ask when offered services at a car shop is, “Is this service necessary?” If the attendant cannot give logical or clear reasons as to why the service he/she offered is necessary than odds are it is fluff to add profit to your bill. As the adage goes, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. This holds true for shop services that are not normal scheduled maintenance.
That brings up another interesting point – the shop schedule of regular maintenance may or may not match the schedule in your owner’s manual. Why on Earth would a shop suggest an oil change every 3,000 miles when your manual suggest a change every 7,500 miles in your driving environment and style? It is because the shop knows that they can make some extra coin by tacking on fluff services. If you confront your attendant about the difference between the shop schedule and your owner’s manual and they have no logical reason for the dissimilarity, reject the service.
Finally, always be suspicious when an attendant offers services on parts of your vehicle that are hard to inspect. A great target for lube shops is the differential in rear wheel drive trucks. Because differentials are often muddy as a part of the undercarriage, lube shop attendants claim that they found a leak. Also, most modern differentials use a rubber plug to access the oil pan instead of a bolt. As a result, most people have no idea how to check their differential oil and verify the claims made by attendants. Always be suspicious.
2. Show me the parts.
If the attendant makes a valid claim as to why your vehicle needs service then have the service completed (second opinions are always a good idea though). Inform the attendant that you want the old part after the service is completed. It is law in many locations that service employees must give you the replaced part from your vehicle so you may inspect it to see if it was really broken. This is the easiest way to really know if the service was necessary and it is great recourse against shops which try to rip you off. First, if the service was truly not necessary and the part is not worn out or defective you may be able to seek damages against the shop in court. Second, if you are holding the old part from your vehicle then you are almost guaranteed that the new part was actually installed and not kept by an employee for profit.
3. Warranties are meant to be used.
If you encounter any problems whatsoever after an automobile service, take the vehicle back to the shop promptly and demand that the problem be fixed. Reputable shops will have no problem accepting your vehicle and getting the problem fixed – sometimes it’s not even the shop’s fault. They get their parts from suppliers just like everybody else and those parts can be defective. However, if your shop refuses to look at your car and fix the problem then you know just how trustworthy the shop really is. Unfortunately, you may need to seek civil damages in court against the shop because they tried to rip you off.