Your vehicle has started acting funny, and you are concerned that the problem will cause an accident or leave you stranded. You have money in your account, but you are hopeful that you won’t have to spend it all on this new problem. It’s time to contact a repair shop and make an appointment. However, when dealing with mechanics, it is always possible to be the victim of auto repair fraud.
In order to avoid this possibility, knowledge is a must. You can research the various schemes that are common with dishonest mechanics. This will also allow you to ask the right questions when you take your vehicle in and pick it up post-repair. This also will give you an edge on others who don’t know anything about their vehicles, and you can feel more confident in your ability to see a problem with a repair shop at the start, rather than learning the hard way.
Airbags deploy in accidents where there is contact with the front bumper, either with a solid barrier at 8 miles per hour or higher or with a parked car at 14 mph or higher. This means the airbag needs to be replaced.
Sadly, one typical fraud tactic is for a repair shop to use airbags that are stolen or salvaged – possibly ones that have previously been deployed – to replace the ones in your vehicle. In these cases, the shop charges you for a new airbag but actually spends significantly less to purchase this replacement.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked auto repair fraud questions, click here.
This can be a problem, because if you are in another accident, that airbag is not likely to perform optimally, and the passenger’s life may be at great risk as a result.
Another tactic of a mechanic trying to make money is to charge for a replacement when it is clear that the part in your vehicle was not replaced. This is shown by signs of wear or oil or other debris that show the part has been in place for quite some time.
In order to reduce the risk of this situation, ask to see the part that was taken out of your vehicle when the replacement was put in. This means the mechanic has to be more honest about the transaction.
Some auto repair shops will advertise for a certain repair or an oil change, for example. Then, once you bring your vehicle in for that service, they will find other things that “need to be done” and convince you that you may be in danger if you forgo those repairs. This is a typical bait-and-switch scenario.
Beware of those mechanics that speak differently to customers who are different genders. While we all are at a loss when discussing the inner workings of an engine, there are mechanics that intentionally talk to a woman as if they couldn’t possibly understand, and usually those mechanics tend to add to the bill with things that don’t need done and may not even be a real repair.
If you think you have been a victim of car repair fraud, contact Allen Stewart. The consultation is free.
Take these steps to avoid these situations:
- Find a repair shop that is Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE-certified
- The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence has been in operation since 1972. The institute is independent and non-profit and has the sole mission of improving the quality of automotive repair. Certification through the institute means automotive professionals care about the quality of the services they provide.
- Currently, 300,000 technicians hold certifications through the institute. This means the individuals working on your car are the ones certified, not the shop where they work. This further ensures quality work is done.
- ASE certification must be renewed every five years. Also, in order to take the tests, the technicians must either have two years of on-the-job training or one year of on-the-job experience and a two-year degree. This shows they are already finding their way successfully in the industry. The exams are challenging and one in three who attempt them fail the first time they try.
- Get recommendations for repair shops from your insurance company
- Insurance companies have experience with a lot of different repair shops and know the good from the bad. They have clients all over, so they can help you narrow down the good repair shops that are located close to where you live. Barring that, they can at least let you know the ones that you should avoid because they have not provided valuable service to the company’s clients in the past.
- Look for a clean facility that uses updated equipment
- Keeping up with the newest equipment and taking the time each day to clean and keep the repair area clean for the next job shows self-discipline and priorities. For those who are looking to make the most money with the least effort, the shop will not be clean. They also will be unwilling to spend money on updated equipment, even though that is a smart move in the long run.
- Make sure to find a shop that provides a written damage report
- Writing down the issues and giving you a clear record is important for more than that repair. In the event you end up having a lemon vehicle on your hands, you have documented proof that this mechanic completed specific repairs. If those repairs don’t resolve the issue, and you make more attempts with the same results, you are covered in the case you pursue a complaint under the Texas Lemon Law.
- Ask for a written warranty on newly installed parts
- Putting something in writing tends to keep people honest. For this reason, it is always a good idea to ask for a clearly written warranty on any parts that are newly installed following an accident. That way, if you need to use the warranty in the future, it is clear what is covered and what is not. Also, you have an idea of how long the warranty lasts and whether it covers a vehicle with a certain amount of miles driven.
- Consider getting estimates from more than one shop for a potential repair job.
- Let the mechanic know you will be taking your car for an estimate elsewhere. They may be more honest about the things they say the car needs if they know you are going to be talking to another mechanic that knows vehicles and will be more inclined to dispute their unethical tactics.
Not everyone is cut out to be a mechanic. Therefore, it can be frustrating to have to trust that a mechanic is telling you the truth about what’s wrong with your vehicle and the potential cost to remedy the situation. However, if you learn about some of the basic scams and some indications you can see that will point you toward a reputable repair shop, then you can reduce the risk that a mechanic will scam you and cost you unnecessary money.
It pays to do the research and prepare yourself for the worst, so that you can move forward and be surprised in a good way when you find a good mechanic that does not want to overcharge you just to line their pockets.