“All mechanics are thieves” is a phrase that I have heard many times over the years. Many mechanics find this offensive. Personally, I couldn’t care less, I see why people say it. The fact is, not all mechanics are thieves. I can say from experience that most mechanics are not. Are there mechanics out there that sell work that isn’t needed? Of course, there are! Have I worked with any people like this? Of course, I have! The truth is that people lie, cheat, and steal every day to get ahead in life. There are dishonest people in every profession… It’s sad but true. If you don’t believe me, open up google right now and type your preferred profession in the blank “All ___________ are thieves” and you will get all kinds of horror stories, I promise. If they are true, I don’t know.
I do not agree with mechanics that are dishonest, and I’m not going to defend them. However, I would like to clear up a few misconceptions that people have about their mechanic that “robbed” them. Just because the bill is expensive, does not mean the customer was taken advantage of. Labor is not cheap, either are parts majority of the time. Do I agree that $200 to change a headlamp bulb is absolutely ridiculous? I absolutely do, but I didn’t design the car, either did your mechanic. So if you want to say you’ve been screwed, which you have. Call the manufacturer and rip into them for designing a car that the front bumper/fascia needs to be removed to replace a bulb.
Some instances customers will have their car in for a check engine light. They are told it’s going to take a bunch of parts to fix it. When this happens, there is a pretty good chance they are getting ripped off. In this case, the mechanic is not intentionally trying to rip you off. They most likely just don’t know what they are doing and are guessing. If they throw every part in, that works the system that caused the check engine light, chances are in their favor for one of those parts actually fixing the vehicle. This does not mean every customer that is being quoted multiple parts is being robbed. There are many times where it will take multiple parts to fix one problem. Other times there may be more than one thing causing a check engine light to come on.
As mechanics, especially in a dealership, we are bred to look cars over with a fine tooth comb. It’s embedded in our brains to upsell, upsell, and upsell. This is the reason you brought your vehicle in for an oil change and you walked out with a $1,000 bill. General Motors actually requires the dealerships to do a multi-point inspection on every repair order written up unless the customer declines it. We are liable for those multi-point inspections from what I’m told, so we have to look the cars over.
As for the people who have been blatantly ripped off by the dealership mechanic. First off, I’m sorry! I personally think the biggest cause of that, is the flat-rate system. The system is majorly flawed. It’s based on one thing, production! If they mechanic don’t produce, they don’t get paid. There are greedy people out there so even when they are producing, they want to produce more. If all mechanics were salary, I think there would be less dishonest mechanics. The other issue is that it’s impossible to monitor what every mechanic in a shop is upselling. I work in a shop with 12 mechanics, 1 foreman, 2 service advisors, 1 manager, and 1 director. On average there is probably 60 vehicles going in and out of the shop per day. When people I have worked with did get caught trying to rip someone off, there were consequences. On the flip side of that, I do believe some management teams turn the blind eye to it because it’s bringing more money in the door. The bottom line is, it will never change. As long as people have the incentive to steal, people with no morals will steal.
Another situation I’ve run into personally, on more than one occasion, is customers bringing in their vehicle after going somewhere else “for the same problem”. They usually won’t say that they have already gone to one, or multiple places. This just recently happened to me, and I was accused of being a “crook”. Most dealerships charge an hour diagnostic fee upfront and if the customer decides to repair the vehicle depending on what the problem was/is, it may be put towards the price of the repair. It took me about a day off and on driving and letting the vehicle run to duplicate the problem. After duplicating the problem, I knew what I had to do to diagnose the car. I let the service advisor know that it was going to take more than an hour, they called the customer to inform them, and the customer approved to continue. After a few hours, I figured out the problem. The vehicle needed a crankshaft position sensor. It was a temperature related problem. If anyone cares to know how I diagnosed it, just leave a comment and ill get back to you. I went up to the parts counter and got a price on the part, then dropped the paperwork off to the service advisor. About 30 minutes later, the service advisor comes out to me and says “I just got off the phone with this customer and they are going ballistic. They said we are ripping them off! They were just at another dealership and they were told the car needs all the fuel injectors, spark plugs, and a mass air flow sensor”. Now, before I continue with my response to the service writer, I need to tell you a little something about me and my personality that will make me sound a little less of an a** h***. I’m very good at what I do, and I take my job very seriously. Naturally, I was offended. I wasn’t offended that I was being accused of ripping them off, which I stated earlier. I don’t care about that. The fact that my ability to perform my job was being doubted, saying I was offended in an understatement. I was flat out pissed! Then I turned into an arrogant pr***. My response was something along the lines of “I don’t give a f*** what the other dealership said. Tell the customer to bring this P.O.S back to those morons, let them waste $1,000 on stuff they don’t need, and then they can come back here and I’ll fix it.” The service advisor walked away while I was in the middle of a childish rant. If you are a mechanic reading this, especially one just starting out in the business. Don’t ever talk to anyone you work with or any customer like that, it’s unprofessional and inappropriate. It could easily get you fired. Even though I was right about the repair, talking that way wasn’t acceptable. After I calmed down, I went up to the service desk. I apologized to the service advisor for my rant, explained to them why I was so offended and said: “I’m 100% sure this will fix the problem, if I’m wrong, I’ll pay for the repair out of my own pocket.” The advisor called the customer back and guaranteed the repair will fix the stalling problem. The customer gave permission to replace the part. I replaced it, the car was fixed, and everyone was happy.
If you are a customer and you are going to try and catch a dealership or any shop trying to rip you off by playing them against each other like the customer above. It only works if you actually know what the fix is. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be telling someone they are ripping you off. I honestly don’t think the other dealership was intentionally ripping that customer off. They most likely either couldn’t duplicate it and they guessed or just didn’t know how to diagnose it and guessed. Not that either of those situations is acceptable.
Sometimes we mechanics need to try and see the customers point of view as well. If I were in that customer’s shoes, I’d probably be pissed off that my car was broken and two different people are telling me two different things. Especially considering neither of the repairs were cheap. So now, looking back, I understand the customer’s frustration. I always try to look at everyone’s point of view, but it doesn’t always work… Obviously. I wish I could give advice on how not to end up in that customer’s situation, but I don’t. The only thing I can say is if you come across a good mechanic who you trust. Whether it be at a dealership or a private shop, stick with them. Unfortunately, that may take some time.
When it comes to different maintenance items, a lot of it is based on the mechanic’s judgment or opinion. This is another situation where people say they are getting ripped off. Something as simple as an oil change all us mechanics won’t agree on. Due to what we were taught, what we’ve seen, or what the manufacturer is saying “today”. I don’t believe in oil life monitoring systems that pretty much every vehicle has in them. My reasoning for that is engines I have taken apart and seen what they look like at relatively low mileage when the customer was going by the monitor. Your mechanic may believe in them because the manufacturer states to go by them. If I were to tell you that you need an oil change at X amount of miles, your mechanic may tell you that I’m ripping you off. When in reality all I’m doing is telling you what I think is in your best interest based on my previous experiences. There are several more services such as fuel injection , air induction, and brake fluid. They all fall under the same topic. I also do believe there are shops including dealerships that are selling a cheap product which they don’t believe in, to turn a profit, but that isn’t always the case.
So yes, there are dirt bag mechanics out there that will try to take every dollar that they can get out of you. There are also good, honest, hardworking mechanics out there that want nothing more than what’s in the customers best interest. I wish all you people that have been robbed the best of luck in finding the latter of the two. I hope I was able to change some of your outlooks on mechanics. If not, hopefully, you got something out of reading the last 1,811 words. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about the above. Thanks for reading.