You Need a Service Shop that Won’t Scam You
Getting your car fixed can be crazy expensive. Getting it fixed at the wrong shop can be even worse.
There are plenty of horror stories about going to a service shop and having them break your car even further and blame you for it after you pick it up. In reality, most shops aren’t that shady. For the most part it’s not something to be super concerned about.
However, they will often try to charge you for services you don’t need to pad their income. Maybe you could use an oil change a few thousand miles early, or your air conditioner filter could get replaced every oil change instead of every other. Your car doesn’t actually need the work, they just want your money.
How a good shop saved me well over $1000
A few weeks ago, my check engine light went on. Step 1: go to an AutoZone, O’Reilly, or similar and ask to use their check engine light scanner (technically OBD-II scanner, but who calls it that?).
Result: I have a misfire on cylinder 3. Most likely it’s a bad spark plug.
I tried to service it myself as I know a bit about working on cars, and it’s “just a spark plug.”
Result: My car still isn’t fixed, and now I’ve got a bad coolant leak from poking around. Whoops.
I called up my preferred local service shop and found out they were booked for 2 weeks, which wouldn’t do for servicing a car I use to get to work. They said both should be fairly cheap to repair, so I called around to other service centers until I was able to find one with availability soon.
The Bad Shop
The morning of my service appointment, my car unexpectedly had its ETC (Throttle Control) light blinking on the dash and it wouldn’t go over 10 MPH. A lucky car restart later and I was able to take it to the service shop without an issue.
They told me it’d be $500 to fix my coolant leak (far more than I’d expected for a leak), and that my misfire might be related to the throttle control issue, but they wanted an extra $150 to check if they were related.
So, I begrudgingly paid the extra money and they told me that it was indeed caused by the throttle control being bad. They then started talking about payment plan options before telling me everything else. Uh oh.
They said I needed to replace my throttle control ($600), which had destroyed my spark plugs (another $600) and my ignition coils (another $600). Beyond that they said I needed to replace my brake fluid and transmission fluid for about $150 each, when I knew very well that they didn’t need to be flushed and replaced because I had recently done so myself.
I said no thanks, and that I’d take it to another shop. I was willing to spend some extra money to get my car serviced quickly, but I wasn’t going to spend an extra $2,000 to get it done quickly. That’s ignoring that they already lied to me by telling me that I needed to get my brake and transmission fluids replaced.
The Good Shop
That first service shop I’d mentioned with a 2 week waiting list? They thankfully managed to squeeze me in the next day. They told me that they didn’t know if the spark plugs needed to be replaced because the throttle control could be causing misfires when the plugs are still fine.
$550 later ($50+ cheaper than the other shop), they told me the plugs and ignition coils were fine.
A bad shop wanted to replace everything without stopping to ask if it was really necessary, and overcharge on the services to boot (the second shop said they could replace spark plugs for $300). A great shop was able to get it done quickly, cheaply, and prevent me from getting any unnecessary services.
Finding a Good Shop
A comment I heard from a friend shortly before writing this post was “I trust lawyers more than I trust mechanics.”
If you want to find a mechanic shop that you can trust, here’s a few steps I’d recommend.
1. Ask People You Know
Everyone owns a car these days, and everyone goes to a different shop. Ask which people use and if they like them or think they’re too expensive. Reviews can sometimes serve the same purpose.
2. Check how long their wait list is
If a shop’s been around for a while, a high quality shop is much more likely to have a longer wait list. Brand-specific dealerships are often a good baseline for a “long” wait list in your area, but are also more expensive in most cases. If the local shop has a comparable wait list, there’s a good chance they’re worth the wait while being more affordable.
3. Call to ask about their mechanics
Any shop will claim they have the best mechanics. A reasonable way to see how true that is, is to check how long their mechanics have worked there. The longer, the better. Shoddy shops often underpay employees who will leave once they’ve got a little more experience.
If you’re looking for a shop in the Manheim / Lancaster PA area, our own repair shop has many long time employees that know the ins and outs of any car.
Contrary to my second tip, we also have a short wait list because most of our current work comes from other dealerships that want us to fix up their cars for them. If you need your car worked on, give us a call at 717-665-6611, or submit a service request online.
These tips aren’t perfect, but they can help find the right shop, which is very valuable both to your car and your wallet.