?? – intro: have you ever been to an auto repair shop for an oil change, only to have the mechanic tell you that your car needs a new transmission? Did the “check engine” light come on and all of a sudden the mechanic tells you you need some expensive new engine parts?
A seasoned auto mechanic warns consumers to be familiar with how a car works to avoid getting ripped off at the auto repair shop.
“Joe”, who has been a mechanic for 40 years, has agreed to reveal the secrets of his trade to ABC News “20/20” on condition that his identity remains withheld.
He said some mechanics might try to squeeze more money from customers by doing unnecessary repairs. What causes mechanics to cheat or push for unnecessary repairs, Joe said, is the small profit margin of many repair shops. Most mechanics are honest, he said, but many are pressured by their bosses to do unnecessary work.
“The store has to stay in business,” Joe said. “There are pressures to do things that you might not normally do. “
Joe admitted that he himself had used shady tactics in the past.
“I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but when your boss tells you … ‘Either you do it here or the door is right there’, what are you going to do? ” He asked.
The Automotive Service Association says the majority of the service repair industry is ethical and only charges consumers for the work that is necessary.
“20/20” infiltrated several auto repair shops in New York and New Jersey to see if mechanics would add unnecessary repairs and fees to service a car from manufacturer “20/20”, which had received a good health check by two mechanics approved in advance.
One of these certified expert mechanics was Giuseppe Mendola, owner of AutoTech Diagnostic in College Point, New York.
“If they found a problem with this car, it would probably be a problem that they made up or that didn’t exist at all,” Mendola said.
quicklist: title: 1. Adding to text “Gravy Work”: Mechanics use special names for questionable repair practices, Joe said, such as “gravy work,” which he said means charge the customer more time than a repair job actually takes.
“Most stores will charge you an hour and a half to two hours to spin the rotors and put pads on them,” Joe said. “If you’re good and you have the right equipment, you can do it in 20 or 30 minutes. … It’s gravy.
quicklist: title: 2. Make a ‘Wallet Flush’text: The so-called “Wallet Flush,” Joe said, is where a routine oil change can turn into something much more expensive.
“An $ 18 oil change – well they’re losing money on that,” he said. “The idea is to get you in so they can sell you the coolant flushes, the trans flushes, the power steering flushes. … This is where the money is.
quicklist: title: 3. Invoicing for work that has never been done text: Joe said that it is not uncommon for mechanics to invoice for work that they do not even do, for example by saying that they have installed a new air filter without touching it.
“Some [air filters] are hard to change, and it’s really easy to charge for it and not put it in, ”he said. “And you would never know because you couldn’t go and get it.”
quicklist: title: 4. Support for repairs Text-based ‘Idiot Light’: One of the most common and cost-effective ways to increase a repair bill is to exploit fears about the “check light” engine, “affectionately known by some in the trade as the” dumb light, “Joe said.
“The check engine light will direct you to a trouble code,” he said. “Guys kind of got the phrase where every code deserves a part.”
“20/20” put the “idiot light” tactic to the test. Before going undercover, “20/20” asked expert mechanic Audra Fordin to deliberately unplug a cord to disconnect the mass air flow sensor in the engine of a “20/20” producer car, somehow. something that would be quickly detected and easy to fix. Fordin and Mendola rated the car perfectly fine otherwise.
A New Jersey repair shop fixed the cord issue in 15 minutes without even charging our producer – although the ABC News expert mechanic says it would be reasonable to charge between $ 50 and $ 100 to diagnose the problem. The manager of another repair shop in New Jersey also just reconnected the cord, but then told our producer that the light was on because the mass flow sensor needed cleaning. He recommended a fuel system cleanup for $ 99.
A mechanic in New York also fixed the bead issue quickly, but told our producer that she needed to replace the mass air flow sensor assembly, costing over $ 300. He then offered to take the sensor apart and fix it for $ 190. For that $ 190 fix, a “20/20” hidden camera video showed the mechanic had just sprayed and flushed the exterior of the engine.
“The light was definitely on because of the sensor,” Mendola said. “And plugging it back in should have solved the problem.” … I can give you an example. If you came home and your lamp didn’t work and you realized, “Hey, someone pulled it off the wall,” you wouldn’t go out to buy a new lamp. So basically all you had to do was plug it back in and you would be fine.
quick list: title: 5. BONUS: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off Text: “If you go to a store and they …” Ask your friends, ask your coworkers. … try to find a reputable store that you can build a relationship with, and they’ll take care of you, and that’s the key. “
So, he added, just read the owner’s manual.
“People don’t read the owner’s manual,” he said. “They don’t know how to open the hood half the time.… Honestly, I don’t understand what they want from the car if they don’t know.
Marty Guerrero, 50, of Los Angeles, admitted she didn’t know anything about cars when she took her red Mustang to a mechanic when it wasn’t starting. She said that was all the mechanic needed to know, to take her for a ride.
“He ended up wanting to charge me around $ 1,000 for services, and it turns out my car only needed a battery,” Guerrero said. “And the only reason I stopped it was because my car wouldn’t start two days after I picked it up. After he supposedly fixed it, he didn’t start.
What should have been an $ 80 battery replacement suddenly turned into a very costly problem for Guerrero.
“When I think about it now, I feel like a fool,” Guerrero said. “I really got caught. “
But Guerrero fought to get his money back from the mechanic and won. She even signed up for auto repair classes and educated others through an eBook she wrote, titled “Exposed: Dirty Little Secrets to Rip You Off!” “
“I ended up writing a book because I wanted to share all this knowledge with people,” Guerrero said. “It really pisses me off that these mechanics are taking advantage of women.… They mostly cheat on women because they think we don’t know.”
Guerrero had a message for the mechanic she claimed had ripped her off: “Got you,” Guerrero said. “You thought you were good, but I got you. “