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It is no secret that some mechanics will invent repairs or needed buys when you go in for a simple inspection or oil change. Don't get me wrong, many mechanics are honest and can help you with serious car repairs, but some are...well, some are less than reputable. Worst case scenario, it couldn't hurt you to know when your mechanic lied to you in those instances. Sure, you can't forget that your mechanic is part of a business when your check engine light comes on, but knowing the difference between someone helping you or when they are trying to help the financial situation of their auto repair shop will be crucial to saving you money that you don't need to spend.
First, learn how your car works.
I'm not saying go to an auto mechanic school. Let me ask you this though, have you read your owner's manual? If not, that is a great place to start. The more you know, the less likely you are to be tricked into spending more at auto repair shops. Knowing where your engine and air filters are, or even how long a new set of tires should last, will help you to know if your mechanic has lied to you. The internet is a priceless tool when researching specific problems. A car is a hard thing to DIY, but having certain information on hand can help you navigate a conversation with your mechanic.
Learn the tactics mechanics use to get you to spend money.
Mechanics have some pretty common practices and tactics to make sure you spend more than is necessary; and though it may be sexist to say, mechanics have been known to lie to women about repairs (although men can fall victim just as easily). When you need air filter changes, tire rotations, oil changes, or car repairs, you need to be aware of these tactics.
They're wasting extra time so you'll spend that extra dime.
Some mechanics will charge you for more time than the repair actually takes. A good way to guard against this is to know beforehand how long one of these operations should take.
For example, for a tire rotation, the job itself should only take around 30 minutes. Many repair shops will charge for almost two hours of work. That's an hour and a half of free money coming from your wallet.
A simple search around Google or a conversation with a knowledgeable friend can help you save a lot of money when going in for a car repair or simple maintenance.
Learn the basics of what is needed for you car and how long it takes. You don't need to be a professional, but you need to know what's going on before you blindly trust a new auto repair shop. The maintenance may be needed, but the time spent fixing your vehicle may be wildly exaggerated.
Some mechanics will tell you a blatant lie about work they haven't done.
On the same train of thought as charging for extra hours, you can also be charged for work that has never occurred. This tactic can really put a dent in your pocket for work that may need to be done later on.
How can a mechanic get away with a tactic like that? There are air filters that are hard enough to get to that you will never be able to physically see a difference in when looking under the hood of your car. A mechanic can easily tell you work has been done at their auto repair shop knowing that you won't be able to tell if there was a change or not.
If you are one of the many drivers on the road who know nothing about car repairs, this trick is a lot easier for mechanics to pull off.
The wallet flush is real.
It's that time again to go in for an oil change. Before you know it, your mechanic is selling you power steering flushes, cooling flushes, and other kind of flushes that you may not understand the purpose of.
They may say you need them for this or that, but the goal of this is the paycheck. Auto repair shops do want a profit, which is fair, but don't let yourself become their cash cow due to your lack of knowledge. Always know what you are buying and what it does before you buy it; it's a simple trick, but it will save you money.
They may be using the check engine light to run up repair bills.
Your engine light will go off at some point while you have your car. It is a common problem and may signify serious issues with your car, and you should schedule an appointment with your mechanic if the check engine light comes on. On the other hand though, there may simply be a problem with the light itself and it's wiring. If you have an honest mechanic, they will check and fix the underlying problem that's causing your check engine light to go off without charging a ridiculous amount (if the problem itself isn't that serious). Other mechanics will take this opportunity to say you need a part to be replaced and charge you more than was necessary for a small car repair issue.
The best way to know if your mechanic has lied to you in this situation is to have an auto repair shop that you feel can be trusted. Ask friends and family about who they go to, and go to them for oil changes, air filter changes, and tire rotations. Build trust with a mechanic before a bigger issue comes up and you have to rely on the mechanic's expertise.
Lastly, develop your game plan.
If you really want to know if your mechanic lied to you and what you can do to save money, you need to take some action.
Your first step needs to be finding a reputable auto repair shop. As previously stated, ask those in your life about who they use and use them faithfully to build a relationship.
Before going in for a car repair, do your homework. Make it a priority to investigate whatever car issue you are experiencing so that you aren't lost in a conversation with your mechanic. Familiarize yourself with car maintenance tips every driver should know and read your owner's manual; it may save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Pay attention to the signs. If your repair shop seems to be using certain telltale signs, trust your gut and move on. Remember, some mechanics will charge you for work they lied about doing, the time it spent to do work, and parts needed for repairs, if they even used them at all!
If you are beginning to question your auto repair shop's decisions, do not be afraid to go to another shop for a second opinion.
Learn how to negotiate and stand up for yourself. Some of you may already know how to do this, but if you are more prone to avoid conflict, it can be a struggle. Do not be afraid to ask questions, especially if the mechanic is expecting you to buy a part. You can always say no and look for a second opinion about your car repairs. If you believe you are being up-charged, you can gracefully put your foot down and say what you think is fair for the time it normally takes to complete a job.