Garage Rip-off’s and Scams
Garage rip-offs and Money Making Scams.
Most trades have little tricks to screw more cash out of the customer but the Motor Trade has many more than most.
I have spent more years than I care to remember working in a garage workshop, during this time I can recall lots of tricks and scams to bolster garage owners profits.
When you leave your most prized possession with the local garage for a routine service, repair or MOT, it could cost you a great deal more than you had bargained for.
Servicing your car today can be a quick job probably little more than oil and filter change and check-over required, so the garage will want to increase cash flow from you.
There is several ways in which this can happen, first; The garage states “When checking your car we found the following items that require immediate attention;”
1 The disc pads are below change limit also discs need replacing.
(Unless the pads are below 6mm this should be unnecessary. Unless the discs are badly scored and lipped there is no need to be replaced.) Ask to inspect the parts in question. (The originals should have lasted 25 to 30,000 miles.) There could be at least 40 to 60% profit on these parts so they will try hard to persuade you
2 The battery is down on power, so it needs replacing.
(Unless you have had trouble starting or your battery is more than five years old, this also should be unnecessary expense.) Insist on seeing a hydrometer battery test, a good charge may be all that is required. New battery (30 to 40% profit margin.)
3 The shock absorbers are getting weak, we suggest their replacement.
(Unless your car fails the MOT for this item they shouldnâ€™t need replacing before 30,000 miles.) The profit mark-up on these can again be huge (40 to 75%.)
4 The exhaust has a slight blow, we suggest full system replacement. Exhaust’s have a huge markup, they only last two to three years, (only replace if absolutely essential.) A small leak can be repaired.
The Alternator Ruse.
Starting your car one cold morning, a loud screeching noise is heard coming from the engine that disappears after a few minutes running.
After the local garage has looked at your car, they pronounce, a new alternator is required Sir, and the cost could be over two hundred pounds. (But the fault will be nothing more serious than a loose fan belt,) only adjustment is required. Of course the garage will not make much profit from adjusting belt, and a new alternator will have a large mark-up.
The Parts Scam.
Manufacturer’s parts such as brake parts, wheel bearings, filters, etc. are usually a lot more expensive than the spurious parts that most garages use, these are manufactured by specialist firms, most are made to a high standard.
The price that you will be charged for your spare parts is likely to be car maker’s retail, probably up to 70% higher than the copy. (A good check if you have some mechanical ability is to remove the air filter cover and note name on filter.)
(Make sure you get an itemised bill for servicing, also ask if genuine parts were used.)
Some garages are not particular what grade or quality of oil is used in your engine, most modern cars require a top quality 10/50 grade, a cheaper oil could be used in your vehicle and you will be none the wiser until you have problems with a worn engine at a later date.
Supplying your own 5L of your preferred lubricant, will only be a bonus for the mechanic as he is likely to purloin for his own car, substituting his firms offering. (Ask for make and grade of oil used.)
The Mot Scam.
The MOT will be an area when the motorist will definitely be ripped off.
Your car has failed the test, and you are presented with a long list of items that require attention.
One thing to remember, the testers judgement will be subjective. It is only his opinion; if you are dissatisfied there is an option to appeal.
One MOT tester may allow a little more tolerance than another.
If the workshop bookings are down, this may be a bad time for your appointment.
One of the most common scams for a failure is; Your car has failed the MOT the front brakes are out of balance, we will have to replace, yes you have guessed, although they are not worn out, new disc pads and disc’s required. This will be a quick and easy job that should swell the MOT centres profit. (Always ask to see brake testing report to confirm this.)
Another high profit area is the welding scam. Your old banger has failed due to corrosion on chassis, the tester tells you, it is a small welding job so the cost should not be great.
you OK the workshop to begin the work but are quickly told after they have started the work that the job is much bigger than originally thought and will cost a lot more than estimate. As the MOT and beginning the job has cost you money, you have no alternative than to tell them to carry on with the work, or write off the lot. Welding work although is a filthy job, can bring in lots of easy money.
A little trick played by some MOT examiners is to lever off a welded corner of heat shield on catalitic converter, this allows shield to vibrate and give a noise when reving engine but has no effect on operation of cat.
Tester tells you that due to vibrating noise, a new catalitic converter is required. This will make the garage a nice profit
Tip. Unless your vehicle has failed the emmision test there should be no reason to replace cat.
Most mechanics are aware of tricks to help with their beer money. Mechanics scams are usually concerned with parts paid for by car owner, being redeployed for mechanics benefit. (It will be difficult for the motorist with little mechanical knowledge to check that all parts on service list have actually been replaced.)
The car owner can check if engine oil has been changed, as new oil will obviously be cleaner, this will easily be checked with the dipstick. If you are able to locate the oil filter, usually this fits to front or rear of engine, (basically a canister shape.), if this is covered in grime this could mean oil filter has not been changed. Check air filter for signs that cover has been removed, there will be signs if you look closely. (usually held together with spring clips or screws.) If you are sure that these items have not been replaced, a telephone call to trading standards may give you some good advice.
Removing a tow bar for the sales department or a customer can be a nice little earner for the mechanic. After removing towing tackle, a small free ad will be inserted in local newspaper for a second-hand towbar at least Â£30 to Â£50 pounds will be asked.
Pumping petrol out of your car is easy for the mechanic.
If you take your car in for service with a full tank, a gallon or so will not be missed.
Replacing a petrol tank can be a real bonus for the fitter, as long as he leaves an odd 5L of fuel, to put in the new tank, so the owner can drive away.
Car sale’s scam.
When leaving your old car with the garage as part exchange remember, the unexpired portion of road fund licence on your vehicle is worth money, to you, not left on car to benefit the garage. It is a simple matter to fill in form, attach tax disc and send off to Swansea for your refund.
Do not leave your car with a full tank of petrol, just leave sufficient in the tank to get you to the garage, every gallon you leave will be a bonus to the salesman.
Any extras you leave in your vehicle will be worth money to the garage. Most accessories will be saleable items.
Keep your motoring costs down.
It is difficult to avoid rip-off’s in the motor trade, but if you follow these tips it could possibly save you a little cash.
Most cars sold today have fuel injection, after a time this can give a problem in that rough running and a misfire appears on start-up, after a few seconds running, problem disappears. This could mean fuel system is getting gummed up with harmfull deposits in the petrol. Taking your car to the dealer with this malady can leave you wide open to being conned to have spark plugs replaced, at the very least. (Modern spark plugs last for up to 40,000 miles.)
Adding an additive to the fuel twice a year can alleviate this; Additives can be purchased cheaply at most accessory shops. This is marketed as “Fuel and Injector Cleaner” simply adding contents to fuel tank every six months or so will clean and restore injector system.
Diesel Engine Vehicles.
Diesel cars and vans can also have this problem but is less noticeable; A special additive can also be used on these engine types. This is added to every tank-full of fuel to maintain optimum economy and performance.
An alternative is to drive your vehicle with the pedal to the metal, this could have the same effect.
Maintaining your own car.
The private car owner can help to save on garage costs by carrying out minor jobs his or her self.
Familiarise yourself with under bonnet layout and check and top up coolant and engine oil weekly, brake fluid should also be checked.
Checking your battery is another easy task, most batteries fitted to cars today are sealed and topping up is not usually necessary. You can check terminals for tightness or corrosion.
If corrosion is a problem, this should be cleaned off and anti corrosion washers fitted, followed by anti corrosion compound or vaseline will do the job cheaply.
A little oil or grease on door hinges and locks will lenghthen life and will save money, wipe off excess to avoid marking clothing. Oiling door locks on cars without central locking, can help to stop them freezing, but make sure the ignition lock is not oiled, this could ruin lock.
It is a legal requirement to make sure that tyre pressures are kept to your carmakers recommendations. Tyres that are under inflated can make your car dangerous to drive, and cause rapid tyre wear. If the tyre is over-inflated this can also cause handling problems and costly tyre wear. It is a simple matter to check tyre pressure when filling tank up, otherwise invest in a small compressor that plugs into cigarette lighter socket to easily do this. Keep an eye on tyre wear, any uneven wear could be a sign of misalignment.
All car owners should spend a little time studying cars handbook, this will give information regarding tyre pressures, also types of tyre fitted to your vehicle.
Dont forget to check spare tyre is inflated to at least 35lb. also familiar yourself with jack operation and tools to change wheel should you ever have a puncture.
Another easy job every car owner should be able to do is replace bulbs. The first bulb that will go is the stop light. The stoplights should be checked every week, either with help of a friend or by reversing close to a wall to check reflection. Both the stoplights are legally required to be working, as are all lights fitted to your car. Check your handbook to make sure you fit identical replacement.
Washers and wipers.
A weekly check should be made of level in screenwasher reservoir, and should be topped up with a proprietary screenwash fluid, clean water can be used but remember in winter it will freeze. Make sure washer nozzles are kept clear.
Keep a close check on wiper blades as these will deteriorate over time, do not forget to check rear wiper blade. A worn blade can scratch screen and make a costly MOT failure.
The Timing belt scam.
Your vehicle shudders to a halt on the motorway, the recovery service are quickly on the scene and they state; the cam belt has broken, nothing can be done here, your car is then quickly taken to a garage. The mechanic says; your car engine requires a considerable sum to put back in working order as valves are bent.
But beware valve damage does not happen to all car engines when timing belt snaps, and before agreeing to expensive repair costs, check whether your vehicle could be one of the make of cars that a broken timing belt will not damage the engine, (a timing chain is fitted to some models that rarely breaks.it should state this in the owners manual.) This could save you about Â£500.
Tip; Ask the garage to carry out a compression test to confirm valves are in fact damaged. (This may incur a charge, as a new timing belt has to be temporary refitted.)
Most timing belts fitted today are of the long life type and should last up to 100,000 miles.
When replacing the timing belt on your car, ensure your garage uses fitting kit, this includes tensioner roller and bolts, some models have a tensioner spring which should always be renewed. Sometimes after a large mileage, belt sprockets should be replaced.
The head gasket.
After a routine service the garage reception tell you that your head gasket has begun to leak and needs immediate replacement. This job on a modern car can be an expensive undertaking, as besides replacing head gasket, associated parts may also require replacement. The timing belt will definitely require renewal; water pump and thermostat may also be due for replacement at this time. The cylinder head will need checking for flattness and possibly skimming to ensure mating surfaces are completely flat. New cylinder head bolts should also be used during reassembly. Oil and filter should also be renewed as a matter of course.
Finally to make sure of a successful outcome any suspect radiator and heater hoses should be renewed the radiator should be removed from the car, for flow and pressure check for leaks, if there is any doubt this expensive item should be replaced.
Unless these items are checked or replaced at this time, replacing head gasket will be a waste of money as problem will recur after a short period, and you have been conned.