Like any other object, your car degrades over time. It is inevitable, and it is bound to happen at a certain point. This is why repairs and maintenance checks are necessary to retain performance and longevity. Failure in proper maintenance can significantly hinder your car from its peak performance and even render it unusable in the worst-case scenario. There are auto repair services you can opt for that will take a look at your car and fix possible issues for a fee. However, there might be more to it than meets the eye.
While auto repair services are a necessary business, not all of them might be honest about it. It’s common to hear stories of people getting high charges for services or products they don’t need. You might even have had a similar experience of your own. Some auto repair services are dubious about their activities and try to overcharge gullible customers, essentially scamming them for unnecessary or entirely non-existent service. Here is a checklist of common tricks auto service centres are using to scam customers and how you can protect yourself:
This is by far one of the oldest tricks in the book. The mechanic will look into your car, regardless of whether you requested a full inspection or not, then tell you that your vehicle lacks enough engine oil. You will then be charged for engine oil replacement when they might not even have added anything. More often than not, you will only know of this after you take a look at the bill. And at that point, it’s too late to refuse to pay for it since they will claim that they changed it and you have to pay for the service. You can get around this by checking it for yourself with a dipstick. If the reading tells you that there isn’t enough oil, you can refuel the engine oil by a mechanic or yourself.
Engine flushing cleaning the engine’s insides with oil additives. Auto repair services might claim that your car’s performance is reducing because of the engine’s accumulated sludge and gunk deposits. Every vehicle will slowly get sludge due to oil breakdown, moisture, dirt ingestion, oil quality, etc. Showing this as a problem, the service centre may then charge you for engine flushing. To prevent being scammed this way, refer to your car’s owner manual, which will recommend when you need to perform engine flushing. This is typically after the vehicle has travelled several tens of thousands of kilometres. Generally, regular engine flushing is not required at all, and you’re probably getting conned if the repair service tries to charge you for engine flushing.
Wheel alignment can be defined as car maintenance to enable the vehicle to travel straight and reduce tire wear. It is another wear and tear problem your car will eventually face. Anyone can diagnose incorrect wheel alignment if the vehicle pulls to one side, tire wear is more noticeable in certain spots, the steering wheel feels loose, off-centre or does not return to the centre at rest. Some repair centres use these tactics to scam you. They charge you extra for a “solution” that you may not have needed. Also, keep in mind that wheel alignment is only frequently if you drive in extraordinarily rough or bumpy terrain. For on-road travelling, wheel alignment is only over a long period.
Dysfunctional components can often attribute to irregular car behaviour like noise, excessive heat, performance drops, etc. This calls for part replacements with new ones to solve existing issues. Once the part replacement is complete, it is essential to ask for your old parts back; unless it is with a warranty under the respective repair centre. Repair centres can tell you that a car’s components fail to work and need replacements. Some may first replace your vehicles’ parts and then inform you or outright lie returning a function. They will then keep the old details for reselling or reusing for other purposes. By asking for old parts, you can find out whether or not they are honest about it. As an owner of the vehicle, you are also subject to the ownership of any parts within it, dysfunctional or not. Though you only pay for the new features and labour costs, you still maintain right over the old aspects. If the repair centre seems hesitant to explain it this way, consider it a red flag and contact the manager or the authorities.
You might find the mechanic suggesting you opt for paint protection. They will sugar coat their words with promises like removing scratches. It is more challenging to get new scratches, an extra protective layer against harsh sunlight, discolouring, stains and whatever other lies they can come up with. At best, your car will look new and fresh for a few weeks, then get back to how it was before the paint protection. If you want actual protection, you can look into options like paint wax, car waxes, or paint sealants, which offer varying protection duration. Paint protection is more of a rip-off than a scam because they do the job but not correctly, and it largely depends on the quality of the product they use.
Sometimes, you can save money by fixing simple car problems yourself. Maintenance works like engine oil, engine flushing, paint protection, cleaning, tire pressures are stuff you can learn and do yourself provided you have the time. However, if you must visit a repair centre, you can do things like keeping a mental note of how much the vehicle has travelled, the last time you did car servicing, what possible parts you think are a problem. This can help technicians diagnose problems more efficiently. Try to stay close while making repairs to the cars. You can see what they are doing with your vehicle. This can help prevent unnecessary “labour cost” fees and unnecessary replacements.