5 On Your Side

Have doubts about what a mechanic says? Experts say get a 2nd opinion

Posted June 8
Updated June 10

When you take a car in for routine maintenance, recall service or a problem, it's not uncommon for mechanics to bring up other issues.

How do you know what to believe? How can you rely on the expertise of a mechanic without being taken for an expensive ride?

When Lisa Leone's car started to shudder, she took it to her dealer's mechanic, where she got scary news.

"I had done damage to this major part in the car, and it was probably going to cost me $4,000 in the end," Leone recalls of the interaction with the mechanic.

Leone said she was suspicious about the estimate, so she took the car to another mechanic to get a second opinion. That mechanic told her all that was needed was a simple reboot of the car's computer.

Similar scenes aren't all that uncommon at garages across the country.

"Part of the reason mechanics may pressure or mislead you is because cars are more reliable these days, and fewer repairs mean lower profits for those garages," Consumer Reports' Mark Rechtin said.

Consumer Reports says drivers should be on the lookout for the following common schemes:

Faking a leak by putting drops of coolant on your ending to mimic a broken radiator

Recommending an unneeded full brake replacement with rotors and calipers when replacing the brake pads and resurfacing the rotors will do

Calling for a transmission flush, which under certain circumstances can actually cause more damage

"Also, check your owner's manual for your car's maintenance schedule, especially if you suspect that a mechanic is trying to trick you by suggesting you replace an expensive piece," Rechtin said.

Consumer Reports says drivers should always get repair estimates in writing. If there are still questions after an initial consultation, get a second opinion.

Drivers should also be on guard when they get recall notices. Some dealers may refuse to do the free repair unless you agree to other expensive repairs or maintenance, which is against Department of Transportation regulations.

Drivers can file complaints against dealers on safercar.gov.

1 Comment

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  • Ben Hill Jun 9, 12:06 a.m.
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    This story says nothing. What major part of Lisa's car was she told she'd damaged? Was the reboot a lasting repair? Most times if a code arises that is cleared by a computer reboot, the reboot temporally fixes they symptom but does not correct the problem. While it's true that cars are more reliable now, they're so computerized that when a part fails it is much more expensive and labor intensive to diagnose and repair. This is what the esteemed Mr. Rechtin is failing to mention.