As someone who was formerly married to a mechanic that had no qualms about ripping off unsuspecting women, I learned there are some easy ways to spot a rip off. You may not be able to stop a mechanic from trying to scam you because you are a woman but you can catch him in the act and save yourself some money. So ladies, check out the tips below and become a wiser consumer.
Read your car’s manual. I can’t stress this enough. For most people the manual is a dirty little book meant to be kept prisoner in the glove box. Not so. Your manual will explain when routine maintenance should be done such as when the oil should be changed or the tires rotated. It will also tell you the codes for computer messages and lights that go off on your dash as well as a few troubleshooting tips. You should read and know your manual front to back. This book has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars.
An example of how the manual can save you money is when your engine light comes on. This message tends to cause panic and mayhem but there are some simple reasons that can cause it like not clicking your gas cap around enough times. If you don’t know that this can cause the engine light to come on and you take your car to a mechanic he may tell you that you need new oxygen sensors or head gaskets when in fact you just need to turn your gas cap another turn.
Inspection Tips. When the time comes to take your car to the shop have a game plan. Make appointments with more than one shop so that you can compare the differences in diagnosis and price. Don’t believe the first mechanic you deal with because he looks cute and wholesome. At the time of the inspection make it a point to stick around and watch the inspection. Ask questions, stick your head under the hood along side the mechanic and squat to see what he’s doing underneath. Many mechanics will loosen cables and wires and tell you that you need expensive repairs. They don’t have the chance to do this if you are right there in the nitty gritty with them.
Never sign consent to have your car worked on at the time of the inspection unless you know without a doubt that only the original problem will be fixed correctly. Make it known upfront that you are not authorizing any repairs until a final decision is made and that this is an inspection only. Failing to do say may result in the mechanic taking liberties to replace parts, work on other areas of the car and then charge you a large sum you didn’t know about afterward.
Take a man with you. It sounds condescending I know, but taking a man along with you has the potential to make the mechanic a little more honest when they know another man is paying attention. It boils down to the brotherhood of men and how men believe other men know more about cars than women. When a mechanic sees a woman they see dollar signs because most automatically believe women are clueless about auto repairs.
Mark your engine parts. This might sound intimidating but it really isn’t. Most part stores carry books on cars and if not search for an engine diagram online. Mark your carburetor, oil filter, belts, plug, cap and rotor, fuel lines and air filter etc with a dot of bright nail polish. The reason for marking your parts is so that after a repair has been done you can be sure that your original part was replaced. If a mechanic tells you he changed your spark plugs and you see the dot of nail polish still on them then you know they are lying to you.
Request to keep your old parts. Sometimes mechanics will tell you they have changed a part when they really haven’t. One way to determine whether or not your part has been changed is to be handed the old defunct part. You should be able to spot the mark you made on the part. If not then the mechanic is handing you someone else’s old parts. As a side note you need to understand that some parts require a core. This means that the old rebuildable part is handed over to the vendor of the new part. If you fail to provide the core you may or may not be charged a core fee. Be sure to check with the shop so that you know what the core charge will be and let them know you are willing to pay that fee. One other tip, when you ask for your old parts back also ask for the boxes of the new parts as these will provide you the part number and sometimes the name of the store they came from.
Buy your own parts. Once you have an inspection done on your car and you believe it to be accurate check into buying your own parts. Sometimes the shop can get you a better price and sometimes not. It all depends on where they get it from. A lot of times a mechanic will purchase parts from an auto dealership rather than an independent parts store. Independent parts stores almost always offer better prices. If you go this route make sure you let your mechanic know that you will be/have purchased the parts and will bring them in with the car. Even if you do buy your own parts still ask to have your old parts returned to you so that you know you didn’t just supply the mechanic with extra free parts.
Keep all your paperwork. Stash them in a file folder, cram them in your glove box or where ever just don’t throw them away. Not ever, unless you sell the car and then it’s best to provide these records to the buyer. The paperwork you get from your mechanic will let you know whether or not you received any warranties or life time guarantees. This will also help you keep track of how often maintenance has been done on your car.
Consult with your local college or high school auto shop. You won’t find a better resource. Take your inspection paperwork and visit the instructor of the shop class. Ask questions, take notes and get their opinion on the diagnosis of your car. This provides an opportunity for the students as well as gives you reassurance of your mechanic. College and high school auto shop instructors also typically have the inside scoop on local mechanic shops and can tell you who is reputable and who is a rip off.
Finding a good mechanic that won’t rip you off can be a challenge, especially if you are a woman. If you let them know right off the bat that you are educated and have resources behind you, you will be less likely to be taken for a fool. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself and let them know you don’t consider them to be the only mechanics alive. After all it will be you lining their pockets.