Friday, January 27, 2012

Wanted: Honest Car Mechanic

I am in grave danger.  Not too long ago, I receive a recall notice from my car manufacturer.    The plastic clip that holds the driver’s side floor mat could, at any moment, dislodge and accidentally wrap its way around the gas pedal.   I can picture the scenario: I’m on the beltway at rush hour with both kids in the car on a dark and stormy night when suddenly…
Never mind that I don’t drive on the beltway very often.  Or that I usually avoid driving in the rain and the dark.  And disregard completely the fact that I’ve been driving my car problem-free for the past 6 years in this condition blissfully unaware of the danger beneath my accelerator pedal.  After reading the letter, I schedule my appointment promptly. 
Usually I am skeptical of people who service my car.  This doesn’t mean my car mechanics are not trustworthy…only that I don’t trust them.  But this is a simple recall replacement at no charge to the customer.  I’ll be in and out, right?
Wrong.  As long as my car is in the service bay, the technicians kindly decide to do a complimentary inspection of the vehicle.  Isn’t that just so sweet of them?  That, by the way, was soooo lucky because they discovered that I am driving a death trap with $3,200 worth of accidents waiting to happen.   The front differential is leaking, both sets of brake pads and rotors are in dismal condition, I should replace the timing belt, water pump, drive belt and front seals, and everything that can possibly be flushed needs flushing.
I don’t know a lot about cars.  I remember in high school talking with a group of friends discussing the cars of their dreams.  As they imagined owning Mustang convertibles and Jaguars, someone asked, “What kind of car do you want, Allison?”
“A red one.”
That was back in high school.  Today I favor blue.  Other than that, not much has changed with my understanding of cars.  My ignorance is one of the main reasons I distrust my mechanics.  Since I have no idea what they are talking about, (What’s a differential, anyway?) I have no idea if they are taking advantage of my naiveté.  Are they trying to help me or can they spot a gullible fool the moment I step into their grease-stained garage?  Once when getting my oil changed I got a lecture about the dangers of being neglectful.  Apparently, I was remiss in changing the fluids on the transfer case for the entire life of my vehicle!
“I can take care of this right now if you want,” the technician said, helpfully.
“Yeah, I guess I should take care of that,” I said, sheepishly.
Boy, was that guy embarrassed when he came back five minutes later to report that I don’t actually have a transfer case on my car.  And what about me?  I authorized the work!  Too bad I don’t know of an Emperor in need of new clothes.
When I get this expensive estimate, I do what any self respecting person might do.  I collect my keys and say “thanks.”  I drive away calmly.  And then I burst into tears.   When I regroup, I decide to visit a different auto body shop for a second opinion.    I’m awaiting their recommendations when the phone finally rings.  What will they say?  What is most important and what can wait…the leak?  The brakes?
“Hi, Allison.  We need to talk about your battery.”  Battery?  Turns out, the second shop found an entirely different list of problems.
Hmmm.  Maybe I need a third opinion.  Anyone know a good, honest car mechanic?


  1. When I was visiting my family in nebraska several years ago and had big car issue (I'd actually been having them in Colorado, but the nebraska trip was an emergency, so we just went, car problems and all! This was a problem that several Colorado mechanics had no idea what it was, and I went to Nebraska, and decided to try out and find a mechanic - and it was by far my fave mechanic ever! So I recommend that website to find someone :) Good luck!

  2. Good thing we live near the subway...