What do you know about the Idiot Light? Gravy Work? The Complete Brake Job? The Wallet Flush? The three Fs? Well given the amount of emails that come in here about problems with getting your car fixed and feeling ripped off on car service, the answer is clearly not much.
Today we are going to give you some basic rules on how to avoid the tricks dealerships and auto shops use to take you for a ride. And, at the risk of being sexist, explain why women are targeted by unscrupulous car fixers.
First up, it’s important to understand that the majority of mechanics are very honest. You only have to look at Adelaide’s only renaissance person. Yes the Sultan of Stepney, the King of the Kensi, the Official Nude portrait painter to the royal family (except for two) and the proud owner of Michael McMichael Motors, Michael McMichael (so good they named him twice) has as his motto: “We value the amiable and trusting relationships we have developed with our clientele over the years, particularly at the corner bar of the Kensi.
Marty Guerrero is a two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who has worked in Los Angeles TV news for 16 years as a writer and a producer. Marty also worked for 10 years at CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
A few years ago she took her Mustang into one of LA’s best-respected auto shops. She had trouble getting the car to start. They charged her $1000 and the car still had the same problem. The next mechanic put in a new battery. Problem solved. Cost $100. Unfortunately for the first mechanic, Marty didn’t like being treated like an idiot. Not only did she report the auto shop, she took engine repair classes, interviewed her class mates and their bosses and then wrote a book about it. (Exposed: Auto Repair’s Dirty Little Secrets to Rip You Off. Mine cost about $10 from Amazon). “Mechanics cheat you because it’s built into the industry,” Marty says.
OK. Idiot lights are the warning lights that come on when you start up the car. If one comes on when you are driving, it causes maximum panic.
The most profitable is the engine warning light. The check engine light can come on because a sensor’s unplugged (about a 15-minute fix at the most) but it can be made into a $3k drama. Gravy Work: a 15-minute fix that I can bill you three hours for.
The Complete Brake Job: the oldest scam in the book. As Marty says: “Unethical mechanics will prey on your fear of safety to get you to pay for a complete brake overhaul.” The line usually is: “I would feel guilty if I let this car back on the road like this. You have young kids, don’t you?”
The Wallet Flush is where you’re told the car needs a transmission flush, and engine cooling flush, a power steering flush, a brake fluid flush, a fuel-injection flush and a rear differential flush. Fact is you don’t usually need to flush (sometimes it can hurt the car), but you do need to regularly change your oil.
What about the three Fs?
“I know how you feel. I felt the same way when I had to replace my brakes. But then I found the best way to keep my family safe is by having good brakes.
“I’d rather call them find ’em, fool ’em, forget ’em,” Marty says.
Womenautoknow.com is a website set up by Audra Fordin. Audra is a fourth-generation auto shop owner and certified mechanic. At age 12, she started working side by side with her dad and took over the family business in 1998. She set up Women Auto Know to connect women with auto shops that do the right thing.
“Any shop on our list agrees with our philosophy and took the WAK pledge. That’s a commitment to offering a friendly environment and quality service standards that you won’t encounter at other auto shops. You know what I’m talking about. The calendar with pictures of scantily clad women. The bathroom that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in 20 years. The complete lack of a lobby or waiting area (What, there isn’t even a place to sit down?!).”
Can I suggest any car owner, man, woman or other RTFM (Read The Rude Word Manual). While the book that comes with your car is rarely written in any form of English we recognise, it will tell a lot about your car and save you a lot of money.
Some time ago, Garry and Monique Connelly (don’t write in, no relation, but I wish they were) set up The Racing Together project to help talented young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders find a pathway into motorsport.
Garry is the motorsport king of the world (deputy president, FIA institute; director, Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety; director, Australian Institute of Motor Sport Safety; etc; and a better rally driver than Mick and me.
Racing Together this week selected 11 Queensland teenagers to build and drive a car next season. The team will now plan the build of their Hyundai Excel racer under the guidance of Garry and Monique and Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Morris and Gunya Meta Indigenous mentor Michael Orcher.
In other big news, Hamo became the greatest driver ever last weekend and we have set the date for the WART drinks in Adelaide. If you’re around on Monday, November 23, join us for a drink around 6pm at a location to be advised but no prizes for guessing. All the Coopers you can drink in five minutes. Drop me an email if you can join us. You won’t get put in the naughty corner if you say yes and don’t turn up.