7 On Your Side: The 7 costly lies mechanics tell
“You could drive your car to go get a second opinion,” the tire repair man told 7 On Your Side. “But I wouldn’t want it to catch on fire.”
When John Klingler watched that undercover video inside an Arlington garage, he knew exactly what was going on.
“It was a farce,” Klingler said. “I know, because I used to do it.”
Nine former car and tire experts called 7 On Your Side to verify that lies are told, customers are upsold, and unnecessary services are pushed by mechanics at certain chain repair shops, but only Klingler was willing to say it publicly.
“I didn’t like who I was, what I had become,” he said. “‘Be a shark, not a bottom feeder’ they would say, and I was a shark. One of the best.” There was no pride in his voice.
After working as a mechanic and manager at several repair shops in Maryland, Klingler got out, and decided to speak out to warn the public.
Who is targeted? Parents of teenagers, who will pay anything to keep their kids safe. Older women on fixed incomes. Anyone they didn’t know.
“We would joke, ‘I can’t see him from my house.’ You started to feel bad about it after a while.”
Why do they do it? Klingler said his company paid by commission, pushed contests, encouraged add-ons, whether or not the customer needed it. On “Power Flush Saturdays," for example, “the district manager would say, 'The store with most amount of flushes will get this much money.'" Stores would get faxed updates all day long to show which team was in the lead.
We asked Klingler to show us the top seven lies mechanics often tell. If you’re told you must do the following or your car will fall apart, find the nearest exit.
NUMBER 1 - YOU MUST HAVE A BRAKE FLUID, TRANSMISSION, AND COOLANT FLUSH.
“We would scare you into that.”
NUMBER 2 – YOU MUST HAVE: A THERMOSTAT REPLACEMENT, A FUEL INJECTION SERVICE, AND NEW BELTS.
Check your manuals. Dirty doesn’t always mean done.
“They’d say it’s brown, glazed, it’s time for a new belt.”
For battery corrosion, instead of paying for a cleanup and new pads, take a can of Coke and a brush to it.
NUMBER 3 - YOU CAN’T SEE THE WORK WE DID.
They might drain the oil, but leave the filter.
If they claimed they took the filter out, have them show you the clean one.
“You don’t ask to see it. You didn’t get an air filter. You got charged.”
Watch for used freon; you’ll know because your car won’t cool.
NUMBER 4 - THOSE SLIGHTLY DUSTY TIRES ON THE SHELF ARE PERFECT.
Double check the manufacturing date. It’s printed on the side of your tire.
NUMBER 5 – TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE.
“You put a hole in a sneaker, you don’t buy just one,” Klingler mocked. “I’ve used that one time and time again.”
NUMBER 6 - YOUR CAR CAN’T PERFORM WORSE AFTER A TIRE ROTATION.
“Our guys would slam it on with impact guns. Customers would come back complaining of vibration. We did that.”
NUMBER 7 - YOUR CAR IS GOING TO BE A DANGER TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY OF YOU DRIVE IT DOWN THE STREET.
“You can’t turn around and make them fear their car is going to fall apart.”
But that’s just what he admits, with shame, that he once did.
A few more tips to avoid getting hoodwinked under the hood:
Find a car and tire repair shop that pays mechanics by the hour, not by commission.
Google your car’s problem; you can learn a lot from forums before you take it in. Check on-line reviews of shops too.
If you get a long list of unexpected repairs and suggested services, drive, as fast as is legal, to get that second opinion.