Archive for Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beware repair

August 30, 2009


To the editor:

I recently took my car in for an oil change at a well known national chain store. Upon paying for the service a staff member informed of numerous problems with my car:

1. The oil pan (or oil gasket) was leaking and needed to be fixed. (He said it would cost about $500.)

2. The tranny pan (or gasket) was broken/leaking and needed to be fixed. (He said it would cost about $200.)

3. The power steering was broken (a cable or something needed repair). (He said it would cost $900-$1,500.)

I asked him what would happen if I did nothing, and he assured me it would lead to major damages in my car.

So immediately after leaving the shop I took my car to a local shop that has been around awhile and told them what the staff member from the national chain shop had told me. The local shop’s staff did an inspection and informed me the next day that they found no leaks in my oil pan or tranny pan and they found nothing wrong. They didn’t find any of the problems that the national auto chain staff told me needed fixing. So apparently the national chain was trying to swindle me out of nearly $2,000 in repair that my car didn’t need. This was infuriating. I would like to thank the honest and hardworking staff at the local Lawrence auto shop for their professional and courteous service.


rbwaa 8 years, 9 months ago

It would be helpful, especially for the local auto shop, if you would identify them. I'm sure the local shop could use the public pat on the back.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

You could also identify the chain.

Peaty Romano 8 years, 9 months ago

I run and moderate a number of automotive enthusiast websites. I see this same story over and over again. If you can't do your own basic maintenance (and I realize many people don't have the time, inclination or even a place) take your car to a dealer or reputable local mom and pop place.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 9 months ago

Relax and have a popsicle, dried. It's a cool and fruity treat on a summer day.

50YearResident 8 years, 9 months ago

If the name can't be posted because of legal reasons then at least provide some positive hints as to what business it is! Although I have an idea that these scams involve several of the "Chain Repair Shops" and has been going on for many years involving a lot of trusting victims.

WHY 8 years, 9 months ago

Maybe the local shop doesn't know what to look for. We will have to wait a few months and see if the car explodes to know who was right.

Anne Tangeman 8 years, 9 months ago

Rick at 19th & Mass is an excellent mechanic - honest, fair and hardworking. He goes the extra mile and is very fairly priced. Can't say enough good things about this place. I've had my oil changed at the chain (in a pinch), but you have to be steadfast about saying NO to anything else they recommend. They will try to scare you into other purchases, it's what they do and how they make their money.

50YearResident 8 years, 9 months ago

Ridiculous Repair price estimates, $500 for oil pan gasket, $200 for transmission gasket, and the most ridiculous $1600 to $2300 for power steering repair? These shops need to be exposed. I see a couple of defensive posts above which I suspect may be from employees of the repair shops involved.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 years, 9 months ago

I have heard this story a lot. I would never take my car to any chain or franchise outlet. These people have a book of methods to defraud customers with phony ailments, outrageous overcharges, and just plain incompetant methods. Car dealers included.

I would ask around to friends for a good and competant local repair shop, there are a number of them in Lawrence. This might be a bit difficult for people who are transient such as students and those who bounce from job to job, city to city. Also for the car repair shop , as sometimes a perfectly competant repair shop can make an error. Today's cars are so complicated both mechanically and electronically, that it is easy to miss something. There will be those who will bash and vilify a perfectly competant repair shop for such a single problem, but with complicated machines like passenger cars, that in many cases, are abused and unmaintained, some mechanics will be at very long ods to determine what is needed. Face it, owning and operating a vehicle involves regular maintenance and care, and if you do not do this, you will have very difficult problems.

notajayhawk 8 years, 9 months ago

50YearResident (Anonymous) says…

"Ridiculous Repair price estimates, $500 for oil pan gasket, $200 for transmission gasket, and the most ridiculous $1600 to $2300 for power steering repair? These shops need to be exposed. I see a couple of defensive posts above which I suspect may be from employees of the repair shops involved."

Most of those things could be done for about 1/2 the quoted prices on my own vehicle according to AllData, but my version is a couple of years old, and the LTE writer didn't say what kind of vehicle he's talking about. I'm not defending the shop in question, but it is not inconceivable that for some vehicles those would be the book rates for those repairs.

rbwaa 8 years, 9 months ago

Four years and many thousands of miles ago I was told by a repair shop that I needed a new transmission for my 1998 pontiac that would cost about $2000. I didn't have the money to fix it and, since my car was hardly worth that much anyway, I ignored it.

Last summer my transmission started slipping and my nephew replaced the transmission fluid. Now 4,000 miles later, with 212,000 miles on my car, I've had no further problems.

workinghard 8 years, 9 months ago

Now since the LTE said chain "store" that would not mean places like Jiffy Lube, not defending them by any means, so I am assuming he means a "store" with an automotive department. I think there is only one of those but I could be totally wrong about that.

workinghard 8 years, 9 months ago

I bought a brand new Mazda (hint) from a local car dealer. In one and a half years the warranty was used up. I noticed every night 2 or 3 oil drops appeared under my car. Now just before that while still under warranty the car dealer stripped my oil plug and charged me for a new one because that wasn't covered under warranty even though they stripped it. I took it to the dealer who said it was my rack and pinion steering which needed to be replaced for $1800. The car was one and a half years old. I took it to the chain store automotive department who checked it out and said yes, that was correct but they could do it for $1600. So I took it to a local shop and paid for a diagnostic and they said no it was fine but wasn't sure where it was but since it was only a few drops a night don't worry till it gets worse. When I had the timing belt changed at yet another local shop, I picked it up they said "oh, you had a small leak around the oil plug, we fixed free of charge". Car dealer would have charged me $1800 and they had the "Mazda certified mechanics".

7texdude 8 years, 9 months ago

It's simple. Get a second opinion on your car work. Not hard to do at all and it's worth your time.

I've had that happen to me both ways. In Fort Worth, it was a small transmission place that took me bad. In Idaho Falls, it was a Ford place that was just horrible. Have you ever driven through 2 hours of snow and ice and then be told they didn't have the spark plugs for your car? Infuriating. Of course, the Ford place in Wyoming was able to help me.

Here in Lawrence, it was small place that told me I needed two new tires. I drove over to Mass and talked to the guy who repaired them and he said they were fine. And the Toyota guys have been solid to me so far. But I am sure everyone has good and bad experiences.

When it comes to your car, get it checked out by multiple people. If a mechanic gets offended because you want a second opinion, don't do business with him. It doesn't matter whether he works for a major chain or small business. It's your car and your money.

maxcrabb 8 years, 9 months ago

O'reillys gave me a new battery for a four-door honda accord, '97. Told the guy i'd never replaced a car battery before, and he walked outside with me and showed me step by step for free.

Don's in north lawrence has always done well keeping repairs under budget, admits when things go wrong, takes care of it.

Also D&D Tire is awesome when you are in a pinch and need something fast. Even when they're crowded, it seems they can fix near anything in a day. Plus, they have a loaner car.

been_there 8 years, 9 months ago

Got ripped off big time by Firestone when my husband was out of town. Replaced parts were accidently thrown away and trash picked up when they were suppose to save them for us and put them in the car. I've gotten two bad tires from Walmart which they refused to replace. Tried to tell me on one that there was something wrong with my wheel itself, that the wheel would stop rotating for a second at one certain spot and that is why there was a completely bald spot about the width of your hand while the rest of the tire still had a lot of tread left. Put on two new tires on the back and had no further problems. Went to a guy in North Lawrence last year on the left side of North 2nd, total ripoff, had to have the engine work completely redone. Thank heavens you can contest the payment when you use a credit card. Got every penny back.

been_there 8 years, 9 months ago

O'Rielly's always puts my windshield wipers on for me. Advance put in my dome light for me.

purplesage 8 years, 9 months ago

I do everything I can myself. The more complicated the part, the more likely there is to be a ripoff. Consider front end repair. They have a fee for replacing this part and another fee for that part. They'll charge you for all of them even though it is the same disassembly.

Then there's a local dealership that tried to sell me brakes and a clutch I'd already (and recently) replaced or antoher one that took a 3-4 minute look at the AC in a van and told me in detail where I had leaks. The clutch and brakes were still on the car when I got rid of it 40K miles later and the many leaks turned out to be a single hole in a single part (rear condensor). Buyer beware.

parrothead8 8 years, 9 months ago

I agree with WHY at 10:33. How can the writer of the LTE know which shop was right and which shop was wrong? One shop told you something you didn't want to hear and the other shop told you something you did want to hear, so you made a snap judgment that the second shop was correct. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I'd be checking oil levels frequently and looking for fresh oil drops on the pavement whenever you move your car.

LogicMan 8 years, 9 months ago

Learn to DIY and save yourself a lot of money, grief, and often much time! Also you then have no one to blame but yourself.

Be sure to recycle your oil, other fluids, and parts correctly, however.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 9 months ago

You would never expect the greatest steak dinner of your life to come from a fast food restaurant, so why would you expect quality auto repair to come from a drive-thru quick lube?

If you want an overpriced oil change done while you wait, Midas and Jiffy Lube are your guys......if you want anything above that, which requires automotive skill, go somewhere else.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

One should be able to expect a decent oil change from any shop, and that any mechanic or shop will not try to sell you things that aren't needed.

I believe that is called fraud, and it is illegal.

KansasPerson 8 years, 9 months ago

I once knew someone who managed one of those quick-lube places (here in Lawrence). They were under orders from upper management to bring in a certain amount of repair business per month, and woe to the individual store manager if his shop was "under quota." I never had been a customer of that particular chain, but I sure wouldn't have been, after that.

On the other hand, I always had good service from Grease Monkey over in Shawnee Mission (82nd and Metcalf, I think) -- it's been several years, but my friends and I were always happy with them.

David Roberts 8 years, 9 months ago

I have to agree with previous posters about one of the shops already named. Indeed, there were at least two occasions when we had to take our vehicle back because the billed repair was faulty. Finally, we just got to the point where we knew we could not trust this establishment to be honest with us and do the work competently.

After asking around among our friends, we received multiple recommendations for Sharp Automotive in North Lawrence. They have gone to extraordinary lengths to save us money. Our experience has been that the service is great, they don't make unnecessary repair recommendations, and they complete the job competently.

earline james 8 years, 9 months ago

I'll 2nd that comment that the guy on 19th an Mass does good work. I like Entire on 31st (off Iowa), too. And how is it that, I go to Jiffy Lube - with a coupon for a $20 oil change, and it comes out at about $200, because "it"s time for" all kinds of other stuff? I'm not mechanically inclined. I didn't have a good experience with Potter's, either. My car is a raggedy '94 Chevy Clavier and I'm sure some local mechanics can recognize..

HW 8 years, 9 months ago


Had the exact same thing happen to me at Crown during a used vehicle inspection. It wasn't missing when it went in, and amazingly enough, it was when I took it home.

Anybody that has turned wrenches for any amount of time knows that it does not matter if it is a chain shop, a dealer, or a local mom and pop. The only thing that matters is that the personnel that work there are honest people. That is why if you find a good, honest and fair mechanic, stick with him forever and you will be taken care of.

Art 8 years, 9 months ago

Rick at 19th and Mass and the folks at D & D Tire downtown are indeed gems; they've kept a lot of poor folks on the road at very low cost and I'd highly recommend both.

On the other hand, there was what appears to be a (Mazda) problem above blamed on Laird-Noller Ford. Could happen, but all my experiences there have been good. It's been years since I bought a new car there, but they made the whole process easy and pleasant and backed up everything they promised. They did warranty repairs quickly and supplied me with a much nicer car for a loaner (free) than the one I bought. If I'm ever again shopping for a new Ford or Mazda, I'd start there.

workinghard 8 years, 9 months ago

Same Mazda, same dealer, About 6 weeks before the warranty was going to be up I noticed the blower motor making a loud noise. When I took it in for the oil change I mentioned it and asked them to look at it since the warranty would soon be up. He insisted there was nothing wrong with it, they all made that noise. Believe it or not I actually went up to four cars exactly like mine in parking lots with owners in them and asked them if I could please listen to their blower motor. None of them made a sound. I took it back and insisted it be replaced. The mechanic got mad and said "fine but it's going to make the same noise". Nine years one new engine later, the blower motor has not started making that noise.

Reuben Turner 8 years, 9 months ago

my question is, "which auto shop lied to you?"

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

Well, the obvious financial incentive is for auto shops to recommend/do work that is unnecessary.

On the other hand, shops would have no reason not to recommend necessary work.

Danielle Brunin 8 years, 9 months ago

I've always had good luck at Dale and Ron's shop. They don't try to fix more stuff than is necessary, identify the problem, and always give the price before they fix it. They act like they genuinely appreciate getting a person's business. Jiffy Lube wanted to replace lights that didn't need replacing. My car also developed a nasty oil gasket valve leak (I can't remember the exact terminology) after an oil change there and they wanted to charge twice the amount of D & R. Since then, I'm learning how to do minor repairs myself, something that I'm very proud of, since I tend to be a "girly-girl."

denak 8 years, 9 months ago

I think the reason Greg Sicillian didn't mention the specific place is that it could possibly have legal ramifications.

I have my own horror story regarding a chain store that gave me a detailed list of all the things that needed to be done and how much it would have cost. Needless to say, when I took it to my mechanic, most of them didn't need to be done or could have been done a lot cheaper.

So, I agree with the other posters. Always get a second opinion especially if you are female. Or luck out and find an honest mechanic, one who will not cheat you.

I have been going to Evans Import for at least 12 years and I can honestly say that I trust Cliff Evans implicitly. He has never cheated me and his prices are reasonable.

His address is 735 E 22nd Street and his phone number is (785) 842-8543.


Stuart Evans 8 years, 9 months ago

when in doubt, ask the mechanic to show you the problem areas. if you can't tell that it's leaking, then it's probably not. If you're always running low on fluids, then you have a leak. depending on the frequency of fluid refills, you may have a bad leak.
don't ever take your car to the shop unless you've done your homework or totally trust the mechanic. don't stand there completely ignorant, as you will get taken advantage of. it's not right, but it is true.

gphawk89 8 years, 9 months ago

My “horror story” is related to a chain transmission shop in Shawnee. My clutch pedal was feeling funny and they told me I needed a new clutch, which I let them replace for about $700. The problem turned out to be a cracked/bent clutch linkage. Driving the car home, the linkage broke, taking out the oil pressure sending unit and draining all the engine oil in a matter of seconds. The chain charged me another $500 or so for a tow back to their shop, fixing the linkage, and replacing the sender unit. $1200 to “fix” a car that originally cost me $1400. I could have fixed it myself using a $20 salvage yard part.

I have found one repair shop where I live now that I trust. They usually charge 1/3 less than the chains, always fix the problem the first time, and have never tried to sell me a fix that I don’t need. They’re 45 miles from my house, but I’ll gladly have a car towed that far to have a complicated repair done right. Anything less than a major engine or transmission repair, I do it myself nowadays.

Christine Anderson 8 years, 9 months ago

This is one of those times I am grateful I don't own a vehicle! If I did, the only person I know that I know I could trust to fix it honestly is my brother, who is several states away. I think it's true that both smaller shops and chain stores can try to fleece a customer. I can testify to having taken a previous vehicle to a "Fast and Furious" oil change place, and having the employee aggressively suggest I needed all sorts of other stuff done, too. I angered them by saying "no." Took it to my brother-in-law, who is not a mechanic, but knows enough about cars to say yeah or nay on the "suggestions". My car didn't need those things. Had them taken care of during the next scheduled oil change, at a different place. No damage to the vehicle by waiting.

Robert Marble 8 years, 9 months ago

Greg, you seem like you need some guidance- here are a few tips you may want to ponder.. 1. Your letter is nearly pointless without mentioning the name and location of this national chain shop. The name of the grease monkey in question wouldn't be a bad idea either. If your story is true, then there should be no legal fears. If these people really did try to screw you then do your community a favor and let people know the relevant facts. 2. Don't act so surprised. automotive shops are notoriously crooked, almost as bad as lawyers, and maybe even cab drivers in Uijongbu. 3. The bogus repairs you claim this place recommended to you are all easily identifiable to even someone with little mechanical experience. If you own a vehicle, it is YOUR responsibility to educate yourself to at least a minimal level regarding the basics of a vehicle. You don't need to be mr. goodwrench to tell if you have leaks or not, and the location. It's pretty irresponsible to operate a vehicle or any large machine without some basic knowledge. Your letter reads far more like a swipe at national chains and a free commercial for 'bubba's of lawrence'. If that wasn't your intent, please add the facts to put the word out about crooked businesses.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 9 months ago

I second the recommendation for Sharp Automotive in North Lawrence.

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


I disagree - we should all be able to rely on professionals in any field.

Part of my willingness to pay professionals includes the fact that they know much more than I do about their subject.

If I have to educate myself on all subjects, I'd like to pay all professionals less.

Also, your casual acceptance of the crookedness of auto mechanics is disturbing - shouldn't something be done about that?

puddleglum 8 years, 9 months ago

beware of the ol' "stripping your oil pan plug threads out using an impact wrench" trick-easily identifiable by the yellow sealing thread-paint that is always accompanying a jiffy lube oil change. Your car won't leak now, but the next unfortunate changer of your oil will have a hell of a time trying to get the leak to seal.....unless it comes back to jif lube, where they will use the same thread sealer.

Robert Marble 8 years, 9 months ago

jafs, you've confused acceptance with awarenes- and deliberately. That is the disturbing part.

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