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A lesson learned


I learned a valuable lesson recently when taking my secondhand car to an area dealership for servicing: Always beware if the mechanic comes out smiling.

It's even more frightening if the mechanic proceeds to say something like, "There's something very wrong with your car!" with barely concealed excitement.

In my case, it was twofold: 1) the engine — the completed valve cover gaskets leaking oil into the spark plug chambers, and 2) the steering — the inner tie rods becoming too loose to remain safe. From the way it was described, it sounded like the wheel could come apart in my hands during my next road trip.

To cover both repairs, I was told, would cost $1,220.95. The inner tie rods accounted for a good chunk of that at a hefty $686.

If I hadn't been so aware of my tight budget, I may have signed up for another appointment. My father, though, suggested that I check out the auto repair shop of a good friend. Neither of us had ever been to it, but we wanted a second opinion.

By the end of the auto repair shop inspection, the service director on duty turned to me without a smile, and I liked him better already. "You're probably not going to like my answer any more than the first place," he said, almost apologetically. "We agree that you should replace the tie rods, and we probably should look into replacing the valve cover gaskets."

His estimate? Overall — total — both jobs came to $488.55.

I emerged about $500 lighter, but grateful I wasn't a thousand bucks in the red. The whole experience, though, has rather turned me off dealerships. Has anyone else out there had a similar wake-up call? Or what kind of steps have you taken to avoid such scenarios?


chewyfally 9 years, 2 months ago

I needed a muffler. A MUFFLER! Anywhere in Lawrence charged me about $200 for the part and installation. I took it to Topeka, and it was, I kid you not, $30. I've been faithful to that mechanic ever since.

Raider 9 years, 2 months ago

Never take your car to a dealership for repairs. Especially the small-time dealerships like we have in Lawrence. They will ALWAYS charge you twice as much as an independent mechanic.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

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chewyfally 9 years, 2 months ago

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geniusmannumber1 9 years, 2 months ago

Raider is exactly right -- never go to the dealer, especially in Lawrence -- even if you and your family have bought a dozen cars from that dealer in the last two decades.

Local guys have always done right by me. D&D and Gateway have never done me wrong.

allateup 9 years, 2 months ago

I think you should always get a second opinion on a major repair

kef104 9 years, 2 months ago

I would never say they are "cheap" but the service guys at Elena Honda are exceptionally good. Kerry especially sets a standard of knowledge and service that is hard to beat. They have recommended alternatives such as switching to mobile 1 to solve carbon issues around valves as a way to avoid rebuilding the top end of the engine, it was a bad tap and the oil switch quickly did the trick. And jJust a few weeks ago Kerry fixed a small issue with our Acura and did not charge. He just smiled and sent me on home. I guess I want to stress that they are knowledgeable and that has saved me plenty of money. When I do need them to fix a car, the work has been good and affordable. We have 3 Honda/Acuras and one has over 239,000 miles so they have had a few opportunities to help us over the years. Final note, if you ever have an electrical issue, I highly recommend Automotive Electric. They too are great and affordable.

thomgreen 9 years, 2 months ago

Any chance of you dropping a hint about the 2nd place you took the car to? I'm always on the lookout for trustworthy mechanic.

kmat 9 years, 2 months ago

I will give everybody a great shop to go to. Fred's Tune Up in N. Lawrence. It isn't pretty, but they will take GREAT care of you. Jake that works there is AWESOME.

My sister (RIP) used to have her own shop in Tulsa for years and started that shop because she'd worked at a dealer for years and was sick of how they ripped everyone off. When she moved to KC, she went to work at Firestone. She was great, but Firestone itself can suck *ss. I had been loyal to them because of my sister and because they're open weekends, until last year. They quoted me $1100 for a repair job then my husband called the next day and was told $600.

My sister always said that the amount most places charge is what they think they can get out of you. If the person bringing the car in was a jerk, shops charge you for being a jerk. If you're a woman, they automatically assume you're stupid and double the price. That's why my sister was so successful - women trusted her and brought their cars to her.

I will say again, Fred's Tune Up. They've even worked late to get my car fixed the same day and have delivered it to me at home also.

Kim Murphree 9 years, 2 months ago

There's one place I trust: Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics ---Danny and the crew will NEVER be dishonest and they back their work---because they care about people---no kidding--one of those old fashioned values---Danny is the man.

beawolf 9 years, 2 months ago

I went to the dealer I purchased my car from for new tires. Was quoted $650. Went to another place it was $430 (same tire) AND a free oil change.

asleepinthechapel 9 years, 2 months ago

For all those arguing you should never go to the dealer for service, keep in mind your car's warranty.

I had a Honda engine blow on me after 80,000 miles. The temp gauge never indicated the car was overheating until the car was dead on the side of the road. I took the car to a Honda dealer and got the big smile with the "I don't know what's wrong but it looks expensive" (he actually said that!) routine, then took it to Firestone, where I had regularly serviced the car, for a second opinion.

The Firestone guys (and gal) have always been really nice and thorough when explaining what's going on with the car and what needed to happen to keep it running great. The second opinion was the same, but included the suggestion to call Honda and ask what they could do to help since they're supposed to stand behind their cars and all.

Let's just say they didn't, and in the end it all came down to them accusing Firestone of putting something in the car that shouldn't have gone in (which, with my service records, I knew hadn't happened). In the end, I probably would have received help from the company if I had always taken the car to the Honda dealer because then Honda wouldn't have been able to say my mechanic messed the car up and it wasn't their problem.

Anyway, I hate paying more to go to the dealer and get service on my new car, but that's what I'm doing. Next time something goes wrong, no one is going to be able to say the car was improperly serviced on my dime.

My best advice: Start making friends with mechanics and always get a second opinion on anything more than an oil change.

kmat 9 years, 2 months ago

asleep - but in the end if you had always taken your car to the dealer for every oil change, etc... You would have spent at least what you spent later on your repair just in the extra charges the dealer would have given you. Their prices for everything is jacked up. Dealers will always say they can't back anything up unless you had every little tiny thing done by them.

I'm telling ya - Freds!!!

asleepinthechapel 9 years, 2 months ago

kmat -

The car was only 4 years old (bought it brand new thinking it would last 300,000 miles like all other Hondas seem to), so at $40 an oil change for four years, that's around $640. The new engine cost me $3500 or so.

But, if I ever get the courage to leave the dealership again, I'll try Fred's. North Lawrence is good people.

Kent Fisher 9 years, 2 months ago

You get what you pay for...Keep in mind that there are unhappy customers at the mom & pop shops, too. The local dealers pay a lot of money to send their techs to training and to keep them certified. Yes, their labor rate is generally higher, but cheaper is not necessarily better.

kmat 9 years, 2 months ago

Not all dealers do hoops. Like I said, my sister has worked for a few dealers and morally couldn't continue to do so. Those of you that religiously take your cars to dealers for maintenance and repairs pay to have a lot of stuff done that doesn't need to be done. They tell you it does, but if you believe everything a car dealer tells you, I've a a bridge to sell you.

RoeDapple 9 years, 2 months ago

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viewfromahill 9 years, 2 months ago

Why do you think they call 'em "dealers?"

alm77 9 years, 2 months ago

When we first moved to town I went to larryville.com and asked for recommendations. Everyone said Slimmer's or D&D. We've taken our cars to Slimmer's ever since. Love them over there.

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