Consumer Protection: Auto Repair Scams
For many, a car is a tool. It gets you from point A to point B. The extent of the average person’s automotive knowledge does not extend too far beyond filling the tank with gas and sticking the key in the ignition. Maybe that is an exaggeration. They can probably open the hood so someone who does have automotive knowledge can take a look inside. Unfortunately, that is where most automotive repair scams begin, at the junction of one person’s knowledge and the other’s lack thereof. It truly is no comfort to be told that even the more knowledgeable of us have been swindled. Instead, it is probably a better idea to review some of the “greatest hits” performed by disreputable auto mechanics everywhere.
We all know that a filter keeps unwanted stuff out, right? You have two in your car that tend to need replacement: the engine air filter and the cabin air filter. Know your filters and when they are due for replacement.
- The engine air filter is for keeping the essential machinery free of dust and debris.
- The cabin air filter makes sure you are breathing fresh air while you drive.
It is not uncommon for a dishonest mechanic to show you a dirty filter that is not even yours. That is right! All you have to do is check both filters every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. The cabin air filter is located under the dash of the passenger front seat or in the glove compartment box. The engine air filter tends to be found on either side of the main engine block, if you have a more modern car. In older cars, it tends to be a round, cylindrical container affixed to the top of the engine area. Either way, if venturing under the hood is simply a journey into mystery, be suspicious if it seems your mechanic is trying to sell you a filter every time you stop in.
Oil is that other, more viscous liquid your car needs to run. You know it needs to be changed every so often, but you better believe that what you do not know can and will be taken advantage of by shady oil change shops. There is the “switch” and then there is the “neglect.”
- The SWITCH: Did you know there are different blends of oil? There are special high mileage blends. There is something called full synthetic oil. What you need to know is that you may get charged for one of these, but still end up with basic, cheap oil. Ask to watch when they pour it. Even if you are unclear on any of the above, a reputable shop will not mind you checking up on them.
- The NEGLECT: Did you know that an oil change is only half complete if the filter is not replaced? That is right, we are back to filters. This is the oil filter. By leaving the filter in there and betting you will not know to check, the scam artist will be banking on you returning sooner than you should have to.
This is probably the most formidable form of auto repair deception. There are a few minor cons anyone can spot and here they are:
- AIR (CABIN) FILTERS: Remember the warning about your mechanic trying to sell you a new one every time? The oil change shop might do the same. They may try to convince you that you need a new one with every oil change. Simply make an attempt to know the facts about your car. Your owner’s manual will tell you how many miles the car is good for without a filter change.
- THE FLUSH: There is a step beyond a mere oil change. The shop may suggest a flush of any one of your car’s systems: power steering, coolant, transmission, etc. Look under your oil cap. Learn to do that and spot any weird deposits. Then, you might need an engine flush. For all those other areas, check your owner’s manual.
- FUEL INJECTOR: Did you think cars still have carburetors? Not since 1980. Carburetors relied on air pressure to deliver fuel into your car’s engine. They were replaced by electronic valves called fuel injectors and you can bet that the unscrupulous sales person wants to convince you that you need yours cleaned. Guess what? Electronic valves tend to come with electronic lights that say “check engine.” If you do not see one of those on your dashboard, you probably do not need your fuel injector cleaned.
The best advice is to read your owner’s manual. You do not have to know everything about your car, but it sure helps if you are familiar with what makes your car tick. It also goes without saying that that there are plenty of shops that are on the up and up. However, if you find yourself on the wrong side of an auto repair scam, feel free to contact this office regarding your next step.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC
is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.
Call (609) 585-0606 or click the button below to schedule an appointment