7 Secrets Mechanics SCAM Customers With

car mechanics scams
Auto - ALOT

Even if you’re the best driver in the world, or maybe you’re a self-diagnosed hooner like me, chances are you’re going to end up at the mechanic’s sooner or later. Whether it’s something that’ll buff out, or something that just might not, be careful! Not all mechanics are as honest as they should be, and people are getting scammed by mechanics every day!  

So, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sniff out the shady ones? Well, you’re in luck, because in this article, I’m going to show you 7 ways mechanics can scam you out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars! And by the end of this arictle , you’ll be completely unscammable!

Dash Lights

check engine light on
Cox Auto Service

So, let’s start off with probably the most common and most dreadful repair. You’re driving along blasting Billie Eilish or whatever you Gen-Zers listen to, when suddenly your dash lights up like a Christmas tree. Oh no! Now, instead of getting that shiny new exhaust for your whip, you’re looking at a big bill from the mechanic. It’s not just the check engine light, it’s the ABS, and the traction control too! What now?

Before you go off and sell a kidney to pay for what you expect is going to be a huge chunk of change for that repair, what if I told you there was a cheap or even free method to be able to check what’s wrong?Pretty sweet, right? Go out and buy a code reader, plug it into your dash, and you’ve already done half of the mechanic’s job!

That way, when you go into the shop, you already know what needs to be fixed. Or you could go the free way and go to any auto parts store and ask to borrow their code reader! Maybe slip them an Andrew Jackson if you’re feeling nice, but otherwise, it’s totally free!

Both of these ways can save you hundreds of dollars in diagnostic fees by spending literally 10 minutes of your time and little to no money. And you might be surprised how simple a fix it might be. It could be as easy as leaving your gas cap too loose.

Most of the time the check engine light will trigger the ABS and traction control light, and they don’t really need any work at all, but that shady mechanic is going to tell you they do. So, save yourself the money and headache, and get a code reader if your dash starts lighting up like the New Years Eve ball.

Now you’ve identified what’s wrong with your car and take it into the repair shop, they do their “tests”, and come back with a laundry list of things that need repaired, but you know they’re not being honest. Be weary of the dishonest sell.

Dishonest Selling

dishonest car mechanics
Juke Automotive

Maybe you figured out with your scan tool that you’ve got a faulty oxygen sensor. Then, the shop does their checks, probably with the same scan tool you have at home, and suddenly more problems magically appear! These repairs can cost hundreds or even thousands more than expected! Sure, sometimes mechanics find things that owners don’t see, but sometimes they’ll go right ahead and do the repair without even asking you! And then they charge you for it afterwards! Shady alert!

So, you’re expecting a charge to fix the faulty oxygen sensor, but then you get a bill that includes a tire rotation, an alignment, and a blinker fluid refill! Something that should have cost around $200 is now double what you were expecting. How do you prevent this from happening to you? Always tell them exactly what you’re looking for, and ask what they’ll be doing before they start the work. That way, you’ll never end up with a bill with a couple more zeroes than you expected.

With all that money you saved, you’re more than welcome to buy me some new wheels for my 996!

Phantom Repairs

rolls royce phantom repairs
Car Throttle

Phantom repairs? I don’t own a Rolls-Royce! No, no, not that. Then what’s a phantom repair? A phantom repair is when the mechanic adds things to your repair bill that they didn’t actually do! That’s right, shady mechanics may be charging you for nothing! Things like topping off your blinker fluid or filling your tire pressure are charges you need to look out for. You could be charged hundreds for these “crucial” repairs.

And the sad truth is that some mechanics have gotten good at disguising these phantom repairs by hiding them among things that are actually necessary, and suddenly their profits double at your expense!

Now, while phantom repairs can be hard to spot if you don’t know your way around a car, there are ways you can educate yourself by using the internet and the receipt from the mechanic. Double check and make sure that you paid for services you actually received, and that they actually did legitimate work!

You might be surprised how many phantom repairs you’ve paid for. If that’s the case, it’s probably time to find a new mechanic. And while your scouring those receipts, keep your eyes peeled for the dreaded double charge!

Double Charging

hundred dollar bills

This is the single biggest scam you can fall for! Yes, even you with the full bolt-on STI. Maybe you got a ringland failure and you’re looking at a pretty penny to get your engine torn out. But, if you aren’t careful, it could get a whole lot worse. Let’s say the shop calls you up and says your head gaskets are pissing oil. Go figure. Since the engine’s already being taken out and rebuilt, you decide it’s the right thing to do to get that fixed. But then, boom, your bill hits you like a ton of bricks.

Nope, not the $5,000 you were expecting, but nearly $7,500, not counting tax, of course. So, you call up the mechanic, and he says, “Well, that’s the list price for a head gasket repair and a ringland failure job.” But, instead of charging you only for the materials, they charge you for pulling the engine twice just to suck some more cash out of you!

That’s right, STI bro, you just got double charged! This is all too common in the automotive industry, and if you’re not careful, it could happen to you. If that’s got you all charged up and ready to fight your mechanic, just wait until you hear what they might be doing with your battery!

Battery Shelf Life

old car battery
AAMCO Bay Area

“What? I had my mechanic replace my battery only a couple of months ago! That can’t be the problem!” No, the AC Delco is not conspiring against you, but your mechanic might be. Think of your battery as an open soda can, if you leave it sitting out on the shelf too long, it starts to lose fizz!

Batteries start to slowly degrade the second they come off the production line, and the longer they sit on the shelf, the shorter their lifespan gets. So, like that chunky milk you bought at the supermarket, car batteries also have a sell-by date, and you should check it!

If the mechanic is trying to sell you a battery that’s more than a month old, tell him, “No way, Jose!” And if he tries to tell you that batteries age like fine wine, get a new mechanic.

Another thing scam that could send you back to the mechanic just weeks after your last visit is cheap service!

Cheap Service

old car battery
RMS Motoring

Wait, what? Isn’t cheap service good? Well, I’m not talking bang for your buck. No, I’m talking cutting corners and leaving your car just as crappy as you brought it to them. Just like any product or service,  you have to be a little bit wary of things that’re too cheap. That’s why nobody who buys an iPhone charger at Dollar General expects it to last more than a week!

Mechanics may be cutting costs by choosing not to make important repairs, or even by reusing old parts and charging you for new ones! Then, you end up running back to them again in a week to replace them!

Let’s say someone changes out a control arm for one that’s been bent. That customer gets brand new control arms. Good for him! Then the mechanics save that lousy control arm, bends it back, and sticks it on your car without telling you it’s used! So, while they might charge you for the cost of a brand new control arm, they actually just slapped one on that they got for free. That’s what I call shady, and not in the Slim Shady cool kind of way.

The lesson here is that if your repair bill looks too good to be true, it probably is. Another thing that you shouldn’t get your hopes up about are those lifetime guarantee oils they try to sell you.

Lifetime Guarantee Oils

checking oil dipstick
NAPA Auto Parts

At the end of the day, lifetime guarantee oils are just a way to get you to pay a premium for nothing. They’re no better than the cheaper stuff! There, I said it. Ever heard of the “lifetime automatic transmission fluid” that they try to sell you? Sure, it’s going to last the lifespan of your transmission, but your transmission’s going to work exactly the same whether you put unicorn blood, non-fat milk, or lifetime transmission fluid in there.

Constant metal-on-metal contact in your transmission system causes wear, the fluid gets dirty, and your transmission will eventually fail. That’s just how it goes, and no magic lifetime transmission fluid is going to change that.

So, ignore all that “lifetime” nonsense and just change out your fluid every 70,000 miles or so. Your car will thank you for it.

There you go. Those are the 7 scams mechanics don’t want you to know about. The best way to avoid running into these is to do your research. Look at local reviews on Google or Yelp to learn about a mechanic’s reputation before you hand him your keys. Check local Facebook groups for recommendations. Dealership service centers are usually pretty trustworthy but also super expensive, so maybe look for an independent shop with a dynamite reputation. And try and figure out what needs to be done to your car yourself before you go to a mechanic. I promise, if you look out for these scams and do your research, you’ll get an ideal deal every time!

Brad Danger
Mr. Danger loves cars, finance and living the Ideal Lifestyle!