Don't get talked into unnecessary car repairs

Consumer Reports News: November 07, 2008 06:47 PM

With the economic crisis taking a toll on new car sales, you might need to be even more vigilant for car repair and maintenance schemes, as two recent cases demonstrate.

In one example, a New York area Ford dealer tried to sell one of our staffers hundreds of dollars in unnecessary repairs, claiming that his Ford Explorer would not otherwise pass state inspection.

When our knowledgeable reporter brought the incident to the attention of the service manager, the manager acknowledged that the fixes were not needed. He said that had our reporter authorized them instead of raising questions, he would have nonetheless checked the technician's assessment and notified our reporter that the work, including tire and brake replacement, was not required for the vehicle to pass inspection.

"I do it all the time," he said. Yeah, right.

In another case, a Toyota dealer wanted to charge a Prius owner more than $500 for 30,000-mile service. In additional to all those basic inspections that a repair shop should do anyway when servicing a car, the vehicle owner's manual details just four items: oil change, tire rotation, and replacement of the engine and cabin air filters. Figure maybe $100. Just as bad, the dealer insisted that the work had to be done by a dealer in order to maintain the vehicle warranty. Wrong. A second dealer wanted to throw in a transmission fluid change for $189.

The bottom line? Don't just blindly agree to do whatever a repair shop says. If you're not knowledgeable about the basics of auto repair and maintenance, check with a friend or family member, especially if there's even a hint that the work may not be necessary.

And when it comes maintenance, don't mention the 30,000-mile, 60,000-mile, or any other mileage-interval service. Instead, determine the procedures your owner's manual recommends and find out how much a repair shop charges to do those items you can't do yourself. Surely, you don't need to pay hundreds for someone to make sure your door hinges are greased and your lights are working. And don't forget to comparison shop.

This article from the Consumer Reports Money Adviser offers additional advice on how to avoid car repair rip offs.—Anthony Giorgianni

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