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Top 10 Auto Repair Scams That Every Woman Driver Should Know About

Michelle Johnson

As a woman, I know that the automotive industry is known for taking advantage of the uninformed. And, as the majority-owner of an ​auto-repair business, I can tell you that I hear far too many stories, when dealing with automobiles, where women seem to be an easier target then men.

That’s why it’s important for women to have a basic understanding on how vehicles work.

Any well run automotive repair facility understands that repeat customers are what pay the bills. Word of mouth referrals go far with people, and in today’s world, online reviews can make or break a business.

With that in mind, here are some of the more common rip-off scams we hear about from our customers:

1.       Types of engine oil. ​Which type of oil does my vehicle take and how do I know that I am being sold the correct type of oil? There are three different types of engine oil. Conventional oil, Synthetic Blend Oil and Full Synthetic Oil. Conventional oil is standard oil. Synthetic Blend oil is a mixture of conventional oil and synthetic oil. Synthetic oil is lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made. With today’s oil prices a lot of facilities do not even carry conventional oil. The prices of conventional oil versus synthetic blend oils are so close and blends are better performers. Each vehicle manufacture recommends a particular type and weight of oil for optimal engine performance.  Have your service advisor show you what your manufacture recommends. This will prevent you from spending more than needed, and will prevent you from possibly voiding your engine warranty.
 

2.       Upsells. Most people see this as a way for an automotive repair facility to make extra money. In fact, each vehicle manufacture recommends routine maintenance intervals. How can you be sure that you are not being taken advantage of? Ask for the service advisor to print your manufacture recommended maintenance intervals, or check your maintenance intervals in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that these are recommendations from the manufacture, different conditions may affect vehicles differently. At Honest-1 Auto Care​, we use industry specific test strips to check fluids for contamination and inform the customer how those test strips work.
 

3.       Air filters. You’re sitting in the waiting room, a service advisor approaches you, shows you a dirty air filter and says this came out of your car. The next step is to sell you an air filter. But how do you know if it really came out of your car? At Honest-1 Auto Care we do not only show you the dirty air filter, we also show you a brand new one so that you can see the difference. But we go one step further. We take the customer out to the vehicle so that you can see that the air filter you are seeing is definitely yours.
 

4.       Buying a tire versus flat repair. Not all flat tires need to be replaced. As long as the puncture is not on the side wall or in the first or last lay of tread, the tire should be able to be repaired. There are different ways to repair a tire. Some automotive repair facilities will use a plug where you do not even have to remove the tire. Others will use a patch on the inside of the tire. At Honest-1 Auto Care​ we use a plug patch combination if the tire can safely be repaired. Ask your service advisor to show you the damage to your tire, and have them explain completely why a new tire is being recommended versus a repair.
 

5.       Used parts being passed off as new. If you are paying for new parts, you should be receiving new parts. Do not be scared to ask to see the new and/or old parts being installed. Make sure that the parts being installed are Original Manufacture Parts, or OEM parts.
 

6.       Tune Ups. Commonly a repair shop will say that you need a tune up. Understand that a tune up is a preventative maintenance item. On modern vehicles a tune up now consists of spark plugs and fuel treatment of some type. There are several types of fuel treatments. There is the in tank treatments that you buy from retail stores, and there are throttle body and fuel injector treatments that are done at auto repair facilities. Each one of these services has mileage recommendations by the vehicle manufacture. Again, ask to see the manufacturer’s maintenance intervals or check your owner’s manual.
 

7.       Engine Flushes. Engine flushes are designed to break down oil sludge in your engine and also prevent oil sludge from forming. Utilizing engine oil cleaner & conditioner is a proactive approach to avoid engine oil sludge from forming. If an automotive repair facility recommends an engine oil flush due to oil sludge, make them prove it to you. Have them show you the sludge that is causing them to recommend it to you. Normally it can be found on the bottom of your oil cap on the engine.
 

8.       Frequency of oil changes. Most oil change shops recommend 3,000 miles for an oil change. However todays vehicle have sensors that are designed to measure the viscosity of the engine oil. Engine oil viscosity will change on your driving conditions, long trips versus short trips, traffic conditions that you drive in, short trips but long times of running the engine. There are a lot of variables to take into consideration that affect your engine oil viscosity. The mileage recommendation that you see on your oil change sticker is used as a tool to remind you of your oil needing to be changed. Trust your vehicle’s computer and change the oil when your car tells you it needs to be changed or as per your manufacture recommendations.
 

9.       Broken axle boots. Don’t fall victim to this awful scam. There is a difference between a legitimate/natural boot tear versus a cut rubber boot. Axle boots that have failed will sling out the grease that they are designed to hold in.  Have the service advisor show you the axle boot and look for grease patterns that form on surrounding components.
 

10.   Do your research. Check the credentials of the repair facility that you are using. Are they recognized by trusted establishments such as AAA? Check the reviews on their website, Google, Facebook, Yelp and Nextdoor.com. Customer reviews go a long way.  Go with your gut. If you do not feel comfortable, then get a second opinion.

Keep in mind that vehicles do require maintenance. Rubber, plastic and even metal components on vehicles do wear out. A good automotive repair facility will always bring these components to the vehicle owner’s attention when they are noticed. So, when you show up for a routine oil change and the service advisor or technician brings this to your attention, do not jump to a conclusion that you are being taken advantage of or scammed. Auto repair technicians want to do their part in making sure that vehicles are operating safely for their customers. Because of this they are trained to look for parts that have failed or parts that are in the process of failing.

At ​Honest-1 Auto Care​ we always take our customers out to the vehicle so that the customer can see the issue with their own eyes, educate the customer on how that part is designed to function, and provide the customer with an accurate cost breakdown for the repairs being suggested.

Finally, if you’re in the area, drop by ​Honest-1 Auto Care Copperfield and see for yourself how we’re changing the perception of the automotive repair industry one customer at a time.

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