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#308 Avoiding auto repair gimmicks

mp3 #308 Car Repairs: How To Avoid Being A Victim Of Gimmicks (mp3 file)

While most auto repairmen and mechanics are honest, there are some unscrupulous mechanics and repairmen who use gimmicks, tricks, and fraud to make their customers pay for unnecessary auto parts or labors. Here are some of the servicing tricks and repair gimmicks that are most frequently used.

"Short Sticking" is a form of trickery used in selling oil. An attendant reads the oil level on your dip stick so that it reads a quart low. He does this either by not inserting the stick all the way in, or by wiping off the top portion of the stick. Then he may either sell you a quart of oil that you do not need (which can be damaging to your engine) or he may sell you an empty can of oil, by simply pretending to pour it into your engine.

Another gimmick is charging for more gas than is actually put in the tank. The alert customer will watch for this, and not take for granted that the price the attendant quotes is the same as that which is recorded on the gas pump.

A third gimmick is the use of fear tactics in selling such parts as tires, radiator hoses, and shock absorbers. Beware of attendants who tell you that you need such parts replaced immediately or else you will have a serious accident. They want to arouse enough fear so that you will make a quick decision to purchase based on an emotional reaction rather than on sound reasoning. Simply remember to have your car serviced regularly and have it checked by your mechanic before any major trips.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for the average car owner to be aware of all of the gimmicks used, but the cautious customer can protect himself against such tricks. Here are a few basic guidelines to remember:

First, deal with a local service station or mechanic who you know from experience that you can trust. Gimmicks are more likely to be used on customers who are passers-by rather than regulars who live in the area.

Second, do not leave your car while the attendant is servicing it.

Third, always get a written estimate for any work done on your car, and demand additional written estimates if the repairs are to exceed the original figure. California law requires that you must be given this information in writing. Furthermore, the service station cannot perform any repairs exceeding the written estimate without your authorization. You should demand to be contacted by the attendant or mechanic for your authorization if there is going to be an expense over and above that which is stated in the estimate. This law was designed to protect the customer, so make use of it.

And fourth, if you request at the time the work order is taken, the auto repairman must return replaced parts to you under most circumstances. Exercising this right avoids the chance you'll be charged for parts not really replaced.

If you ever feel that you have been victimized by a service station gimmick, first complain to the service station or garage where your car was serviced. If you are not satisfied with the station's remedy or explanation, then contact the automotive repair bureau in your area.

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