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Wrenching Tips Bonus: Check Other People’s Work

Kamil Kaluski March 27, 2012 Wrenching Tips 71 Comments

Every once in a while, or like all the time for me, we entrust our vehicles to the [so-called?] professionals. Chances are they will do the work faster and better, and without all the spilled blood, oil and beer. I prefer smaller shops myself rather than dealerships where often you don’t even get to see the guy who is working your car.

No matter where you go however, it is always a good idea to inspect the car yourself. It’s worth doing even if you don’t know what you are looking at as sometimes major eff ups are in plain sight. My friend Baer who owns sent me the above picture last night. A new customer came in for a basic tune-up and the complained about poor gas mileage.  

[Source: ]

The shop that worked on the car previously used self-tapping screws to secure the heat-shield to the fuel tank. Oops.

After you pick up your car it’s always a good idea to pop the hood and check if things such as oil/coolant caps are on, that no tools are left behind, and if all the covers are on. Depending on your level of OCD it’s a good idea to check a random lug-nut too or perhaps pull out the dipstick.

At home be on the lookout for stains on the driveway or garage floor, and make sure to tell your non-car-friendly people to report back if they see anything. Smoke is another indicator of potential eff-ups or of things about to go bad… I know that you hoons know all this, but it’s worth reminding others.

The proper way to fix the pictured eff up is to replace the fuel tank. This is not a quick or inexpensive fix on a convertible 3-series and it will be interesting to see if the other shop owes up to it.

  • Alcology

    Holy cow, great advice! Even you have no idea what you are looking for you can sometimes spot the "That doesn't look right." I've had shops screw everything up! One place I asked them to check out the brakes, or breaks as has been appearing lately. They said ok, a lot of your lines need replacing but everything else checks out! Ok, go ahead! Replace the lines and do not look at one single drum or disc. I had no brake pads on the front right. None, just pins from the worn out pads scraping giant scratches in the rotor. Same shop attached a fuel line with no pipe clamp and it popped out on a bump which I then had to crawl under the car and fix in the dark on a major road. Transmission shop horror stories. Blows my mind.

  • Number_Six

    I once had a mechanic in a small shop steal the K&N filter out of my Mustang. Luckily I'd been paranoid about it at the time and checked the filter box before I left the premises. The guy apparently "didn't see" the stickers all over the box saying the filter was permanent and he "threw it out". I got it back but was not compensated for my anger. More recently I pulled out of the dealer after a regular servicing and immediately the car felt weird. I checked the tire pressures and instead of them all being 32psi, the left front was 37 and the right rear 15. The bastards added insult to injury by charging me $15 for filling the tires with nitrogen. I went back and tore a strip off everyone I could find, but you just know in the end they don't give a shit…

    • dukeisduke

      Nitrogen? What a scam. Air is already 78% nitrogen.

      • Number_Six

        No shit. They are almost literally pissing on your leg and telling you it's raining.

    • Dr.Fine

      Also had an oil change shop want to replace my K&N. When I pointed out the stickers, he said "but it was dirty."

      A buddy got a pristine '78 Olds 98 from an elderly neighbor for next to nothing. Drove home from an oil change shop and it started spewing steam. He discovered screwdriver stabs all over the back of the radiator as well as spider webs. Apparently the mechanic/spider hunter had poor aim and didn't think about the consequences of stabbing a radiator. Wouldn't fess up to the damage.

  • M44Power

    I've had too many shops (all independents, oddly enough… no dealer has ever messed up which must mean I should go to Las Vegas right now) eff up my vehicles. It is just good habit to check over any repair that is done to a vehicle. Even if we aren't doing the work ourselves, most of us here can at least spot the egregious mistakes. Sometimes we can even spot the barely visible ones. That being said, the shops I've dealt with have always owned up to their screw ups and have fixed them and thrown in some apologetic freebie.

    I did get a free screwdriver out of one shop, though. They dropped it between the radiator expansion tank and the lower aero tray and never bothered to retrieve it.

  • I despise taking my car to a mechanic, here in KY. I've done it a few times and had nothing but problems.

    It took 8 weeks to get new tires on my Subaru.
    1st install: they forgot to swap the TPMS sensor off the old wheel onto the new one
    2nd install: they lost the remaining TPMS sensors
    3rd install: vibration at hwy speed after road force balancing.
    4th install: this time took it to the Dealer, who found valve stem inside the tire, causing the intermittent out-of-balance tire
    5th install: replace crappy Continental Tires with OEM

    had rear brakes replaced on F150 and took two trips because they "forgot" to calibrate the emergency brake.

    From now on, if it has to go to the shop, it goes to the Subaru dealer. Even if it's my F150. marginal higher labor price is worth the saved headaches.

    But I should have all my tools, jacks/stands, etc in the new garage by Memorial Day and can resume doing my own work.

    • Tires on the Subaru is something my wife and I just had a spat with. She got new tires before a long trip over Christmas, and on our way back home, I noticed an odd noise when cornering form the front-driver side. We took it back to Discount Tire and they said that all 4 tires were "factory defects." How is that even remotely possible?! They replaced them all with a higher-end tire, and charged a nominal fee.

      • The Continentals I bought had a 60 day no hassle return policy, which I took full advantage of. They replaced them with Bridgestone Potenzas new hi-performance all season tire at no cost.

        • I was fairly sure that we were past the 30 day grace they had, but they didn't gouge us on the replacements, thankfully. I guess thankfully, but maybe not.

      • I've become convinced that the rolly and springy bits of Subarus are especially sensitive to variations in tire quality.

        • My wife has only been a Subaru owner for about 20K miles. It has been a learning experience, to be sure, and I wholeheartedly agree with the rolly and springy bits needing good quality tires.

      • dukeisduke

        I've had pretty good luck with Discount over the years. They even pro-rated one of the Michelins on my truck a couple of years ago, after it developed a pinhole leak in the sidewall. I didn't even have replacement certificates on the tires.

    • OA5599

      Try going to any national tire chain (it doesn't really matter which one) and ask for lug-centric tire balancing. Typical responses:

      "What's that?"
      "We don't do that here, but our location across town does."
      "We have the machine, but the guy who knows how to use it only works on Tuesdays when there is a full moon and Friday evenings."
      "Sure we can do that", followed 90 minutes later by "Our machine is missing the right adapter."
      "No problem", followed two hours later by all the wheels being more than 3 ounces out of balance.

      • 2 of my favorites are the "across town" and "no problem."

      • What IS lug-centric balancing?

        • OA5599

          It's a way to balance tires when the center bore of the rim is not in the true center or is too irregularly-shaped to use the typical cone to hold the rim to the tire balancing machine. I have tire guys tell me all the time they know what they're doing, then tell me my rims must be bent. Typically, I'll let them balance a tire their way, then I'll have them take it off the machine, reclock the wheel (moving the tire valve from, say the 12 o'clock position to 6), then without changing anything else, check the balance again. Of course, the machine will then show it to be significantly off-balance on the re-check. Most cars are fine with hub-centric balancing, but there are enough vehicles needing it that you would think a tire store would understand the basics about it. Nope.

          [ ocWAZqNGhM4 ]

          • Thanks! Next question – what's the advantage of building a wheel in which the center bore is not the true center? A wheel that fits two or more lug patterns is about the only thing I can come up with.

            • OA5599

              It isn't necessarily done intentionally. Sometimes it is just a case of the manufacturer trying to save costs by not doing extra machining that they might find unnecessary. If the wheel doesn't need a precise center hole for mounting (the lug nuts do all the centering work on many wheel designs), and the wheel and tire are balanced as a combination anyway, why take the extra effort to put the hole precisely dead center?

              In my case, though, the problem is rims with an irregular front surface. The cone doesn't make uniform with the rim, which causes it to drop below the centerline of the balancing machine and also to tilt slightly off being plumb. It still eyeballs as if it is square and center, with what appears to be a defective rim, and that's enough to significantly impact the balance.

              <img src=";

              My front rims and back rims have different offsets, but are identical in other dimensions. That means each tire rotation requires dismounting the tires and swapping them onto other rims, then rebalancing.

              • Thanks for the education – seriously. Here's a meme for you…

                <img src=";

                • OA5599

                  Don't get me started on the tire valves and wheel weights on the Eldorado. They are used on no other car but similar-year Toronados, and of course aren't kept in stock at the usual places. That doesn't mean the shop won't try to charge me for new valves they don't have, though, and they've stolen weights off my spare tire to get the other 4 to balance.

          • Wouldn't on-car balancing solve the problem too?

            I have been going to the same tire shop for 15+ years. They still have most of the same guys working there. They always put the tire on the little machine to get in close and then put it on the car to finish it.

            If you live anywhere in North Georgia it is worth the drive to go to GT East. Those guys know what they are doing.

            • OA5599

              I would expect on-car balancing would work, though I'm not aware of any national tire chains (to whom I restricted my original complaint above) that have that equipment and personnel properly trained to use it.

      • For even more fun, try getting a shop to balance a set of wire wheels with knock-offs. These typically need to be held by the opposite surfaces with respect to the normal use of a universal cone balance machine:

        <img src="; width="125">

        In my experience, most places either will wisely refuse to work on them or, much worse, will happily balance them incorrectly. It's often necessary to make and bring along one's own adaptors to get it done right.

        • OA5599

          That's because the lawnmower shops that stock tires for your cars don't generally have customers who use wire wheels.

          • No, this was the MGB, so I was running a beefy set of 145 SR 14 tires on it (couldn't find 155 at the time). I've never found anyone who would even give serious thought to balancing a set of 4.00 x 8, but at least with the KV's bolt-together split rims it's easy enough to swap tires and tubes myself.

            • OA5599

              I guess those 4.00 x 8's spin at a bazillion RPM, but since the imbalance would necessarily be pretty close to the center of rotation, you probably can't feel it over the buzzy engine and rattly body, regardless. Still, you can get a bubble balancer for well under $100 if you ever want to try to do your own wheel balancing.

  • Everyone gets a +1 for shitty mechanics stories today, FYI, because it just happened to my wife.

    She needed to get her oil changed on her way to the doctors, and visited a small, local shop, Groovy Lube. They have a few locations here, but are locally owned. It seems that when the dude removed the oil plug, he actually removed the transmission fluid plug instead. It also seems that said mechanic chose to just put the plug back in and not replace the, oh, 3 quarts that spilled out. They changed the oil, told my wife that everything was fucking hunky dory, and she headed to her doctors appointment some 25 miles away.

    Not so good, that trip. The transmission would shift extra hard, and would not pull between 3k-5k RPMs. She was really frightened by it, with good reason.

    We put in some transmission fluid that night, and it helped, but I did not realize how much they had drained. She went to a different location, yelled at the manager in only a way a pregnant woman can, and got it fixed.

    Hopefully the transmission wasn't damaged too much. God, I hate taking the car to the shop.

    • That's why I have yet to allow anyone but the dealer change the oil on the Subaru. Heard those horror stories when I bought the car. It put a scare into me but I had never known it to happen to anyone. It just reaffirms that my cars will only go to the dealer for service, in KY.

      • I would feel like a sucker taking it to the dealer, but not after that experience. The first mechanic to change oil in my wife's Forester used an impact wrench to put the drain plug back in, and when I tried to change it myself, I just could not get it. So she took it to a different one, complete with the synthetic and the filter I bought. Thankfully, they did a great, quick job. The next mechanic was the one I referenced above. Very miss more than hit.

        • we won a free 2 year maintenance agreement from dealer we purchased from. So we've only had to pay for a handful of changes from the dealer. The piece of mind is worth the extra $10-$20 every three months.

  • Before we get too far into mechanic bashing, I think we ought to acknowledge that they perform a valuable service to the public at large and even to shadetree mechanics. They've saved my bacon when the projects stacked up too high, a particular crank bolt wouldn't budge or expert diagnosis was needed. That said, learning basic repair and maintenance was one of the better investments of my time.

    • Number_Six

      I have no truck with mechanics – thank god there are people who can do this stuff because I sure as hell wasn't cut out to maintain anything more than a beer gut. However, when things go wrong during this kind of transaction, we rightfully lose our shit in proportion to the amount of danger and or cost created by careless or wilfully shoddy and dishonest work. Ever hear someone dispassionately relate a bad airline story?

      • As a customer, I'm convinced it helps to know what needs to be repaired and demonstrate that knowledge to the service writer. If nothing else, perhaps it will make him think twice before assigning your repair to the shop idiot.

    • Ya…..but because of stories like this it is no wonder we make the top five in "least trusted" and "most hated" professions….

      and those are just the first few tube searches. Now I go back out to be beat down some more…….Sigh….

      • HAHAHAHHA……God, my Karma is something flippn epic.

        Months ago, Tommy comes in with his 00' Ram 5.2L…..noise….Water pump bearing is fubar, fan moves back and forth pretty good. I gave him a best case/worst case because it looked as though the timing cover is going to need to come off due to some seepage issues. Once I break that WP off that cover will leak sure as the sun will come up.

        Now his cousin, Davey, is buying the truck…he stopped in to ask me about it. I ask if the WP has been fixed? "No…he said it was fine and didn't need anything." So I explained to Davey what is going on with the WP. Davey takes off to go inspect the truck and see for himself.

        I just became the pivot man in a circle jerk. Sure as hell I am going to have someone pissed at me.

        • Kris

          I'm a wrench too. I can't thumbs-up this comment enough.

    • here. here.

      All too often we're quick to share the horror stories. I've encouraged people to visit the dealer I've bought my Subaru from as it was the best experience ever from a car dealer. And their service is top notch. Same can be said for the Subaru dealer in Lexington that services our car. ” target=”_blank”>www.larichesubaru.net/ ” target=”_blank”>www.quantrellsubaru.com/

    • I am inclined to agree. It is easy enough to bash a mechanic for messing something up, stealing a K&N filter, or whatever.

      We have to remember the good times, like when that mechanic really went the extra mile to sell my friend turn signal fluid.

      • I hope he popped for the muffler bearings, too. It's no good buying one without the other.

        • That is why he had to take it back.

        • spatula6554

          He probably used a metric crescent wrench to put those in.

          • Metric Wrench

            I resemble that remark

      • Number_Six

        Here's a good private shop story: back in '89 I drove out off the lot in a brand-new Mustang LX 5.0 notchback. Still one of the most exciting days of my life. But a few miles down the road I realized there was a weird noise coming from the hindquarters. I took it back to the dealer and got the response, "we didn't hear anything". It was like someone was trapped in the trunk, so I don't know how they missed it. I took it to the little shop down the road, buddy drove it for a few minutes, came back and said "the rear shock was never properly bolted to the mount." He fixed it in a few minutes and charged me nothing. I made sure the guy worked on all the family's vehicles after that.

        • That is a hearting story. I am always hopeful that a new mechanic will be my lifelong mechanic.

      • Full disclosure. In the last 20 years, I've had probably 20 vehicles. I can count on my fingers the number of times those cars have been in to see a mechanic, primarily because of stories like these. My best advice is to do as much work as you can yourself and constantly grow those skills and your inventory of tools. When you do reach a point where you need a professional, be as specific as you can (even to the point of taking only a subassembly in for repair) and demonstrate to the shop that you know what you're talking about. Keep a record of the places that have served you well, and give them your repeat business.

        • Two things:

          (1) My father used to be a professional mechanic and one of my brothers is a professional mechanic. I believe my entire family and I agree with you on all of those points.

          (2) You've owned more vehicles than I have. I'm not sure which one of us should feel better about that fact.

          • You just keep them longer than I have. With age, marriage and kids, I've slowed down too. The desire is still there but the priorities have changed.

  • JayP2112

    I've got a list of crappy service stories as long as my arm. I'm not a tough customer. I just don't like stupidity.

    One bad, one good:
    Last month before the weather got warm, the gal I'm dating said she had a light on the dash come up… it's a new car with the 'Lo Tire' pressure idiot light. She took it to the dealer since she was right by there. She gets an oil change (not needed for another 5k miles), gets a car wash that only smeared the dirt and a checklist that everything was dandy.
    The next day, I check the tires- 3 were running about 17psi and one 7psi with a nail in it.

    The good- My GTi 16v wheel bearing was shot. Took it to the dealer since they were cool about handling my A4 issues. Took it in, they made the repair and came out to tell me the other one was shot. I guess the look on my face was pitiful- the service adviser said he'd warranty the other one against the first. It pays to bring doughnuts to the shop.

  • dukeisduke

    I like to read the open topic forum at FlatRateTech.com, just to see the complaints from the techs about the idiot customers they have to deal with (and the service writers). It's a good read for balance.

    • Kris

      Hear, hear. Some real bitter techs post there (easy to see who) but the forum usually is a good read.

    • randomusername

      Not a mechanic myself but i work with mechanics in the towing / roadside-assistance business. I'll start by saying that most customers are sane, normal people with common sense. But every day there's someone who put the wrong fuel in, ok that's an honest mistake in most cases but then some masterminds use a funnel to put diesel in a gas car because they thought the nozzle was faulty because it didn't fit.

      Many also don't know how to change a tyre or check the coolant/ oil / fill the washer fluid. Some put washer fluid in the expansion tank, and one even managed to put gas in the washer fluid tank and then tried to suck it out with a towel. Was afraid the car was going to explode.

      Panicked customers scared to drive because the TPMS-light is on, in most cases it's ok to drive to nearest gas station to check pressures. The problem is usually these haven't got the faintest idea about how or where it's possible to check the pressure either. Then one customer wondered why the mudflaps had been grinding the ground in every bump for the last week, only to discover the car had two tires with barely any air in them.

      Then there's the experts which have carburetter problems with their new car.. These usually refuse to accept any tips saying they tried it already and it didn't work and they demand help immediately, then they call ten minutes later to cancel because the problem has magically disappeared.

      • Devin

        I blame Shell for all the wrong gas people. Around here, at least, gas is black, diesel is yellow. But not at Shell! No, at shell, diesel is black, and gas is red. It is very easy to pick up the black or colorful one out of habit, though 99% of people realize that it's wrong before they actually fill anything.

  • dukeisduke

    It was poor service that got me wrenching in the first place. When I was high school I had my first car, a '75 Vega, and I took it to the dealer for a tune-up. After I got it back it idled too slow, pinged on acceleration, and stalled at red lights when the air conditioning was on.

    So, I went to Sears and bought a socket set and box-end wrenches, a chrome Sears Penske timing light (50 bucks!), and Sears Penske dwell/tachometer (I still have all that stuff) along with a Haynes manual, and went home and readjusted the timing and the idle speed. Since then, it's rare that one of my vehicles goes in the shop (usually just for a/c work).

    • Don't blame the dealer for returning your '75 Vega's tune to factory specs ;-).

  • Age_of_Aerostar

    It's not just repair shops you have to worry about, it is body shops too. Because I haven't pressed this issue, it is still not resolved, but it will be in time.

    1) My car gets damaged by a falling tree branch, and it's back off to the body shop where it's been repaired before.
    2) Almost a month later, I get a call saying the car is done and I can pick it up that night. i return my rental, and arrive at the body shop.
    3) They are still doing finishing touches on the stripes, and I look at the car. I notice something not right on the body work (clue #1)
    4) When they are finally done, it won't start. It cranks (slower and slower) and won't start.
    5) I am given a shop truck to drive, which I think is nice, and they say they will make sure they didn't miss something simple.
    6) I get a call back in a couple days to have the car towed out, because it won't start.
    7) Giving the benefit of the doubt to the shop (what if the fuel pump quit, not their fault, right?) I have it towed to the Ford dealer
    8) I ask the Ford dealer to be on the look out for anything that may have happened at the body shop and document that.
    9) Service manager from the dealer calls me and asks what happened, I repeat the story
    Service manager: Did you try to fix it?
    Me: No, I didn't even have possession of the car
    Service manager: Did they try to fix it?
    Me: I have no idea what they did. Why?
    Service manager: 2 of your spark plugs are broken. (2006 Ford 4.6L V8)
    10) So, they go ahead and fix the engine, all spark plugs are fouled and need to be replaced, and have to be ground out.
    11) Cost? $1300 out of my pocket

    I went back to the body shop, and they said they would look into it. They did not offer to pay, and I have to follow up. Also, they still need to finish the job. The kicker? A week later it gets backed into by a Suburban in a parking lot. Needs to back to the body shop.

    I would tell you more details about the car, but I would like to sell it.

  • randomusername

    The funniest story i have is that a mechanic from a workshop calls and asks if we can help because they have a car that doesn't start, the client had brought it there because of intermittent starting problems and they find no codes, everything looks fine. Just doesn't start. They have been trying to fix it for a week and have run out of ideas. Japanese car with T&A in it's name. Told them to take the floormat out from under the clutch pedal, depress it fully and see if it starts. It did, and there was a lot of cursing and desperate sounding voices at the other end trying to think of what the hell they are going to tell the client.

    I haven't had a garage break anything, just an incompetent dealer unable to diagnose a misfire on a 2003 car with less than 80k miles. Change coil and two wires, still runs rough and CEL is on less than a mile after leaving the dealer. I drive back and they do a compression test while i wait, very low compression on cyl 1&2. Apparently not aware of a thing called a leak down test(neither was i at the time), they wanted 400€ to take the head off because they have to do that to diagnose any further.. Then add any work parts and another 400€ to put the head back on. 2k minimum, 3-4k if they have to replace the engine.

    Took it to an independent shop i had used before, they did know there's a thing called leak down testing but apparently they were incapable of doing it right because they said it's mostly likely the piston rings that are bad and they have to take the head off, possibly replace the engine.

    Eventually had it looked at at a dad/son owned small workshop i got to know thru work at that time. Turned out to be the headgasket and a few burnt exhaust valves, cost less to fix than what the dealer wanted just to take the head off. That's including change of cam belt and some other work.

  • The problem is that negative mechanic stories weigh 10 times more than positive ones.

    So the scales can be tipped to the postive with a stack of good stories, but one negative one is the one that gets all the press.

    I worked in a shop where I was manager/service writer/point of . I had one honest mechanic, one that sold a bit too much, and one that was a crook. I have seen all ends of the spectrum. The crook didn't last long, but he did a ton of damage in a very short time to our business.

    • In fairness, it should be more like 100:1.

      …or whatever the acceptable failure rate you think it should be of a tech doing a job he should know how to do.

  • As a former 17-19 year old tire monkey, I've been on all three sides of that coin.

    I will point out that most operations are poorly suited for dealing with oddball, custom or otherwise unique cars. They do oil changes and $70 all season tires on Corollas all day, so it's really not worth it to train anyone for the one time per year one of us weirdos comes in with 38" bias ply tires or silly wheels.

    That's no so much a problem as the front office guys who always say "yeah, we can work on that" regardless of what comes in.

    • That would explain why, when I bought my 67 Imperial the left side wheels were held on by 6 lug nuts TOTAL. The guy I bought it from got the 4 for $99 tire special at Pep Boys. Apparently if you try hard enough and have a big enough impact wrench you can get left hand threaded lug nuts to stick even if you go righty tighty.

  • Way to make me feel good about taking my car in for warranty work this week. Sheesh.

    • I'm sure it'll be fine. Just tell them to use good-quality grommets on the self-tapping gas tank screws.

      • I prefer JBQuick to grommets.

  • Jim-Bob

    i am amazed. I would have thought that those who post on here have no use of outsiders to fix their cars and could do it all themselves. Shoot, it's probably been 4 or 5 years since I had to pay someone to do something other than an alignment or tire mounting on my cars and I can see no reason why that would change for the foreseeable future.

    • To me it comes down to weighing the monetary cost of paying someone else to do something, versus the non-monetary costs of doing it myself.

      For example: this happened to my Thunderbird a few Januarys (Januaries?) ago, with no warning, when I was halfway pulled into my garage at the end of a 200-some mile trip. I managed to dolly it up far enough with the floor jack to close the door, and let it stew a while.
      <img src="; width="500">

      I probably could have fixed it myself, but I didn't want to be spending the necessary hours out in my unheated, unattached garage . I got tired of it taunting me sitting there and had it towed away to be fixed, for a total repair cost around $400; in return I only needed to spend a few minutes in the cold helping get it dollied out of the garage and hooked to the tow truck, and when it was done (ironically, on the only non-freezing day in the whole month) I took a short walk to the shop that did the repairs and picked it up.

  • BAMacPherson

    This happened way back when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. The family Olds Cutless Ciera got an oil change just before leaving on a camping trip. After 3 hours hauling a tent-trailer and all the requirements for a family of five some steam/smoke starting seeping out from under the hood. Pulled over and popped the hood to find the oil cap had been left off and hot oil was all over the engine bay. Its hard to imagine that something as obvious as the oil-cap could be forgotten but hey, it happens.

  • jims63valvert

    I've worked in the automotive industry for over 20 yrs, most of it as tech support for major manufacturers. I could add quite a few stories to this list, but I'll just add one that happened to me:
    I took my MINI Cooper in for an engine rattle. I complained about the noise at the first service, but got the "oh, they all do that" line. I knew that there was a TSB for the noise and it was a timing chain tensioner issue, but I let it go. A few months later it started to get louder so I brought it in again and told them I knew about the TSB. Magically it now gets fixed and in the meantime they tell me I'm due for a service (it's covered under the MINI warranty, so I say OK). I picked up the car on a Thursday at lunch time and drive it back to my office. Something didn't feel right. Then after work I have to pick my kids up from school and driving there I feel a vibration. When I get home I called the dealer and told them. They said to call Roadside Assistance if I thought it wasn't safe to drive. Roadside came and flatbedded my car. Friday I call the dealer and ask if they found the problem. They said they felt the vibration, but thought it was my aftermarket exhaust. That exhaust had been there for at least a year and a half. I picked up the car and as I'm getting into my driveway the steering wheel is vibrating so badly I can barely hold on. I get out and look at the wheels. 3 lugs are missing. 2 from the left front and 1 from the right front. All the rest were loose.
    I could've pitched a fit and demanded all kinds of stuff, but I just told them to give me the 3 lugs and I'd fix it myself. The kicker was on the next visit when the thermostat was getting replaced the dealer said it needed a brake fluid flush. I asked them how much and he quoted me $219. I asked him if they would do it for free as compensation for leaving my lugs loose the last time. The phone got really quiet and he said he'd get back to me. When he called to tell me my car was ready there was no mention of the brake fluid flush…

  • humblejanitor

    I had my car tuned-up (if you can even call it that) once by a small shop and they nearly destroyed my engine through incompetence.

    I suspect that the mechanic's assistant is to blame.

    He apparently didn't tighten the wire for one of the plugs and it popped out while I was driving on the highway. I was freaking out bad to where I had to have a friend come and help me figure out the problem. Luckily, it was fixed without a hitch and followed my friend home to ensure that nothing else would happen.

    From now on, I'm double-checking the work.

    • Kris

      And this is the kind of overreaction that John Q. Public goes through every time someone overfills an engine or leaves one drain plug finger tight but not tightened.

      "Almost destroyed my engine through incompetence."

      Um, hyperbole much? Nothing was ruined, no one's safety was compromised and how long did it take to make right? Exactly.

      Hey, it happens to everyone sooner or later. That's not the kind of thing that will kill an engine.

  • Matt

    I do 99% of my own work, but typically farm out the work that I do not have the tools to handle. This list of repairs I am unable to do (in no particular order) are tires, A/C re-charging, alignments, and state inspections.

    The only one of these that I have not had an issue with was the A/C re-charging. All of these other repairs have either been shoddily done or completely bodged up. I get tires that shake and wobble after getting them "balanced". My directional tires are mounted all in the same direction, and the wheels are scratched up. My alignment feels like all they did was center the steering wheel and put in way too much toe-in…

    If I had the means, I would totally purchase the equipment and do everything myself at home. But I am at the mercy of these goons who can't balance a tire or align a car to save their lives. I also love the $35 state inspection that turns into a $500 fix-it estimate to pass. That burns my ass, especially when the issues are not required for the state safety inspection…

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