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I've seen forums, Q/A sites, and many questions on this SE site pertaining to whether or not a suggested repair is a scam or not, but I've never seen an attempt to compile a list of the most common/dubious of these "scams."

Now I understand that all instances are unique and that no one should outright dismiss a repair or maintenance recommendation.

But given that understanding, I think it'd be useful to many folks to compile a list of the most common "scam" repairs recommended by (shoddy/shady/overzealous/etc.) mechanics.

Of course, different makes/models/styles of vehicles will have unique problems, but could the Mechanics.SE folks help compile a list of the most general/common repairs, or instead point to locations that such lists already exist?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Chenmunka, PeteCon, tlhIngan, MooseLucifer, anonymous2 Dec 14 '16 at 20:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Compiling a list like this relies on a lot of conjecture and bad personal experiences. I doubt this will benefit anyone except for people that are looking to validate their unfounded suspicions. I wouldn't be surprised if someone has paid for a headlight fluid flush. The provided answers will swing wildly based on shops, mechanics, and overall knowledge of the client. I fail to see the upside of compiling such a broad list. A more appropriate spin-off of your question would be "How do I avoid falling victim to paying for an unneeded oil change?" – MonkeyZeus Dec 14 '16 at 17:29
  • I can only provide two of the more expensive ones that I have seen occur several times on other folks vehicles and direct knowledge from a specialist that they are done. One is Dodge RAM pick up transmission replacement/overhaul but most of the time it is just a simple bad ground in the control. Second is the squirt of oil on the shock or struts to look like a leak. – spicetraders Dec 14 '16 at 19:00
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    My favorite: telling me I had a leaking valve cover gasket. On an RX-7. Which does not have valves, a valve cover or the accompanying gasket. – 3Dave Dec 14 '16 at 21:41
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This video shows some top scam shops in action. The theme seems to be that it doesn't really matter what service you recommend, if the buyer is not familiar with what is being recommended it can be an easy sell. Often times the recommended service is not even performed and the buyer is none the wiser.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-avpx8UTakI

To avoid finding yourself in a similar situation you should find a mechanic or somebody with car experience that you trust and never give the go ahead without looking into the problem first.

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I agree with @MonkeyZeus comment. Refilling aircon and oil and such are easy scams, and hard to counter. That's all i want to say about that. But there is something you can do to minimize your chances of being scammed.

First; bring your car to a garage that has a good reputation and looks trustworthy. Common sense is enough for a reasonably fair judgement. These garages may be more expensive in short terms, but not in the long run. Cheap service from shady shops will be compensated elsewhere.

If you can, choose a local garage. You know their reputation, and their reputation depends on the local customers. They don't want to lose that, so locals will have less chance to get scammed.

Second; being a regular customer gives you certain benefits. They will be more lenient when your car is broken and you need it fixed directly the day after. A "stranger's" car will be last on the priority list. They don't want to lose their regular customers, so regulars will have less chance to get scammed.

Third; if they scam you they will most probably charge you for something that has a link with the problem you brought the car in for. Only then the scam is credible. So if you let them align your wheels, a steering ball joint would be the first choice to unnecessarily replace, if it actually gets replaced at all.

Fourth; Agree with the garage that they give broken parts back to you. It prevents them from not replacing it and charging you anyway. They must also actually come up with a broken part. It happens that they replace it and sell the old part that's still fine on internet. They'll have to go really far to break it themselves to make it credible. And even broken parts may still hold value. They might want to charge you for keeping the old part, that's not abnormal. Policies about this vary per country and garage, some deduct from your bill what they earned from your old parts. Asking for the old parts also may give them the idea that you're not a layman.

No offense to the fair and honest mechanics on here, but being a mechanic certainly doesn't make you rich, so there's a fair share of them that prematurely replace parts to make a living. Shady garages will do that by offering cheap service and unnecessarily replacing parts, good garages will have more expensive service, but you get what you pay for. I'd choose the latter.

  • In the US, at least, they are required to give you the old parts, free of charge, if requested. Core charge will affect that, obviously. – 3Dave Dec 15 '16 at 1:29
  • I think that's a good thing. I don't know what the custom is in the Netherlands where i live. My local garage doesn't make a fuss about it, but i rarely bring my car in for anything but the mandatory MOT. It's best to do the repairs yourself if you're able to. – Bart Dec 15 '16 at 7:32

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