experience

5 Common Crimes from the Bad Mechanic’s Playbook

Shafiqah Hamdan

Shafiqah Hamdan

2019-11-01

We’ve all been there. A squeak, a knocking sound, or something just doesn’t feel quite right. Car trouble is common enough, it’s a trip to the doctor’s that you really dread. You may drive well enough, and probably enjoy it too, but when it comes to how the dirty bits work in your car it could be Asgardian magic for all you care. And thus, visiting a mechanic becomes a daunting experience, one in which you are almost certain you won’t understand what the problem is or how to fix it.

This blissful lack of knowledge could set you up for an unwanted ride at your local workshop.Here are some of the worst offences from the Bad Mechanic’s Playbook that the unscrupulous subset of these places can pull on you, in no particular order:

1. The Doomsday Prophecy

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You Have to change everything or the car will blow up

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Ah yes, the dramatic fear-mongering oversell. While they were checking your alignment, they noticed that your steering rack was leaking onto your coilovers, causing them to short circuit (whatever that means). Long story short, you have to replace the whole lot or it could come apart while you’re driving and cause a simply devastating accident. At Flux, we’ve heard stories like this all too often, where workshops prey on ignorance to rack up huge bills of parts and labour costs.

This was the case for Saif when his Proton Waja’s brake lights suddenly decided that they would like to be illuminated at all times. So Saif took the car in to get it checked out. The quotation came back at four figures and suggested the replacement of almost his entire brake system.

Once he recovered from the heart attack, he happened to drop by a neighborhood accessory shop for something unrelated and mentioned the issue to the foreman. Five minutes and RM10 later, a simple cable adjustment had sorted the problem.

2. The Wall Job

Not to be confused with The Italian Job where everything is carried out with skill and precision, a wall job is when absolutely nothing has been done. Your car will, literally, be parked against a wall for however long the job is supposed to take. When you come to retrieve it, your bill will show what should have been but strangely, the problem doesn’t seem to have been sorted. Cue the tired old story that “this is a known chronic issue for this model, we’ve done what we can.” Sure.

Nobody is safe from this by the way. Automotive journalist cum racing driver and instructor Jack Baruth found himself on the receiving end of a wall job when he took his car in for a tyre rotation and service. The oil and filter change had been carried out, but he was charged for a tyre rotation that simply never happened.

This is why, despite your amusement, good service centers and workshops will always return old parts to you, as definitive proof that the necessary bits have been replaced. My dentist didn’t give me my wisdom teeth at last visit however, I wonder if they were even taken out.

3. The Joyride

Have you ever taken a look at your car’s mileage after a service or repair? Perhaps you should. And while you’re at it, have a look around it as well. Was that stone chip on the windshield always there? You love your car, that much is for certain. The problem is, some mechanics do too.

This is perhaps one of the scariest prospects: that someone is using your beloved wheels outside the capacity of testing for repairs and simply having their way with it. In the worst cases, cars have been heavily damaged or even totalled in accidents as a result of reckless driving. Forget getting repairs and servicing done, imagine not even getting your car back in one piece!

One of the most notorious cases involved a Ferrari Enzo valued at over 1 million USD (!) and two miscreant mechanics who witnesses say might have been doing double the speed limit. To be clear, there were only 399 units of this car ever made.

Now there’s 398. RIP.

4. The Time of Your Life

Not quite. More like A Lifetime.

Imagine Flash Slothmore from Zootopia, the well-meaning but dreadfully glacial DMV (JPJ) employee. Now imagine a workshop that works at his pace, but strings you along with excuses for late work.

Ashwin faced a particularly dishonest Flash Slothmore in the form of an authorised workshop which took up to half a year to order a part for his almost new car. After spending months assuring him that it was on the way, a technician came clean, admitting they hadn’t actually ordered it at all. The mind boggles. Why did they not just order it? If it was out of stock, why did they not inform him? Who murdered JFK? These are questions no one has the answers to.

They will drag you along until, in your exasperation, you unfortunately just have to accept that it will be done when it is done. In a nutshell, it is really luck of the draw on which mechanic ends up working on your car. Let’s just hope you get the Flash, not Flash Slothmore on your next workshop visit.

5. The Organ Donor from Hell

When you need an air filter changed, the workshop changes an air filter. Easy peasy. And you insisted on an OEM part as well, because you know how important it is to stick to originals. But did you take a look at the box the air filter came in? How sure are you that you haven’t been cheated with a fake part? If your suspicions roused, could you honestly tell the difference?

Workshops can make massive margins by using counterfeit or low quality parts and charging OEM prices for them. Case in point, an OEM performance air filter from a reputable brand will cost you in the vicinity of RM330, but a counterfeit might cost about half that. Guess what the bill is going to state? A trustworthy mechanic would never want to risk damage to your car because this could easily endanger the lives of you and others on the road, but there are those in it for the quick buck.

Now, we’re not here to paint all workshops with the same brush. The challenge is having the knowledge and experience to tell the difference between the good and the bad. Some things are best left to the experts — like Flux’s concierge service which manages all your service and maintenance needs. Forget about feeling ignorant at the workshop and pretending you understand what’s wrong with your car. Never waste your precious time doing the back and forth and overpaying for fraudulent repairs. Flux has this sorted for you.

And there you have it, five of the most common workshop crimes from the Bad Mechanic’s Playbook. If you’ve fallen prey to any or all of these, or if there’s something else that deserves a spot on this list let us know in the comments below.

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