Don't blame the mechanic. You need a new kid! :)
I've had this discussion with many people before. You've seen the tv shows where they pull a vacuum hose off the engine or disconnect a wire on a refrigerator, then call the repairman and try to get him in trouble. I worked for a short time for my state's largest crook at a tv repair shop, and learned a lot of the tricks to warn people about, but he was so sharp, no news crew would ever catch him being dishonest, so what good are they doing? I also worked for my cousin for 30 years who was so extremely honest and ethical that no customer and no insurance investigator ever doubted his diagnosis, but where were the news crews? There's no story there so they aren't interested in the 99 percent of the honest business people. They try to make every repairman and every mechanic out to be a crook based on the few bad examples. A lot of professionals now live DOWN to your expectations.
As for that wire pulled off the refrigerator, you would think the honest repairman would just reconnect it and walk away, right? Think about it for a minute from his viewpoint. Those wires are hard to get off and they don't fall off by themselves. He knows someone's hands were in there but he doesn't know why. Someone else must have been trying to diagnose a problem and gave up. Just because it's working okay now doesn't mean there isn't some intermittent problem still lurking in there, and he would not be doing you a service if he didn't look further. Also, it cost him plenty to drive to the house and he deserves to be paid for that.
The same is true of those stupid news crews who pull stuff off cars and expect to get them fixed for free. I ran into that on a Ford in the late '80s. The car came in with a high idle speed and we found a vacuum cap had blown off a port. We popped a good used one on and sent the owner away for no charge thinking we made him happy. No newsworthy story there. A week later he was back madder than heck because it fell off again and almost caused his wife to hit someone. Turns out the vacuum modulator on the transmission, (about a $40.00 part) was leaking and the transmission fluid rotted the rubber vacuum cap and it fell off a second time. Can you imagine what he would have said if we noticed that the first time and tried to sell him more parts? It's a mechanics duty to warn owners when they see something their car needs. In return for having your best interest at heart, we are accused of trying to sell you stuff you don't need. When we ignore those things or don't see them, we are accused of not doing our job. If you read through this forum you will see there are just as many people who want to blame all their troubles on the mechanic who didn't catch something months ago, and there's those who blame everything on the poor sucker who worked on the car months ago.
You would not believe some of the things we come across that are truly dangerous, and owners refuse to believe us. We have resorted to taking photos and having owners sign documents stating they were told of needed repairs but refused them. That is to cover out butts when someone tries to sue us for negligence. Some mechanics even go overboard and list any common failure items, especially steering and suspension parts on Fords, just to insure they didn't miss something. That gives the next guy providing a second opinion the chance to catch us, so we list those parts as "marginal" or "doesn't require replacement, ... Yet".
Sorry to get so far off topic. My original point was the mechanic didn't just reach in and reconnect some wires. He had to push the car inside, perform some preliminary tests, then start troubleshooting with the most common or most logical suspects which are all under the hood. Had you known a small person was tinkering underneath and you had told the mechanic that, he would have started there. Since you didn't know that, he didn't either and that would be the last thing to suspect.
Dealerships spend thousands of dollars every year to buy service manuals from the manufacturer they represent, and that's for one brand of car. Most independent repair shops rent from a service manual online service and spend thousands of dollars each year to renew that contract. Your mechanic likely didn't just plug in a few wires. He wouldn't take the chance on damaging an expensive computer by hooking wires up wrong. Finding those wires on a computer monitor is extremely frustrating and time-consuming. Unfortunately it is necessary today with all the unneeded technology an all cars, and you and I are paying the price for that. I can easily find my way around a very complicated vcr diagram, ... On paper, but put even a simple circuit on a computer where you can only see a tiny part of it at one time, and it's like trying to use Mapquest to drive cross country when you can only see one mile in any direction at a time. It's gonna take a lot longer.
As for the list of recommended services, that is his job. As an alignment specialist, I often found stuff while doing other services under cars. I can tell from reading the tire wear if anything is wrong with the alignment, and by changing your oil I can tell if it's time you had the brakes inspected. I also recognize tiny clunks and rattles and I notice little handling details on test drives that you do not. Most mechanics are quite busy every day and their schedules are already packed. There is no reason to try to sell you stuff you don't need. Our goal is to get you safely back on the road, not sitting in our waiting room.
I WOULD be suspect of anyone in a shop that is practically empty. They have to drum up work to pay the bills, and there's a reason their shop is empty. That crooked boss I worked for went out of business because he ran out of customers in my extended community of around 100,000 people. My cousin did very well in a tiny farming community of 2,000 people, all with word-of-mouth advertising.
If you want another perspective on the list of recommendations you were given, get a second opinion from a different shop. Do not give them the first list because some people will purposely try to find nothing wrong on that list to falsely make the first guy look like a crook. Some will verify the parts really are bad but won't bother to look any further because they assume the first guy found everything already. I think it's a good idea too to not tell them you just bought the car. That tells them you have no first-hand knowledge of any recent repairs or maintenance, so they could say anything knowing you won't know otherwise. If I didn't know the history of a car I just bought, I for sure would start with an oil change, brake system check, and a quick visual exhaust system check. Also, you mentioned at the beginning that your husband was adding oil. That means there's a leak or it was way past due for an oil change. If the mechanic sees oil leaking, he had better tell you about it and recommend a course of action. What would you think of him if he didn't?
Anyhow, I too don't like big repair bills, but don't be too hard on your mechanic. As common repair bills go, yours wasn't very bad. It's hard to see what you got for $143.00 but I think you owe that guy a box of cookies. (Chocolate chip)! As for the towing bill, towing companies in my area, (central Wisconsin), were charging $75.00 to hook up to a car, plus mileage, in the mid '90s. A lot of that cost went to pay for the really costly insurance, again, because of past lawsuits. Looks like you got a deal there too. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have ever figured out how to help you over a computer. I'm happy to hear it's solved, and I'm really happy the repair didn't involve expensive parts.
Saturday, February 9th, 2013 AT 12:47 PM