Automobile mechanics – do they actually do anything at all for all the money that they charge you?
I’ve about concluded they do not. It is a total fraud.
This is a multi-part rant. I may be snarky and use bad words. You have been warned.
First, I am going to show my age a little bit here. I am in my fifties, and I actually did learn to work on automobile motors a very long time ago – when they wore carburetors and before they had catalytic converters and computer chips.
Back in the old days, even the best mechanics fixed cars based on experience, their best guess and trial and error.
Say you had a car that was overheating. First you checked, and probably replaced, the hoses. Not that? Maybe it is the thermostat – so you replaced that. Still no joy? Okay, maybe it was the water pump. You replaced that. No joy? Maybe the radiator – so you replaced that. (Although let me interject here for the picky detail purists, that the old fashioned radiators rarely had a problem other than a leak – which would have been obvious from the start) Somewhere in that process you would replace the part on the cooling system that was causing the problem. You might go in a different order, based on your experience, the make and model of the car, other hints like noises – or lack of noise, temperature and so on.
Fast forward now to the current day. Your car has a computer chip. This clever little chip – using sensors – supposedly knows all about what is going on in your engine, and tells you if something is wrong AND what is wrong (if you can read the code which takes a gadget for the most part only owned by auto mechanics).
So the car starts overheating. Badly.
You take it to the mechanic. He reads the code. It says you have a malfunctioning O2 sensor. He replaces it. The car still over heats. Now, golly, he is lost. So he replaces; the radiator, thermostat, water pump, and some of it he replaces twice – including the O2 sensor since the computer chip insists the sensor – the old one, and the new one, is faulty.
Old fool that I am, here is what my mind wants to ask.
Could it be the computer chip is at fault?
Meanwhile – did that brilliant new auto mechanic, on a new(er) car, with the computer chip – not just go through all the things the old fashioned mechanic would have done, and replaced some of them twice (because the computer chip said they were bad even after he replaced them the first time), to solve the same problem? If so – what is the point of the fucking computer chip?
I could have sat under a shade tree and gone through the same fucking process, cost myself a whole lot less than $997, gotten the correct parts for the job the first time, and done it over a few days instead of six weeks.
The second part of this rant is somewhat more personal – but I bet it happens to an awful lot of people.
I am female. I am about five feet tall. Frequently I am blond. And I am now in my fifties. Each of those factors adds up in a mechanics mind to give him a read out of “complete utter idiot who barely knows where to put the key in to start the car”.
Auto mechanics, from the day I turned sixteen to right now have added those factors up to the same total. (Everyone seems to assume a woman over 40 is an idiot - so that's an added factor now)
Except for those few mechanics who actually taught me to work on my own car, that is, due to the fact the I happen to LIKE cars – especially FAST cars. Give me an old muscle car and I will keep that muthafucka running - don’t need a dick to do that thank you.
However, I am smart enough to know that I do not know certain things. I do not have the tools to work on some things. You know – like new cars with computer chips, fuel injectors, and front wheel drive (in case you aren’t a car person – this means that to me they turned the whole damn engine sideways). So I tend to think it is smarter of me to take the car to an auto mechanic who does have the tools and the training to work on them.
But this has led to more than one incident like this one:
Me: The transmission is slipping. It only seems to do it when the car is cold. Can you check on it for me, please, when you are finished with the oil change?
Mechanic: (patting me on the head and shaking his head at the silly little woman) I’ve never heard of such a thing. That’s silly. That cannot happen. If the transmission is slipping – which I doubt – it would do it all the time.
Three months later, a second oil change (at the time I was touring and driving the car 100s of miles every month).
The mechanic calls me – incensed.
Mechanic: Why didn’t you tell me the transmission was acting up? It dropped reverse while it was on the lift, and now we can’t even get it out of the garage. It had to have been slipping for some time before this happened. I can’t believe you didn’t notice! You are so stupid!
Me: (Wordless. Didn’t I tell this guy three months ago the transmission was slipping?)
Fast forward to the present day – with fancy cars with computer chips that tell you when something is wrong.
Me: The engine light is on.
Mechanic: It is just an O2 sensor, don’t worry about it. You can go right on driving it, it won’t be a problem.
Three months later – the car is overheating.
Mechanic: Well why didn’t you bring it to me when the engine light went on?
Me: So you could tell me, again, that it was just the 02 sensor, don’t worry about it, keep driving?
So at this point, I admit, I am a little punch drunk.
But there is a part three – yes, there’s more.
For the last decade or so, since I’ve had nifty little newish cars that have clever little computer chips that I take to a mechanic for oil changes (I am told by the mechanics they don’t even need a tune up!) here’s what keeps happening.
I take it in for an oil change. I get it back with fresh oil and a list of things wrong with it that I have to fix right this minute.
Let me repeat that: I take in a car that runs just fine, but is due for an oil change. I get back a car that (twice) now has an oil leak – quite a dramatic one – and a list of things I have to fix RIGHT NOW.
Let me repeat that one more time, because it blows my mind.
I take a car – that runs just fine – to an auto mechanic for regular maintenance – and I get back a car that runs WORSE THAN WHEN I TOOK IT IN.
Car runs fine. I take it in for maintenance. Car does not run fine.
Using simple logic – what does that make you think?
It tends to make me think the mechanic FUCKED WITH IT and broke something so I’d have to get it fixed.
Which brings us to the current six week long car problems.
Okay – I took it in because it was overheating, and while it is here please fix the oil leak the last oil change mechanic put in, and also fix the air conditioner that doesn’t cool, and fix the O2 sensor that causes the engine light to be on continually – making it impossible for me to know if there is anything really wrong.
Yes, I know there is a lot wrong with it and that due to our financial situation I have not been able to afford to fix for some time. Mea culpa. Yes, I expect it to take a little while to get all this fixed. But lets recap the reasons I took it in.
- 1) Overheating
- 2) Oil leak
- 3) Air Conditioner
- 4) Faulty O2 sensor
Six weeks later, every single part of the cooling system has been replaced, some of it replaced twice. The O2 sensor has been replaced at least twice. The air conditioner has been recharged, had valves replaced, and been recharged again. I will say that the oil leak seems to be fixed, and it got another oil change and (hot damn) didn’t get a new oil leak to go with it. Plugs and wires have been replaced (even though I was not consulted about that), the engine was steam cleaned (because, they said, the oil from the oil leak was causing all the other malfunctions). The car has been in the garage for two weeks once, another day later, another day later…
And when I picked it up this time… it was given to me, running, WITH THE MOTHER FUCKING ENGINE LIGHT ON. And oh, by the way, the air conditioner doesn’t work.
Again - the engine light was ON when I got INTO THE CAR which was left running - the mechanic having gotten out, smiled and RAN away from me into the garage.
They said I could bring it back again but I'd have to leave it overnight at least for another diagnostic.
Oh, and the engine light was NOT on when the mechanic drove it up to me - it must have "just come on" when I got in.
We took it to Auto Zone to have the code read. The code read...
Wait for it.
The 02 sensor is bad.
OH – and NOW we ALSO have a throttle engine body malfunction.
That is – something that was not wrong with the car when we brought it in.
- 1) Overheating - fixed by replacing every single part in the cooling system, some twice
- 2) Oil leak - fixed
- 3) Air Conditioner - not fixed
- 4) Faulty O2 sensor - replaced twice, but still not fixed
- and now 5) Throttle body malfunction
So here is the pattern – I take a car to the mechanic to have X fixed. I get it back. X may or may not be not fixed, but now Y is also wrong with it.
And the mechanic blames it on ME.
Okay, I may not be a trained mechanic – but I smell a rat here.
Just what do they train mechanics to do in those schools anyway? Sit around, drink beer, fart, and laugh at little women and their other customers while they invent reasons things are fixed and break things that are fine?
*****The last two mechanics, by the way, had lots of lovely rave reviews on the Internet. We all know you can purchase 5 star reviews for your books on Amazon, so I suppose it isn’t too out of the way to believe you can purchase rave reviews for your mechanical service, too. *****
One last thing before you scroll down to the comments and give me your IMHO - please do not tell me what I "should" have done. As well meant as your advice may be - I've had quite enough advice in the last 56 years, thank you very much. The next person to tell me what I SHOULD have done may be beaten severely about the head and shoulders until they SHUT THE FUCK UP.
I have been patient. I have thought happy thoughts. I have done my due diligence. I have given everyone the benefit of the doubt (more than I have received in return let me point out) and the bottom line is - I got fucked.
Without even a reach around. Not once, but several times.
In conclusion, I'm driving this poor little car - with the engine light on - until it drops. At which point I will hitchhike away and go through the want ads until I find a 1970 or earlier vehicle I can damn well work on myself if anything goes wrong. Without a computer chip.