Question:

My mechanic just informed me that I need a brake fluid flush and a power steering flush. Do I really need those?

Madison

Dear Madison:

This a a topic that is much debated in the industry. Let me just say this and keep it as simple as possible. We have never, ever, ever, ever, in 25 years, (did I say never?) charged anyone for a brake fluid or power steering flush. You may deduce what you will from that.

See photo to sum up my opinion.

toilet-bucket-money

 

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Get Mobile!

This week’s post comes from my new friend Ken Kupchik from Mechanic Advisor:
http://www.mechanicadvisor.com/

Americans are busy people. Sometimes we barely have time to get a decent lunch, let alone drive to a mechanic, wait for work to get done and deal with payment, all while trying not to anger our boss, girlfriend or children. Enter the mobile mechanic.

Mobile mechanics have grown in popularity over the last 6 years, especially since the financial crisis caused millions of people to look for affordable alternatives. Mechanics passionate about automotive repair without the means or the desire to open their own physical locations have joined the field hoping to make a living. Even start-ups funded by venture capitalists have jumped into the fray, attempting to capitalize on the burgeoning mobile mechanic field. So what is a mobile mechanic and what makes them different from your local neighborhood shop?

What is a mobile mechanic?

A mobile mechanic is typically one mechanic working independently that comes to your location to work on your car. Sometimes, a mobile mechanic business will consists of a team of employees, but this is isn’t as common as a single mechanic working alone. There are even mobile mechanics that will perform work on your boat or RV.

How is a mobile mechanic different from a regular repair shop mechanic?

A mobile mechanic is not in any way different from a mechanic at a shop. Both are usually trained professionals with the appropriate certifications, knowledge and experience to work on your car. Both are in the same business and both are human beings. The only difference is the method by which they conduct business. While a regular mechanic will work on your vehicle inside a garage, where you have to go to them, a mobile mechanic will come to you to perform the work.

Can a mobile mechanic perform the same work as a regular shop?

A mobile mechanic can typically perform the same work as any mechanic at a shop. Mobile mechanics can perform oil changes, replace brakes, and even work on complex issues such as engine and transmission repair. Again, as long as they’re trained and certified by ASE or similar organizations, your car will be in good hands.

What are the benefits of using a mobile mechanic?

The biggest and most obvious benefit is convenience. Instead of driving your car to a shop, a mobile mechanic can come to your home, work or school and perform the necessary work while you go about your day, instead of sitting in a crowded waiting room reading outdated magazines about celebrity gossip.

The other major benefit is price. Since a mobile mechanic doesn’t have the large overhead of a shop or employees, prices can be as much as 40% cheaper than at a standard independent repair facility. Making payment shouldn’t be difficult either, as mobile payment systems will allow most mechanics to take a credit card right from their phone.

mobile mechanic worcester

What to look for when choosing a mobile mechanic.

There are certain things that you’ll want to look for when searching for a mobile mechanic. Here are the most important:

 

  • Is the mobile mechanic certified by ASE or similar organizations?
  • Can you find reviews online (Angie’s List, Google Reviews, Mechanic Advisor)?
  • Does the mobile mechanic have customer referrals?
  • Does the mechanic offer a warranty on parts and work performed?
  • Will the mechanic provide an itemized receipt?
 
Mobile Mechanics fall under the following categories:
  • Mobile Auto Repair
  • Mobile Motorcycle Repair
  • Mobile RV Repair
  • Mobile Truck Repair
  • Mobile Tire Repair
  • Mobile Brake Repair
  • Mobile Boat Repair
  • Mobile Detailing

 

How to find a mobile mechanic in your area.

Use our search feature above to look up mobile mechanics that are local in your area. Plug in “Mobile” next to Find: and enter your location and click search (magnifying glass). You’ll find local mobile mechanics, reviews, services offered, and the appropriate contact information. Sometimes even coupons for extra savings. If you’re pressed for time or looking to save some money on auto repair, a mobile mechanic is a great option. 

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In Due Course

Today I took the 6 hour NY driver’s safety course. I took it online and it was simple and easy to do. My insurance company informed me that it it would lower my policy premium by $600 for the year, so I jumped right on it. If you have one of those in your state, (not sure if ALL states have it) I would recommend taking it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I learned anything from taking it other then I would save a bunch of money but that was good enough for me!

 

DrivingSafety

 

 

 

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Gouge Your Eye Out

A customer of mine had a breakdown after closing time and needed assistance. After being rejected by AAA for a tow (he had used up his 4 times) he frantically called around looking for a local tow to drop him in front of my shop. Keep in mind, this is NY during a ridiculously endless set of snowstorms and there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground. He was stuck in more ways than one and couldn’t leave the vehicle with half the front end jutting out of a snow bank into the street. After numerous rejections from various busy tow companies he was told by a company that although they were too busy, they would come if he agreed to pay them the exorbitant fee of $250 to be towed under 5 miles. He was frustrated but felt he had no choice, so he agreed. When the driver of the insanely overpriced tow truck arrived, he refused to even help him push the car out of the snow so the tow dolly could be attached.  After a few swear words by my customer he reluctantly helped him. After 3 hours of sitting in freezing cold weather he towed him to my place and left the car., the misery was over.

tow

When he finally got in touch with me I blew a fuse. $250 for a tow that is under 5 miles even in NYC is completely unacceptable and a clear case of price gouging. I find this behavior really revolting to say the least. If you wanted a premium tow on a cold snowy night then $125 would have been excessive but passable…$250 is gross. I will be assisting him in taking this to the next level, hopefully a refund or a case with credit card company, and at the very least a complaint with licensing authorities.

Sometimes you have no choice but to pay up but please, if you must in that moment, then make sure to follow up later.

 

Update: He called the main dispatch number at the tow company and went “Cruella” on them and they credited him back $100.

 

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Free or Not Free

 

I write mostly about what it means to get the most from your mechanic, but this isn’t a one way street. You have a play a role and be a good customer as well.

 

Case in point:

We were fixing another classic truck that had many issues. I called the customer and gave her a price, but explained it doesn’t include one of the issues, the lack of heat. She approves the repair so we go ahead with the job. After we get the vehicle running we address the lack of heat issue and we diagnose it as a fairly simple heater hose repair for a total of $43. I called her and explain that it’s a minor repair and can fix it for the $43. She replied with a long winded account of how she’s already approved the amount and she can’t have the bill keep going up…blah, blah, blah. I let her go on for awhile and finally I say, “Look, it’s basically $43 for heat, do you want heat for $43 or not?” After hemming and hawing, her answer was, “Um, yes.”

$43 for heat back in your car would be a good deal to most people, apparently not her. A little appreciation for finding a simple inexpensive fix would have been a nice simple “Thank you”. Don’t go on and on and on. Work WITH your mechanic not against them, it’s best to have a good relationship that can benefit you over the long haul.

david truck

There are many small things that need repair on this particular vehicle (not the beautiful one pictured) and my guys already did a few of them (gratis). After her behavior I wasn’t feeling very generous though.

 

Keep your emotions in check if you can.

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Be Aware

I was visiting a friend this weekend in the Berkshires and we had a situation. We stopped at a farm to buy some Maple Syrup and my friend got so excited to jump out that she didn’t turn the key completely off in the ignition.  We spent a bit of time sampling flavors and learning about tree tapping (this part has nothing to do with the car repair, it’s just fun to relive it).  When we got back to the car the battery was dead. Luckily for us, the adorable farmer had a ton of tools handy to help us. We got the car started again, but when she lifted her foot off the gas and the rpm’s came down to an idle, it immediately died again. Now these two ailments don’t really go together, one is a battery issue and one is an idle issue,  I was a tad perplexed. After a few tries we decided she would just drive two footed, never letting the rpm’s get too low, and we’d get back home. This was a successful tactic and we made it home.

farmer

 

After a couple of calls to my mechanics they both agreed that probably what happened was that since she never turned the key fully off ,the electronic idle control just got stuck and needed to be reset. We shut the car off for 10 minutes and started it back up and it’s been fine ever since.

There’s quite a bit of guess work involved in car repair and sometimes it IS something stupid that we do  ourselves that cause the issues. Try to pay attention to all details when driving….and don’t lock your keys inside, or leave your lights on…I’ve been seeing a lot of that lately!

 

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Lighten Up

I get a lot of questions about “check engine” lights on dashboards. Either people have no idea what it is or they have checked their manual and know “exactly” what it is. The truth is the only way to know for sure is to have it checked by a code reader. For instance, I’ve had people tell me that the check engine light came on and their manual said it was an EVAP (emissions leak) code. But there are many different codes that can be produced so I don’t understand why any dealer would put that there.. Many manuals will just say to rush immediately to the dealer and do not pass go. Of course you should do that if you’d like to overpay.
check engine

Most of the codes are universal…a P0300 is a random misfire in most cars, however many variables in each vehicle can change the actual diagnosis. If a check engine light comes up on your dashboard don’t panic, especially if your vehicle isn’t acting up in any way. Make your way to your local mechanic and have it checked out. As a matter of fact, why don’t you ask them what the code is so you can Google it yourself. It never hurts to learn something!

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