About two weeks ago, I took my car in for an oil change. While there, the technician told me that it looked like I had a leak. When pressed, she said it looked like it might be from the engine, but said she couldn't diagnose it.
Like a responsible car owner, I took my car into the mechanic. Now, I don't think well of our local mechanic. Last winter, I took my car in for a checkup and asked him to fix my AC. "There was physical damage to the bumper that broke it," I said, "but the bumper has been fixed, so now the AC can be too." When I got the car back, he told me that I'd been "out of AC fluid" and he'd "put more in so my AC would work."
Of course, it didn't work. But I didn't press the issue; I just decided to go somewhere else next time. I know of a good and honest mechanic about half an hour from where I live. The problem is, I work Monday through Friday, my job is too far to walk during my lunch break, and I have a dog to care for. I therefore reluctantly took my car back to the local mechanic.
"The oil engine pan is cracked," he said. "There's another crack deeper, but that'd be really expensive to fix, and it's not bad yet. So let's just replace the engine oil pan. It'll be about $450. You'll need to make an appointment."
I made an appointment for the following week and, in between that first visit and taking my car back, I found my windshield wiper fluid didn't work.* I tried pouring more in, only for it to end up on my garage floor. Now, I don't know anything about cars, but I'm perfectly capable of finding information online, and I watched a short YouTube video on diagnosing wiper fluid problems. Conclusion: my washer fluid reservoir was cracked.
I told the mechanic I thought so, when I brought my car back, and he confirmed it. He also gave me my bill for the engine oil pan replacement: $500. $50 more than the verbal quote. That . . . didn't sit well. For the work he did, $500 isn't unreasonable; it's about middle of the road. But even if it was a verbal quote, I thought it very unprofessional to tack on 10%.
Still, I had to have washer fluid, as a safety measure, so I looked at the quote he gave me. He told me, "It's going to be pricey, because Honda no longer makes your part, so I had to go for an aftermarket one." And he quoted me $450 again.
$450. For reference, the national average price to replace a washer fluid reservoir, including parts, is $145. I looked it up, because $450 struck me as really, really high for what I thought must be a simple job. And I already knew I couldn't trust him to stick to his quotes, it'd probably be even more. Here is the breakdown he gave me (yes, I got it on paper this time):
Washer pump: $39
Shop supplies: $14
Clearly, this absurd list called for more research. First, I looked up how much time it would take him to do the job. The answer is that the job is in fact extremely easy, and he could almost certainly finish in under 45 minutes. Even if it took him an hour, that's $175/hour! Mechanics, on average, charge $75-$130 an hour, and we've already established that he isn't that good at his job.
Second, the parts. I found many places where I could order a reservoir and pump set that fit my car for under $40. However, out of curiosity, I looked up the ones he said he was going to order. He said on his quote he was getting them from Napa, so I looked up the actual cost on that website. Here's what I found:
+ Washer pump: $21
+ Freight: $0
- 15% for purchases over $100
Mechanic's quote for the same supplies from the same supplier: $263
. . .
Well, then. Fine. Be that way.
I ordered the reservoir/pump set myself, for $32. I don't think I can install it as quickly as he could, and it's horribly cold out, but I have a friend who's good at this sort of thing and says she'll help.
It's not that I couldn't take my car elsewhere. It's that the mechanic tried to cheat me, presumably because he thought that my general ignorance of cars (and femininity) meant universal foolishness and incompetence, and that it was therefore acceptable to treat me in this fashion. I can think of no better comeback than doing the repair myself.
* It's unlikely though not impossible that the mechanic broke it while doing his inspection. Once you've demonstrated dishonesty, it's hard to trust you about anything. If he didn't break it, that means that, while looking for a leak, he didn't bother to check the washer fluid reservoir. Regarding this, he is therefore dishonest, incompetent, or both: he cannot be neither unless the reservoir broke during the week in between. Which is even more improbable.
UPDATE: I installed the new reservoir and pump together with a friend. When we took the bumper off, we found a) it hadn't been removed in years, and b) the reservoir itself (which the mechanic had told me was "completely shattered" was undamaged. It was the hose which had broken, taking a tiny piece of the motor with it. So the reservoir/motor/hose still needed to be replaced, and the parts I had bought were correct, but the mechanic flat-out lied to me. Charming.