CLEVELAND — You know the feeling. You're driving, and all of the sudden your car starts making noises that sound bad. You hear it again. Now it sounds expensive. Most of us are sitting ducks at this point. But you don't have to be.
"If they're going to try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge when you go in," says veteran auto mechanic Pete Luedeke. "They say 'Oh, you need struts, mounts, insulators, swing bars.' If you hit everything you're going to fix it."
Luedeke has been working under the hood on cars since age 14. He spent two decades working in shops at dealerships, and has owned his own shop - Hacnick Auto - in Brook Park since 2016. He's also an Automotive Service Excellence mechanic. The ASE validation means he's nationally certified. That's the minimum you should expect. And if yours isn't, you should do a U-turn.
Which brings us to some tips to protect you from getting ripped off.
1. Get a written, not verbal, estimate before any work is done. And you need to read it! If they say something is broken, make them show you that part and ask for the purchase order to prove you are getting charged for the part you are paying for. New parts should be warrantied, as should the mechanic's work.
2. Make sure you don't get sucked into extra repairs.
Cleveland resident George Holliday's daughter brought her car into a local repair shop for a single reason - a problem with the gear shift.
The mechanic gave her a receipt with charges for literally dozens of other items.
"We just ordinary people, man," says Holliday. "We don't know nothing about all this stuff until it happens to you. And then that's when you find out."
3. Also, look at the labor costs since that's what drives up the price.
Sometimes to get to a part that needs repair, you have to remove one that's in the way. Some mechanics will charge you twice.
"For example, putting a drive belt on when the water pumps off. The water pumps already off. Why are you charging me a half hour to put the belt on?" asks Luedeke. "There should be no additional labor. That overlap is a huge thing."
Bottom line, the best mechanics are the ones that come with recommendations. Because, in the end, it's all about trust.
"If you feel like you're being pressured where you're doing to die in a fiery crash," says Luedeke. "I would definitely be calling someone or getting a second opinion."
You also want to make sure you keep records of all repairs and services you do get and read your service manual. So if the mechanic tells you you need something done, like all your fluids changed, you'll know if you really need it.
But if you do run into trouble, here are some links where you can file a complaint: