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Common Auto Repair Scams

When you take your car or truck to a new auto repair shop, how do you know they are honest? Most auto repair shops are honest and chances are you've researched the shop or gotten a good recommendation. But if not, here are some common auto repair scams to watch out for.

1. Misleading advertising. Some dishonest shops will try to pull you in with specials for work you don't really need or that lead to more expensive work. For example, they will offer an "Oil Change Special" advising you to bring your car in for an oil change every 3,000 miles. Most vehicles do not need an oil change that frequently. Or they will offer a "Free Alignment Special" and try to sell you shocks, struts and other related parts. Always ask to see proof of a worn-out part. Unless you drive over a pothole or are in an accident, your shouldn't have to align your wheels for 50,000 to 100,000 miles.

2. Substituting used parts. If you suspect a shop is repairing with used parts, ask to see the parts and look for well-known brand names or proof that they are approved parts.

3. Claiming parts are dirty. Some shops will try to tell you that your fuel injector or air filter is dirty. Fuel injectors usually only need replacing every 35,000 miles because today's gasoline has detergent that keeps them clean. Air filters only need replacing every 15,000 miles, not at every oil change.

4. Promoting engine flush. Unless you've been neglecting your car, for example, not changing its oil regularly, it should not need an engine flush, using chemicals to get rid of sludge.

5. Promoting "lifetime" products. Most products you buy for your car will have to be replaced eventually, so don't pay extra for products touted as lasting a lifetime. These can include brake and transmission fluids, filters and brake pads.

6. Switching tires. Some dishonest shops will replace your good tires with older ones. You can always mark the inside of your tires with chalk.

7. Claiming axle boot is broken. If a shop tells you your axle boots are broken, check them. If the tear is legitimate, it will be jagged and dirty with grease, but if someone has cut them, the cut will be clean.

8. Padding bill. If a repair estimate seems too high, you can always ask to inspect parts and go for a second opinion before agreeing to work that may not be needed.

In addition, you can check out "A Consumer's Guide to Automotive Repair in California " offered by The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) through the California Department of Consumer Affairs. BAR offers guidelines for selecting a good auto repair shop and knowing your rights. All auto repair shops in California must be registered with BAR and post a sign saying they are. Under the law, you are entitled to:

  • A written estimate for repair work.
  • A detailed invoice of work done and parts supplied.
  • Return of replaced parts, if requested at the time a work order is placed.

If you are not satisfied with the auto repair shop's work and the problem can't be resolved, you can contact BAR online or call their toll-free number at 1-800-952-5210.

If you're a La Jolla or Coastal San Diego resident looking to find a trustworthy La Jolla auto repair shop, the businesses featured in our listings have served the community for years and have many local happy clients available as references.

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