Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rip Off Car Repairs

A few weeks ago I heard one of Jerry Seinfeld's jokes that I really related to. He mentioned how when his car breaks down it is customary to pop the hood and try to pinpoint the problem. He then said unless there is a giant on/off switch under the hood that just happens to be in the off position then he is screwed. That totally describes me.

I have never been much of a mechanic. I even struggled maintaining my own bike as a kid. When I go to Pep Boys or Auto Zone I usually buy things like air fresheners, sponges, and glass cleaner. I see other men lugging in oily car parts and talking in code language to the guys behind the counter. I know they are just putting on a show because they have a low self esteem and are intimidated by me.

I can actually name several parts of my car that are found under the hood. I can locate the battery, air filter, windshield wiper fluid reservoir (my favorite part), the radiator, and that big metal thing that burns you if you touch it. Aside from these parts the rest is just a bunch of confusion. I cold probably make repairs to the space shuttle as easily as I could my own car. Fortunately my repairs have been kept to a minimum recently unlike other times when everything seems to break simultaneously.

I used to hate it when I had to take my car to a mechanic because I never knew if they were taking advantage of me. You've probably seen the equivalent of "To Catch A Predator" that dateline does on car repair scams. A mechanic can tell within a few seconds of conversation if you understand cars or not. It's kind of like how a dog can sense if you are scared of it. It reminds me of the scene in Vacation when Clark Griswold's car breaks down near the Grand Canyon and he goes to the local gas station. When he asks how much the repairs will cost the red neck mechanic just smiles and says "How much you got?" I hate the vulnerable feeling of not having the automotive knowledge needed to know if you are being ripped off.

Several years ago I learned that the husband of a coworker was a mechanic. At times he would come to our house to work on ailing vehicles. I tried to use those moments to teach my boys about being a man. I would point out the tires and windshield wipers to them as he worked on the car so they would think I was in on the repairs. Over the years he has fixed my cars many times and does great work for much less than other mechanics but the best part is that I can trust him. He gives me the old broken parts after making repairs and actually shows me what he did. One of my little boy's called him "Car Fix" and the name sort of stuck.

Having a good mechanic is as important as a good lawyer or family doctor and I happen to think that Car Fix is the Thomas Moore of the car repair industry.


MikkSolo said...

I totally agree. What about good jewelers?


Emily said...

You've hit the nail on the head about the importance of having a trustworthy mechanic. We were really lucky to find guys we trust and they are within walking distance from our house. They built a new engine in the van and since then have done several quick fix items for free when they could easily have charged me whatever amount they wanted. I don't know if it's good or bad to have spent enough time and money at the car shop that you feel comfortable being on a first-name basis with all the mechanics there and you know they will recognize you whenever you go in.