Here's another true story. I knew an auto mechanic that kept a ketchup bottle containing used engine oil in his toolbox. He would squirt it on shocks, struts around valve covers on master cylinders and what ever else He wanted to sell.
The service adviser would bring the customer out and show them the wet spots and how important it was to have the repairs done today to avoid getting stuck somewhere. You can protect yourself against this old trick by performing an inspection before drop off.
I explain this in the last chapter of the free auto repair book I wrote. I talk about how to act like you know about cars. What else will the auto mechanic find wrong?
Well since they are in the engine compartment they could not help, but notice that you need belts and hoses replaced. They often say that they are looking out for your best interests when they recommend these kings of services. It's your job to find out if they are sincere and these parts really need replacing.
First we'll talk about belts. Most modern cars have one large belt called a serpentine belt. This one belt drives all the accessories like the alternator, water pump, a/c compressor and power steering pump.
In the old days they would have 2 or 3 belts but now they have just one belt to do the job. The down side is, if the belt breaks you loose all your accessories.
If you keep driving without this belt your engine could over heat because the water pump is not turning and not pushing the coolant through the engine. Yep replacing the belt is a gravy job. the auto mechanic finds this Very easy and quick to do and could cost over $150.00 bucks. When a serpentine belt is recommended for replacement ask why.
If the answer is because it has cracks this not good enough. The industry formula for cracked belts is 10 light cracks per inch indicate the belt should be replaced.
Light cracks spread out over the whole belt may mean the belt still has life left in it. The cracks develop on the face of the belt or the ribbed side. The strength of the belt is on the back or smooth side of the belt.
If the belt is frayed or damaged from hitting something ask the auto mechanic to show it to you and replace as needed. Use this rule of thumb when deciding to replace the belt. An average serpentine belt will last for about 50,000 miles or more.
Ford for some reason uses a very high quality serpentine belt on most models that can last for up to 100,000 miles or more. Take a look at the belt and if you approve the replacement of the belt ask the auto mechanic for the old belt and through it in a bag and put it in your trunk for emergencies. It’s always nice to have a spare for emergency use.
Coolant and heater hoses are another gravy job the shop might recommend. On modern vehicles hoses are better quality than they were in the 80’s. It has been a long time since I have seen a blown hose.
I remember putting hoses on vehicles every 50,000 miles or so. But I have seen modern vehicles with 200,000 miles on them and still have the factory original hoses on them. The invention of extended life coolant has seemed to extend the life of the hoses that carry it.
So how can you tell its time for hose replacement? A visual inspection and feeling a cool hose is about the only way. When a hose is going bad it swells up like a small snake that just ate a big rat.
And when you feel the lump or it feels spongy as compared to the rest of the hose. If your vehicle has high mileage and hoses are recommended by the repair shop ask your questions on why are they bad and then ask to see them.
A new section added lets site visitors talk about their own run ins with the auto repair business. You can also share your own car repair story.
If you would like to read another story about things I have seen during
my 30 year car mechanic career the next link takes you to another
auto mechanic story.
These pages are from my book about the auto business. If you would like to get the 68 page guide I have an information page with details of what is in the book and yes more samples. Next link takes you to the guide for auto repairs.
Learn more about this car mechanic and why he built this automotive information website on the homepage. There you will find more answers to car questions.