Brake Repair Scams Come in Different Flavors
Earlier this week we’ve learned about how that fast lube-type chain service centers cheat their customers with a bogus brake repair that did not need doing. Today, we are going to learn about a variation of this scam that probably happens even more frequently---hiding a bogus brake repair in your vehicle service paperwork.
Here’s how the scam works: You go to an automotive service center with an obvious problem that even the most mechanically-disinclined can see is broken and in need of repair. Let’s say a broken axle for example.
After your vehicle is towed to the service center or garage and a technician or mechanic has had time to look over the damage, the clipboard-carrying manager comes back with the news that the axle is broken and that you have some front end damage as well that will most likely require an alignment after all of the repairs are made. You knew it was going to be bad, and so you shrug off the Karma and sign the repair agreement.
A few days later you get a call that your car is fixed and you are ready to roll. You find the car looks ok and when you get in and drive off, it appears to be definitely fixed and you chalk up the whole experience as to being part of the cost of owning a car. And, since the garage or service center were successful with the repair, you feel like you made the right call on choosing who to fix your car. That last bit is the beauty of the scam---the ability to build trust and still shake down a customer all at the same time.
What happened---as will be demonstrated in the video below---is that the garage or service center snuck in a brake repair job into the billing with the backup lie (if needed) that the front end damage from the broken axle and other front end components included damage to the brakes---hence a brake job addition to the work. It’s hidden right there in plain sight in your paperwork.
The unasked question by the customer that should have been asked is, “What exactly did you fix, and how concerning the brakes?” But most of us don’t ask our mechanic those kinds of questions. When we hear “brake job” we usually think of the typical brake pad, rotor or drum problem scenario that we’ve had before and know roughly how much it will cost.
The reality of this scenario---and there’s plenty of stories similar to this one---is that the “brake job” was a way to pad the repair bill of a bigger and more expensive problem that the garage did fix, but while easily cheating their customer at the same time. In the video below, you will see how one garage got caught afterward with the fake repair scam.
Must Watch! Don't Delay This Repair on Tacoma
How to Protect Yourself
This video was a good demonstration of the importance on checking out the work you paid for either while your car is still at the service center or garage if possible, or at the very least shortly afterward at your home.
As you saw in the video, the “brake job” work was easily discovered to be faked. The brake fluid was clearly old and not new; and, the components of the brakes and the surrounding area were clearly untouched as indicated by the undisturbed dirt and grime around the brakes. Apparently, in this scam, a brake job can be as simple as topping off the brake fluid when the reservoir is a little low. But I doubt that a small claims court will agree with a service center or garage about that rationale. In any case, it’s up to customers to hold these businesses accountable. Therefore, you have to at least take a look to see if work was done, rather than blindly follow what you are told.
Another point of the video is that you should always insist on going over the final bill before paying, and asking the manager or mechanic to show you what they did in repairs. If they are honest, then this is no problem and not even considered rude by an honest garage or service center. I’ve received multiple comments from honest mechanics who acknowledge that scams are unfortunately out there, and that they encourage customers to inspect their work.
If you have been scammed with a padded auto repair/service bill, let us know about it so that others can learn how to protect themselves from similar scams. We appreciate others’ comments and experience.
Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.