Employee Ripped Off By Chain Shop - Helping Her Out

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May 3, 2015
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A few months ago, I hired a young woman (19 y/o) as an office assistant (working in admin). Over the past few months, she has noticed me doing some fleet maintenance and realized that I know a thing or two about taking care of vehicles so she asked me to help her out with hers. She drives a 2016 Ford Fusion with the classic 2.5L I4, 141K miles on the clock. She hands me an estimate from a Firestone center where she's been servicing her vehicle since she got it and wanted me to verify it. I said sure and did a once over. Bottom line, about half the estimate was legit. Her front tires were bald (3/64"), dire need of front end alignment, her rear brakes were at less than 1.5mm (front at about 4mm), the battery failed hard on the tester, and it was due for an oil change.

But the other half of the estimate, my goodness. They said she needed a "Tune Up" (which wasn't defined), air filter, coolant flush, transmission flush, and the kicker - POWER STEERING FLUID FLUSH (the car has EPAS!). I assumed by a "Tune Up" they meant spark plugs, so I pulled them all out to take a look. They were worn down a little, but not out of spec yet (probably another 20K miles on them). She told me that they had already done a coolant and transmission flush a couple of years ago. I pulled the air filter out and it looked brand new. She said they replace it every time they do an oil change. They told her that they are required by law to replace the air filter every time they do an oil change and she's been having them do it for the last year and half (4 oil changes).

When I broke everything down for her, she obviously didn't want anything to do with that shop anymore. She wanted to get the other stuff that needed to be done taken care of but doesn't have a whole lot of money and the estimate Firestone gave her was $2.7K. For some new tires and an alignment, I set her up with the independent shop I use for my fleet and got her a good price on some Goodyear Assurance MaxLife tires (her pick). I offered to take care of the brakes, oil, and battery and help her find the right parts. She wanted everything OEM (including the oil and filter) so after quick online trip to RockAuto and a couple of days, she's got a much safer vehicle for a pretty reasonable cost. Of course, throughout this whole ordeal, I've been teaching her some of the traps and scams to look out for, how she can verify some of these things herself, and how to keep a proper maintenance log. She is obviously never going back to that Firestone center and will likely be using our indy shop in the future (free tire rotations and discounted F/S oil changes). I definitely feel much better knowing she isn't going to hydroplane while her brakes are failing and die on the way in to work.
 
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As I have always said. Ignorance is bliss but expensive. Those that know often prey on those that don't. Sad but true.

My niece had a 2010 Scion and it has one of those engines that consumed oil big time. She drove it for about 1000 miles and the oil can light would show up on the dash. She would bring it to the dealership and they would happily give her a $50 oil "AND FILTER" change. Every 1000 miles. I happened to catch her when the light was on and she said, it was time for an oil change. I check the stick and it was below the bottom dots but it was honey colored. The sticker on her window showed only ~1000 miles. I added a quart of oil and Vola! the light went off.

I had her buy a 5 qt jug and showed her how to add the oil one quart at a time.

She was mad because she had to get her oil "changed" about once a month. $600 a year. All they likely did was add a quart like I did.

This move dropped her maintenance cost to $150/year (two $50 oil changes and two $25 jugs of oil) vs $600 When the jug runs out she gets a oil and filter change. probably doesn't need that but that's an easy way for her to remember.
 

CKN

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It sounds like the vehicle does need a tune-up i.e. spark plug change as indicated by the odometer.

It would be interesting to know how you "broke everything down" and compared that to the Firestone estimate. Sorry-while I appreciate your willingness to help your post is atypical of "this cost too much" .

BTW-the EPAS could have been an honest mistake. An item included in the computer estimate system-and not deleted by the operator. Who knows-if they would have charged for that in the final bill.
 
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Great Job mdtaylor86!!!!!! Good to know there are good honest people still breathing.
My granddaughter had the thermostat stick open on her 2016 (?) Camaro V6. The Chevy dealership charged her $750 to change it. Grrrrrrrrrrrr....... I told my daughter to call them up and complain. She did. Nothing happened though. Low life scum they are!!!!!
 
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Good man. That crap is unethical and happens too often. I had a similar experience years ago when I first met the woman who is now my wife - an unethical shop taking advantage of her. I hope you will show this young lady how to read the maintenance schedule in the manual, so she can at least learn what is needed at what intervals and question any shop that says otherwise.
 

mdtaylor86

Thread starter
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May 3, 2015
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I hope "woman 1" above tells all her friends about that entirely dishonest repair shop and mentions the good one you brought her to.

Suggest she do this with all her friends.

Is power steering fluid itemized on any repair bill she has?
That would be nice if she did that. I'm sure she'll be talking about it. The whole experience for her was pretty eye-opening.

That's a good question about the P/S fluid. I'll bring it up to her and see if she wants to look through the old receipts. It really wouldn't surprise me if it was on one of them.
 

D60

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Does any state actually legally require an air filter at every oil change if performed by a shop?

Seems to me best case it'd be an environmental wash if you tried to argue a fresh air filter would somehow cause a vehicle to run more efficiently (the only argument I could think of???) BUT simultaneously filling up the landfills with air filters......
 

D60

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Some shops are blatant about it. People - get educated!

They try his crap on my wife every TIME. It's not like they see a woman and want to rip her off, it's more like they see any person who won't speak up or push back as a CASH COW. Cha-ching!
My local Grease Monkey shows deer-in-the-headlights soccer moms with screaming kids bouncing up and down samples of their trans fluid, t-case, diffs, air filter, etc and tries to explain why they're dirty and should be changed.

Most consumers don't know how to identify clean fluid from dirty (as if visual is all that conclusive anyway) or understand that many fluids like gear oil or Merc LV may appear quite dark very early in life.

I'm guessing a few consumers refuse the upsell but the majority just figure "better safe than sorry" and take the bait.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2004
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California
Some shops are blatant about it. People - get educated!

They try his crap on my wife every TIME. It's not like they see a woman and want to rip her off, it's more like they see any person who won't speak up or push back as a CASH COW. Cha-ching!
Women and Uber/Lyft/Amazon/Doordash drivers are easy prey for many unscrupulous mechanics and chain shops sadly.
 

mdtaylor86

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May 3, 2015
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It sounds like the vehicle does need a tune-up i.e. spark plug change as indicated by the odometer.

It would be interesting to know how you "broke everything down" and compared that to the Firestone estimate. Sorry-while I appreciate your willingness to help your post is atypical of "this cost too much" .

BTW-the EPAS could have been an honest mistake. An item included in the computer estimate system-and not deleted by the operator. Who knows-if they would have charged for that in the final bill.
You're assuming history on the plugs. They were not the original plugs at all. They had been changed out at some point, and based on the wear, fairly recently. Like at around 100K (which is when Ford recommends them). She got the car with 113K miles on it.

Forgive me, but I'm not really sure what you're saying on your second point. The breakdown I did was about the stuff that was not needed. I helped her find parts and the amount of money was significantly less than the Firestone estimate. My apologies, but I'm not going to "break everything down" to the same detail on here.

I doubt it about the EPAS. I could be wrong, and someone please correct me if I am, but the software they use should have model specific recommendations (with part numbers, fluid specs, capacities, etc.)

I left out pretty much everything she told me through conversations about what the Firestone shop was telling her. That might shed a little more light on this. They told her if she didn't do the spark plugs, she would very likely damage her engine and need to replace it. If she didn't do the transmission fluid flush (which they apparently try to sell every other oil change) that her car would break down. And so on, and so on... Your typical scare tactics that are unfortunately used doubly as much on young women (at least based on my anecdotal knowledge from all the women I know).
 

mdtaylor86

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May 3, 2015
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Does any state actually legally require an air filter at every oil change if performed by a shop?

Seems to me best case it'd be an environmental wash if you tried to argue a fresh air filter would somehow cause a vehicle to run more efficiently (the only argument I could think of???) BUT simultaneously filling up the landfills with air filters......
Not to my knowledge. I tried to look it up and couldn't find anything resembling a legal requirement (from any government) that the air filter be changed at the time of an oil change.
 
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Aug 21, 2013
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Central Maryland
Good for you, both helping someone out, and educating them.

Many people in her position will never be able to keep enough in their head to make on-the-spot decisions about suggested maintenance. I tell them "say no for now, bring the list to me and we'll go over it." In college and right after, I was that go-to guy for an extended circle of friends, mostly female. But I have had a few ladies really learn enough to ask probing questions, and make smart decisions on their feet.

I've seen this repeatedly, the "kitchen sink" maintenance list (including not-needed and even not-possible services like you mentioned). Nowadays my circle of friends have other resources, and I find myself giving advice to my teenager's friends (some of whom have non-mechanical Dads... or no Dads around at all).
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
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Kansas City
Firestone can be a trap. When they do legit work, they seem to be fair IME. It the upselling of useless services that is the problem. Every time I have gone there for tires and alignments over the last 25 years, you can not get out the door without them asking " Sure you don't need a oil change"

Always wanted to tell them I do my own oil changes. No need to irk them. They are a decent place for alignments, coolant flushes and things you don't want to do yourself. Also was quite pleased once when they redid a wheel balance that ultimately needed to be road force balanced and the balance was good up to 80mph. No charge. Although they did ask me if I needed a oil change. Go figure

OP thanks for attempting to educate
 
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