Well my RX-8 had a coolant drip, took it in and turns out the nipple to the expansion tank was cracked. Needs a replacement radiator. Fine. Mechanic has a shitty no-name aftermarket brand available, Mazda only has one in the parts network in North America - in Canada - with a 6-8 day lead time. It won’t work for me because the cost of the radiator and rental and storage at the shop would bury me. I ask the mechanic about used, which he discourages, he’s pushing the aftermarket one very hard. I tell him in no uncertain terms that warranty or not, I do not want an aftermarket radiator on the car, because rotaries pump an ungodly amount of coolant and by the time I figure out it wasn’t a sufficient radiator there’s a 50/50 shot the rotor housings are already FUBAR. This is in NYC, where your fans and radiator WILL be put to their full potential. So it’s fairly heated disagreement of opinion. Fine. I get him a used one after 2 days, he puts it in. Works fine, he gets paid, all is well.

I’ll note here I’ve used this guy like 5-6 years, he’s generally on the mark, his rates are fair, he offers cash discounts sometimes, he carries a portion of costs on $600-800 repairs once in a while if I need to wait a week or so to pay him in full. We have a good relationship, I’m happy with the repairs and we rarely disagree. Onward.

Now this weekend I go to use the AC. It’s not working. I call him up and say I don’t know if he temporarily removed the condenser or bumped a connector but it’s not working. He tells me they vacuumed it out to make sure it wouldn’t be released during the work, but the machine said there was no refrigerant in there, so they didn’t put any back. Bring the car back and they’ll put at least a little in it because it was certainly not full. I have no basis to question this because it probably WAS low, but it also was working well so long as the car was at least rolling.

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Well the more I think about this, the more I realize I was lucky to have a reason to use my AC right after the repair, because if it was finished next week I probably wouldn’t have noticed the AC issue until spring, and I have a hard time believing if I went in 4-5 months after the work that he would give the same answer and instead would just charge me $180 for the coolant service.

I can’t decide whether the error was 1) the truth (or equipment malfunction on his side), 2) an honest mistake (i.e. he forgot), 3) immaterial because he would have fixed it in spring (really doubt this, but may have done it at cost), or 4) trying to screw me because I didn’t want his shitty radiator or he thinks he just could have gotten away with it. Like I said, we have a pretty good relationship, the other time there was a big argument was when he had 3 alternators fail in 14 months and I told him I expected him to do the last one at cost with an alternator I provided. He refused and wanted his full rate because the 12 months on the first alternator was up, and he would only replace in-kind on a warranty issue regardless.

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All that said, what’s your read here? I can’t decide whether to even bring it up and say I’m upset, and how if I didn’t have a reason to run the AC I’m guessing he would have stuck me with the repair in the spring rather than say “oh we didn’t put anything back” at that point. I don’t really like to pick fights with the guys I trust with my cars, but at the same time I’m not sure what to think here. It could have been an honest mistake or hes telling the truth, and that he would have put it back if it said it was 1/2 full. I don’t know, but again, if I missed it, would it have really mattered? Share all opinions.