Illustration for article titled Confessions of a Service Writer

1. Yes, the majority of service shops are shady.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had customers come in telling me that “the dealer” or “Shirestone down the road” said that they need 3 engines and a prayer if they’re going to stay on the road safely. However, I’m here to tell you that you should always get a second opinion until you find a shop you feel you can trust.

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Many shops make up arbitrary standards about what constitutes a bad tire, low brake pads, and worn out front end parts among other things. That’s why it’s imperative that you get a second opinion and educate yourself about what you are told you need.

The takeaway is this, if a shop tells you that you need a lot of work, they should be capable of showing you exactly what is wrong, what most likely caused it, and why it’s important to mend so immediately.

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2. Yes grinding rotors do need to be replaced.

So it sucks I know but the moment you hear (often times feel) that grind (Not squeal), it’s going to cost you. Here’s why. Grinding means the pad is gone and the backing plate is physically grinding into the rotor. Rotors actually have a minimum thickness. More than 93% of the time, any rotor that is grinding has been ground into far enough that it is below minimum thickness according to the manufacturer. Reputable shops will not turn a rotor and reinstall it if it’s below that measurement. Not only is it a liability on their part, it’s unsafe according to the company who made your car. Don’t gamble on brakes friends. It never works out well.

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3. Tires determine the car you drive.

Yea, you read that right. The car you drive today changes entirely depending on the tires you’re riding on. I don’t care if you have a Ram with an 8 inch lift and 40 inch tires or an NB Miata with 15s, everything about it’s dynamics can change based on the rubber that meets the road.

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You see, expensive tires buy you two things. 1: Wet Traction and 2: Consistent performance. So over the course of the tires life it’ll behave the most similarly between the day you install it and the day you remove it and it’ll handle the wet like it’s bloody dry outside. I can attest to this not only as a salesman but as a consumer. I have Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+s on my car and at highway speeds it simply behaves like it’s summer and smoking hot outside. When it’s actually dry it behaves like I drive a proper sports car despite the fact that my car weighs 4000 lbs.

Much like when it comes to buying a bicycle, buy the best you can possibly afford. You’ll notice the difference.

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4. You should never pay more than $50 for an oil change.

Now I’ll provide this caveat to begin. If you drive a car that takes many many quarts read 7 or more then you might pay a bit more. If you drive a car that costs $100k or more, you will pay more. However, if you aren’t included on those first two, you shouldn’t be paying more than $50 US for your oil to be changed.

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Surprising to most, the majority of car manufacturers call for conventional oil and of the few who call for synthetic, most call for 0w-20. Many places will tell you that the new fancy 0w-20 synthetic oil is $8-$12 per quart. Their lying. You see, it costs as much as old school dino oil. 5 quarts of that plus filter and labor should get you out the door at $50 or below if they’re being honest.

5. Good shops don’t want to swindle you. 

Good shops won’t sell you things you don’t need unless they’re fun (think lift kits, superchargers, new wheels, etc). Good shops want you to trust them and when given the chance will earn your business by showing you what the problems are and talking to you for as long as you need to feel good about your purchase so don’t feel bad about taking their time or asking questions. We want you to feel like you made the right choice to come to us and to let us be the ones to take the best care of your car.

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