You have dropped your car at an auto repair shop to check out an unusual noise when you apply the brakes. An hour later, you receive a call from the shop saying there’s a problem with not just the brakes, but also the timing belt and that the repair job will cost around $600. How do you know if this is really what your car needs or if the repair shop is scamming you? Shop around before you authorize an expensive repair job, says the Michigan Department of State that has been dealing with the investigation of auto repair fraud complaints since 1974.
Now, a new way to check is by going to mechanicimprints.com, and seeing what other people are paying for similar services. “Mechanic Imprints” is a new community site aimed at fighting auto repair fraud.
Under the Michigan Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act, shops that provide auto repair services need to be registered with the Bureau of Automotive Regulation. In the event of a dispute with the auto repair shop, you have the option of filing a complaint with the Bureau. Michigan law requires mechanics to be certified in specific categories of motor repair before they can take up vehicle repairs. The best way to avoid a repair scam is to ask around for repair shops that are reliable. Visit the shop and check if it displays this mechanic certificate. If a mechanic is not certified for a given category, check if he holds a trainee permit that allows him to carry out repairs in that area under the guidance of another certified mechanic.
According to Michigan law, whether you ask for it or not, repair shops must provide a written estimate before they begin any repair work on a vehicle that they estimate to cost $20 or more. If the repair shop discusses what your car needs over the telephone, ask him to send you the estimate by e-mail, fax or post. Check that the estimate covers details of the work that needs to be done, the time it’s going to take and prices for parts and labor. This is important because you have the right to refuse any work that exceeds this estimate by 10 percent or $10, whichever is lesser.
In situations where you are not convinced about the need for a particular repair the mechanic suggests, ask him to give you the reason in writing. Find out about the guarantees the shop offers on the repair job and make sure you get this in written form too. Preserve a copy of any documents you sign at the repair shop. In the event of a dispute, all this documentation comes in handy to build your case.
Michigan auto repair laws require mechanics to return replaced parts back to the customer. If the repair shop claims that a part is old, broken or not functioning right and needs replacing, make sure you ask for it to be given back to you. This ensures they don’t cheat you by charging for a replacement they didn’t make.
Michigan law requires mechanics to provide customers with a final bill that lists out specifically the jobs performed on your vehicle. This bill should also list the items that were replaced, newly installed or rebuilt and the name of the mechanic who serviced your vehicle with his certification number.
In the event of a dispute with an auto repair shop that cannot be resolved by negotiating with the shop manager, Michigan law requires customers to contact the Bureau of Automotive Regulation at (800) 292-4204 to file a complaint. If the Bureau finds the shop to be violating the Michigan Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act, the shop is liable for a fine or prosecution.