Cars are great since they allow humans to be mobile across long distances.
However, cars are not great in the sense that they require constant maintenance and they can sustain damage in ways you didn't even think was possible.
At some point, everybody has brought in their car to a mechanic and said, "are you serious?" at the thing that needs to be fixed.
These are their stories.
A quora question asked:
Here were some of the answers.
This literally happened to me this week!
A little back story before we get to the juicy parts!
Last week I was running errands and I came back to the car which had unashamedly urinated itself in the car park.
I took a quick peek under the car and established that it was my car that had some incontinence issues.
Against all healthcare advice and warning labels, I dipped my finger in the puddle and tasted. It tasted sweet so I knew it was coolant.
There was coolant still left in the expansion tank so I drove it home and let it sit for a few hours. I then checked the expansion tank for signs of oily residue as that would indicate it is a head gasket issue.
Thankfully, there was none.
I then pressure tested the system and it seemed to hold pressure so that led me to believe it was a leaky radiator.
Normally I would do repairs myself but changing a radiator is a b*tch, so I elected to take it to a garage.
My normal mechanic was away but there was someone there I presume filling in for him.
I told him what the issue was and left it with him.
Now the juicy part!
He calls me back soon after to tell me I need the head gasket changing (much more expensive than a radiator change) and I assure him it does not.
So I go down to the garage where he condescendingly explains there is oily residue in the expansion tank.
I tell him I checked for that and it was not.
He pops the bonnet and lo and behold there is oily residue in the tank but also oily residue all over the cap.
I start the car and rev it high to check if there is any smoke with a whitish tint. Thankfully, there was none.
I outright told him if he was going to try to con me; he should have at least washed his hands before touching the cap to add a little oil.
Words can not describe how the colour drained from his face!
Never try to hustle a hustler!
From The Other Side
Thanks for the A2A. Since I was a mechanic for most of my life I am going to answer this from the other side.
This happened many years ago when I was working as a commissioned technician at an independent tire shop. A customer asked for a brake inspection on his 1970 ish station wagon. We did free brake inspections so that meant all the time it took me to test drive, rack up the vehicle, inspect and estimate the job was unpaid. Normally this would take about 15 minutes so it was not a big deal but if the car needed a lot of work we could kill 30 to 60 minutes just coming up with an estimate to repair.
When I climbed in I could tell the guy was living in the car. It was packed with clothes and everything the guy owned. As I pulled the car out of the parking space the brakes were grinding badly so a test drive was out of the question.
When I pulled the car onto the rack I heard something fall. I got out and looked under the car and found a big puddle of gas. I thought maybe I had ripped out the fuel line so I racked the car and started my brake inspection by looking at the fuel line. This car had a metal fuel line that ran from the tank to the engine. It was so rusty and corroded that fuel was leaking out at several points along the line. So the customer had tied tin cans to the fuel line and would collect the fuel. I immediately went and talked to the customer. He was pissed that I had spilled his gas. What the hell? You're driving around in a fire trap and your mad at me? The poor guy was so down on his luck that he would collect the leaking fuel so he could pour it back into the tank. This whole situation was so dangerous that I was speechless. I had no idea what to say to the guy so I went back to finish inspecting the car.
At this point I knew the guy would not be able to repair his vehicle. Just from the bad grinding noise I heard he was looking at at least several hundred dollars to repair the brakes. Then we still had to address the fuel leaks. I felt really bad for the guy. Everything I looked at was completely worn out. Front and rear brakes were metal on metal. None of the rotors or drums could be saved. Brake hoses were badly cracked. Wheel cylinders were leaking. The whole fuel line needed replacing. It all came to a couple thousand dollars just to make it safe.
When I presented the estimate the guy got pretty mad. At first I thought he was mad at me but he was mad at himself for not being able to get out of the hole life had dealt him. I was pretty young at the time and had never really struggled in life. I had never been fired and could always find enough work to get by. I could always make rent and buy food. This was a side of life I had not really seen close up. It reminded me of when we studied the great depression in school. This guy wanted to work but couldn't find a job. Now his car was broken down so finding work just got harder.
The customer wanted to drive the car but we told him it was too unsafe, he would have to tow it away. He told us he needed to sleep in it tonight but would have it towed the next day so we pushed it out into the parking lot. We knew he would just drive away as soon as we closed but felt so bad for the guy we did not call the police to report it. I hope he was finally able to get back on his feet. I never saw him again.
We Know It
I had bought a brand new 2007 Silverado and it was a super nice truck. About a year after purchase, after a cold rainy day, the truck was almost dead! The only thing that happened when the ignition key was turned was that the theft alarm went off. Nothing else worked. No starter, lights, radio, nothing. Later on that day, the truck started and worked just as if nothing had happened. During the next year, it was towed 10 times to the shop after it rained and they had no idea what was wrong, because every time they had it, after a short while, it would suddenly start and be perfectly normal. This happened many times before my wife called the regional manager and complained about the inability of the Chevy to fix their own truck. One of the times that it had been dead at the shop, the mechanic said he had never seen anything like it because all of the 22 computers in the truck were unresponsive, until they all came on line and worked. After her call to the regional manager, we were quickly contacted by the dealer who told us to bring in the truck and they would give us a loaner vehicle until the truck was repaired.
We dropped off the truck for the 13th time, and about three days later, I got a call to come in they had fixed the truck. They had changed out the ignition switch, the computer, and several other things, all at no charge under warrantee during the last year. I asked if they were sure and he said absolutely. The problem was found, and fixed.
We went over to pick up the truck and asked what the problem was. He explained that while they were looking at the truck, they noticed that one of the lights in the fixture over the truck bed was out, so they were going to fix that. When they took the light fixture out, they noticed that there was some water inside the liner of the cab. They noticed that it had run down over on the drivers side, so they pulled out the liner and in the space between the cab shell and the liner was the little receiver module that monitored the rear tire pressure from the tires. When the mechanic touched it, it was HOT! He immediately realized that the water was shorting it out. They replaced the module and the light fixture and that fixed the issue.
The "You've got to be kidding me" moment came when he explained to me that the basic problem came because the gasket around the light fixture on the back of the cab over the trunk bed had shrunk and allowed water in. All the problems in the whole truck came from a leaking gasket! He said that when the water entered the module, it shorted out the computer system and the truck went dead. When enough water had leaked out of the module, the module quit shorting the computer system and the truck was back to normal.
PS. I kept an eye on that new gasket and about a year later noticed it had shrunk, so I got some black silicone and potted the fixture and have never had another bit of trouble with it.
Two Thousand Over
I took my truck to a mechanic shop because when I stepped on the clutch it made a grinding noise. I thought it would be a throw out bearing but I had no time to take it apart because I was working out of town. A week later when I came to pick up my truck the shop told me it was still making noise but it was a different noise. It wasn't any different. I left the truck there another week. After two weeks I came back to pick up the truck, They told me they had changed clutch and pressure plate, throw out bearing, clutch pivot and clutch arm but it was still making the same noise. They kept it another week.
When I came back the third week to pick up my truck a mechanic that worked there told me that a lock washer had came lose from the starter and lodged between the clutch and pressure plate, when they removed the lock washer it stopped making noise. I told him that the shop told me they replaced the clutch and pressure plate the first week, how could the new clutch and pressure plate have a noise if it were replaced? He just rolled his eyes.
When I went to the counter my bill was 2400.00. I told the supervisor about the lock washer story and that I wanted my old parts as is state law. He told me the old parts were thrown out and would not release my truck back to me. I called the Better Business Bureau and they told me I only had to pay for the parts that were returned to me and if I had to rent a vehicle to commute to work I could sue the mechanic shop. They also called the shop to get the other side of the story and called me back to say the shop would release my truck and negotiate a new bill. The bill I agreed to was 300.00. As I left the supervisor said" Don't ever bring your vehicles back" It also sold tires and there was a crowd in the display area. I replied" You lied to me, to charged me for work you did not do, your not the only shop in town and your not any good, I would never come back. If I didn't call the Better Business Bureau, you would have stolen more from me"
The shop closed two months later.
Ain't Too Proud
I grew up in a garage and seen many things through the years, but the best "you've got to be kidding me" moment came when I worked as an admissions coordinator at a skilled nursing facility. An elderly man came into my office asking for a coat hanger because he had locked his keys in his car. I was busy, so I couldn't help him but I did give him a hanger to attempt to unlock his doors of his station wagon.
The man was parked right in front of my office window so I watched the old guy struggle for a good 45 minutes trying to unlock his door with that hanger. I felt sorry for the man and guilty I Hadn't gone to help him. I went outside and offered to try. It's not the first door I've ever had to unlock for somebody.
i wiggled the wire, twisting and turning, trying to get the tip around the door handle, but I couldn't quite get it. If the wire was bent slightly different, I could make it work. I had pliers in my truck about six parking spaces away. I told the man that I could grab my pliers to reshape the bend and I would have him unlocked in just a few minutes. He announced "I've got pliers". He went to the back door, opened it, picked up his pliers off the back seat, closed the door and handed me the tool.
??????? "You've got to be kidding me!" I thought it but didn't say it. I opened his back door, reached up and lifted the lock, closed the back door then opened his driver's door. I handed him back his pliers and he said "thank you". I stood back, watched him get in and drive away….wow!
ive got a couple more that I will share in another post that are truly worthy mechanic moments.
I was busy at work and had no time to work on the wife's car. So I took it to the local dealer for a brake job and to tighten the steering wheel. It had tilt and telescoping features and the bolts had come loose. Takes two special tools to fix that I did not have and I was working 60 hours a week plus. The dealer tells me they must do a frontend alignment anytime they repair any steering part. Steering wheel being a steering part. It had been a while and just had new tires put on, so what the hell. do it. It took them 10 days to do the work. I went to get it and it had brake fluid dripping off the wheels and fender. And the tires squealed as I turned onto the pavement. I turned around and went back. The service manage told me I must have hit something and knocked it out of alignment.
Oh and it pulled hard to one side when I hit the brakes. They wanted to charge me again to "fix" it. They tried to baffle me with "front end jargon". Stopped when I corrected them on what toe in, camber, and caster were. I explained for two years I did their frontend alignments at a different shop. Seems their GM Certified guys could not pull off an alignment then. I took it to another shop, they had almost a 1/2 inch of toe in on a Camaro. They did not have a vacuum brake bleeder, so just let the fluid drool on the rotors and wheels, which them blew down the lower fenders. A short piece of hose and a beer can would have prevented that. I would have loaned them my bleeder if I would have known. Problem with the brakes was one side had OEM pads, the other had high performance pads. Both sides being soaked in fluid did not help. I cleaned everything up, replaced the pads, took it to another shop for an alignment, had them print out before and after specs. Went back to dealer and demanded I get at least my cost of the alignment back and offered to train their mechanics. I got their check for alignment. Oh, and they cracked the steering column when they "fixed" it.
I was a broke, starving college student in 1992, driving a red 1985 VW Scirocco with 200,000+ miles on it that I'd picked up for $2k. It ran well for me and got me through college and then some, although I never could seem to get the backup lights to work (VW electrical gremlins). One time the tailpipe broke off the muffler so I stopped in at a Midas to see if they could weld on a new tailpipe. They threw "Red Rocco" up on the lift, took a quick look, came and informed me the muffler was completely rusted through and couldn't be repaired. I asked to see it but could not see any rust or holes from my view below. The mechanic and two other shop guys proceeded to reach up on top of the muffler, feeling around, saying, oh yeah it's all rusted through up here. Ok, how much? They go look it up, run the numbers and come back with, "$400, and we can do it right now!" I say, I don't have that kind of money right now, I'll just have to drive it as-is. They offered a special discount, right now only, $50 off, and they said I could post date a check, to help me out.
I again declined and asked for my car. On the way home, I happened to see a small, independent muffler shop and wondered what they might charge to replace my "completely rusted through" muffler. The guy says, let me take a look at it and comes back in and informs me the muffler is fine, and that he can weld a tailpipe on for $10 in about 5–10 minutes, if I can wait.
Back in the 80's I had a lady come in complaining her car wouldn't go over 30 mph. After making all the obvious checks, scope the cap rotor, wires etc.. I checked the condition and level of the transmission fluid. All was normal. I turned the engine off waited a couple of minutes and checked the oil.
To my shock and surprise, the oil level was within 2″ of the dipstick handle, and like new condition. I called her back out to show her what I had found. Her explanation was that being a used car it would leak or burn oil and she would need to add oil between changes.
Long story short, she had added a qt. a day for 7 or 8 days. She had never figured out how to check the oil so she followed someones directions.
I remedied the situation by draining like 13 or 14 qts and doing a complete oil change service. Car had no visible leakage like front or rear main seal like a lot of cars did and wasn't burning oil either. I grabbed her and we test drove the car and the 350 cid Chevy was back to normal with plenty of power and speed.
She was so happy, she gave me a $25.00 tip, a lot of money for that time.
The 2nd weird situation was when a rather large woman came in with a brand new Monte Carlo SS for it's 1st ever oil change. When I got in to drive the car into the garage,I hit the gas pedal and I went straight almost into the back seat. She had actually broken the mounting bolts for the drivers seat, What a laugh we had after work having a beer….
Many years ago I had taken my Toyota Corolla in to a chain place for an oil change. We lived in apartments and had no place to DIY. Anyway, I left it there while I went to work with the wife. At the end of the day they called and said there had been an "issue" but that had taken care of it for me at no charge.
My heart sank. All I could imagine was my car falling off the lift or something catastrophic. The manager met with me and showed me my car. He said they had noticed a lot of wear to me tires which they felt was unusual as I had bought them at that store only a few months prior. They did some investigating and found that the tire guy who had installed them (he had since been fired) had dropped the head alignment machine without reporting it and my new tires had been misaligned causing unusual wear. Thus, they went ahead and replaced the two fronts with new tires and realigned all four at no cost.
Shout out to a fine crew at that shop. I am sure they are long gone by now. That was about 20 years ago.
Back In Alignment
When I went to pick my truck up from an alignment shop and they hadn't replaced my steering components that were dangerously worn out. The feller doing the work supposedly had 10 years experience in this field. Yet he claimed that the stubborn parts had been on there " Too long to be replaced." I had to have this done, as it was on my source of living. I walked back to my welding truck and unspooled the torch lead and cut the bad parts out of his way, cleaned up the threads where every new component would be installed, and helped him fit everything up. Then he aligned it. I walked back up to the service manager payout and they quietly rang me up for the original bill. I looked him in the eye saying nothing until he looked away and wrote the check.
Wear And Ne'erGiphy
When my Toyota Camry reached 60K miles, I promptly got the timing belt replaced at a dealer in Atlanta.
Less than 5,000 miles later, while driving to Orlando (about 500miles away) I noticed that the car would vibrate when pressing on gas and would immediately stop when gas pedal was not pressed.
Upon reaching Orlando, I took it to a local Toyota dealer for investigation and was told that the axel needs to be changed. The service advisor also said that the timing belt and water pump are showing signs of wear and should be replaced.
That was my "are you kidding me moment"
Continued showing my ignorance on cars, I asked him to show me the wear and he took me to the car and tried to find a fresh oil spot, but failed. I knew enough that timing belt is not visible and is a big job to access the belt.
I told him that I was a bit low on money and requested him to write his advice on the service report, which he kind of brushed off.
Had he given me a report, I would have taken it to Toyota corporate.
Getting Away With Murder
I've always been lucky in this respect. I'm 6th generation living in a small agriculture community in Northern California. If you don't run a honest and upstanding business, you will starve to death. So when I take my car ,truck or motorcycle in for service I know with out a doubt my mechanic is giving me the straight skinny .
But to answer your question, the first time I took my new Mazda 626 in for a tune up. The price tag was $350. Well like I said I don't question the mechanics honesty. I just thought maybe he'd made a mistake. But true to life that's what it cost you to do a tuneup on a modern car (1986). In the past I had always done the maintenance on all our family and farm vehicles. I don't think I ever spent over $35 on point, plugs, oil & filters. Nowadays I'd feel lucky to get off for $300!
The Bolt Inside
Many years ago I had a friend who was rebuilding an old 1950s motorbike. He came over to my house almost in tears, seems he had dropped a bolt into the engine. Now he had to strip the engine to get the offending bolt out. I asked if I could have a look and see if I had any ideas. Went back to his house and there sitting on the ground is the engine, Took a look, and down inside the engine is a bolt sitting on the cam follower. Next question, "is there any oil in the crankcase?". Was told there is no oil in the engine which is just as well as he would have to drain it out to strip the engine.
I then gave him a long slow look, picked up the engine turned it upside down, gave it a gentle shake and the bolt fell out onto the ground. Turned the engine up the right way, put it down and slowly walked away without looking at him or saying a word, just shaking my head as I went. Anther acquaintance who was there told me later the look on my friends face was priceless.