Along with the importance of wearing sunscreen, it’s a truism that if you find a dexterous dentist, a plumber who wears a belt, or a honest mechanic, you should hang on to them for dear life.
All such people are extremely rare and difficult to replace. The trouble is that few people can actually tell when they’re being overcharged for car repair. Not many schools will teach you the difference between a crankshaft and a carburetor, nor is this really useful knowledge under most circumstances. Workshop owners do take advantage of this, often over the objections of the mechanics who work for them.
Once, I took my old Volkswagen in to get the CV joints replaced, only to be told later that there were actually four or five problems that absolutely had to be fixed, immediately. Okay, I’ll admit that it was a piece of junk held together mainly by rust and duct tape, but I did my own services and knew the engine fairly well – some of what that manager told me was simply nonsense. Instead of getting angry, I just told him that I and a tow truck would be coming around later to pick the car up. Magically, the repair estimate dropped to 20% of the original, and the car was still running well five years later when I sold it.
If you’re a woman, one way to avoid this kind of thing with a mechanic you don’t know is to have a male friend drop the car off for you. This is stupid, but it does make a difference.
Another option is to buy this little doohickey, which plugs into the computer port that can be found somewhere on the dashboard of almost all modern cars. Here’s how it works:
When connected, the FIXD monitors the various electronic sensors embedded in your engine and interprets the alphanumeric codes for you. In other words, instead of having to run to a professional every time a warning light comes on, you can get an indication of where the problem lies and perhaps even do something about it yourself.
As a bonus, the associated app will also remind you of regular maintenance events like oil changes. It will even give you a rough estimate of how much a repair should cost, as well as a list of probable consequences if you choose to put it off. You can, if you have more than one vehicle, use it in any of them to diagnose problems if they arise, or leave it plugged in to remain informed in real time.
Of course, there are some limitations you should be aware of. This gadget can only tell you about problems the car’s own sensors detect, not something like a leaking fuel line or an underinflated tire (use one of these to quickly fix that).
Some cars have fewer engine sensors than others. It’s also not designed to work with older vehicles without an OBD II system, or diesels.
Still, for this price and considering the thousands of dollars it can potentially save you, this sounds like an excellent buy.