In the past, we’ve run stories about the worst mechanic’s shop experiences. Now get ready for a whole new batch of crazy.
The following stories are from readers, their names have been concealed.
A Very, Very Thorough Test Drive
This was many years ago but I had taken my then new 1996 Z28 convertible. The first new car I had ever bought in to have the rear bumper fixed after some old lady had hit me at a traffic light.
Well two days later as I’m driving around in my piece of crap rental car I look over while at a light and lo and behold there’s my car. With one of the autobody repair guys in it and some woman. It’s about 8pm and I’m pretty confused as to why they would need to be driving my car around AT ALL let alone at night with passengers.
So I start honking madly and finally after several miles of this get the guy to pull over. Turns out he was on a date, and had put 67 miles on it, “testing it for squeaks or rattles”, oh and the NEW rear tires were almost gone.
Police and lawyers were involved and it took a long time and was a massive pain in the ass. It ended up costing me way more than I ever got back.
Who Put This Water Pump In My Air-Cooled Porsche?!
Back when I was a kid I remember my pops telling me never to buy a Porsche from a certain Illinois Porsche dealer. He took his 911 in for service (don’t remember if it was his Carerra or the Turbo... doesn’t matter both were 1980-somethings and this was in the 1980s) and they billed him for changing the coolant... the coolant I say.
I’m a 3rd generation attorney, meaning pops was (well, still is) an attorney... that charge didn’t stay on the bill.
The King Has Spoken!
I took my Volkswagen MkV GLI to a common car repair chain for a simple front brake pad replacement. I had some time left in them, but I wanted to deal with it while I had the money. $80 special for pads so, why not? They took my keys, threw it up on the lift, pulled the wheels and then - *GASP* Major issues were revealed!
Despite owning the car for less than two years and only putting about 32,000 miles on it, I had destroyed the discs which had to be replaced, as well as the rear pads which were “totally shot”. so instead of the $80 front pad replacement, they were telling me it was going to be $850 for a complete overhaul of my brakes.
I laughed when they told me and said, I”ll be okay, just the front pads. The manager looked shocked. He told me that my discs were worn dangerously thin (he pulled up VW on his arbitrary computer system and then got out his calipers to to show me.) I asked how that was possible since there was plenty of pad left and rotors looked impeccable. He brought out the calipers again.
When I could see I wan’t getting anywhere, I told them to put the wheels back on, I would go some place else. By now there were a bunch of people in the waiting room listening to us argue so he was completely unwilling to back down. He then proceeded to yell at me that it ‘would be against the law’ for him to let me back out on the road in my rolling death trap. I said I would assume all responsibility and if he didn’t get me my car back soon, he could explain to the cops that he was just doing his civic duty.
In my fury, I just took it to the dealer. It ended up costing $120 (The price of apartment living). I just sold it back to the dealer last week and after 7 years and 77,000 miles, those front pads are the only thing I ever had to replace. Well, the only part of the brakes anyway. It IS a Volkswagen.
One Step Forward, Three Steps Back.
Well, my Volkswagen MkV R32 was in a shop after a box truck in front of me dropped it’s driveshaft, and I couldn’t dodge the U-joint. Put a good sized hole in my DSG. The truck’s insurance company (SOBs..should have gone through my own insurance and subrograted, but I didn’t have $500 handy), refused to do anything but a used DSG. After about a month they sourced one and when I got my car back it was shifting terribly. I figured it needed a computer reflash to learn the new trans. I took it from the shop it was at, to a local VW dealer where I found out I needed a new megatronic unit. Waited some more, got that done. Got my car back....all good right!? Wrong. I had the dreaded marble in a tin can sound of a bad timing chain. VW dealership took responsibility for it and fixed it themselves, no charge, and blamed it on a tech installing the megatronic incorrectly. Finally, after 6 and a half months I got my car back and was SO excited to be driving it again. All it needed was a new belly pan (mine disappeared and insurance never ordered a new one. I didn’t care, got one off ECS was ready to throw it on myself). Drove from just outside NYC in Connecticut to Pittsburgh, about a 6.5 hour drive. Got on my friends lift, and...I have a hole in my front driver’s side CV boot. For the life of us we can’t loosen the bolts to do it ourselves, so I go to a local VW garage that does good work on show cars and stuff, just because I HOPED I could trust this place. When I get there, they find gouges and scrapes all over my K frame, a steering rack that they deemed “dangerous to drive on”, a leaking transfer case, and finally, all the bolts on the back of the trans WAY over torqued. I don’t know which shop fucked up all my stuff, but I went from a low mileage VW R32, to a 2012 honda civic LX. It was the worst car experience in my life, and I’m still full of anger from it.
The Place Where Bolts And Glue Are The Same Thing!
This happened back in the 90’s when I was a student at Stony Brook University. Took my ‘88 Pontiac LeMans (yeah, I know.) in, because of a noise the front end. In investigating, the “mechanic” working on my car ended up stripping the threads out of the mounting boss for the upper caliper pin.
Instead of owning up to it, or lying and telling me that he found the issue and I would need a new steering knuckle, he choose option #3:
Green loctite that fucker back in and send me on my way.
As you would imagine, green locktite was not the way to go, and that pin fell out three days later. Along with my caliper being ejected with a mighty bang onto the LIE at 80MPH on a Sunday night. That was fun.
I lived to tell the tale (thankfully my e-brake still worked), but here I am 17 years later, and I still tell everyone I know to never ever take your car to a discount auto store for service if you value your life and the life of your family. I haven’t set foot in once since.
As always, if you’d like to share your experiences, feel free to send your mechanic’s (or customer’s) horror stories to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.