Auto repair scams

Why should generic auto repair and maintenance advice be anything other than straightforward?  For instance, is a transmission flush (not just drain-and-fill) a necessary thing, a helpful thing but not necessary, risky, or plainly always very bad?

I will confess I am a total girl when it comes to cars.  (No offense, ladies … especially you Diesel Dykes!)  Speaking of which, why should auto repair and service be so dodgy to begin with?  If ever a field of business cried out for strict government regulation….

Anyway, ISTM a car is far less contingent than a human body.  “Ya canna defy the laws of physics, Captain!”  A car is a mechanical device, nothing more.  If it tells you, “Forty days more and Nineveh – or your transmission – will be destroyed,” repenting of your sins in prayer, sackcloth-and-ashes, fasting, and almsgiving will not change its mind!  (Unless, of course, God Himself decides to become involved in an unusual manner…!)  Onboard computers aside, “the anklebone’s connected to the shinbone, the shinbone’s connected to the kneebone, the kneebone’s connected to the thighbone, etc.”  Yet automotive arguments and disputations almost reach the theological level!  (Western theology, that is, which is just rarefied philosophy.)

I will add this to the Web ‘cloud’: The first time I was ever ‘informed’ by a servicing dealer (I bought the car slightly used from a dealer of other makes) about a ‘need’ to flush the transmission, something I’d never heard of before, and wasn’t in the Service Guide, though “changing” the tranny fluid had by then been “not required but recommended at 60,000 and 120,000 mile interval” by Ford Inc.,* and since I was still under warranty, “recommended” was required – this was in ’99 – I called Ford in Detroit (Customer Assistance Center: [800] 392-3673 at that time, although I think I actually talked to a girl in a call centre in Toronto, eh?), and she told me something interesting: “We only hear about it from dealers!”  Interesting, because quite by accident I recently had it alleged by a transmission specialist – the owner of the business – who seemed not to gain anything from saying so except my good feelings, that the concept of the transmission flush “was invented by the dealers,” “is a fraud,” a way to get customers to pay $200 for a $50 job, and not something he could in those terms convince customers to do, so he returned the $10,000 flush machine to his franchiser.

Why would I think this guy is trustworthy?  Maybe he thinks he’ll get my business in the future: What, $50 at a time, every 30k or 60k, on a little 100k+ Ford?  Hardly seems worth it.  The flush machine would pay for itself in a few months at most in that market, especially with his earnest-seeming gentle prodding.  But here’s something else: I’d been referred to him by one of the quickie oil-change places that all of a sudden seem to develop specializations in other fields as well … maybe … for service my new best friend said it turns out I don’t need.  (Was one of his workers getting kickbacks? or one of the quicky guys? Or did he himself undergo a religious conversion recently?!!)  IOW, he saw I was a total girl, and could’ve had me (so to speak) and made me think he was doing me a favor, coming and going.  And he didn’t.

I don’t know for sure about what I seem to have learned here, so I won’t mention names, but you’ve definitely heard of both franchises I’m referring to, the allegedly bad oil-change outfit and the allegedly better tranny place.

Frankly, I think auto shop should be mandatory for all high school students – male and female.  It could’ve saved me several hundred dollars at least, in the last 9 years, money I could really use now.

(*–Now every 30,000, according to their website genuineservice.com.)

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