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Geo Taken For A Ride?

Q. I never feel good after leaving the mechanics. I have a '94 Geo Prizm. My brakes were screeching, so I went to a mechanic that was recommended by someone at work. I left with a $400.00 bill. I knew that I would have to do some repair work, but for 1 set of front brake pads at $69.00, 2 front brake disc rotors at $140.00 and labor of $60.00. They also charged me $50.00 for a tune-up, which I don't know what they did for that and for 4 spark plugs and fuel filter they charged me $49.60.

The next part of my question is that they have an ad in the local paper for 4-wheel brake special, including replace front pads, replace rear shoes, resurface drums, resurface rotors, repack bearings for $89.95. Did I just spend $269.00 when I could have had the front and rear done for $89.95?

Help? I don't know if I should call them and complain!


A. My first piece of advice is this; if you do not feel good after leaving a mechanic, get a new mechanic. If he's doing right by you, you will always walk out feeling like you left a trusted friend.

A four wheel brake job for $89.95 seems awful cheap, I don't see how they can do it for that price and stay in business. The going rate for a front brake job is generally $79.95 and a rear brake job is $69.95. That includes new pads/shoes, resurface drums/rotors, repack the bearings and bleeding the system.

You mentioned that he replaced the front brake rotors, that is an extra expense. $140.00 for a pair of Prizm rotors seems kind of high to me, even after allowing a reasonable profit margin. I would go back to him with the ad and if he really wants you as a repeat customer, he will work with you. Don't get angry or lose your cool, if he will work with you, fine. If not, all the complaining in the world will not get you anywhere. It's like my Grandfather always told me, you can only screw me once.

Now they charged you $50.00 for a tune-up and $49.60 for parts. I would say the $50.00 is the labor to do the tuneup. The parts could be reasonable. Four plugs at $5.00 a plug (and that is the high side) is $20.00 which would make the fuel filter $29.60. That, too, seems a little high to me. I would say that you paid about $100.00 more than you really should have.

In the future I would get a written estimate on any work that you need done and you will know, up front, what is needed and exactly how much it will cost. Most states have laws that make it illegal for shops to charge more than their written estimates and do any additional work without your consent.

Work like brake jobs and tune ups are easy to shop around for price. You can save a lot of money if you invest a little time to check around. Most of the big chain shops like Sears, Firestone, Pep Boys and Goodyear always have sales and they do good work. When you find a mechanic that you like, does good work and leaves you with a good feeling when you leave, stick with him. You'll appreciate it and so will he.

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