‘Pretending you did’ is best way to tell if you got good car service

I know a lot about cars, so it’s always fun dropping my car off for service. Here is a dramatic reenactment of me doing just that.

Me: Here is my car. Please change the oil and inspect it or whatever. I’m having some trouble with the thing that makes the car drive, not sure what it’s called, but please fix it. Unless it’s a lot of money, then definitely do not fix it. A lot of money to me is like $100.

Car person: Oh no problem, boss man. Actually, if you want to pop the hood I’ll give it a quick peek and see if it’s anything we can figure now, on the spot.

Me: Oh, uh, sure. Go in car, pop gas tank.

Car person:

Me: Turn on windshield wipers.

Car person: You know what, chief? No biggie, I’ll check it out later.

Then I go home and wait for the phone call about what is wrong with my car and how it’s not covered by my warranty.

Car person: Hey there big fella. Just calling back about your vehicle. Got a question for ya’—when was the last time you had the transmission fluid changed?

Me: Umm, I don’t know. I brought the car somewhere else last time and they did some stuff to it, so … maybe then?

Car person: Okay, okay. Well, uh, besides that, looks like the cabin filter something something blah blah (I have stopped listening) …

Me: Okay how much will that cost?

Scenario No. 1:

Car person: Says amount in my general price range.

Me: Okay that’s fine. Please do those things that you said.

Scenario No. 2:

Car person: Says price that is just stupid and ridiculous.

Me: Please don’t even pick up a wrench—I am coming there now to get my car.

So that’s pretty much how things go down, and I am okay with that. The problem is, it’s difficult for me to ever determine whether or not I have received good service. Because I have no idea what’s going on.

I have a strong feeling I experienced excellent service recently, and I just wish I could know for sure. I brought my car to the dealership. (I usually don’t go to the dealership, but sometimes I do because I genuinely feel like they’re wondering where I am, as if everyone who works there remembers my original purchase and is hoping me and the car are okay.) The guy who helped me could not have been nicer or more accommodating, and he was able to fix my major problem at no cost since, by some miracle, it actually fell under warranty.

Of course, my brake pads were worn down. It couldn’t possibly be the case that I’d emerge from this financially unscathed. This is how he broke the news:

Him: Only thing is, the rear brakes are between a three and four.

Me: What does that mean? Did I win something?

Him: Well, it’s not technically an emergency, but once they get down to two, they need to be replaced immediately.

Me: I don’t really understand this numbers-based formula, but two sounds bad. How much? (Another question I asked: “When you say ‘brakes’ do you mean ‘brake pads’ or the brakes themselves?” I felt good asking this question because eight years ago I needed my brake pads replaced, so I kind of know what they are, in that I know they exist. The tone of his response, “Brake pads,” made me feel like an idiot. Oh well, I tried.)

"How much" ended up being exactly how much I had set aside. I still don’t know if this was good or bad. It didn’t exceed my budget, but used all of it. It’s almost as if he knew

Anyway, he killed me with kindness, and now I don’t know if I got awesome service or swindled for brake pads. I feel satisfied in my ignorance, however, so let’s go with the former. I know a lot about cars.

Note: This column appears in the 5/2 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/3 issue of the Peoria Times.


Rita said…
While I didn’t know that there was a numerical value for brake conditions, it was good that he caught on the possible problem with the brakes. It’s better that it was replaced now with the “just right” price rather than breaking down altogether and getting ripped off somewhere else because you have no other choice but to replace it.

Rita McCall
Evans Tire & Services
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