I hate mechanics. Okay, that’s not fair. I don’t hate all mechanics, just like I don’t hate all lawyers and all journalists (though I’m pretty sure I still hate all politicians). But I absolutely despise those mechanics who install sub-standard parts and who tell you they’d checked something when, in fact, they hadn’t. (Of course there are also the ones who charge you for unnecessary work, by I haven’t had the pleasure of a run-in with one of those yet.)
I take good care of our vehicles. I never skip a service and if something major breaks I replace it immediately, even if it means that month’s budget has to be adjusted. I replace tyres before they reach the point where I’d get a warning if pulled over and make sure the shocks are in good condition. I regularly check oil, water, brake fluid and tyre pressure and after our last episode I place the bakkie‘s battery on a charger once a week if I’m not driving it much.
So, it was with great confidence that I set off to a neighbouring town yesterday morning to put the White Jellytot through a roadworthy test so I can hand it over to the new owner. I had had it serviced just four weeks ago (when we didn’t yet know we were selling it) and just last week had two new tyres and a new ball joint fitted.
Needless to say, I was very surprised when the testing official told me the ball-joint was defective. My regular mechanic was unable to find a new part, so installed one salvaged from a scrap yard, which is a common practice, and I assumed he had checked that the part was, in fact, functional. Turns out it wasn’t and he didn’t. He also didn’t replace the rubber boots covering the CV joints as he was supposed to – at least he didn’t charge me for that. Now I have to buy another (new) ball joint and pay to have it installed, elsewhere. (In case you’re wondering what a ball joint is, I only know it has something to do with the front wheels actually going where you want them to go, so they’re pretty important.)
I was also informed that the rear brakes were not even close to the minimum specs. This surprised me as well as I always ask them to check the brakes when I take the car in for a service and I distinctly recall the mechanic telling me four weeks ago that the brakes were still in excellent condition. On my return I took the car to a brake fitment centre (not my mechanic) where I was informed that the rear brake pads were worn down to almost nothing and the drums were so severely damaged that they had to be replaced.
The result is that I now have to spend about a quarter of the money I’m getting from selling the car to first fix it up for the new owner. Then I get to pay for a second roadworthy test before I can sell it. I am also in the market for a new mechanic and have an intense desire to also take my bakkie for a roadworthy test, lest the past four years of it being serviced by this mechanic had turned it into a death trap.
This entire situation makes me incredibly angry. It’s not only the issue of wasted time and money. Every time this guy services my car, I place my life and my wife’s life in his hands. Brakes, differentials, ball joints and CV joints are, along with tyres and shocks, what physically keeps your car on the road and, unlike the last two the others are not things a driver can easily check for him or herself. Unless you know something about the inner workings of a car, you have to trust your mechanic when he tells you everything is fine, just like you have to trust your doctor when he gives you a diagnosis.
Doctors mess up regularly enough, but at least you can sue them for malpractice and in cases of gross negligence they can lose their licence to practise. But there’s no body where you can report a mechanic who lied to you or simply “forgot” to check something important. It’s also impossible for me to prove that he didn’t do what I asked him as he’s an independent mechanic who doesn’t exactly keep detailed records of every service.
I guess I’ll have to settle for telling anyone and everyone I come across not to make use of his services. I’m just glad we didn’t take the Jellytot on our vacation, or I might not be writing this.
Of course my feelings towards the car has now changed significantly. Over the weekend I got just the tiniest bit nostalgic about selling it; now I’m just glad we’re getting rid of it and the sooner the better. Which is sad, really, as it’s not actually the car’s fault.
(On a side note (this seems to be becoming a trend with car trouble posts): when searching for a picture using “car service frustration” I got a bunch of pictures of President Obama. Anyone in the US who can explain that to me?)