Thinking Out Loud

November 17, 2012

Is There Such a Thing as Auto Repair Ethics?

I’m probably the only person in North America who, during this summer’s intense warm weather in the middle of July, noticed that his car heater wasn’t working.

On a cool fall day, when the mechanic informed me the problem was simply a stuck “door” that sends the heat through to the fan and that it would involve “about half an hour,” I was pleased to avoid a major bill. But the owner of the business, who writes the invoices, didn’t see it that way.

The job is rated in the “blue book” as taking nine hours. Yes, nine hours. They are supposed to remove the dashboard, flush the system, baste regularly, adjust the mainspring and rustproof the cat. So he reasoned that by only charging me for four-and-a-half hours, he was doing me a major favor.

Problem is, the car wasn’t being serviced for four-and-a-half hours. Assuming the mechanic misjudged when he guessed 30 minutes, I’m guessing 60-90 minutes, tops. I know they spent a few hours waiting for a part, and I know when the car was ready.

Well, actually, that’s not the problem at all. The problem is that the mechanic is my “Christian” mechanic. I say that reminded that “Christian” should never be an adjective, however… This is the guy I recommend to all my fellow-believer friends, plus a few people from the community at large. “You can trust _________,” I will say; “he goes to ___________ Church.”

Right now, I believe that no longer applies.

And yes, I did complain vigorously at the time I picked up the car, but of course _________ was officially on holidays; he had taken a break from his vacation just long enough to come in and write up my costs, overriding his mechanic’s probably more accurate assessment of the time involved. Ultimately, I probably will not return.

…I waited a month to write this. I also used this to re-examine some of the pricing policies we use in our own business, where we sometimes wrestle with similar, but different ethical quagmires. In the end, I am only responsible for me, and I have to remember to try to deal with instances where I sense Holy Spirit conviction, and try to live my own life by the highest ethical standard.



  1. I know a Christian mechanic who was fired for refusing to follow this unethical practice. However when it was known he was available, he has had no end of business. Plus he was hired by a Christian highway construction company servicing heavy trucks. God does honor integrity

    Comment by ralph juthman — November 17, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  2. Oh boy….I have a memorable “car mechanics story” too. Don’t get me started!…but like you wrote, ultimately it’s about your heart, isn’t it? Grace, grace….

    Comment by dianelindstrom — November 17, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  3. I think that there are a few dishonest mechanics that make the rest of the ethical, honest mechanics look really bad. I have a business whose goal is to protect customers from getting ripped-off or over-charged by auto repair shops. We provide phone consultations with expert mechanics who will negotiate with your mechanic on your behalf. Check out our website I’d be happy to offer a free consultation to any blogger who will write us an honest review in exchange.

    Comment by Elizabeth K — November 17, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

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