SAN DIEGO - Consumers may wonder if a mechanic is telling the truth when they take their cars to repair shops.
To find out the answer on some shops, Team 10 went undercover and compared estimates of several shops in San Diego County.
Using a nearly new Hyundai, Team 10 unplugged the car’s oxygen sensor so the engine light turned on. The car had just over 4,000 miles and is covered under a 100,000 mile warranty.
Car experts said when Team 10 took the car to repair shops, mechanics should advise our undercover team member to take the car to the dealer, because it’s under warranty.
Using reviews on Yelp and the Better Business Bureau, Team 10 took the car to several shops: Precision Tune Auto Care in El Cajon; Import Auto Specialists in San Diego; Rod’s Automotive in El Cajon; Precision Auto Tune in San Diego; and Sandrock Gas and Auto Repair in San Diego.
From free advice, to diagnostic testing at a price, to written estimates for a new part or a used part, Team 10 had a wide variety of responses from the group of shops.
The first shop we went to was Precision Tune Auto Care in El Cajon on East Main Street. The owner told us to take it to the dealer.
"We are going to save our customers some money whatever way we can," said owner Karim Sarangi, when contacted by Team 10 after the test.
An auto repair specialist at Import Auto Specialists in San Diego on Ronson Road plugged in a scanner to check the car's computer system. He ran the codes and said the car was so new that it was probably fine.
"We try to stay honest and we believe in karma,” said service advisor Charles Schagene when Team 10 contacted him after the test. “We hear horror stories from other places and we try not to be like that."
At Rod's Automotive in El Cajon on N. 2nd Street, an employee said the shop would run a diagnostic test to check things out for $75.
After the test, a manager at Rod's said over the phone the customer would have never been charged.
"I could not have done that vehicle anyway,” said Jim, who didn’t want to give his last name. “Our after-market software isn't new enough to run those codes. So, if was written up, it would have been sent right back at no charge."
Mechanics at Precision Auto Tune on Midway Drive in San Diego also told Team 10 to take it to the dealer.
The shop told our undercover team member if she felt uncomfortable driving the car, they'd check the engine code descriptions for $40.
"We do that for everybody,” said owner Clarence Goodman, when contacted after the test. “We look at your concerns and address those first and advise you on what to do from there. If it was a safety issue we would need more information."
Then Team 10 went to Sandrock Gas and Auto Repair in San Diego on Sandrock Road.
Employees ushered us into a bay, plugged in a scanner and ran the codes to check the car's computer system.
The shop's owner, Lee Asper, said the car needed a brand new sensor for $350. He said he possibly could get us an older part $235.
He gave Team 10 a written estimate detailing the cost and told our undercover team member if we paid with cash, they wouldn't charge tax.
Team 10 went back to Sandrock Auto to ask why they would charge us hundreds of dollars when there is nothing wrong with the car.
Employees called Asper but he never came to the shop.
Team 10 talked to two employees who looked at the car on the day of the test, but both denied ever seeing the car.
Team 10 has both mechanics on video looking at the car the day it was brought in.
Sandrock Auto Repair was the only shop that said the car needed a new part.
Team 10 tried to contact the shop’s owner a second time after the car shop test, but was unable to reach him.
Experts say consumers should always check with the Bureau of Automotive Repair before agreeing to repair work. The BAR has a website to help consumers determine a shop’s complaint and violation history, as well check on state licensing.
Visit that website here. According to the BAR website, Sandrock Auto currently is under probation.