How honest mechanics get paid

Hey everyone. Today I want to tell you a story, then ask the question “If you were a mechanic, how would you handle it”. Like so many things, there is somewhat of a grey area when recommending services to customers. Here is the story

A customer came in for a 50,000 mile service. It is a pretty basic service. We normally change the engine oil, and filter. We perform a wheel balance and rotation, and do a full visual inspection.

When the service advisor checks a car in, the also check the tread depth on the tires. These tires are right at the wear bars. That means they need to be replaced.

Balancing the tires will do nothing for the car. It will not prolong the life of the tires or improve the ride quality. The tires are just plain worn out. The customer does not want to buy new tires at this time.

As a service department, we have a few different options that we can do with this car. We can

  1. Perform the service as the customer needed, or was told he needed
  2. Say we performed the service, but do not rotate and balance the tires.
  3. Off the customer a (very) slight discount to perform the service minus the rotate and balance
  4. Tell the customer to just do and oil change. We do a 27 point inspection on all the cars we look at.

Now that you know the story, and have the options listed out, I will ask the question “What would you want your mechanic to do?”. I personally would prefer the customer perform an oil change only. In my mind there is no point in paying for an unneeded service. That includes the rotate and balance of those tires.

Please let me know what you would do. Am I nuts for un-selling work? Remember that most mechanics get paid on Flat rate. If you are not sure how flat rate works see “How Auto Mechanics get paid“. I really want to know what you guys think.

6 replies
  1. Mathew Maher
    Mathew Maher says:

    This post also seems to correlate with a post you made a while back about whether a shop (dealer or independent) should have the right to hold a car if a customer refused safety related service.

    In this situation, preforming the 27-pt inspection and doing oil change is really the only thing to do if the customer wasn’t buying tires. I’ve been in a situation like this myself (as a customer) regarding both tires and brake service. I got an estimate and asked about the longevity of the issues and proceeded from there.

    With the brakes, I needed pads & rotors. The dealers quote was over $400 for the front wheels, I declined the service and did all four wheels for under $250 with parts shipped from MJM.

    I guess it all depends on thr customer.

    Reply
    • Jeremy (in pgh)
      Jeremy (in pgh) says:

      I don’t think it’s a matter of whether the customer chooses to do the work (right then or himself later) in this situation. it’s about performing unnecessary work with the customer being none the wiser in the long run.

      I myself rotate my own tires when needed, but I also keep a log of when I do, because I never pay full price for tires at sears as I’ve never had tires last the entire treadwear warranty. point here is, if my wear is even across all four tires, across all three lines, then I might not rotate them myself either. I would want my mechanic to tell me if something is unnecessary. saving me a couple bucks now means I trust to bring my car back to them later when it’s not something I can confirm independently. I would want my mechanic to tell me that I needed new tires (and offer them but understand that I can get them way cheaper elsewhere), but also recommend that I don’t perform a service that isn’t necessary. it’s like going to a restaurant and being told that I’ll save money by making platter out of some ala carte items. the waiter is likely to get that difference in their tip anyway. with my mechanic, they know I’ll be back because I now trust their advice more than before.

      in reference to the list above, I’d prefer 4, 3, 1… NEVER 2. even if it’s unnecessary, when the customer pays for something, it should be done if listed as such on the work order.

      Reply
  2. Uwe
    Uwe says:

    > Am I nuts for un-selling work?
    No! Customer respect businesses who treat them fairly. They will come back to such a business in the future, and they will tell their friends. A good word-of-mouth reputation is priceless.

    Reply
    • Marty
      Marty says:

      It probably doesn’t hurt to be selling an outstanding product, either: something I’d guess you’re pretty familiar with. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. E30bradley
    E30bradley says:

    I would have told the customer that I highly recommend he replace the tires soon and that I wouldn’t be balancing or rotating his tires and would give him a slight discount on the 50k mile service.

    Reply

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