Shonky mechanics!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Mar 14, 2007.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I am seething right now. I posted on this in the Good Morning thread - maybe it was a bit too long, but this is going to be an ongoing story for a few days, so I'm putting it here. (FYI - "shonky" = crooked, rip-off merchant, shady dealer, suspect, wouldn't want to meet him down a dark alley at night)

    To update - easy child 2/difficult child 2 crashed BF2's car on Monday night. They were driving home. Damp night, car spun out and went into a ditch. Car got towed because two tyres were blown out, along with one headlight. Front air spoiler hanging loose.
    Cops visited - no charges, just one of those things. No other cars involved. We were happy that at least easy child 2/difficult child 2 & BF2 weren't injured (beyond scrapes and bruises).

    Next afternoon - she & I visit car yard. Tow truck holding area is right next to smash repairer (surprise, surprise). We speak to apprentice who lets us in then goes to fetch his boss. This was the mechanic's apprentice. He came back out and said, "Joe will be with you in a few minutes, he's with another customer at the moment."
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 & I went in to holding area to look at the car in dry daylight. OK, two tyres on passenger side are pancaked. Apparently the sideways spin into the ditch just ripped them off the rims. The hubcaps are in the car on the back seat - easy child 2/difficult child 2 actually fished one out of the bushes, so they're both there. The front headlight - the covering plastic is broken on the corner but the lamps seems OK. The plastic air spoiler underneath the bumper is a bit loose on once side and has some small broken pieces on the other corner, but otherwise looks OK. It's been pushed back in position and seems to be holding. No other dents or scratches. Apart from the tyres we've seen worse on the roads. It's even been hosed down - a lot of the usual dirt is gone, easy child 2/difficult child 2 says. easy child 2/difficult child 2 is feeling glad that the repairs shouldn't cost her too much. Put on two new tyres and we could drive it out of there.

    This car carries only minimum insurance - third party personal and property. This means that any damage to the car itself caused by driver fault is not covered. When a car is only worth a few thousand, why worry? Only we were worrying because easy child 2/difficult child 2 is not well-off.
    We spoke to the apprentice, he didn't know what the damage was, he's too new. However, now I recall I think I heard him mutter something about a write-off, but looking at this car I felt I must have misheard. But Joe still hadn't come out of the office. "He's still with a customer," the apprentice said. "Do you want me to get him to call you?"
    "Yes please," I told him. "We can't wait any longer."
    I watched as the apprentice wrote down our home number and easy child 2/difficult child 2's mobile number. "I'll get him to ring you," he told me. I asked him to get Joe to ring us with an estimate of repair costs, and added, "These kids may want to fix it themselves, but I'd rather see the job done properly and quickly. If it's too expensive though, the kids will have to do it themselves."
    I was trying to make it clear that a padded quote would mean no job.

    We waited for the phone call. Nothing. easy child 2/difficult child 2 was concerned but I pointed out that it would take Joe some time to check the car out and write up a quote. He would probably ring the next day.

    Meanwhile, time is ticking. This car can be held for 72 hours before it starts to get even more expensive ($100 a day). And no call the next day which was today (24 of those hours wasted, waiting). easy child 2/difficult child 2 had to head off to college for her evening class so I rang the number the apprentice had given us for Joe. I finally got Joe, who told me that the car had been written off. And he knew nothing about any message. But he could see the car now, gave me the license number to be sure and that one had been written off. I asked why. he just kept saying, "It's been written off, that's all there is to it." I expressed my doubts, he started to get abrupt and angry. I passed the phone to husband (he's a bloke - mechanics talk to blokes, not to sheilas) who asked the same question and was told, "There's too much damage. It's not immediately obvious but we've gone over it. The suspension's been too badly damaged, the frame's bent, the steering is shot, the bonnet's twisted - that's on top of the wheels and the headlight. Cost too much to fix, not worth it."
    I had asked why they had not rung and been told that they didn't know we'd asked them to, "that blasted apprentice - you can't leave messages with him."
    I asked him why he hadn't rung easy child 2/difficult child 2, Joe said, "How could I? I never got the message. I don't have her number."

    This was at 5 pm. easy child 2/difficult child 2 had only just left. We thought we'd talk to her at home later, let her enjoy her class without worrying about having to pay thousands to BF2 to replace his car.

    Meanwhile, BF2 arrived home. husband told him all about it and BF2 rang his father, whose name is on the paperwork. BF2's dad was unimpressed with description of car - "No way is that written off - not from what the kids said. That model of car is built like a tank - a bump in a ditch wouldn't hurt the frame."

    husband looks at paperwork and sees address - right next to shonky car yard of our previous acquaintance. Hmm, picture is rapidly changing. We got our heads together over the phone - seems like the bonnet they reckon is bent had simply not been put on properly by BF2's dad, no big deal. There's a new motor, only done a few hundred miles. New other things too. It's an old car but a popular model in the parts market.
    But thanks to Joe's 24 hour delay in not getting back to us, we've run out of time.

    boyfriend's dad now reckons the mechanic is trying a scam. The paperwork shows easy child 2/difficult child 2's childish handwriting listed as owner (she isn't, but had simply written where she was told to write). A very feminine name - a pigeon ripe for plucking.
    boyfriend's dad happens to know the business. he also did the car up with a mate, who happens to be a qualified mechanic with his own tow-truck business. He also has a vendetta against shonky operators. He knows the rules. Lots have been broken here, it seems. We're talking fraud.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 got home from class while we were still talking to boyfriend's dad. An hour after we rang the mechanic, got told the car had been written off and husband finally said, "I will tell the owner, it was son's girlfriend driving the car," easy child 2/difficult child 2 got the long-awaited phone call from Joe the mechanic. Now remember, he had told me he didn't have her number. In the call to her, Joe had suddenly revised his description of the damage. "It's got a broken front light, the suspension will need to be checked... " (this is as simple as re-doing the wheel alignment - no big deal, it gets done when you put new tyres on). "...Two new tyres, and the air spoiler needs to be checked, may need replacing."
    In other words, NOT written off. But he thinks he's got easy child 2/difficult child 2 over a barrel because she can't go elsewhere - without tyres, the car is not drivable. And time runs out tomorrow. After that - $100 a day, just to park it there.

    The outcome of the phone call with boyfriend's dad - Joe doesn't know it yet, but tomorrow boyfriend's dad is turning up there with his mechanic mate, with a tow truck (owned by mechanic mate) and both of them (who worked on the car and therefore know each scratch, groove and serial number) are going over that car with a fine-tooth comb to make sure no parts have been swapped, before they take it away and work on it themselves. Any funny business and the cops are being called. We've also told boyfriend's dad what's in the car (the two missing hubcaps, for a start).

    Unfortunately we have nothing in writing from Joe to say the car was written off. However, he did give us the licence number of the car he said was written off and I wrote it down (we didn't know the number, because it's not our car and it had only been at our house for a few days before the accident). I also wrote the words "written off" on the card next to the licence number, when Joe told me.

    We also have all the paperwork - none of it has easy child 2/difficult child 2 mobile phone number. The only way Joe could have rung her (after sweating for an hour over husband saying he was notifying the owner) was if he had the message all along and was stalling so we would run out of time.

    Under normal circumstances a written off uninsured car would be swapped for the towing fees and maybe a bit of money if the mechanic reckoned he could maybe get something for salvage. He might even have still charged the driver for the tow and for disposing of the car. Parts alone in this car are new enough to get the mechanic several thousand dollars. It had been cleaned down roughly, so they would have had a good look at it to know what it had. Its dirty outward appearance maybe implied an owner who didn't have a clue what they had.

    I'm looking forward to hearing how they get on tomorrow. I wish I could be a fly on the wall for this one - if this works out there could be one less shonky operator in business in our area.

    I will keep you posted. By tomorrow we'll have a better idea how much money easy child 2/difficult child 2 is out for, to fix the car. But it's looking like the bloke tried to claim the car was written off when all it needs is two new tyres and a headlight.

    Naughty, naughty!

    Marg
     
  2. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Things are definitely different here. They don't charge per day. I don't really understand what they are trying to pull, but since boyfriend's dad is in the business, It should be interesting when he pulls up to take care of things. I hope it works out. I hate "shonky" mechanics or anyone who pulls shonky stuff. I'm glad husband is a backyard mechanic and can fix most of the stuff himself. I hate having the wool pulled over my eyes.
     
  3. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    I work in a body shop and I hate hearing about people like that. I am not qualified to give estimates but you work around this stuff long enough, you tend to pick up some things. This guy definately sounds like a jerk. I would love to be a fly on the wall right along with you when boyfriend's dad and friend shows up to check the car out! (tee hee) I can see some suspension damage from the slide into the ditch but frame? Somehow I doubt it unless she just completely slammed that side of the car into the side of the ditch and crunched the whole thing and it doesn't sound like that's what happened at all. The only thing I would see it needing as long as nothing suspension wise is actually broken is a full 4 wheel alignment as the ruined tires are both on the same side of the car.

    As for it being a write off, ehhhhhh......maybe but that's only going on the regulations I'm used to here in the states. (age/value of the car in relation to cost of repairs only) The damage doesn't sound that bad at all.

    Let us know what this guy says after boyfriend's dad and friend show up. I would pay good money to see THAT transaction!!! **insert evil cackle here** I love to see the con men/idiots get their due course!!!!
     
  4. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    I hope they can get something done about it. I HATE shoddy business people like that!
    :devil:
    That happened to us TWICE - and with the same car! We had bought a used car off of a friend and only drove it a few months before it started acting up. Dopey ex-husband took it to a "mechanic" he knew, who said it would have to have the whole engine replaced! "Dopey" knew absolutely nothing about cars and he paid this clown for a rebuilt engine. We got it back in about a week, and strangely, it sounded exactly like it did before! Years later my son was managing an auto parts store and did a lot of business with this guys' assistant, who had since opened his own shop. He told my son that the guy had charged us for a rebuilt engine and all that labor, and all he had done was a simple repair on the old one!
    :devil: :devil:
    Fast-forward a few months and daughter is driving this same car to school - she over-reacted to avoid hitting a deer, ran off the road into a field and rolled it three or four times! She was just bumped and bruised, sore for a few days, and the body of the car was full of dents. But the engine and all the "innards" were still fine. We didn't even have a chance to see about having the engine removed to use in another vehicle! The tow truck driver (who also owns the local junk yard) had the engine out of it and sold within hours! He has the county towing contract - try to fight him and you're fighting "Citiy Hall"!
    :devil: :devil: :devil:
     
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I drove past the accident site yesterday afternoon. You have to look hard to see it and from what I can see, the scratches in the road are caused by the car being dragged back with a hubcap under one of the wheels. You can also see the :censored2: from the damaged tyres. No glass, no metal. Maybe a damaged bush right on the edge. The car must have lost most of its energy before its headlight hit the tree, because I couldn't see a damaged tree and the headlight is only partly broken.
    There isn't even a dent in the car's body work from hitting the ditch, I can't see how the frame could be twisted on even a lightweight frame, but this model of car apparently was built to last. The suspension - if you hit the kerb too hard you need to get the wheel alignment checked out. I suspect this will be about the same. The wheel alignment when they put on the new tyres will be all the suspension needs.

    The write-off - what happens here usually, is when the insurance company has to get involved. They will use the car to help defray their costs to other parties. But there was no other party here, the tree that broke the headlight is not complaining. So it is up to the owner to decide, or not to decide, to bother repairing it. And to know whether to bother repairing it - the owner has to know how much, as well as what. If it was a vintage car (at one level, not worth much because it's old) an owner would still want to try to lovingly restore it. Joe's failure to give us that information sounds like he was hoping the car was insured, so he could do a deal with the company. A car like that is usually not insured for much, so Joe would have bought the 'wreck' for the few thousand dollars it was insured for (or maybe in exchange for the towing fee), then made a huge profit off the new parts just installed. Or even fixed the car up (new tyres, new headlight, fasten on a new spoiler) and sold it through the nearby second-hand car yard.

    We're technically dealing with two companies here - the towing people (they're the ones who charge $100 a day after the first 72 hours; don't know what the initial towing fee is) and the mechanic next door. From what we can work out, if we decided to let Joe fix the car, it moves from the tow yard to Joe's.
    But in reality, Joe and the tow-truck bloke would be working closely together, and probably also working closely with the second-hand car yard nearby.

    That car yard - when we bought our previous second-hand car, there were things missing that we couldn't argue about because we had no proof. The car had stickers on the window indicating it had been fitted with an alarm system, which I wanted. But although it still had the stickers, when we got the car there was no alarm system. They did tell us this before we collected it but insisted that the alarm had been taken out long ago by a previous owner. It was only ten years later, when husband accidentally kicked on the kill switch that we had never known about and I had to get the car to an auto-electrician to find out why it wouldn't start with a key, that we found out the rest of the story - the electrician was VERY familiar with this story because he worked in the area and problems relating to cannibalised alarm systems were happening all around him. He opened up the steering column and found all the loose wiring just dangling there, the old alarm system had been pulled out very quickly with care for the alarm and not for the car. A good second-hand dealer would have dealt with the wiring problem before selling the car because he would have found it while checking the car over thoroughly.
    And in that intervening ten years, husband & I had often browsed round that dealer's place and NEVER seen a car for sale with an alarm system still fitted. So he wasn't simply moving the alarm system to another car in the yard - the alarms were going somewhere else. The auto-electrician told us that this car yard had a reputation for removing features like this and on-selling them through the various spare parts people in the area (Joe, maybe?)
    We were glad of the kill switch, though. Just wish we'd been told about it in the beginning, but we suspect the car yard simply didn't know. Now that is slack. You buy a second-hand car from a dealer because it's been checked out. Nope, not this bloke. But the kill switch was tiny, only a quarter inch toggle hidden on the floor, all the way forward in the car. I had to lie on the floor to find it and flip it. It shut off the ignition from the battery, only a jump start would get the car going. Not even hot-wiring would work.

    It's still fairly early in the working day here, too early for me to have heard anything. boyfriend's dad may even drop in to let me know, but probably won't because to visit us is an hour out of their way, and hopefully by then they'll have a car on a tow-truck. I suspect the next trick from these blokes is going to be a hefty initial tow fee that wasn't previously disclosed. I'm about to ring some legal people in the car industry to find out what these blokes can do, and what they can't.

    Ain't life fun?

    Marg
     
  6. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Marg

    I'd also like to be a fly on the wall.

    This is why my son-in-law does 99% of all my auto repair work. The 1% he doesn't feel comfortable doing goes to the only reputable repair shop we've found in ages.

    husband didn't know I'd already had son-in-law fix my brakes. So he takes the car into the shop to surprise me and so sister in law wouldn't have to fool with it. The guy who owned the place told husband the brakes were new and done right. No need to change them. :smile:

    This example is also why husband is not allowed to even do maintenance on our cars. If he knew what he thought he knew, he'd scare himself silly. :rofl:
     
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    OK, it's now almost close of business here and it's been an interesting day.
    The tow truck operator has overcharged. He also refused to give an itemised invoice as required by law. I've rung the licensing authority for tow trucks and given them the company name. The advice was to pay the bill and argue later. I bet they were hoping we'd have to leave the car there and let Joe repair it (or have it) rather than pay the $100 per day holding fee we would be incurring from tonight onwards. With tyres gone, how would we drive it?

    boyfriend's dad has been on the phone to me a lot today. His mate who helped him work on the car owns his own repair and tow truck business. They got their heads together this morning. The dad rang me to find out what damage there was, as he was in a wrecker's yard and had found the exact same model of car. he removed two wheels (tyres with plenty of good tread) and asked me which headlamp was busted and how bad. He then scored the whole headlight assembly from the wrecker's yard, as well.

    There were some problems with where the car key was - BF2's dad rang me to ask who had it and I didn't know. The tow truck people said they didn't have it. Then - wonder of wonders! - they found it. The tow truck people had it all the time, oh dear, how could we have mislaid it? Oh, and by this time the mechanic was saying that the only damage is the tyres and headlight, everything else is fine. Less than 24 hours after they told us it was a write-off and undriveable, BF2's dad didn't even need to bring his tow truck mate with him, he was able to put two tyres on and drive the car out himself. After forking over $250. That's for towing 2.5 km.

    When BF2 gets home tonight he'll be talking to his dad. Meanwhile he'll be in the car with husband who I've been keeping up to date on this. They'll be having a long talk on the way home - it's a long drive.

    It's been a hard lesson for the kids, but at least they've got out of it fairly safely and not too expensively. $500 is going to be closer to the mark than the $5000 it was looking like.

    Marg
     
  8. WhymeMom?

    WhymeMom? No real answers to life..

    Must have been a miracle car that healed itself.....

    Love this story. Its great when there are people you know and trust to weed out the "Shonky Mechanics"....

    I had a blow out on a toll road and they had to tow my car since they couldn't get the spare out from underneath the car. I then had to buy a new tire since they claimed the spare couldn't be gotten to. Of course they had me since I was four hours from home, a woman, by myself and eager to just get on my way. They didn't have the same exact tire, but had a similar one and ended up probably paying fifty bucks over what I would have at my home tire place....but what could I do????

    Then the towing bill, he had to charge not only the towing bill, but an hourly charge for trying to get the spare tire out....he didn't put the correct end of the lowering rod in, so said the connection was broken....

    Then there is always the thrill of getting into the tow truck and hoping that the guy will actually take you to the tire store....eeewwwww!
     
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We've got our spare in that position too. We had a blowout within a few weeks of buying the car and I didn't have a clue Plus, I don't have the hand strength anyway. But we're members of a motoring organisation and when the road service car turned up I watched him and quickly worked out what to do with an underneath tyre - there's a bracket holding it in place which only needs to be loosened enough to swing around and let the tyre drop. It doesn't have to be completely undone. But the nut holding the bracket - it's often hidden under the car carpet in the boot.

    Latest news - the car should be easily, cheaply fixable. And in the mail tonight easy child 2/difficult child 2 got her first infringement notice - a fine for neg driving. If it had happened only two months ago she could have lost her licence, but she's just graduated to the next level up of driving licence and so she's home safe.

    So far she's up for the $320 for the fine, $250 for the towing, plus whatever it cost BF1's dad to buy spare parts from the wrecker's yard. It's much better than several thousand.

    Marg
     
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Update - BF2's dad rang this morning. He's just replaced the headlight assembly and cut himself to pieces in the process on the broken glass. The driver's side panel has been pushed down a bit, but it easily fixable at no cost, I gather. It looks like final costs, on top of the fine, is $425. That's $100 for the light and $45 each for the tyres. All Aussie dollars, so for those of you in the US, it's cheaper than you think. I suspect a slab of beer should be in that as well, for the mechanic mate with his own tow truck. We do a lot of business in Australia using beer - a 'slab' is a package of 'tinnies' or cans of beer, I think it's about a dozen or so. I don't drink beer at all, so I really don't know. Beer is a social lubricant in more ways than one. In the past you may have had to 'cross a gypsy's palm with silver," but here you do it with beer.

    Amazing. Could have been a lot worse. The kids will probably be getting the car back from him on Monday. That's when I have to take easy child 2/difficult child 2 to the surgeon for an opinion on what he's going to do for her grumbling appendix.

    Life's never dull!

    Oh, and husband - check your email. I've given you more details there.

    Marg
     
Loading...