Defending Against the Bureau of Automotive Repair

This was a comment in response to this blog.

The bar uses cars with worn pads and newly replaced rotors. No other problems. Midas always sells the bar (and the average unknowing consumer who works for a living tring to make ends meet)rotors and calipers in many cases, other rediculous stuff too. Midas practice is to rob the motorist of good parts and/or hard earned bux. Defend that? Really? Birds of a feather I guess. Think about what this all means in the big picture of life and contemplate your role. Are you doing the right thing?

I can say without equivocation that I absolutely love comments.

Why?

Because they stimulate discussion of important issues concerning the automotive repair industry and the role of the Bureau of Automotive Repair.

Let’s analyze this comment –

“The bar uses cars with worn pads and newly replaced rotors. No other problems.”

From the information available about this case, which is clearly deficient since I have not seen the discovery, nor have I seen the invoices from this case, but using the information available, and drawing from my experience with the Bureau and similarly prosecuted cases, I can make a few conclusions.

The standard Bureau fare is to take new pads, grind them to almost bare metal, slap on newer rotors, and sufficiently camouflage each part to appear as if it were severely neglected and rusted with leaking caliper seals. I have pictures if you really want them.

They engage in this behavior by painting rotors to appear as rusted, an indication of neglect, grafting dirt and other contaminants on calipers, and rubbing seals with grease to appear as if they are leaking, a dangerous proposition for equipment as sacrosanct as brakes.

Now then, as a technician, mechanic, grease monkey, or any other nomenclatorial device, while performing a teardown or inspection, attempting to discern the needs of this particular vehicle, he tries and gathers as much information as possible to determine the vehicle’s needs.

An easier way to analogize would be to consider the mechanic like a doctor. The good doctor is taking readings, performing visual inspections of ears, throats using tools such as a stethoscope to hear your heart, checking your blood for contaminants or deficiencies, asking a patient questions such as are you experience shortness or breath, headaches, insomnia, etc.

A doctor does this to gather information about the patient, attempting to perform the correct diagnosis, and determine the appropriate treatment.

By the same token, a mechanic gathers information. He views the parts in question, asks the consumer for information such as when was the last time your brakes were services, checks fluids, test drives the vehicles, etc.

Now then, if a rotor looks worn, rusted, used, and the pads are down to metal, with grease appearing to come out of the piston seal on the caliper – as a technician you’re going suggest a few things.

Here’s the thought process of a mechanic:

  1. You need new pads; the old ones are damn near metal.
  2. You should turn the rotors. If turning them can’t save them, you should replace them. I don’t know if there’s enough to turn. I put it on and measure it after each cut. Sometimes if there’s enough to turn – it will probably save you money, but we run the risk of still having to replace them after the turning if they are below the minimum allowable thickness. It’s your call. Turn or Replace. Here’s the cost, potential cost with each.
  3. Why should you turn them? Rust permeates through the metal; it eats through like cancer, weakening the metal. Do you want to throw your kids in the back seat of a vehicle with rusted out weak rotors? Didn’t think so. Could we maybe turn them and get through the rusted parts? This is why I recommend a turning before replacement – again I’m trying to save you money.
  4. As far as discerning the difference between painted rust and regular rust, I’m not going to check the composition of the rust dust, if it looks like rust, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that its rust. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck. . . . after all, I left my chemistry set to test the PH of the rust to ensure it’s not painted on the rotor for a sting operation. Shame on me for forgetting my lab coat.
  5. As far as why would you recommend turning of brand new rotors the BAR sent in – you have no idea they are new. They are painted to look old. The pads are down to metal, the customer states that she hasn’t serviced her brakes for a year. I’m trying to imagine a situation where a patient heads to a doctor and lies about her symptoms, fakes a cough and temperature with hot water, and then complains of receiving the wrong diagnosis.
  6. What’s that? Measure them? Oh well that’s interesting, because it’s a well known fact all 20 manufacturers of rotors have the same minimum thickness during the manufacturer process, and hell, the rotors are never worn down while driving. Furthermore, you’d be surprised how many new rotors are warped right out of the box. I would recommend turning of every single rotor that comes through my shop before I put it on a vehicle.
  7. What’s that? There’s enough thickness on those rotors to turn them? Say’s who? Oh, I didn’t realize that with the naked eye you can discern the warping of those, knowing I don’t have to take out .090 because they’re warped – Because of the infinite wisdom of the Automotive Repair Act, I have to get your authorization to turn them to see if they can be saved. So, I have to turn them, and if I can’t save them, you still have to pay me for turning them. So it’s your call, try and turn or replace. It’s a risk, it may work, it may not, I don’t know.
  8. What’s that? You’re pissed that I tried to save them by turning them? Look, it’s cheaper to try and turn them – I told you this. I tried. I couldn’t save them. I would have had to cut them below the minimum thickness. I can’t put those back on the car, at this point, they are unsafe. You have to buy new rotors.
  9. I can’t put the old ones back on, they are too brittle at the current thickness, they are unsafe, and they have to be replaced. I am not trying to hold you hostage here. I’d be happy to call you a tow truck to take it to another shop who will either tell you the same thing or lie to you, put the old ones back on in an attempt to gain you as a customer, and jeopardize your safety.

10. Great, now you’re calling me a thief, a fraudster, a huckster who tried to run up your bill by performing an “unnecessary repair” by trying to save you money by turning your rotors instead of replacing them. You’re calling your attorney – ok, I’ll call mine. I’ll see you in small claims court where a judge who thinks we’re all crooks rules against me. After all, it will be my seventh time there this year.

11. There are some rotors that cannot be turned. Some rotors have to be replaced. I’m sorry – please talk to the manufacturer to lodge your complaint. I don’t make em’, I just fix em’.

12. See that piston that looks older than dirt with grease near the piston seal? That’s dangerous – why? Grease doesn’t phantomly appear around the piston seal. If the piston seal is leaking, as it appears, all the grease/lubricant is open to the elements, i.e., brake dust, dirt, salt, and all the other wonderful things floating around, in addition to losing the lubrication that keeps the piston from actuating. Grease leaks out, dirt gets in, causing premature failure of the caliper. The caliper is what squeezes the brake pad to the metal – do you want that failing? Didn’t think so – I recommend replacement. I’m thinking of your kids – no really I am – you should be too.

To sum up:

You need new pads. I suggest the ceramics. Yes there are cheaper ones, but ½ of them squeak. I don’t like putting cheap pads on then hearing you yell at me for the squeak 2 weeks later. I can’t fix the cheap parts you chose – I assure you I installed them correctly.

You need to either turn to the rotors for a fresh mating service for the pads or replace them. The abrasive technology of brake pads requires a fresh metal surface for optimum stopping power. The new pad leaves a thin layer of abrasive material on the bare metal rotor that matches the composition of the new pad, creating better grip. From organics, semi metallics, to ceramics, your old pads could be anything. We use a new surface by turning your rotors to ensure stopping prowess.

The seal in your caliper appears to be blown. You need to fix that. I can rebuild the caliper for x. I can buy a new caliper for y. It’s your call. There is a chance, since you’ve left these unserviced for a year, that it might not be rebuild able once I get it apart. If your piston was deprived of grease because of the leak, there’s a chance it was metal to metal. If so, the cylinder might be gouged out. The piston might be worn thin. Remember the rotors? Same deal. If I can fix them, I could save them, it would be cheaper – you still might have to replace it anyway.

Now what do you think the BAR will tell a court of law? That you know, he’s right, he did it by the book?

Absolutely not.

The BAR rep will get on the stand and lie through this damn teeth, stating that you recommended unnecessary repairs, made fraudulent and misleading statements to induce a consumer to authorize repairs, and charged for unnecessary services. “All the vehicle needed was new pads” is what they will say, painting the shop as a bunch of frauds trying to run up the bill.

The BAR is full of it and they know it.

Remember, a mechanic is looking at the symptoms, much like a doctor. The symptoms suggest pads (the are worn), rotors (which appear to be rusted), and either a caliper rebuild or a new one (because of the appearance of grease near the seal).

“Midas always sells the bar (and the average unknowing consumer who works for a living tring to make ends meet)rotors and calipers in many cases, other rediculous stuff too.”

Midas, a mechanic, or your neighborhood shop doesn’t sell anything. They recommend services. You either want them or you don’t. No one puts a gun to your head. If you want to ride around with a leaking caliper, that’s your business. The BAR tells each undercover operator the same thing – authorize the services. A recommendation is made – if the customer authorizes it, then the shop performs the work.

I’m not discounting the ability of customer to pay for automotive repairs. Budgeting for unexpected repairs is beyond the scope of this discussion. Money gets tight on everyone at some point. We all have ends to meet.

As far as other “rediculous (sic) stuff,” I would need more concrete examples from invoices and such. Chances are if they are additional services outside the requested services – they are recommendations. Again, no one holds a gun to your head.

I could go on a very long diatribe as to why replacing that torn CV boot could save your transmission down the road – meaning if the CV axle is open to the elements sans boot and grease, fails, tears out the wheel bearing because the constant velocity joint can’t move properly, which slams against the transmission repeatedly, blowing out the output bearing, killing your transmission and mounts, but you wouldn’t believe me when I say in car repair, like many things, an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure – your pocketbook will thank you.

Think of it like a doctor doing a checkup. He takes your blood pressure, says its high, he recommends exercise and taking of pill x, etc. . . You could do one of two things, do what the doctor recommends, and prevent further issues down the road, or you could ignore it, needing a full on triple bypass because you didn’t take care of the little problem and it turned into huge problem.

I promise you, auto repair is no different – an auto shop is not trying to run your bill up or sell you additional unneeded services, they are trying to prevent you from needing a triple bypass.

“Midas practice is to rob the motorist of good parts and/or hard earned bux.”

I feel like we’ve addressed this. You feel consumers are robbed or are misled. Try to understand what a mechanic goes through. Not all shops are crooks.

“Defend that? Really? Birds of a feather I guess.”

Absolutely. I’m glad we live in a country where someone is innocent until proven guilty. I absolutely love fighting for automotive repair dealers, smog stations, auto body and repair facilities, technicians, mechanics, and anyone else in the automotive industry. Why? Because they have an undeserved bad reputation. Sure there are fraudsters, just as in any profession. There are bad attorneys, there are bad doctors, and there are bad teachers. We don’t throw out the whole lot for the actions of a few bad apples.

I tell all clients the biggest hurdle in litigation is a public relations issue. Mechanics and shops are looked at as the lowest of the low. This misconception is not easily dealt with – case in point, your comment.

“Think about what this all means in the big picture of life and contemplate your role.”

It would behoove any individual to fail to discern his role in society, failing to take into account how his actions are affecting others, and how he chooses to spend his or her short time on this earth. I have considered this on many occasions and have felt I am in a unique position to help those who have no help. Shops and techs have been absolutely slaughtered in the courts.

Why?

Because you either have an attorney who has no idea what goes on inside a repair shop or you have a mechanic who has no idea what goes on inside of a courtroom – someone has to be able to bridge the gap between the two. No one has been able to – that’s what I’m here for.

“Are you doing the right thing?”

Doing the right thing can have a lot of different connotations – it is quite the loaded question. It would behoove us to try and discern the proper moral standpoint in regards to being a defense attorney, although I’m sure there is significant literature on this subject

I see my role to help educate the legal system and the public about the trials and tribulations faced by the automotive repair industry – and that not everything is as it seems. Fixing cars is a very difficult job. They are some of the most heavily regulated businesses in the country, especially in California. The Bureau has a 180 million dollar a year budget to do nothing but regulate the automotive repair industry. Some of their policies and procedures are inconsistent with current legislation and other legal memorandum. When a shop has a question, he is told 13 different things by 4 BAR program representatives, never receiving a straight answer.

Most mechanics are hard working, honest, and ethical people who are trying their best to keep you on the road.

I hope you remember that next time you slam your mechanic for overcharging you for his “unneeded services” as you derive the benefits of his blood, sweat, and tears when he’s trying to make your life easier.

Defending Against the Bureau of Automotive Repair
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