Mechanic Wants to Charge More for Service

Hi all, need some advice please!

Booked in my Subaru Forester for a service and was quoted $280 on the phone. I made sure that was the price, as it has an oil leak and lights on and I didn’t want to pay more for a car that was on the way out. Assured me that this was the price and if anything else needed doing they would call first.

A week later I took my car in and they’re now trying to charge over $500 for the service, claiming they had to ‘follow the book’ and do a special service because of the oil leak and they also said they’re unable to fix the car.

Obviously I don’t want to pay this, but can I refuse to pay this amount as I don’t have it in writing, or do I pay then take it up with trading standards etc?


  • +2

    Dealership or independent?

  • What exactly did you tell them to do? What exactly did they do?

    If you said ‘give it a swrvice’ They probably did, charging more because more was required. If you said ‘change the oil’ that’s a different story.

    • They said they would call if more needed doing.

  • +9

    Doubt anyone would give you a fixed price for an undiagnosed "oil leak" they haven't seen. Could be anything from chewing gum fix to complete transmission replacement. Hyperbole but you get the idea.

    $280 would likely have been for the service only, everything else is extra. Do you have an itemised quote?

  • +5

    If they told you the cost was $280 and they would call you up if there were any things that needed doing then I'd hold them to this

    • +1

      Which can be easier said than done face to face and not on a keyboard.


  • +4

    Did they call you asking for your consent ?

  • +8

    No way the quoted $280 over the phone would cover service and fixing the oil leak and lights. They haven't looked at the car to know what's the problem yet.

    • +3

      The 280 was for the service only, not fixing the old leak and lights. I asked if the 280 would include looking at those issues during the service and they said yes and that they would call before incurring additional charges

      • -1

        "looking at those issues"…

        Mechanics handbook Definition: Fix them.

        • +5

          Not quite… more like "Look at the issues" = "yep, saw them and they are still there…"

          I dont diagnose anything unless I let the customer know they will be paying for diagnosing issues.

          • @pegaxs: possibly..
            Back in 80's when I was working in the bike shop,
            "a service and also can you look at that oil leak while its here… "

            that would have meant look at the cause and fix it.

  • Unfortunately, you'll be stuck with the final bill unless you stand your ground and argue as there's nothing in writing either way.

    It's an old mechanics trick, give a low price and then 'find' other issues after they have your vehicle to jack up the price.

    IMO you'll have to pay up. Go elsewhere next time and put it down to a life lesson.

    There's an existing thread about this, you're not on your own

  • +1

    Is this a dealer? Sounds like something they would do. They did the same to me, quote one price and charge another and the customer service is absolutely abysmal.

  • +1

    Was the price quoted just for the service? Not sure why they would have to do it "by the book", for a car that's out of warranty and "on the way out", especially without your consent.

    • -2

      I'm thinking many messages are mixed up here…
      what was asked for
      what was quoted for…

  • +7

    OP: Over the phone, how much for regular old change and lights ?
    Service Staff : $280

    Once car at the car service, Service Staff : Damn, this is a bomb, need more than a oil change, this gonna cost $500!!

    Is that how it went?

    • +1

      No, over the phone, how much for a service, my car has lights on and an oil leak. Does the service include checking those over? Yes, great. Will you please call before doing any additional work? Thanks. In person, they did more diagnosing work and changed the brake line without calling first. So no, not how it went.

      • +4

        They should call you first before doing additional work but fixing a oil leak in a bomb never be a $280, you don't need to be a mechanic to know that :)

        • but fixing a oil leak in a bomb never be a $280

          or most cars unless its a dud oil filter or shot copper washer on sump plug.

        • +2

          Again, 280 was the service cost. I didn’t expect the oil leak to cost only 280 to fix, I expected a quote on how much to fix the oil leak as part of the service

        • +1

          If it was going to be more then they should have said. If they didn't know, the professionals, how is OP supposed to know?

          • -1

            @Quantumcat: I'm not saying its OPs issue, but oil leak can be anything, more like mechanics been unprofessional based on;
            * not enough diagnostic before giving out quotes
            * not contacting the OP when there are additional services need to be done

            But after owning few cars, if some mechanics quoted me $280 for oil leak fix, I would question my self lol

            • @boomramada:

              But after owning few cars, if some mechanics quoted me $280 for oil leak fix, I would question my self lol

              Op has stated that they didn't expect the leak to be fixed. They wanted it serviced, and to know what the leak is.

  • Now if they are unable then it is totally free! I guess you were hoping to get an oil leak fixed for way under cost. Use youtube and see how fast some take an engine out and change the seal.
    Oil is failrly standard, but which light? Your fault for not asking an autoelectric.

    • +1

      I wasn’t expecting to get it fixed for free at all. I literally wanted a service and a quote for it to be fixed. I.e if it was head gasket to me it was not worth fixing.

      • bought an Outback from a backpacker after testing it for oil leaks, none showing. Brought for rwc and they poured 1l of oil into it to blow the seal. Unfortunately hard to proof. H gasket can be tested with a co kit. Known issue: centre bolts need re tightening. Parker light are usually a pain as they wired them non standard. Oil leaks usually mean the engine has to come out. How many km has yours got?

        • You are talking absolute crap. No one put a litre of oil in your outback to make it leak, it's head gasket was leaking, like they all do. No, it can't be checked with a co kit, as they leak externally, not from the combustion chamber to the cooling system. Also nothing to do with "centre bolts", it was an issue with the gaskets.

          • +1

            @brendanm: Yes, some is nonsense, but Subie head gaskets do NOT always just leak externally. They go between the cylinder and the water jacket too - I've had two (both old) and both eventually did that. A CO test will detect it, though if it is anything bigger than a hairline it will be obvious anyway.

            • @derrida derider: Obviously they don't always go externally. I'm talking about ej25s when leaking oil and coolant externally, which is their most common failure point. They can still blow a head gasket between combustion chamber and coolant gallery like anything else, this happens when overheated. The external leaks they get happen no matter how well it's treated, as the gaskets are rubbish.

              Payless was talking about an oil leak, so I assumed this was obvious, and didn't have to be specified.

  • -2

    Record the phone call next time.
    When you get a package in the mail from Amazon/Ebay etc video record opening it up, checking out the product etc.
    Saves a lot of time if there is an issue.

  • +3

    A lot of people are misunderstanding the issue. I did not expect the problem to be fixed for 280. $280 was the cost for service and checking the car over. The mechanic agreed that they would check the oil issue and lights for this price. I completely understand oil leaks can cost thousands to fix, hence the service to get a quote for this.

    • +2

      A lot of people are misunderstanding the issue.

      Maybe the people you took your car misunderstood as well.

      • Overwhelmingly likely that this was just a miscommunication. Next time be very specific about what you want done -eg "regular oil change, check brakes, lights and fluids and diagnose where the leak is coming from".

    • Dealer, franchise or independent mechanic? Quite often the dealer or franchise will have you sign a piece of paper that says you authorise additional work and will pay up. It’s in the fine print. I’ve been caught before. Doesn’t really matter what the check in desk-staff say, the mechanics go on the job sheet and probably just do what’s necessary and let the desk staff deal with the problems.

      If you spoke to the guy who spins the spammers, that’s a different story.

  • Do you have a definition of
    "… special service" from them? What is different from a normal service.

    and also

    "… they’re unable to fix the car." Why?

    what year Forry?

  • +1

    Way to common for mechanics to do nowadays

    • I been to handful of mechanics in last 10 years, they always call me if anything extra need to be done.
      But once dealer over charge me, then they blame it on their billing system after I question them. Maybe Im the luck one so far.

  • What were the items listed for the $500?

  • What's on the work order that you've signed?

    Did you initial the work order/phone approval for the extra work?

    If the go chase/fix the oil leak is on the work order then I'm sorry, you've given them the approval to go do the job and given it's already signed, why would they give you a call?

  • I think it is strange how everyone interpreted the issue different. OP asked for a basic service and an opinion on the leak. Mechanic could've said No point changing oil with that leak, and call/quote $x for basic fix and oil change. Or they could've done the basic service and said we quote $x for fixing the leak. But what they did was do the basic service as requested plus fixed a brake line, and that is what they should've called up for. They should've said it's $280 plus we must repair the hydraulic brake line as we cannot ignore that serious safety issue and that will be another 120 approx. And you would've said yes to that and understood it is a safety issue. So I would just pay it.

  • 1 of 2 things:
    1 miscommunications between service manager and mechanic
    2 do the work anyway and just bill the customer

    This is only going off your side of the story and some of it is vague

    They can do a service without fixing an oil leak provided its not spewing oil out as that is a safety aspect for other road users

    They cant let you drive off with a damage brake line, but they can allow you to tow it away

    Thats how it was but I havent been a service manager for 20 years so stuff may have changed

  • -1

    Special service, and they had to follow the book. It had to be done, and eventually you would have to pay.

  • Tell them your not happy, advise it was agreed at $280, remind them that they were suppose to call prior to any additional repairs/faults found but didn’t. Give them a sob story (you shouldn’t have to) and tell them you can at most pay another $100.

  • Get on the phone to Consumer Affairs or whatever your state's body is and discuss the matter with them. They may be able to intervene and discuss the issue with the business to arrive at a lower bill. A similar thing happened to me with a tax agent.

  • what does 'lights on' mean?

    you mean the dash lights are up like your engine warn light?

    IMO everyone involved is wrong

    if you bring a car in with obvious faults then expect things to get more expensive than $280

    $280 is what i'd pay for a car with no faults and just needs a basic service

    but i always expect to pay more since i'm not super thorough before i give the car to my mechanic and if he gets me for a dud light or wipers then i'd rather get them sorted rather than 'pay no more'

    but them not calling isnt a good thing but if its only a little bit more then pay it, shit if it cost $500 into total to sort out oil leaks and engine warn then thats fair enough

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