I hate to knock dealers, because I've met some talented mechanics working at dealerships, but their mindset sucks.
Case in point. One of our customers brought their 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee in to us last Friday. Complaint: Overheating. The thing has 30K on it. I look it over and determine it's the cooling fan relay on the blink. Fine. I call him and suggest he take it to the dealer, since it's under warranty. I'm not gonna take his money if Jeep can fix their crap relay for nothing. He's happy and takes it to the Jeep store. Yesterday afternoon, he calls me up.
"Hey, Fixer-man," he says on the phone. "Did you happen to look at my brakes while you had my Jeep there?"
"No," I say. "But they looked okay at the last service. Hold on, lemmie pull the last bill." I pull the bill and ask him the mileage. I checked the brakes 2300 miles ago and noted they were half life then. "They should still be decent," I tell him when I pick up the phone. "Why?"
"Well," he says to me. "The car's here at the dealer, and they fixed the relay for the fan."
"Fine," I reply. "Do the brakes sound like they're finished?"
"No," he says. "But they say the rotors are annihilated and I need two calipers as well, aside from the brake pads. They want to hit me up for $1700."
"Dude," I tell him. "Get in the car and bring it to me. Fuck them." Remember, I looked at the thing in depth a little over 2000 miles ago. And I drove it Friday. If the brakes were that bad, I would have noticed it immediately.
"They say I shouldn't drive it," he says.
"Tough shit," I shot back. "Get in it and drive it over here. If it's like they say, I'll fix it for free."
"I trust you," he replies and hangs up. It's good to hear those words. My rep is everything to me.
In the 15 minutes it takes for him to get to us, I fill Harry in on what went down. He trusts me too so I wasn't worried that I'd be springing for brakes, calipers, and rotors out of my own pocket. On the off chance I was talking out my ass.
Make a long story short, the customer gets there and I put it up on the lift, rip the wheels off, and disassemble all four brakes with him next to me. Showed him the rotors, which were beautiful, showed him the smooth operation of each caliper, and proceeded to change his brake pads on all 4 wheels, although he probably could have got the 700 miles until his next service out of them and I could have done everything at once. No fucking rotors, no fucking calipers, no $1700 bill. Cost him $145 and the $10 bill he left to buy us breakfast this morning. Have I mentioned his wife, children, and anyone else in his family close enough, comes to us for all their maintenance? He trusts us not to fuck him. I might not have hit him up for a $1700 brake job, but there are about 6 people who share his last name who bring me their work religioulsy and won't go anywhere near that fucking dealership. I think I'm doing better my way, don't you?
Had another customer go through the same thing at Volkswagen, on her little Beetle with 25,000 on the clock. They told her she needed struts when she was in for recall maintenance. She came to us. The struts were fine.
You see what the deal is. Dealerships don't survive on regular customers the way we do. Their mindset is to get what they can out of you now (when you're in for a recall job or something like that), because they probably will never see you again.
Remember that when you choose a mechanic. Like I said, I don't like knocking dealerships. Go to your local dealer for an oil change and see what they try to sell you on top of it. Then take it to the little guy in town who's been there 20 or 30 years and see what he says.