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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not sure what subforum to put this on but I feel like it's applicable here, I can move it if necessary.

My gf has a 2002 Avalon that has bank 1 and 2 lean codes. I took it to an independent mechanic (never been to him before, he was recommended by a relative) to have it diagnosed and fixed (on a Monday). He replaced the MAF sensor and called me Friday, he said to pick up the car, drive it and see if it is fixed. Red flag one - why am I seeing if the car is fixed, that's your job? Anyway, the codes came back within about 5 miles of driving. I took the car back the next Monday since he isn't open on the weekends. He said he would take another look. On Friday he says to come to get it and test it again and that he replaced the fuel pump and filter. Again the codes come back before I made it home. I called him again today to ask if he thought he could still fix it, I told him I can't keep letting him keep the car for weeks at a time. He doesn't really communicate and in person says about a total of 5 words, I was trying to see if he just doesn't want to work on it and I was giving him the chance to say so. My gf and I are struggling to get to work with one car. He said we should just leave it as is and ignore the code since it isn't really hurting anything, the problem is, it will fail emissions. I asked him how much we owed him and he said he would have to ask the tech who did the work b/c he doesn't know what all they did.

So here is my dilemma, I took the car in with a specific issue 2 specific CEL codes and it hasn't been resolved. I'm of the camp that a business cant make a profit on every job, that's the risk you take as a business owner, in this case, he didn't fix the issue so he will not profit. I really don't feel like paying him for anything, the parts he installed were not needed and I didn't ask for them. He said they threw away the parts they took off, so no re-installing the original parts.

At the same time, I know he has labor and part costs in this and I thought maybe a compromise is paying for the parts but no labor. The car has 180k miles so maybe the MAF and fuel pump were not dead but were old, so paying the cost of the parts for replacement is a fair compromise.

I've also never encountered something like this where the issue wasn't fixed in the end so I don't know what's fair or reasonable to pay. To me, this is like having a plumber come to fix a leaking pipe and him replacing the faucet, and leaving even though the pipe still leaks. So, I am coming here for opinions, what would you do?
 

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I've only had one mechanic I would consider giving "free will" to do whatevers needed to repair my vehicle , and he was very close to my family.

Typically the mechanics I've delt with diagnose the problem, quote a price for the repair, and if any new problems are identified they will ask approval prior to adding a repair to the ticket.

If this was not how your interactions were handled , I would be rather upset.
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've only had one mechanic I would consider giving "free will" to do whatevers needed to repair my vehicle , and he was very close to my family.

Typically the mechanics I've delt with diagnose the problem, quote a price for the repair, and if any new problems are identified they will ask approval prior to adding a repair to the ticket.

If this was not how your interactions were handled , I would be rather upset.
my typical experience sounds like yours, diagnose, quote, ask to do anything else. And that's why I'm asking for input in this situation I honestly have no idea how to handle it.
 

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Not sure what subforum to put this on but I feel like it's applicable here, I can move it if necessary.

My gf has a 2002 Avalon that has bank 1 and 2 lean codes. I took it to an independent mechanic (never been to him before, he was recommended by a relative) to have it diagnosed and fixed (on a Monday). He replaced the MAF sensor and called me Friday, he said to pick up the car, drive it and see if it is fixed. Red flag one - why am I seeing if the car is fixed, that's your job? Anyway, the codes came back within about 5 miles of driving. I took the car back the next Monday since he isn't open on the weekends. He said he would take another look. On Friday he says to come to get it and test it again and that he replaced the fuel pump and filter. Again the codes come back before I made it home. I called him again today to ask if he thought he could still fix it, I told him I can't keep letting him keep the car for weeks at a time. He doesn't really communicate and in person says about a total of 5 words, I was trying to see if he just doesn't want to work on it and I was giving him the chance to say so. My gf and I are struggling to get to work with one car. He said we should just leave it as is and ignore the code since it isn't really hurting anything, the problem is, it will fail emissions. I asked him how much we owed him and he said he would have to ask the tech who did the work b/c he doesn't know what all they did.

So here is my dilemma, I took the car in with a specific issue 2 specific CEL codes and it hasn't been resolved. I'm of the camp that a business cant make a profit on every job, that's the risk you take as a business owner, in this case, he didn't fix the issue so he will not profit. I really don't feel like paying him for anything, the parts he installed were not needed and I didn't ask for them. He said they threw away the parts they took off, so no re-installing the original parts.

At the same time, I know he has labor and part costs in this and I thought maybe a compromise is paying for the parts but no labor. The car has 180k miles so maybe the MAF and fuel pump were not dead but were old, so paying the cost of the parts for replacement is a fair compromise.

I've also never encountered something like this where the issue wasn't fixed in the end so I don't know what's fair or reasonable to pay. To me, this is like having a plumber come to fix a leaking pipe and him replacing the faucet, and leaving even though the pipe still leaks. So, I am coming here for opinions, what would you do?
In many states it is illegal for them to install parts without your permission and an estimate. If it were me, I would simply refuse to pay for any parts/labor that I didn't authorize. If they refuse to release the vehicle, call the cops. There are laws in place to protect customers from this. I'm not saying he's trying to scam you, but that's not an ethical business practice. It's possible it was a simple miscommunication between the tech and whomever you spoke with when you dropped it off, if they were different people. You might be stuck with the bill here. Either way, I would definitely recommend finding a new shop.

As for the test drive, they might take it around the block, but they typically don't have the time (or want) to drive it for miles and miles to verify the code doesn't come back, even if it's an issue that would promptly throw another code. Some codes (cat's specifically) can take 30+ miles to pop back up if not correctly fixed. It's probably also a massive liability for them to be driving it on public roads.

Unfortunately, not many shops guarantee their work, so it can be a gamble. My dad would take all of his vehicles in to the mom and pop garage in the small town I grew up in, and he had similar issues every damn time. One time they spilled diesel on the carpet INSIDE the car somehow, another time they couldn't fix the problem and suggested he put tape over the light, another time they mixed up work orders with another customer and installed a brand new transmission in my dad's truck when all he needed was an oil change. Not even joking. No idea why he kept going back there...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
In many states it is illegal for them to install parts without your permission and an estimate. If it were me, I would simply refuse to pay for any parts/labor that I didn't authorize. If they refuse to release the vehicle, call the cops. There are laws in place to protect customers from this. I'm not saying he's trying to scam you, but that's not an ethical business practice. It's possible it was a simple miscommunication between the tech and whomever you spoke with when you dropped it off. Either way, I would definitely recommend finding a new shop.

As for the test drive, they might take it around the block, but they typically don't have the time (or want) to drive it for miles and miles to verify the code doesn't come back, even if it's an issue that would promptly throw another code. Some codes (cat's specifically) can take 30+ miles to pop back up if not correctly fixed. It's probably also a massive liability for them to be driving it on public roads.

Unfortunately, not many shops guarantee their work, so it can be a gamble.
So I won't need to call the cops over releasing the vehicle, we have it. He doesn't seem scammy he just seems like he's scatterbrained and doesn't really want to work on the car at all. And I understand your point about driving the car, but the lean codes pop up about a mile after clearing codes, it doesn't take much at all.
 

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Small places can be terrible like that.
At some point taking it to a dealer to actually diagnose it with exact cause and fix -- using Nissan dealer dedicated computer -- that will find the issue, whether they fix it or not, but the issue will be addressed. Only Nissan dealers have the computer/software to diagnose certain things, so if third party can't diagnose it, that's your best best. Unless you catch the error with your own reader ($25 usually on Amazon, some $ for software, I use Torque app on Android phone).

How to deal with the current mechanic, listen to others' input here. Nobody likes paying for unnecessary work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Small places can be terrible like that.
At some point taking it to a dealer to actually diagnose it with exact cause and fix -- using Nissan dealer dedicated computer -- that will find the issue, whether they fix it or not, but the issue will be addressed. Only Nissan dealers have the computer/software to diagnose certain things, so if third party can't diagnose it, that's your best best. Unless you catch the error with your own reader ($25 usually on Amazon, some $ for software, I use Torque app on Android phone).

How to deal with the current mechanic, listen to others' input here. Nobody likes paying for unnecessary work.
I do have a code reader and torque pro, that's how I've been able to tell the car wasn't getting fixed, the codes are the same every time. That said, I can wrench but I'm not at the level of diagnostics yet. I know I can look at fuel trims to help determine if this is a lean code due to lack of fuel or excess air from a vacuum leak or any other number of things. That's why I took it to a mechanic though, to just let them fix it, the effort I would have had to go through wasn't worth it. I have my personal mechanic 4 hours away, it's either going there soon or to a dealership, not sure how many will work on a 2002 car though. My roommate works at a Volkswagen dealership and they turn down anything older than 2005.
 

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Worse comes to worst, just follow Jim Carreys example on the mask:
Music artist Coat Entertainment Performing arts Suit
 

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As a mechanic myself, I get to see this from both sides. From the post, I can't really tell what is happening fully, but it sounds to me like the guy was legitimately trying to figure out the problem. And because I'm a mechanic, I know that figuring out problems over the internet is fickle at best.

First off, the size of the shop has NOTHING to do with ANY of this. I see this exact routine play out at dealerships of every brand more often than not, because corporate tries to nickel and dime techs, as well as the customer (by trying to weasel out of warranty claims). Usually it's the small shop that fixes the problem after the dealer bilked the guy out of $2k or more.

This issue right here is the biggest problem with modern vehicles. No one solution can be applied to any problem like it was in the old days. Sometimes vehicles will take many days to figure out, not matter how "good" you are. Sometimes vehicles will kick your ass, regardless of how much experience you have troubleshooting. If they didn't charge you for all that work and the parts, then they're obviously not scamming you - I would NEVER let someone leave with a vehicle without paying for parts that I already paid for, unless they were a friend, relative, or neighbor. Unless I read that wrong, this guy is one in a million.

The reason he gave it back to you to "see if it's fixed" is because of the drive cycle required on ALL OBD-II (1996 and newer) vehicles. After a repair is performed, you won't know if you've fixed it or not until the vehicle is driven anywhere from just a few seconds, to weeks and weeks, and hundreds of miles. Most shops don't have time to be driving around aimlessly trying to get monitors to run (I know I don't!), and you need your car, so it only makes sense to give it back to you to drive. If the light comes back on, we'll deal with it then. It's never convenient breaking down, but it is what is is, and repairs are rarely straightforward these days. I tell customers, " I didn't build it, I didn't break it. " If you got in and out of a shop in one day a few times in the past, you're extremely lucky. Sometimes you do get lucky and we open the hood and see that bare wire the mouse chewed up resting right on the alternator, or something metal.

Also, just because the light is on doesn't mean it's for the exact same problem. Once one problem is fixed and certain monitors run, now other problems will now reveal themselves, because that monitor COULDN'T run with the previous problem happening. This is why I HATE modern vehicles with every fiber of my being. Not only does the engineering suck, but the problems can wear your down in the myriad of ways they can fail. I always tell people up front that the light might come back on for something else later on down the road. If it ends up being for the problem I already attempted to fix, then I eat it. If not, then the customer gets billed.

Auto repair is one of those strange industries where people expect you to work for peanuts, or for free. No other job is like this. For driveability and electrical problems, most of the labor is sitting in front of the computer researching, pouring over wiring diagrams, code setting criteria, and searching for related TSBs (Technical Service Bulletins put out by manufacturers). I find if I explain this to customers, some of them (not all) don't feel like they should pay for that, because, "You should know that already". Well, that's not how it works in the 21st century. If you have the mental capacity to know EVERY system across EVERY brand by heart, then, you wouldn't be an auto mechanic - you'd be an accountant or mathematician with a 6 or 7-figure salary.

Biggest problem is lack of communication. Some of us mechanics have had a rough life, so our social skills might not be the best. ASK QUESTIONS. 99% of perceived issues between the customer and tech are resolved just by this simple thing. I know mechanics that can't read or write, but can fix ANYTHING. Calling the cops on the mechanic is a great way to unnecessarily escalate an issue that can be solved by COMMUNICATING. Why were these particular parts replaced? You need to figure out if the guy has a diagnostic plan, or is just firing the parts bazooka at it.


As far as lean codes go, I do a visual inspection first, looking for chaffed, broken, or disconnected vacuum lines. Then the next most common thing is intake gasket leaks on modern cars. If my troubleshooting doesn't point to those problems, then I start checking fuel pressure and volume ... then maybe injectors if I'm lead that direction. Scan tool info will usually reveal what is happening right away to the trained eye. Sometimes it's as simple as a o2 sensor that failed and stuck rich (high voltage).
 

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Are you positive the MAF was replaced, and not just cleaned?
If you are getting bank 1 and 2 lean condition, there is not much that effects both banks. Although it is possible to have both AF sensors go out at the same time.

Fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, fuel filter, sure can cause fuel trim codes, but it will usually have other symptoms associated with it. Longer crank time, hesitation on acceleration, warm weather issues.

As stated above, the drive cycles of OBDII can kill diagnostic times, because some of them have 3 and 4 cycles to set or clear.
(I AM LOOKING AT YOU, STUPID EVAP EMISSIONS!)
 

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At the same time, I know he has labor and part costs in this and I thought maybe a compromise is paying for the parts but no labor. The car has 180k miles so maybe the MAF and fuel pump were not dead but were old, so paying the cost of the parts for replacement is a fair compromise.
Agreed. I would at least offer to pay for the parts, especially since the replaced items were old.
You don't want to burn a bridge with an honest shop owner.
 

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Small places can be terrible like that.
At some point taking it to a dealer to actually diagnose it with exact cause and fix -- using Nissan dealer dedicated computer -- that will find the issue, whether they fix it or not, but the issue will be addressed. Only Nissan dealers have the computer/software to diagnose certain things, so if third party can't diagnose it, that's your best best. .....
Independent mechanics can be great. Finding the right one can be tough. An independent mechanic shop that focuses on Asian vehicles and has several auto techs/mechanics might be a better bet.

I see two possible solutions:

1) Take the vehicle to a competent exhaust/muffler shop. Get them to check the exhaust system for leaks.

2) Take the vehicle to a Toyota dealership and ask them to diagnose the solution. Pay for the diagnosis if you have to. Get any estimates for the proposed solution in writing.


The 2002 Avalon came with an MPI engine, correct?
 

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Got an update, he called back and said that after speaking to the owner they only want to charge us for the parts, no labor. I said that sounds good a paid. Thank you everyone for your feedback and advice it was super helpful.
sounds fair. At worst, you have a new fuel pump and filter. Hopefully he installed quality parts or you might just have another issue down the road
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Independent mechanics can be great. Finding the right one can be tough. An independent mechanic shop that focuses on Asian vehicles and has several auto techs/mechanics might be a better bet.

I see two possible solutions:

1) Take the vehicle to a competent exhaust/muffler shop. Get them to check the exhaust system for leaks.

2) Take the vehicle to a Toyota dealership and ask them to diagnose the solution. Pay for the diagnosis if you have to. Get any estimates for the proposed solution in writing.


The 2002 Avalon came with an MPI engine, correct?
Yes the 1mz-fe has multi port fuel injection
 
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