When it comes to car mechanics in Kenya, to say their reputation precedes them would be a major understatement.
It would not be fair to dish out a blanket condemnation, however, an objective look into some of the stereotypes attached to this particular group of professionals shows that there is some truth to some of the allegations.
Your car seems to be running just fine as you take it for a regular light service as a formality. Then everything changes once your 'trusted' mechanic looks under the hood.
It turns out that your 'perfectly fine' car is in need of emergency treatment in the form of several new parts that cost as much as a 50by100 plot in Kamulu.
The fraudulent mechanics bank on the fact that most car owners don't really know much about their vehicles. This makes it easier to convince such an owner to spend on unnecessary parts.
All they do is throw in a few technical words such as - catalytic converters, camshaft bearing, ball joints, etc.
The con is pretty simple, hoodwink the unsuspecting client with technical jargon and get them to turn a Ksh5,000 budget into a Ksh100,000 or more farce.
These mechanics also gamble on the fact that most people don't have a clue about how much specific spare parts cost. This way, they get to slap outrageous markup prices on such items.
Despite having access to the internet where information on any car spare part is easily available, most people usually don't bother doing so simply because it's not a topic of interest for them.
It is important to acknowledge that at the end of the day, any mechanic is a businessman/woman at heart.
As such, they will always be driven towards their overall goal which is to make as much profit as possible to ensure their business survives in the long run.
Also, as hush, as it may sound, it's important to realize that your mechanic is not 'in love with you'. He/she is out to make money and that is their primary driver.
Despite their grease-covered overalls and unkempt look, these groups of professionals are as sharp as a Swiss knife when it comes to their craft.
It's impossible to tell if parts have been replaced with brand-new components unless you look inside the engine or underneath the car yourself.
Some dishonest mechanics will use used parts in your car or charge you for replacements that are never installed.
Bearing in mind all the issues raised above, here's how car owners can 'up their car game' to ensure that trips to the garage are optimized.
This forms the foundation of any good strategy when it comes to avoiding any shrewd mechanics.
Chances are you have a friend, or a friend of yours has a friend who owns a car similar to yours. Reaching out and asking for mechanic recommendations would be a safe bet.
There are good and honest mechanics around and the quality of their work is usually shared widely via client referrals.
To make things even easier, these days car owners who have similar model cars usually have WhatsApp groups as well as other groups on social media platforms where they get to share their experiences (including experiences in garages).
It would therefore make sense to get on such groups in order to access verified and creditable referrals.
Read Also: Smart Ways to Cut Down Car Costs
Now that it's clear that shrewd mechanics bank on their client's lack of knowledge, arming yourself with knowledge sounds right.
While not every car owner is a car enthusiast and obsessed with torque, horsepower, power output ratios, etc. It would be highly beneficial to have basic car knowledge at your fingertips.
For example, looking up common car spare parts and their prices online would be a good place to start. Spark plugs, air filters, oil filters, and other parts that are often replaced are but some of the things one could look up.
There are millions of YouTube videos and blogs you can read.
By arming yourself with basic knowledge, you also eliminate the threat of being duped on a technicality. If the mechanic tries to bamboozle you with technical jargon, you can now counter them quite easily.
When it comes to taking a trip to the garage, clear your schedule and give that particular activity the attention it warrants.
Acting as a supervisor and hovering around may irk some mechanics but at the end of the day, it ensures that you are less likely to be deceived.
It could also serve up a good opportunity to learn the basics of a car, parts that need replacing often, among others.
Being present would also mean that the mechanic cannot replace old and worn-out parts with even older parts.
As much as that makeshift garage in the neighborhood strikes up a good bargain and potential savings, a genuine argument can be made for accredited mechanics.
These are the highly trained individuals you'd find at brand-name service centers such as the Honda station along Mombasa Road, and Toyota services centers among others.
Unknown to most, these service centers are only expensive on paper, if one carries out a detailed cost-benefit analysis.
Such centers are also highly recommended as they ensure that their mechanics are held accountable for any work carried out.
Most importantly, any parts bought and installed at such stations come with warranties. Simply put, taking a long-term view makes a serious case for seeking out accredited service centers.
The health or useful lifespan of your car is heavily dependent on your mechanic. This is why choosing one is an important part of ensuring you get the best value for your money.
All in all, the best way to avoid getting duped by shrewd mechanics is by arming yourself with the basics when it comes to cars. It may not be fun for some, but the potential savings make it worth the hustle.