The Dishonest John Guide to Service Scams




After extensive research, Dishonest John presents the top tips for dodgy service managers who prefer to put profits before punters. 

The Keyfob Caper 
Tell the punter that his remote control keyfob needs new batteries but for it to work again it also needs to be re-programmed at a cost of anything from £40 to £85. 

The Bulb Blag 
Phone the customer while his car is in for service to tell him that among the additional items needing attention a bulb has gone. He will think, "can't cost much" and will agree to a bulb replacement. Then charge him 15 minutes labour at £60 an hour to change the bulb and another 15 minutes for the fitter to obtain it from stores. 

The Screenwash Scam 
Always automatically charge for renewing the screenwash additive. Even if it the reservoir is full when the car arrives, leave a bottle of additive in the boot and still charge for it at an outrageous rate. 

The Multipurpose Lubricant Leglifter 
Similar to the screenwash scam. Always supply a spray can of multipurpose lubricant at every service, and charge for it, of course. 

The Oil Filter Flanker 
Instead of changing the oil filter at a routine service, tell the fitter to simply give it a good clean over with a rag. It will look like new, the punter won't know any difference and the garage will save 15 minutes obtaining the new filter from stores and fitting it, plus, of course, the cost of the filter. 

The Fluids Overfill 
Charge the customer for an quantity of oil, coolant, ATF, gearbox oil, brake fluid, etc over and above what the car will actually take. Very few punters ever spot this and if they do, tell them it's a clerical error, revise the invoice and refund them the extra money. 99 times out of 100 you'll never have to. 

The Major Component Confusion 
Never, ever repair a major component. If, for example, an automatic gearbox has a problem DO NOT INVESTIGATE THE CAUSE. Instead, simply quote for fitting an entirely new automatic gearbox. The fault may be nothing more than a duff solenoid in the valve block, but don't waste time with a £200 job when there is much more profit to be gained from fitting a new autobox at £1,750 plus. 

The Wiper Wipe Out 
Always phone to suggest to the customer that his or her wipers need replacing, then not only charge a 100% margin on the replacement wipers, but also charge 15 minutes labour for fitting them. One reader was quoted £104 for fitting a pair of new wipers to her Alfa Spider. For a Renault Espace, it was £40 plus fitting. 

The Seals Scam 
If the engine or gearbox is suffering from a slight oil leak (or even if it isn't and you can induce one) quote the punter for expensive new gaskets or seals, preferably internal shaft end-seals. They usually fall for it, but watch out for the bloke who has a handy mate with a ramp who can spot that all that's needed is to tighten a few nuts. 

The Brake Blag 
During a routine service, 'discover' that the front brake discs are wearing thin and are in need of replacement. Punters are getting used to having to replace discs every 30,000 miles, so even if the discs are still in good condition you will probably get away with selling the parts and a nice fat labour charge. 

The Calliper Con 
Alternatively, if the brake discs really are wearing thin it may well be due to sticking or rusty pins in the callipers leading the pads to bind on. Whatever you do, don't replace or clean these pins. To maximise replacement revenue, wait until the customer comes back with another worn thin pair of discs, then tell him the callipers need replacing as well as the discs and pads. 

The Battery Blether 
If the punter complains of slow starting, that's your cue to flog him a new battery. Persuade him that a' maintenance free battery' cannot be topped up or re-charged. 

The Sundries Scam 
Always charge a figure of between £2.50 - £5.00 + VAT for 'sundries' and if the customer asks what they are, tell him disposable wipes, disposable rubber gloves and oils and greases used in small quantities on things like door locks and hinges. 

The Over-the-Top Oil Earner 
Even though the workshop's engine oil comes from a bulk tank at a huge discount, still charge for it per litre as if it has been supplied in individual litre bottles. 

The Warranty Maintenance Muckaround 
If the customer has a used car warranty requiring the car to be regularly serviced at a franchised dealer's, this can be a real goldmine. Be careful to find a long list of repairs and replacements, none of which are covered by the warranty, but all of which must be made for the warranty to remain intact. 

The Drivebelt Dodge 
"Check auxiliary drive belts" will usually be included on a service schedule. But no mention will be made of making any adjustments to the tension of the belt, so this should be charged for at the rate for at least 15 minutes labour. 

The Low Sulphur Scam 
If a punter shows up with a non-functioning diesel pump, tell him the reason is wear due to the lack of lubricity of Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel. The problem may really be no more than a chafed cable to the pump, but it's much more profitable to sell him a new pump and fix the chafed cable without telling him. 

The Clutch Con 
Sudden clutch failure may be due to the pressure fork fracturing rather than failure of the clutch itself. On many makes and models, the fork is easy to get at and replace without any serious dismantling. But the customer probably won't know that. So, if a clutch appears to have failed, always quote for a complete new exchange clutch and, if the problem is really no more than the fork, fit that as well and charge extra for it. 

The Hidden Faults Hoax 
Find things wrong that the punter can't see and check up on. Such as a broken engine mount, a duff tailgate strut, a faulty water pump, a fractured door hinge mounting, a noisy wheel bearing, a worn steering rack, etc., etc. The scope here is as wide as your imagination, but check the car's previous service sheets to make sure you haven't tried the same stunt with the same component before. 

The Electronics Earner 
If the car is not running properly, tell the customer you will perform a complete diagnostics check on it. This will usually isolate the true cause of the problem, but instead of fixing that replace one of the other components in the electronics or the fuel injection system. The customer will then come back and, after pleading 'trial and error', you will probably get the chance to rip him off for replacing something else which may or may not solve the problem. 

The Loose Connector Con 
Often, all that will be wrong is that a connector plug has come loose or got some moisture inside it. Never ever admit to this, especially if it's the multipoint connector to the ECU. Always diagnose that the ECU needs replacing at a cost of £500 plus. 

The Lambda Laugh 
If the diagnostic interrogator and an emissions test isolate the exhaust Lambda sensor as the source of the problem and simple cleaning would cure it, instruct your fitters to replace it. Though Halfords sell universal fit lambda sensors for £30, some manufacturer prices can be very high, especially for the more complex sensors in Toyota Carina E and Avensis models. Always go for the maximum obtainable revenue, never for the minimum needed to cure the problem. 

The MOT Megablag 
The most fertile area for unnecessary repairs is the MOT test, especially if your garage is an appointed MOT testing centre. Always give the car a cursory pre-test, find it needs a few bulbs replacing and phone the customer to get permission to replace them. Then, depending on the type of customer, in the test itself make sure the tester finds things like split driveshaft gaiters, worn suspension bushes, loose brake pipes, etc. But whatever you do when applying this blag, make sure the car has no genuine major fault which would lead it to fail the test. Punters will almost always be so relieved that their car has got through its MOT, they won't mind paying for £50 to £100 worth of repairs to get it through the test. But if the car needs major work, you won't get away with a package of minor add-ons. 

The Indecent Incentive 
Always incentivise your fitters with things like free holidays. You have to make them prizes for tax purposes, but sending a fitter and his family off to Bali for a fortnight costs a tiny percentage of what you're going to make from his ingenuity in finding lucrative non-existent faults. He'll be happy for six months working towards his holiday in Bali and you'll be raking it in without having to pay him expensive cash incentives. 


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