Can a new mechanic cure Dave's paranoia?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 2011

Dear Tom and Ray:

I just paid more than $1,000 for a major 60,000-mile service on my 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse (4-cylinder), which included, among other things, replacing the timing belt and water pump. I assume I actually got all of the work listed on the service order, but is there an easy way to verify that the timing belt and water pump were actually changed?

-- Dave

RAY: There's no easy way, Dave. You'd have to take off the timing-belt cover, which is about a half-hour job, and then take a look at the belt. And even once the cover is off, I'm not sure the average person would be able to tell the difference between a new timing belt and a used one.

TOM: I could tell. But I'm a highly trained professional.

RAY: Yeah, he knows how to check and see if the box for the new one is in a nearby garbage can.

TOM: I understand your natural distrust, Dave, but I think it's doubtful that a garage would charge for a job like this and then not do it.

RAY: Right. First of all, most mechanics are pretty honest (I think more mistakes are the result of incompetence than dishonesty). And if you really harbor those kinds of doubts about your mechanic, you should find a new one. Try searching the Mechanics Files on our website, where other readers have recommended mechanics they like and have reason to trust (

TOM: Second, the stakes are too high to risk it on a job like this. Even if your mechanic is an outright thief, there'd be a high risk that he'd get caught when your old timing belt finally broke. The blame easily would get traced back to him, and it would cost him thousands of dollars to replace your ruined engine.

RAY: So he'd have to be unscrupulous AND dumb in order to do this. And there aren't very many mechanics like my brother left in the business.

TOM: If you want to, Dave, you could take it to another shop and ask them to verify that the work has been done. But I think it's more important that you find a mechanic you have confidence in. Good luck.

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