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Rachel Belle

Car Talk: Who To Call When You Think you're Being Ripped Off

Your car is making funny noises. Again. So you take it down to the repair shop and wait to hear how much it's going to cost you. (AP Photo)

Your car is making funny noises. Again. So you take it down to the repair shop and wait to hear how much it's going to cost you. Problem is, you don't really know much about cars. How would you know if the mechanic is telling you the truth or taking you for a ride, pun intended.

Well, Yelm's Elizabeth Christian totally gets it. A mechanic for 20 years, she has gone undercover and taken her car into shops to see if it would be properly diagnosed.

"The things I have been told about cars that I drive, and what they need, is honestly shocking. Whether they were just grossly misinformed or I couldn't believe the estimates I was getting to do something that I knew I could do in an hour without air tools, without a fancy shop. So I was looking for a service that I could provide. Something I could affect a lot more people with."

The service she came up with is called Mechanic Speak. She basically gives you access to the mechanic brother you never had.

"We're like mechanic whisperers. When you're in the shop you give us a call and we will listen to your side of the story. We'll even talk to your mechanic. If you want, you can read us the estimate, you can read us their diagnosis. We can tell you a ton of questions to ask them. We can tell you what's going on. We can give you some feedback, as far as, are you getting ripped off? Should you just get out of that shop and go somewhere else?"

For $25, one of Elizabeth's experienced, knowledgeable mechanics will let you know if the price you've been quoted is fair or if you really need to get a service done.

"The guys I've got working for me are passionate. I mean, I was talking to one and he said, 'When I hear about someone's grandmother getting ripped off. Eight hundred dollars for a brake job! It just makes me sick to my stomach.' That's the kind of guy I hand select for their ability to communicate, to explain to you what's going on. An inside insight into the industry and how you might be manipulated."

In the few months that Mechanic Speak has been up and running, Elizabeth feels proud to have helped a bunch of people out.

"We had somebody take their car into the shop for a power steering leak. A chain, she had no prior references to the shop, and she was diagnosed with having the power steering rack leaking, which just happens to be the most expensive part in the power steering system. We simply recommended, 'Hey, you've got no background with these guys, no one's recommended you to them. Your car still runs and drives, go somewhere else, get another diagnosis.' Turns out it was the line leaking, not the rack. She saved about $600."

Elizabeth is also happy to tell people that they haven't been ripped off.

"Sometimes we're just telling people, your mechanic is awesome and he's taking really good care of you. You don't need to call us anymore, you're in good hands."

For those of us who don't have a car savvy older brother who we can call every time we take our car into the shop, you now have a bunch of knowledgeable older brothers in Elizabeth and her crew.

Ring My Belle on KIRO Radio

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