The Tale of Two Mechanics and Why I Love ‘Precision Automotive’ in Palo Alto

by on July 13, 2011

in consumer

Consumer Bits - Consumer news, information and opinion

This is a consumer service review of Precision Automotive… again.  But with new stories and a comparative look at another highly rated mechanics garage.  But first, Here is a conversation I had with one Volkswagen mechanic a few months back:

You need a LF tire… but you should get all four because you need it.

Are you saying they all look as bad as the LF tire does?

They all need to be replaced.

So they’re all showing metal through the rubber like the LF is?

No, the RF has 30% life left, the RR has 50% life left and the LR has 70% life left.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can be so susceptible to well meaning mechanics.  They’re only doing their jobs and trying to drum up business, but if you go into any automotive shop without a clue, without having done your research on your issue or had comparative visits, you WILL get financially depleted wrongfully, as far as I’m concerned.

Let me tell you of another tale of an almost huge financial whoa for myself.

About 16 months ago I had a problem with my truck engine.  I went to a very highly rated mechanic, via the Bay Area Consumer Checkbook website.  The mechanic is located on El Camino Real in Menlo Park.  Keep in mind, Checkbook is updated by folks like you and me.  Not professional consumer advocates, so reviews can be biased and/or a bit ignorant in some regards.  And I don’t mean any of that in a bad way because I do depend on review sites, but I read them with a grain of salt.

The first time I went to this highly rated mechanic, they were incredibly professional, called out my problem quickly and though, through circumstances not totally their fault, I had to wait almost a week to get my truck back.  But I did.  It cost around $1000, which I thought was odd for the job, as in, oddly over-priced, but they did fairly good work.

I want to point out that this highly recommended mechanic operates in a zone between Menlo Park and Atherton.  Atherton is the most expensive zip code in the United States.  The homes are so huge, they make movie mansions look, well, normal.  So when something costs $1,000 for someone who might spend $150k a month on a mortgage, well, obviously to them, that $1k is cheap.

I think that above distinction is a very important one to make here and you’ll understand in a moment.

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About a year ago I started having electrical problems.  In the morning I was having problems starting my truck.  It would turn over, then the engine turn-over would slow to a crawl, I’d lose power, and then the engine would crank.

I took my truck to the highly rated mechanic in Menlo Park and after looking at it, they said I had an internal water leak in cylinder 1 and to fix my problem would involve machining my motor heads and such.  The cost was somewhere between $1500 to $2000.  That depressed me.  That’s a chunk of money, considering my wife’s VW costs that almost every year in its annual repair job, which I had just done.

Precision Automotive in Palo Alto

So I went to Precision Automotive in Palo Alto.  They too found the internal engine leak, but in a completely different cylinder.  For $85, we tried a different approach to solving the leak.

But I still had that engine start up issue!!!  So it wasn’t the fluid leak causing the problem, as was suggested by the highly rated mechanic from Menlo Park.  (Notice I’m not calling them out?  They do good quality work so they don’t need to be bashed.)  But I was warned if I didn’t fix that coolant leak, my engine crank failure would break a piston rod and then my repair will be even more costly.  I’m sure they meant well in warning me.

Hence, I suffered with this starting issue for a year.  I dreaded the idea of what the fix would entail and every time my engine crank would turn, I’d cringe worrying about snapping a piston rod.  I did figure out a few ways to get around some of the issues though.  I unplugged by satellite radio receiver and I no longer got the starting fault in the mornings, nor when the truck was cold.  Only after engine got hot could I not restart the motor.  Which then started striking me as odd that it was so controllable and not randomly intermittent.

Yet over the last year, I’ve been emotionally trained by my truck’s starting issue in how I planned out my days.  Well, I can get gas in the morning, but not in the afternoon.  I can go somewhere, but it has to be a destination where it sits and cools for a while…  things like that.

Then I snapped and went back to Precision Automotive.  Explained to them my observations and left the truck with them.  I hopped on my bicycle and headed to work.  Just as I got to work, my cell phone rang and it was Precision Automotive, calling to tell me they found the problem and could have it fixed in a few hours.

They tested my electrical system to discover that the problem that has emotionally scarred me for over a year was a bad battery.  2 of the cells of the battery had gone bad.  They replaced the battery and it was good to go.  I was so jazzed about that, that I had them do some other inconsequential jobs to the truck because instead of $1500, this cost me a few hundred.  It felt like it was a freebie, considering how much I had been dreading that I would have to spend.

The Moral of The Story

I have two morals to demonstrate here…

That peer reviews are awesome, but always take as many factors into account as you can.  I had found both mechanics in the Consumer Checkbook website.  But some of the consumers who were filling out the parameters of the review website, are bloody rich and don’t dabble in 2nd opinions.  I think that the Menlo Park mechanic has possibly become accustomed to that mindset.

My 2nd moral of the story is that Precision Automotive looks out for the customer and takes the most reasonable approach, tackling the most common sense approach to a repair job first and from what I can tell, has saved me thousands in just the three visits I’ve taken my truck to them.

Oh, by the way, they have a Volkswagen mechanic with the latest in diagnostic equipment.  Where the VW mechanic in Redwood City spent two days trying to diagnose my wife’s car and found nothing, Precision Automotive had issues named and outed in a few hours.

These folks are a great find.  And that explains why you have to make an appointment with them.  They have a solid following of satisfied customers who know who they can trust, and have earned every single repeat client they receive and new ones via referrals and such.  I’ve personally sent 2 new customers to them, and they both came back raving.  I hope this consumer review article convinces you that this place is worth a look the next time you need a mechanic.

Bookmark, tweet, share on Facebook or Google+.  Please, help me spread the word!

That’s
Precision Automotive
439 Lambert Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306-2220
(650) 493-7877

Call to confirm hours.  Some website reports seem either inaccurate or quoting the wrong place!

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