Best Place to Take Your Car and Not Get Ripped Off (Runner-Up):
Let’s just pretend, you and me, that we got a little car problem. Speaking hypothetically of course, let’s say we had a car…maybe a truck even, a 1999 Nissan Frontier with 124,893 miles on it, a purely hypothetical truck that we bought in Texas, rode to Utah, a truck that saw us through to Vermont, packed us up and moved us to Virginia. We love this purely hypothetical truck, you and me, almost more than our mothers.
But we suspect something’s wrong. Hypothetically. We accelerate and everything’s fine—until we hit 50mph. That’s when the whole hypothetical contraption starts shaking like a Russian spacecraft. Once we hit 70, though, everything’s all right again. We know that more than likely one of the front tires on our hypothetical, front-wheel drive Frontier is most likely out of round. But we also know many an unscrupulous mechanic might use this as an opportunity to do a little more work that, hypothetically, we don’t really need.
So we called up the three places that finished first and tied for second in "Places to take your car and not get ripped off."
Scott Marshall, Airport Road Auto Center
"It’s probably tire balance. They’re probably just out of round. Or depending if it’s on acceleration or deceleration, you could have a U-joint problem. I’d have to drive it, really, to feel. Most likely it’s a tire balance."
Chris Cole, Cole’s Imports
"Have the tires balanced. Generally if you have a tire problem, like a shifted cord or something like that or a knot, you’ll feel it at lower speeds. But anything, say, 48 miles an hour and over, and it smooths out above 65, it’s generally tire balance. It could be shocks. It could be tie rods. But on something like that, tire balance is generally that first place you start. That would be the first thing to try. And the cheapest."
Nat Feggans, C’ville Imports
"Could be tire balance. That’s what I’d say. Other than that I’d have to drive it or get it up in the air to check the bearings. But nine out of 10 times that’s what it is though. Something simple."
Well, there you have it. Not a one of them wanted to get our beloved-if-only-hypothetical truck on the hoist without checking the simplest problem first. As to why our vehicle starts to shimmy in the high-40mphs, Cole says, "I’m sure there’s a scientific approach to it. I just know from experience." And really, when it comes to our truck, what are we going to trust? Science? Doubt it. We’ll stick with experience.